Anyone who’s interested in the future of Interactive Narrative, I’d strongly recommend check out This Article over at Designer’s Notebook. Though I took a different path, I’ve reached the same conclusions as Ernest W. Adams some time ago, and so reading this was rather eerie, as it echoes my own thoughts (but of course much more clearly worded).
The future of Interactive Narrative is something more like the Holodeck than a choose-your-own-adventure. Can you imagine playing an MMORPG in the Holodeck?
These are the “Google Trends” search volume stats for “MMO” and “MMORPG” over the last 7 years. While a long-term decline in search volume doesn’t exactly mean that people are losing general interest in MMOs, it shows that the game has certainly changed.
Right now, players flit between 2-5 different free titles at a time, enjoying an MMO for a few months at the most before moving on, or switching back to an old favorite. We’re a very restless generation of online gamers. No one MMO provides the “edge” that we need in all categories.
But like all history, there are rarely such things as “Trends.” Instead, almost all trends are cyclical. I’d never claim that we should extrapolate this data to say that in 10 years time, no one will care about MMOs ever again. But I will throw out a speculative prediction based on nothing but my own opinions.
I’m betting that a few more giants will be released and attain a moderate playerbase, and we’ll see one more massive-scale epic failed launch. Blizzard’s Titan will again redefine the MMO genre, but in a smaller way and a different direction than WoW did. This will be followed by an ocean of largely unsuccessful imitators. MMOs will enter into a very quiet period, becoming smaller and less frequently released. Interest wanes, and non-massive games again become the industry’s goal.
And someday in the distant future, 2020, a critical shift in game design will facilitate the resurgence of the MMO, bringing the cycle full-circle again.
This prediction is purely speculation, but sometimes it’s fun to think about. Thoughts?
Experiencing a new world through avatars
As part of a series of discussion over at the ODIN Project, we’ve had some interesting ideas stir the pool of imagination. So suspend your disbelief for a moment, and let us step into the realm of the impossible…
What should a truly interactive story look like? We’ve imagined scenarios like the Star Treck Holodeck, explored situations like Pen-and-paper campaigns. First, an analogy —
When you dream, your subconscious becomes the author, and you the participant. You can choose to do whatever you want, but you can’t control the consequences, and the dream continues telling the story around you. Now your subconscious is a terrible author, whose stories are not particularly cohesive or compelling. But imagine if you could replace your subconscious with an experienced author or Dungeon Master? What would this kind of storytelling be like in a game?
To take the concept to the digital realm, let’s assume:
- A personal Artificial Intelligence author that can (for the sake of argument) produce human-quality stories.
What would it look like to play a game that can create stories for you on the fly? Here’s some scenarios we came up with:
- Choose your own starting point anywhere. Much like the Holodeck, you could request certain stories, particular kinds of stories, or perhaps ask for something completely new. Think of it as a personal DM who could create solo adventure for you whenever you like. Each session might be a new character.
- I’d like a science-fiction setting on a cargo ship, western influence, firefly-esque.
- I’d like to be a lost merchant travelling through a dark forest.
- Just give me something with a lot of adventure.
- Choose your starting point in a consistent, ongoing world. The AI author simply presents to you a range of options in which you can participate. Each session might be a new character.
- There’s a story about to begin as a merchant in the dark forest, would you like to begin?
- Nation X is about to attack nation Y? Join the story as a foot soldier? Or as the general?
- Continuous story (one character only) in a consistent, ongoing world. You may not get to choose whatever stories you want, but you can travel the world, participating in the optional stories that the author creates for you.
- You’re presented with choices to join the contextual stories around you (enlist in a war, help someone being robbed, investigate the strange happenings around town…).
- Should you be able to “Turn Off” the AI Author and simply explore (like a sandbox)? Or should the possibility of an authored story be ever-present, even when you don’t expect it?
These are some of the fun questions that we’re discussing. Leave your thoughts in the comments, do you envision the interactive stories of the future to be something else entirely?