Bringing Interactive Storytelling to Industry: Designing a Reactive Narrative Encounter System
Keywords:drama management, industry, open world, level design, story, narrative, artificial intelligence, game production
The commercial games industry is struggling to find a form of narrative for single-player story-based games that takes advantage of the medium. Current methods are limited to structured narrative or simulation, both of which have serious game design constraints. Drama Management represents a potential new model. This talk will cover the author's research into bringing interactive storytelling to single-player story games. Focusing on the design and production needs of current titles, different groups of pen-and-paper RPG Game Masters were studied, and their interactive narrative approach was algorithmically replicated for video game storytelling on a per-encounter level. To verify these results, an “Encounter Manager” pen-and-paper algorithm was tested in place of a human Game Master, achieving similar storytelling results and exposing new conclusions. Implementing these techniques in several video game projects has shown diverse payoffs, not just in narrative, replayability, and pacing but also in risk-reduction, art production, open world and linear level design, and new game genres. However, the uncertainty and risk of a new model of game production combined with the lack of a driving need in commercial games has so far proven a major hurdle for this approach. Looking forward, similarities with other procedural narrative efforts are explored, and future steps are proposed.