[ODIN]: Tell me a story

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:

  1. 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.
    1. I’d like a science-fiction setting on a cargo ship, western influence, firefly-esque.
    2. I’d like to be a lost merchant travelling through a dark forest.
    3. Just give me something with a lot of adventure.
  2. 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.
    1. There’s a story about to begin as a merchant in the dark forest, would you like to begin?
    2. Nation X is about to attack nation Y? Join the story as a foot soldier? Or as the general?
  3. 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.
    1. 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…).
    2. 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?



2 thoughts on “[ODIN]: Tell me a story

  1. I’d kill to have a functional Scenario 1 some time in the near future. I used to have an active imagination that would send me into adventuresome daydreams like that, but somewhere along the aging process, it got snuffed out.

    The point would be to have a coherent narrative universe that revolved around me (or the character I would be playing) and my choices.

    I think choice flexibility is also a key issue. In the digital realm, it mostly boils down to kill / trade-give item / ignore-run past-sneak / talk (ie, choose a dialogue option of 2-3 choices at best), but mostly kill.

    In my own imagined stories, my dialogue would be a lot more flexible and reflect the unique character of the person I am imagining myself to be. I would be able to come up with oddball things to do – make alliances and team up or work together with other characters in the setting, create elaborate ambushes or make plans and have in-character discussions, run for cover, jump on chandeliers, make a hasty exit out a window, swashbuckle, whatever occurs to me at that point in time and seems appropriate to the situation being presented.

    The closest I’ve approached to this in current reality is using the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator to jumpstart my own imagination. The subsequent problem I run into then is a good way to record the story that is produced. If I write or type them out, it takes up way too much time. Some imaginary AI GM that could generate text scenarios and just store my responses would get one step closer to approaching the dream of a great interactive story.

    • You hit the nail on the head with choice flexibility. The best we’ve got in games is a “Good vs. Evil” meter that kind of wobbles back and forth as you make the “Good” choice or the “Evil” choice.

      It’d be great if your choices actually took you down different plot paths (not just “Faction X now hates you”, or “NPC Y will now give you a discount”). Imagine if the story could give you plot based on what it thinks would challenge your character the best according to your previous actions.

      It’s fun to think about, but in reality, that distant future isn’t terribly distant anymore. Gaming is accelerating.

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