"Donning an AR headset to read a picture book will be as common twenty
years from now as putting on 3D glasses to watch a film can be today.
But imagine this scenario: You put on a pair of AR glasses and grab a
copy of Gulliver’s Travels. The glasses recognize the cover of the book, and it knows you’ve purchased the AR version of Gulliver. When you open the book, the story comes to life all around you.
Not just on the pages of the book, but on the floor in front of you.
There’s Gulliver being washed up on the beach. You might pull your knees
up to keep your feet from getting wet. There are the Lilliputians
staking Gulliver to the sand. Maybe one of them asks you to place a
finger on a knot while they tie a bow."
"I hate to say this, but storytelling does not come naturally to Swedes.
But we’re good at designing systems, and that’s what these games really
are…Battlefield is a system designed for entertainment rather than for
telling you a story."
I don’t know whether I’m agreeing or disagreeing here; just a few scattered thoughts that occur to me…The basic modes of narrative storytelling endure because they constitute a small set of simple activities, immediately accessible to almost everyone: reading or speaking, prose or poetry, description or dialogue. Everything else is an elaboration of those modes. All games are “storytelling” in a broader sense: a progression of events, constrained by rules, that develop from a beginning to a conclusion, but without being scripted in advance. Roleplaying games are distinctive for occupying the wide middle ground between unscripted games that are played and prepared stories that are told. Gamebooks, even those with an emphasis on the “game”, are much closer to traditional narrative storytelling, with the defining difference being the element of choice between multiple paths.
Stories must have begun with somebody telling his pals what happened to him that day, then embellishing it a little, then moving onto stuff that never happened. At which point our primordial storyteller must have noticed that adding cliffhangers to the made-up stuff helped to keep the whole tribe interested. But first you have to get them invested in the lead character, and to be sure they ask for more you've got to give it a theme that relates to their own experiences, hopes, and fears. From there it's a mere two hundred millennia to Save The Cat and box office millions.Any structured sequence can appear to construct a story, because the story exists in the listener's (or viewer's, or player's) mind. Hence that post I did a while back about The Way Things Go:http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-uncertainty-principle.htmlSports matches are a story. Likewise any procedural game like an RTS or FPS - I mean in a multiplayer environment rather than just tripping over the trigger points of a planned narrative, of course, though those are undeniably stories too. Roleplaying games can be structured in advance, it's true. Hence dungeons. But that isn't what's interesting about roleplaying. Ah, just realized I already wrote about that too in "The Shape Inside the Bone":http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/shape-inside-bone.htmlAnyway, this isn't the discussion, is it? This is the pre-discussion where we get some common terms agreed. The motion is that fiction of the future can be more flexible - it doesn't have to be, but it can be. Adding audio and visual FX - which I was criticized for not doing in Frankenstein:http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/17/frankenstein-dave-morris-app-review- is nothing but window-dressing. It entirely misses the point of where we can now go with interactive fiction.
I think the nebulous, inchoate shadow-mass slowly coalescing at the back of my mind was that the basic modes of narrative storytelling will endure because they are the facets of what storytelling fundamentally is; but that they exist as points on a “story plane” where creative fusions of storytelling – a little of one mode and some of another – can take shape at locations between them. That is where technological alchemy may concoct compelling new mixtures. Games inhabit a parallel domain: storytelling as an emergent form, participatory and improvised but bound to a greater or lesser extent by procedures and rules; and there is a bulk space between them, where hybrid seeds may nucleate and grow.Then there’s the other approach: the bells and whistles. Take your vintage narrative form, attach some spinners to the wheels, soup it up with a big new engine, and dangle some fluffy pink dice from the rear-view mirror; and soon you realise you’ve built an unwieldy monster of disparate parts, that goes fast when fast’s not the point, and whose fluffy pink dice are just a distraction and nothing more.That’s sort of what I was thinking, anyway.(The fluffy pink dice are not a veiled reference to gamebooks. I don’t regard dice as essential to gamebooks, but I don’t have a problem with them either.)
I was convinced that your Frankenstein (or DMMSF as I like to call it) DID have sound. Or at least music. I have a clear memory of foreboding strings at the end of a chapter. But then that looks like the power of imagination... Sounds and that in books are like animations in PowerPoint. They can be fun but also distracting. Pictures are always welcome though.
Is that "Dave Morris Meets Son of Frankenstein" then, James? Your clear memory of music that wasn't there is what an author likes to hear. As for pictures - well, I'd sooner not have pictures myself. I wasn't keen on them in Frankenstein - but Inkle did a grand job, and at least I stopped the publisher from sticking in Twitter buttons at the end of every chapter. Ugh.
Getting behind on my replies here... Picking up on what you said, Graham, I think we could achieve a lot more in the field of emergent interactive stories if the focus of attention wasn't so top-heavily on complex character-driven drama. Even back in the mid-90s, Chris Crawford (who should know better) was tying himself in knots with his Erasmatron, which tried to model the relationships of King Arthur's court. And nowadays IF seems to have gone chasing off towards the even loftier goal of recreating a nuanced Regency middle-class world a la Jane Austen.This is much like NASA announcing that its next space travel goal is a manned mission to Proxima Centauri.When I was working at Elixir Studios on the game Dreams, we were aiming for a much simpler "cascade of events". Maybe you get Adil to chuck away a banana skin. Betty slips on it, sees the blameless Charlie eating a banana, picks a fight with him, and so on. You get an interactive Mickey Mouse cartoon rather than an interactive Pride and Prejudice, but the difference is... ours worked!
