On the Use of Reincorporation in Interactive Drama
- Zach Tomaszewski
- Intelligent Narrative Technologies
In an interactive drama, a human player assumes the role of a character in a story. Through this character, the player interacts with objects and other characters in a virtual story world. The interactive drama system then responds to the player by making changes in that world in order to produce a well-formed story shaped by the actions of the player. Thus, an interactive drama experience is much like that of a roleplaying computer game. The difference is that, rather than providing only an open world for the player to explore or else a fairly rigid preset storyline, the story is generated at runtime in response to the player. Marlinspike is such an interactive drama system. Its design is based on a neoAristotelian poetics of interactive narrative developed from the work of Aristotle, Sam Smiley (1971), Brenda Laurel (1991), and Michael Mateas (2004). Marlinspike generates a story by responding to player actions using small preauthored story components called scenes. It selects scenes so as to narratively build upon or reincorporate earlier player actions into later story events. This reincorporation serves to make player actions narratively necessary to the finished story structure. A prototype implementation of Marlinspike was used to produce the text-based game Demeter: Blood in the Sky. In an online evaluation with human players, the use of Marlinspike's reincorporation feature produced better-formed internal story structures that also included a greater percentage of players' actions as events within the finished story. However, the evaluation did not reveal a corresponding significant difference in the reported experiences of end users regarding story coherence, story-level agency, or general satisfaction. Overall, the Marlinspike architecture was still successful in producing an interactive drama experience: a story-like experience generated at runtime in response to a human player acting within a virtual world. Coupled with the lessons learned from the implementation process, Marlinspike provides a solid foundation for future interactive drama development.