ART COM Magazine, Dec. 90: Interactive Fiction Part 2, Introduction

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DECEMBER 1990 NUMBER 44 VOLUME 10 NUMBER 10
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Welcome to ART COM, an online magazine forum dedicated to the
interface of contemporary art and new communication technologies.

You are invited to send information for possible inclusion. We are
especially interested in options that can be acted upon: including
conferences, exhibitions, and publications. Proposals for guest
edited issues are also encouraged. Send submissions to:

well!artc...@uunet.uu.net
artc...@well.sf.ca.us

Back issues of ART COM can be accessed on the Art Com Electronic
Network (ACEN) on the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL),
available through the CompuServe Packet Network and PC Pursuit.

To access the Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL,
enter g acen at the Ok: prompt. The Art Com Electronic
Network is also accessible on USENET as alt.artcom.
For access information, send email to: artc...@well.sf.ca.us.

*Guest Editor: Abbe Don
*Executive Editor: Carl Eugene Loeffler
*Editor: Anna Couey
*Systems: Fred Truck and Gil MinaMora

ART COM projects include:

ART COM MAGAZINE, an electronic forum dedicated to contemporary art
and new communication technologies.

ART COM ELECTRONIC NETWORK (ACEN), an electronic network dedicated to
contemporary art, featuring publications, online art galleries, art
information database, and bulletin boards.

ART COM SOFTWARE, international distributors of interactive video and
computer art.

ART COM TELEVISION, international distributors of innovative video to
broadcast television and cultural presenters.

CONTEMPORARY ARTS PRESS, publishers and distributors of books on
contemporary art, specializing in postmodernism, video, computer
and performance art.

ART COM, P.O. Box 193123 Rincon Center, San Francisco, CA, 94119-3123, USA.
WELL E-MAIL: artcomtv TEL: 415.431.7524 FAX: 415.431.7841
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GUEST EDITORIAL: INTERACTIVE FICTION PART 2 ABBE DON
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Abbe Don, owner of IN CONTEXT, is an interactive multimedia artist and
producer. Her interactive video "We Make Memories," which simulates the way her
great-grandmother told stories, has been exhibited nationwide. She has done
research with Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group on the Guides project
which investigates the use of narrative and storytelling as a means of
structuring and conveying information in large multimedia databases. She was
also a guest artist at the Future Fiction Workshop in 1988 and 1990.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the introduction to the November issue of the ART COM magazine, I posed the
following questions:

1. Is interactive fiction an oxymoron?

2. If not, then what makes for both a meaningful storytelling experience as
well as an engaging interactive one?

3. And how does an artist accomplish this daunting task?

Together, the November and December issues of ART COM magazine declare a
verdict on question 1: interactive fiction is not an oxymoron. However,
creating/participating in interactive fiction does require an acceptance of
fiction that does not depend on conventional narrative strategies for "good
stories" in which the teller sets the scene, speeds up the pace of the action,
leads to a conflict, and culminates in resolution with a straightforward,
easy-to-identify, beginning, middle and end. Instead, interactive fiction
tries to represent a range of experience not easily represented by
conventional linear media, from the simultaneous representation of multiple
points of view to simulating physical and emotional experiences that change
dynamically as the reader/viewer collaborates with the author.

However, little consensus has been reached on questions 2 and 3 above. While
the November issue focused primarily on authors who answered these questions
within the frame of reference of exploratory fictions created in HyperCard or
in conjunction with videodisc, the December issue presents authors who have
used artificial intelligence, simulation, and immersion in dramatic and
narrative theory as the basis of their research.

John McDaid combines narrative theory and ideas about quantum mechanics to
formulate a strategy for creating "constructive hypertexts" which "do not
proceed from the discovery of hidden content, but rather by symbolic
creation." McDaid's essay style, composed of at least one part hypertextual
rant, one part highbrow literary reference, and one part tongue firmly planted
between brow and cheek, parallels his interactive fiction piece "Uncle
Buddy's Phantom Funhouse."

Jim Gasperini, author of the political simulation game "Hidden Agenda," traces
the historical development of interactive "texts" within literature and
theatre and then explores early examples of interactive fiction within the
computer domain. From there, he postulates a theory of interactive fiction
based on "open-ended structural ambiguity" in which a "work becomes more
ambiguous, not less the more it is played" suggesting that "through repeated
playings, comparing different plots chosen through the same web of potential
plots the experience becomes meaningful." Gasperini's essay style and content,
as well as his interactive work, differ greatly from McDaid's, yet he
concludes with similar observations about the impact of quantum mechanics on
the way we structure and represent our experience of the world around us.

Joe Bates, director of the Oz project at Carnegie Mellon University,
consistently combines the disciplines of artificial intelligence and dramatic
theory. Under his leadership, the Oz team is "applying existing artificial
intelligence technology to the problem of building dramatic worlds" which are
"composed of a (simulated) physical environment, intelligent/emotional agents
which live in the world, a user interface and theory of presentation to let
one or more humans interact with the world and its agents, and a
computational theory of drama which plans and controls the overall
flow of events in the world."

