Thoughts on Interactive Drama

Because Interactive Drama on computers is still an unexplored field, diverse opinions are currently expressed on the matter. Here we would like to explain our position in an informal way.


Adaptive Narrative  Audience's skill  Authorship Beyond Entertainment Dialogue  Emergence?  Potential Energy  Potential Litterature Reciprocity  Structuralism  

 

Adaptive Narrative  (top)

The audience of interactive drama will inevitably hold various (ethical) values, therefore the values to which each character is linked should not be fixed a priori. It should depend on the audience's actions. This makes the narrative adaptive, since the values of characters are settled only after a certain period of interaction with the audience.   Your comment...

Audience's skill (top)

We postulate that, like other art forms, Interactive Drama does not require the audience to have specific artistic skill. Therefore, in Interactive Drama, the user is neither (co)author, nor performer, even metaphorically.
Participation of the audience occurs at the only level no skill is needed: the level of story actions. Any person can act, and the pleasure of Interactive Drama will come from the implicit dialogue that occurs between the audience and the author, on a thematic ground chosen by the author.   Your comment...

Authorship  (top)

It is often feared that Interactive Fiction consists of replacing the central role of the author. This role is not removed but moved: Without deciding the exact sequence of actions in the drama, the author has to precisely define all the remainder: thematics, character's values, character's goals, actions, speech, etc. His/her role simply becomes more abstract.   Your comment...

Beyond entertainment  (top)

If the main application of this research is Interactive Entertainment, simulating the narrative is a fundamental issue, whose applications concern Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in general.
In particular, we envision middle term applications in e-learning, web-based marketing and Information Visualization.
It is even surprising that the field of HCI has paid so little attention to one of the key element of human communication, namely narrative (12 years after "Computer as Theatre", from Brenda Laurel).   Your comment...

Dialogue  (top)

A narrative is like a discourse, it aims at conveying a message to its audience in order to impact it. So an interactive narrative is an interactive discourse... namely a dialogue, where the author and the audience exchange their point of views through characters' actions.   Your comment...

Emergence?  (top)

Could a story emerge from a dynamic simulation of social/intelligent agents? Yes, but only occasionally. It is more a matter of chance than of emergence.
What one needs to simulate is the drama itself...
Given our limited knowledge of narrative emergence, we consider that stories should not emerge but be produced by an adequate simulation.   Your comment...

Potential energy  (top)

When you wind an old clock, you tighten a spring, and it then produces this harmonious movement that gives you time. From a physical point of view, during this operation, the spring is accumulating potential energy, which is then converted to kinetic energy, namely movement.
Interactive Drama should be thought as a spring. The author provides necessary materials so that the computer accumulates potential energy. Then, in front of the audience, this energy produces the movement, in terms of the sucessive actions in the drama.
Furthermore, just as one can interact with a spring (mechanics is intrisically interactive), one will be able to interact with such interactive drama.
This analogy is a guideline for the design of Interactive Drama on computers. But laws of drama are much more complicated and fuzzy than Newtonian mechanical laws...   Your comment...

Potential litterature  (top)

OULIPO (OUvroir de LItterature POtentielle) is a litterary movement created in the sixties (R. Queneau, G. Perec, I. Calvino, etc.). Potentiality here means that the work is defined as a set of constraints, and the development of those constraints is sometimes in the hands of the reader. For example, "100,000,000,000,000 Poems", from R. Queneau, is a combinatorial book which produces billions of poems depending on the reader's choice.
This potentiality is also at the heart of Interactive Drama on Computer.
And we must remember that "virtual" etymologically means "potential"!   Your comment...

Reciprocity  (top)

A key feature of Interactive Drama is reprocity: I (as a player) should be able to perform any action on non playing characters (NPCs) that these NPCs can perform on me. For instance, if one character gives me some information, I should be able to give it to some third character.
If you have a look at many adventure video games, you will notice how often you are not free to respond symetrically to what characters perform towards you.   Your comment...

Structuralism  (top)

Structuralism, in its quest of the very structure of stories has provided quite useful models for narrative, because these models fit into our modern search for non linear or procedural computer models of narrative. Beyond any polemic about structuralism, Greimas, Barthes, Todorov, Bremond should be considered as valuable sources of inspiration for building strong interactive drama.   Your comment...