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Worlds as ends; open conflicts

At 14:54 -0500 2/2/01, WFreitag@aol.com wrote:
>Creating interactive worlds, in my opinion, is an artistic end in itself.
>Experiencing an interactive world engages human faculties and emotions in a
>different way than any other medium. Interactive worlds are thus a
>distinctive art form, not to be regarded as an extension of or a derivation
>from or an "improvement on" any other form.

I totally agree!  I just read some discussion on Slashdot recently 
about whether SimCity has overly statist undertones.  Now, I 
personally don't think SimCity is all that political, one way or 
another, but I can certainly imagine authors of worlds to manipulate 
the constants and algorithms involved in the interactions to fit 
their own agenda.  This is what I mean by sending a "message" through 
an simulation, even if there is no overt narrative.

(By no means am I saying narratives are useless, btw.. just that 
there are messages even without them.)

At 14:54 -0500 2/2/01, WFreitag@aol.com wrote:
>The resolutions of each conflict are authored in advance, so there
>can be at least some narrative thought/data embodied in each of them. The
>player is not directed but if she happens to create the conditions for a
>resolution of an open conflict through volitional actions or even just random
>mucking about, a resolution event kicks in.

Have you ever heard of Escape Velocity, or its scenario pack sequal, 
Escape Velocity: Override, by Ambrosia Software?

It's a game in which you start out as a private merchant, and as you 
perform mini-missions (which are repetitive) and ship cargo around, 
you build your ship up with better weapons (or get a better ship), 
etc.  Soon, representatives from one side of an ongoing war or 
economic conflict will ask you for help.  You can refuse, and later 
help the other side, or you can start working for them (which earns 
you their respect and the other side's scorn).  You can also start 
working for the pirates and earn EVERYONE's scorn. :)

The reason I bring this up is because this seems to perfectly fit 
your "open conflict" system.  In EV, you can just keep on being a 
mercenary if you want, but there are scripted stories ready to happen 
elsewhere in the galaxy.  Those stories are pretty linear, with maybe 
a branch or two at most, but that's offset to some degree by the 
relatively dynamic nature of the galaxy as a whole.

Also, you can pretty much quit working for your side and try to start 
working for the other side.  (This is doable, but difficult, because 
it takes a while to earn their trust back after you've already 
slaughtered a bunch of their pilots, you know.. :P)

So yeah.. I think this open conflict system can work okay for now, 
and EV was indeed one of my favorite games, but I think they're only 
a bridge to more dynamic stories.


| Kenneth Lu - kenlu@mit.edu - http://www.mit.edu/~kenlu/ |
| "Life is far too important to be taken seriously."      |
|                                                         |
|                                          -- Oscar Wilde |