Finally, David Graves presents a theory of interactive fiction that builds on
the work of both Brenda Laurel and Michael Lebowitz. He emphasizes the
importance of creating characters that emulate human emotion through a system
of Artificial Personality.

As nearly every author has noted, interactive fiction is still in its infancy
as artists and researchers iteratively build on the conceptual and technical
frameworks of their predecessors. I hope the dialogue continues to stay open
and interdisciplinary!

Abbe Don
Guest Editor
ab...@well.sf.ca.us
------------------------------ MENU OF CONTENTS ------------------------------

1. AN ART FORM FOR THE INTERACTIVE AGE (part 1 of 3), Jim Gasperini
2. STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY: THE EMERGING INTERACTIVE AESTHETIC
(part 2 of 3), Jim Gasperini
3. IF BRECHT WERE ALIVE TODAY, WOULD HE BE DESIGNING COMPUTER GAMES
(part 3 of 3), Jim Gasperini
4. COMPUTATIONAL DRAMA IN OZ, Joe Bates
5. WELCOME TO THE MATRIX: FROM OBJECT ORIENTED TEXT TO QUANTUM
INDETERMINACY, John McDaid
6. LIFE-LIKE CHARACTERS IN INTERACTIVE FICTION, David Graves

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------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------


AN ART FORM FOR THE INTERACTIVE AGE
(part 1 of 3)

Jim Gasperini


Jim Gasperini (ji...@well.sf.ca.us) is author, with TRANS Fiction Systems,
of "Hidden Agenda," a narrative simulation of politics in Central America.
Chosen role-playing game of the year in 1989 by MacWorld, "Hidden Agenda"
has also been used to train diplomats by the Foreign Service Institute of the
US State Department. Also with TRANS Jim co-authored the text adventure
"Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy."


In recent decades various literary and dramatic artists have
experimented with ways to make the role of the audience more
active. Now computer technology makes possible the development of
a true interactive aesthetic. But grafting interactivity onto earlier
forms of narrative is like making a movie with a fixed camera:
it fails to take advantage of the essential power of the medium.

INTERACTIVITY IN LITERATURE AND THE THEATER

The first interactive work I remember seeing myself was a French
novel from the 1950's. It originally came in a box, one chapter
per page, with instructions about how to shuffle the chapters up
and read them in any order. Intrigued by the concept, I hunted
down a copy at my college library, only to find the pages firmly
bound together like every other book, victim of the indiscriminate
efficiency of a library binding service.

Since then we have seen such partially interactive works as Julio
Cortazar's "Hopscotch," a novel with a number of 'optional'
chapters, read or skipped at the reader's discretion. More
recently the many short chapters of Milorad Pavic's 'lexicon
novel'. "The Dictionary of the Khazars" may be read in a variety of
sequences. Numerous series of 'reader-active' books, the first
and best known of which is Edward Packard's "Choose Your
Own Adventure," ask children to choose different plotlines at the
end of each chapter.

The theater in this century has seen numerous experiments with
the aesthetic distance between audience and performer. As part
of a play within a play, Luigi Pirandello placed a simulated
audience within the real audience in an attempt to reinforce the
emotional link between audience and actors. In his 'epic theater'
Bertolt Brecht continually fought the notion that the audience
must simply observe an aesthetic object. He searched for ways
to break down the veil of illusion, make the experience of theater
instructive as well as entertaining, and stir the audience
to action in the here and now. Toward the end of his life,
when asked whether the theater was still an adequate means
for representing the modern world, Brecht replied that yes,
the world could be represented on the stage, but only if it
was portrayed as 'veranderbar' (changeable).

Playwrights and directors continue to experiment with ways to
alter the distance between actors and audience. At the theatrical
version of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" the audience is offered
the opportunity to select one of a number of endings (a device
Brecht had used several decades earlier). The Living Theater,
among others, continues the Brechtian anti-tradition into our
times. At several current plays ("Tamara," "Tony 'n Tina's
Wedding") the audience mingles with the actors, choosing
what aspect of the performance to observe at what time.

LIMITATIONS

Interactivity in book form suffers from a severe technological
limitation: the page does not change. The reader's decisions
can have only limited impact on the way the story unfolds.
Though varying the order in which a story's chapters appear
may alter the perceived significance of each chapter, the choice
of a particular chapter does not change the way later chapters
read, and the author therefore has only limited ability to build
contrasting chains of choice and consequence.

Interactivity in the theater suffers from different practical
limitations. The choice of endings in "Drood," coming at the very
end of the play, is more of a gimmick than a true involvement of
the audience in the process. While the audience walking around
the 'set' of "Tamara" undoubtedly experiences more varied
details than it would in a conventional theater, the essential plot
structure continues unaffected by anything audience members
opt to do. Though these works allow an unusual degree of
audience participation, they are not truly interactive.