Yes; I don't have enough knowledge of the full spectrum that runs from IF to gamebooks to role-playing to board/computer games to offer examples that could underpin a theory of interactive stories, but I think that "Do what works" is quite a good criterion (that's to say, having first tested to see *whether* it works).
I should have said that the example of rocket jumps is not really an example of anything. The string of incidents resulting from one clever exploitation of a game law - there or in Portal, say - isn't long or interesting enough to qualify as the "cascade of events" that comprise a story. We need a structure of this happened, so this happened, so this happened, and so on (pace Forster) with the possibility of the player jumping in on some of those "and thens" so as to make the whole thing interactive. The question then is how does the player/reader interact? As an omniscient author, dictating events? As a participant? As a limited author? That is probably the most important question to answer - but you can't even ask it until you have the cacade of events engine working.
For quite some time now, I've been scratching down ideas for a series of interactive adventures. Originally I wanted to develop my own engine for these adventures and to release them digitally. The reason for going digital was so that a lot of background data can be tracked, specifically that of conversations, relationships and emotional states of the player and NPCs.I think being able to track and respond to how the player manages relationships, or how they handle difficult moral decisions, can be very powerful. If we can build semi-smart or even fully-smart engines for providing believable, unscripted feedback to player choice, then we can build much more interesting interactive experiences full of unexpected, but compelling emergent stories.Regretfully I've had to recognise that I don't have the full complement of skills required to build such an engine, and even if I did, I don't currently have the time either. So for now, my interactive adventure aspirations will have to be on a simpler scale. But I'm intrigued to see where this medium will go next: digital platforms give us the power to do lots of interesting things; it's only a question of us having the gumption to try.
I agree that mushing mediums together can create an ugly monster. With older classics, you have to trust that the writers did their best with the medium they chose. If a story is ever made for something like the Star Trek holodeck, it may be best to start fresh with new material best suited for the new medium.
But wait, Nicholas - then we'd have no Blade Runner, no The Searchers, no Iron Man (1), no House of Cards. Adaptations into a new medium are fine. But in the early stages of a medium it often tries to shape itself according to the lineaments of an older one. Books with the bells and whistles of anims/audio, for example, that Graham mentioned above.
Speaking of the Star Trek holodeck... At least a couple of episodes of Star Trek Voyager focus on characters writing 'holonovels' - interactive stories that present a setting and an inciting incident, then allow the 'reader' to take the story where they want, much as Dave describes in the post above. One of them is 'Worst Case Scenario'; on wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worst_Case_Scenario_(Star_Trek:_Voyager)An interesting glimpse in Roddenberry's future. Even if it does come from Voyager, which is one of the more irritating additions to the Star Trek franchise.
Gene Roddenberry is absolved of any blame in the case of Voyager, Paul. He'd been dead a full year before it was even developed. But as for DS9 (if we're talking about irritating)...
Oh, Gene Roddenberry wasn't directly involved in Voyager. I'm not blaming him. It's his universe, though - and if his spirit could have come back to talk the scriptwriters out of creating Neelix, the Jar-Jar Binks of Star Trek, it would have improved the show immensely.I'm rewatching DS9 at the moment, and I have to champion that series a bit. There's a lot of good stuff there. The whole religious vibe of the Bajorans worshipping the 'wormhole aliens', everybody living on a nasty-looking Cardassian station, characters who don't necessarily all get along superbly. And the Dominion - an enemy who's actually a bit scary. Roddenberry was pretty opposed to DS9 the start; I think some intense negotiations played out before it went ahead. Me, I say it's one of the better Star Trek incarnations.Gene Roddenberry was also VERY opposed to casting Patrick Stewart as Picard. Man, I've been listening to a lot of Star Trek-themed podcasts lately.
Now that's interesting. Who did Roddenberry want? A French actor would have made more sense. Jean Reno - too expensive at the time. Alain Delon? Oh, that would have been awesome. Dominique Pinon - he's more your chief engineer type. Or - OMG - Depardieu?
I gather he wanted somebody younger - somebody a bit more like Captain Kirk. Or somebody like Scott Bakula in Star Trek: Enterprise, even.But some of the other high-ups liked Patrick Stewart, and argued hard for him. So he got the gig.
Hello! I couldn't find your email address anywhere on the site to ask you this directly, but after perusing through your site (which is very fun, btw), I found a picture (The image of Fosse in the Stonestruck Woods entry in your Friday, December 13, 2013 entry) that I would very much like to use as a title bar backdrop on my own blog. And I would certainly give credit where credit is due. Obviously, I don't want to exercise copyright infringement, so I was hoping to receive permission from you (or from whomever owns that picture) to do so. Would this be at all possible? I appreciate your consideration! - Adam Wagner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Adam, our email is email@example.com - in the sidebar there, but I guess it is rather a needle in a haystack. I should really add it to the title bar.Anyway, let me say that you have good taste in art. That picture is by Jon Hodgson and the copyright owners are Serpent King Games, who publish Dragon Warriors at the moment. There's a link to them under Sites Of Interest in the sidebar, and if you drop them an email then they can give you permission.
Excellent! Thank you for the info! - Adam