A Framework for Coherent Emergent Stories
This paper is based on my thesis work. The paper can be downloaded from the project page.
Crafting satisfying narratives while preserving player freedom is a longstanding challenge for computer games. The quest structure used by many games allows players to experience content nonlinearly, but risks creating disjointed stories when side quests only minimally integrate with the main story. We propose a flexible, scene-based emergent story system that reacts to the player’s actions while maintaining a reasonable amount of authorial control over the story. Based on the philosophy of story scenes as kernels or satellites, we define a minimal story graph that initially contains mostly disconnected nodes. Over time, the graph is built dynamically from offered to the player. In this paper, we describe the framework of our system and present an early prototype game as a case study. We end with a vision of how our framework could be used to create more coherent, emergent stories in games.
Chronologically Nonlinear Techniques in Traditional Media and Games
This paper was accepted as a work in progress. A colleague of ours seem interested enough in working on it even further, which may lead to a journal paper in the future. The paper can be downloaded from the project page.
Although stories in games have become more sophisticated over time, their use of nonlinear techniques has not yet become as prevalent as in traditional media like novels and films. Writers have largely excluded nonlinear techniques from their toolbox, possibly because of fears of introducing inconsistencies when player actions alter past events. However, as we show through a survey of common nonlinear techniques seen in television, novels, and film, games can and have avoided these inconsistencies while maintaining gameplay agency. Many players prefer a high quality static story incorporated into strong gameplay, making the insight from this discussion immediately useful in designing nonlinear game stories. We also discuss some ways in which nonlinear techniques can offer both gameplay and story agency, hopefully bringing the quality of game stories one step closer to their traditional counterparts.