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Re: process vs. data

Very good summation, Walt.

        You get right to the meat of a problem I've just bypassed in
favour of yet another limited approach. That the structured data method
is about all there is for making the player a 'character' in the story
(or plot).

        For my own interests I am closer to simulation, and hope to see
the world provide sub-plots among the population around the player due
to an object oriented interaction between player and actors and actors
upon other actors. This would not result in a structured plot for the
player in a first person sense, but rather something more akin to the
wandering of Faust.

        I suppose an ideal experience would be stories experienced in a
truly first person mode, aspiring to the emotional power of Poe. But,
how can a player's actions result in this without persistent direction? 

        As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems to me that
storytelling is a cooperative creative effort. If computer-aided,
interactive storytelling is going to give the reader/player more
control, perhaps it will be necessary to also confer some of the
writer's responsibility. Perhaps, using a system founded in simulation,
it will be necessary for a player/reader to create self-plot in the
'storyworld.' This would be a system not of direction but of cooperative
volition; the player who fails to write her own story will yet fail to
find it, but may still enjoy the simulation.



WFreitag@aol.com wrote:
> If Chris' insistence that one can only interact with process is meant to
> imply that data-oriented approaches to interactive storytelling cannot be
> valid, I strongly disagree.
> My exhibit goes back to what we learn in the first class of Interactive
> Storytelling 101: branching. Consider a basic paragraph tree with branching
> links of only the most straightforward type.
> Now, as we know, it is not _practical_ to create such a tree for a story of
> any length. But I've never heard it argued before that such a work, if
> created, would not be interactive. Suppose an author is willing to do a lot
> of work, and generate only a short story. Allow three options at each choice,
> and make every branch valid, with no deaths or backfolding. With 1093
> paragraphs, in one pass through the story, the reader reads seven paragraphs
> and makes six choices.
> Why is this not interactive? And why is it not an interactive story? The
> "process" in this case is trivial. All the meaning is in the "dead bits" of
> the text. Yet for the duration of seven paragraphs and six choices, the
> quality of the interactivity is comparable to that of any other interactive
> story system I've seen (picking from limited choices isn't ideal, but there's
> not much better out there right now anyway), and the quality of the narrative
> (if the author is skilled) is likely to be far better.
> I agree with the general idea that you can only interact with systems that
> "think." But is there any reason to insist that some or all of the thinking
> can't be done in advance? Dead bits cannot think, but they can, miraculously
> enough, encompass human thought. That's a pretty cool capability, to which we
> owe most of our civilization.
> In fact, I submit that when it comes to telling stories via non-human agents,
> some of the thinking MUST be done in advance, because human thought is the
> only way we know to create a good story. (I monitor the AI research, and when
> and if this changes I'll know, but it's true now.) Therefore the only way at
> present to bring narrative into an artificial storytelling system is through
> _data_. Of course, data's not very good at being interactive. But that's
> tough. That's the way it is.
> Like Chris, I perceive a distinction between data-oriented and
> process-oriented systems. At the data-oriented end we have the "take a story
> and try to make it interactive" approaches. They suck, because data isn't
> good at being interactive, though it's VERY good at telling stories (e.g.
> movies). At the process-oriented end we have the "take a simulator and try to
> make it tell a good story" approaches. They suck, because process isn't good
> at telling stories, though it's VERY good at being interactive (e.g. computer
> games).
> And the real problem is there's no continuum between the two extremes.
> Process and narrative data don't get along. When you try to make them meet in
> the middle, process says to data, "I can confer my interactive powers on you,
> but only if you get rid of all that complicated human thought you're
> carrying." And data says to process, "I can infuse my narrative genius into
> you, but only if you do exactly what I'm expecting you to do." Then the two
> get into a fist fight, which for unknown reasons causes all the money in the
> vicinity to disappear.
> We may have to work the problem from both ends to get anywhere. It is
> counterproductive to say that only process can ever be interactive, just as
> it is counterproductive to say that only data can ever tell stories. We have
> to hope that one (or both) of those assertions is not true, and we'd better
> not rule out any possibilities too soon.
> In fact, we already know that neither is true as stated in such extreme
> terms. We see data being interactive in branching stories and hypermedia
> (though the interactivity isn't very good). We see process creating stories
> in simulators and AI systems (though the stories aren't very good).
> Unfortunately, the gap between doing something and doing it well enough to be
> worthwhile can be enormous. Consider how much easier it is to create a
> computer program that correctly makes random chess moves in accordance with
> the rules of the game ("it plays chess, but it isn't very good") than it is
> to create one that actually plays well enough to be worth playing.
> - Walt