Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ICIDS Day 1 - Paper Session #1

Paper Session #1: Interactive Storytelling Theory

Talk 1: Research in Interactive Drama Environments, Role-Play and Storytelling

Why so few complete narrative systems? Fa├žade and what else?
“Story management as defence of authorial vision.” As opposed to:
“Story management shapes dynamic generation of engaging experience.”
Storyfication of the experience is stored in the participant’s autobiographical memory.
Creation of dramatic structure (ensured, but brittle), versus creation of characters (no dramatic structure ensured, but very flexible).

Talk 2: Why Paris Needs Hector and Lancelot Needs Mordred (Janet Murray! – Georgia Tech)

New book – Inventing the Medium
I consider myself a recovering AI researcher, though I’m having serious relapses.”
Reliving Last Night – 2001 – Sarah Cooper
Vladimir Propp – Morphology of the Folktale (1928)
The tale of two boyfriends – ties of duty vs. the forbidden sexy guy
The doubling up of Hector/Achilles over Paris/Meneleus greatly heightens the dramatic tension
The double betrayal of Guinevere and Lancelot to Arthur creates tension, as does their initial refusal of each other – Mordred is Lancelot’s dark side. He just wants Guinevere, and to take over the kingdom, while Lancelot is virtuous.
The Miller’s Tale? The foils, in effect, heighten the characteristics of the original forbidden sexy guy. E.g. Wickham vs. Darcy.
Abstract roles and functions to create a series of classes that can be applied to a moral sliding scale, so that characters may foil each other at multiple points while creating meaningful character interactions, e.g. the number of different proposals Elizabeth receives in Pride & Prejudice.
Cultural roles are systems of abstraction – you do not need to reproduce the social world, you want to reproduce story atoms, not social knowledge which already exists within these story atoms.
Agency does not come from freedom to do anything, agency comes from scripting interactions that are meaningful and suitably rewarding.
Telling more complex stories expands our humanity.

Talk 3: Agent-oriented Methodology for Interactive Storytelling

Fuzzy cognitive maps for exploring causal-related concepts (inference engine).
Done in Oblivion AI – scaled back because it made the world too unstable.
Also more recently done in The Snowfield by MIT Gambit Games Labs.

Talk 4: Back-Leading through Character Status in Interactive Storytelling

User agency vs. authorial control – i.e. will a player as Anna Karenina be willing to kill their character to make for a better story?
Why do we expect novice storytellers (i.e. players) to create a good story when provided with no clues from the designers as to how to proceed? Especially when it takes writers years to acquire the skill that allow them to tell a good story in the first place?
Improvisational theatre – e.g. Tiny & Tony’s Wedding, Turtle Talk with Crush – designed to act with novice audiences who have little experience in creating stories.  You can sometimes provide input, but it’s still designed to be observed.
Inter-actors vs. spect-actors – back-leading is leading while appearing to follow
Interactive theatre – designed to be experienced, not observed, e.g. The Second City
Status shifts create drama – changes in dominance or submission, one-upmanship, etc – use status to back-lead the audience without explicitly telling them how to react
Force Dynamics in Language and Cognition
Could very easily be used in one-on-one confrontations between player and character!
E.g. civilians in WoW – “Too good to wait in line like the rest of us, Mage?” prompts the answer of “Yes.”
(Performance) Keith Johnson, “People tend to minimize status gaps.”? Does this still apply in virtual environments?

Talk 5: Rereading in Interactive Stories: Constraints on Agency and Procedural Variation

IF tries to maintain agency, immersion and transformation, which leads to the need for variety across instances that, nevertheless, maintain coherence within themselves.
Reframing: The Sixth Sense, BioShock – the twist that changes everything and makes people want to re-experience
What additional constraints does this impose on the variations you can create when the reader has this new knowledge and they’re re-watching/re-playing?
You need to maintain coherence not just within, but across all sessions.
Events relevant to the reframing must remain the same, e.g. Bruce Willis can never be not-dead.
Some player/reader actions may be limited by revelations that have not yet happened – why can the character not do certain things? How do you communicate this without ‘giving up the ghost’?
There are also constraints upon what must be omitted, or what can be omitted.
The reader will be looking for different things, e.g. if the anniversary dinner scene wasn’t in The Sixth Sense the second time you watched it, you would feel disappointed, because you want to find out how you were fooled.
Constraints on the ordering – the reframing must occur in the first reading, otherwise there is no impetus to re-experience. Fight Club?
There needs to be sufficient discourse time between the reframed event and the reframing – if The Sixth Sense was only 10 minutes long, you wouldn’t need to re-experience it, because you could remember.
Versus constant reframing, i.e. Memento?
Reframing in Heavy Rain? How did I miss seeing who the killer was? Coherence lacking – when did he go into the back room? Why is the moment prolonged? Is it there? It seems natural the first time, but the second time suspicious. Does he leave twice?
Unreliable narrators? How do these work in IF? The Jade Smiley story – based on King Lear

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