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Re: open conflicts (John's comments)

on 2/14/01 11:29 AM, WFreitag@aol.com at WFreitag@aol.com wrote:

> In every form of interactive storytelling I've ever engaged in, where the
> audience had true freedom, resolution was always the hard part. Making plots
> build, interweave with each other, spin off new plots, and so forth is
> surprisingly easy as long as you don't care about whether anything is
> resolved. I believe that the problem of resolution is pretty much equivalent
> to the interactive storytelling problem as a whole.

I believe that what is lacking here is enough attention to those harmonics
and resonances in the intermediate events.

The thing is, you can't have  precise control over the creation of a
storyworld, because you need your story-making decisions to be informed by
that altered awareness I was talking about in my other post.

A storyworld is going to be "messier" than a shooter or puzzle game, because
human interaction is messier.  That's why I keep talking about resonances.

My goal as storybuilder is to set up common themes--harmonics--resonances--
in the different kinds of interactions, and then to choose two or four or
six different endings, all of which resonate with those themes and which
flow naturally from the kinds of interactions the user has chosen based on
the initial premise or conflict.

> Perhaps that's one reason I often look to Icelandic
> sagas as an example. The sagas have intricate structures of conflict and
> resolution, but to my mind at least, little or no beauty in the resolutions.
> Whenever I read them I think, "an interactive storytelling system ought to be
> able to do that!"


> The problem is that while I can confidently increase my "anger" relationship
> variable with Sam as a result of learning that he did something I dislike,
> it's harder to go the other way (that is, _resolution_ of the issue) using
> instantaneous state variables alone. Learning that Sam did not try to hit on
> my girlfriend has an effect on my anger that's hard to define without
> "understanding" the history. After all, if I'm angry at Sam because he broke
> my lawn mower, and I never even suspected that he hit on my girlfriend, then
> learning that he didn't hit on my girlfriend would have no effect on my
> anger. A conflict object would be a way of encoding the "because" that
> underlies my anger, so that subsequent related events could act appropriately
> on it.

I agree with you that referring back to historical events in the storyworld
with enough finegrained accuracy to make resolutions (even interim ones)
make good sense is a difficult problem in the Erasmatron.  But there are a
few ways of doing it.  The story engine keeps track of what events each
character knows, thus you can build a character's knowledge of prior events
into a verb's role definition.

In effect, you can construct your own conflict objects with use of some of
the history book variables, such as EventHappened and IKnow:

[ReactIf (IKnow(EventHappened(blahblah, subject, object, etc))].

> This points to another issue with conflict and resolution in artificial
> narrative, which is determining when conflict exists and what its nature is.
> With conflict between non-player characters, we could cheat by first deciding
> what conflict will occur, then forcing the characters to act in such a way as
> to bring the conflict about. But that's not an option where an interactive
> participant is involved. So how do we decide when an action constitutes the
> creation of a tension that must be resolved (that is, a conflict) and when it
> doesn't?

I've thought about this issue some.  It seems to me that to get at that
larger pattern of meaning story provides, while retaining interactivity,
it's important that we wear a lot of different "heads" around a conflict.
Iow, some users will view a particular outcome as not a problem, where
others will -- but you need to design outcomes in which the other characters
behave in believable ways to the user's actions.  The user shouldn't be able
to get away from a situation without dramatically realistic/important
consequences, regardless of whether he or she doesn't perceive that
situation as an important conflict, or as needing any resolution.

Iow, if Sam were the protagonist and _had_ hit on Joe's girlfriend Mary, a
problem exists for him regardless of whether he perceives it as a problem.

Laura J. Mixon      *  ljm@digitalnoir.com      *  www.digitalnoir.com
 _Proxies_:  A Tor Books SF paperback Nov 1999  *   ISBN 0-812-52387-3
 "At Tide's Turning:" terraforming run amok     *   Asimov's SF- 4/01
 _Burning the Ice_:   on a Jovian moon, hi-tech mystery, betrayal & intrigue
                      A Tor Books hardback 2001 *   watch for the webpage!