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Interactive Story

Façade

chauchau0 2006.08.25 00:57

Façade is an artificial intelligence-based art/research experiment in electronic narrative – an attempt to move beyond traditional branching or hyper-linked narrative to create a fully-realized, one-act interactive drama. Integrating an interdisciplinary set of artistic practices and artificial intelligence technologies, we are completing a three year collaboration to engineer a novel architecture for supporting emotional, interactive character behavior and drama-managed plot. Within this architecture we are building a dramatically interesting, real-time 3D virtual world inhabited by computer-controlled characters, in which the user (hereafter referred to as the player) experiences a story from a first-person perspective. Façade will be publicly released as a free download / cd-rom in spring 2005.

You, the player, using your own name and gender, play the character of a longtime friend of Grace and Trip, an attractive and materially successful couple in their early thirties. During an evening get-together at their apartment that quickly turns ugly, you become entangled in the high-conflict dissolution of Grace and Trip’s marriage. No one is safe as the accusations fly, sides are taken and irreversible decisions are forced to be made. By the end of this intense one-act play you will have changed the course of Grace and Trip’s lives – motivating you to re-play the drama to find out how your interaction could make things turn out differently the next time.

This work is unlike hypertext narrative or interactive fiction to date in that the computer characters actively perform the story without waiting for you to click on a link or enter a command. Interaction is seamless as you converse in natural language and move and gesture freely within the first-person 3D world of Grace and Trip’s apartment. AI controls Grace and Trip’s personality and behavior, including emotive facial expressions, spoken voice and full-body animation. Furthermore, the AI intelligently chooses the next story “beat” based on your moment-by-moment interaction, what story beats have happened so far, and the need to satisfy an overall dramatic arc. An innovative text parser allows the system to avoid the “I don’t understand” response all too common in text-adventure interactive fiction.

The process of building Façade has involved three major research efforts: designing ways to deconstruct a dramatic narrative into a hierarchy of story and behavior pieces; engineering an AI system to reconstruct a real-time dramatic performance from those pieces that integrates the player's moment-by-moment interactions; and understanding how to write an engaging, compelling story within this new organizational framework. Along the way we have learned hard lessons about what works and what doesn't in the design and engineering of interactive stories, and developed a deeper understanding of what it will require to create even more generative story systems in the future.

Sample Façade screenshots
press for Façade

Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling, New Riders, Nov 2004
"
'I kill you.'" Idle Thumbs, August 2004
"
Redefining Games: How Academia is Reshaping Games of the Future", Gamespot.com, August 2004
"
Silicon Kane", Calgary FFWD, April 2004
GDC review, Intelligent Agent, Vol. 4, No. 2,Spring 2004
Feature article Preview, Adventure Gamers.com, Apr 2004
"
Bringing emotions to video games", MSNBC.com, Jan 2004
Twisty Little Passages, Nick Montfort, MIT Press, Dec 2003
"
Agitating for Dramatic Change", Gamasutra.com, Oct 2003

(also see
publications on this page, 2000 - present)

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