Actors' improvisational workshops, of course, call for a high
degree of interactivity. So, in a limited way, do the skits of certain
comedians and 'improv' troupes. To give the audience control
over the plot development of a full-length commercial production,
however, would mean advance preparation for a dauntingly
broad combinatorial explosion of possibilities. The enormous
expense involved in preparing for all the directions the audience
might think to take the play, not to mention the extraordinary
demands such a production would make on the actors, works to
ensure that the theater remains dominated by linear plotlines
and audiences that quietly watch the spectacle.

PERFORMANCE IN A COMPUTER GENERATED WORLD

Enter the computer. Computer technology allows authors to
create elaborate simulated worlds, within which players have
considerable freedom of action. The player is given the general
outlines of a character and told to improvise in reaction to a
simulated environment, simulated props and other characters
(simulated or not). It is a performance medium, differing from
other performance media in that the audience is also the
protagonist.

An interactive work must by definition present its player first with
some sort of choice, and then with the consequences of that
choice. It therefore takes place over time, allowing the
construction of a plot. This gives it at least some kinship with
narrative. The work may also present simulated characters to
encounter, which gives it a similarity to drama, although as we
will see later on 'characters' can take unusual forms in an
interactive work.

Analogies to the theater and to literature are useful, but inexact.
By erasing the distinction between audience and performer,
stories told using computer technology have made a radical
break with both traditions.

But what is it about these technologically sophisticated role-
playing exercises that put them closer to the short story than to,
say, charades? One answer may be found in a closer look at
one of the key techniques of narrative: ambiguity.

-------------------------------- END OF FILE ---------------------------------

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-------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------


STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY: THE EMERGING INTERACTIVE AESTHETIC

(Part 2 of 3)

Jim Gasperini


Jim Gasperini (ji...@well.sf.ca.us) is author, with TRANS Fiction Systems,
of "Hidden Agenda," a narrative simulation of politics in Central America.
Chosen role-playing game of the year in 1989 by MacWorld, "Hidden Agenda"
has also been used to train diplomats by the Foreign Service Institute of the
US State Department. Also with TRANS Jim co-authored the text adventure
"Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy."


The depth of a narrative work's ambiguity is a good measure of
its quality. The richer the work, the more it resonates with
ambiguous meanings. Three different 'levels' of ambiguity may be
distinguished, two familiar levels and one that is quite new.

The first level consists of those ambiguities that appear in a
text as it might be read on a printed page or on a screen. A
metaphor is an ambiguity: a word or phrase with a surface
meaning that also points to something else, meaning at least two
things at once. William Empson's celebrated "seven types of
ambiguity" in poetry (as discussed in the 1937 book by that
title) are all variants on this 'textual ambiguity.' By his
definition, ambiguity is 'any verbal nuance, however slight,
which gives room to alternative reactions to the same piece of
language.' In some forms of writing (technical writing,
journalism) the opposite of 'ambiguous' is 'precise.' In creative
writing the opposite of 'ambiguous' is 'dull.'

When words appear as part of a theatrical performance, another
level of ambiguity comes into play: 'interpretive ambiguity.'
The same role may be interpreted in radically different ways--one
actor may portray Hamlet as indecisive introvert, another as
impotently raging victim of Oedipal conflict, a third as suicidal
misanthrope. The contributions of the director, set designer, and
others also influence the way the audience interprets the work.
One way to distinguish a great play from a merely good one is by
the degree to which it lends itself to different interpretations,
so that actors and audience alike will wish to experience the
play again in a different guise.

A truly interactive work offers a third level of ambiguity,
arising from the role the audience plays in the construction of
the plot. This I call 'structural ambiguity.' Rather than
building nuanced experience from the meanings of words and
phrases, or from dramatic interpretation, structural ambiguity
builds meaning from alternate possibilities of choice and
consequence played out over time.

Two types of this structural ambiguity may be distinguished:
'closed-ended' and 'open-ended.' In the former, certain
*apparent* ambiguities are first raised in the player's mind and
then resolved. The work becomes less and less ambiguous as the
player progresses through it. In the latter, ambiguity grows
deeper as the work unfolds.

The open-ended type has the greatest potential for richness of
meaning, but since most current computer narratives are
essentially closed-ended games let me discuss that type first.

CLOSED-ENDED STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY

Typical 'twitch' games, including most Nintendo and arcade-style
computer games, essentially consist of hand-to-eye coordination
learning. The game presents a series of obstacles, sometimes
stringing them together into a simple story and sometimes not
bothering much with plot at all. The player learns when to zig,
when to zag, where to put the falling trapezoid, how to kill the
bats, how to deal with endlessly sprouting mushrooms. It's
stretching a point to call this process 'resolution of
ambiguity,' so let me quickly pass on to firmer ground.

A better example of closed-ended ambiguity may be seen in the
type of game known as 'adventures' or 'interactive fiction,'
stories that proceed according to what I call a 'resistant plot.'
The player takes on a role within an imaginary world filled with
apparent ambiguities, which it is the player's task to resolve.
By overcoming obstacles or solving puzzles--as players discover
the hidden usefulness of simulated objects, or how the behavior
of a character can be changed--the plot is made to advance. Since
the original "Adventure" was invented by a pair of computer
scientists named Crowther and Woods in the mid 1970's, the genre
has seen considerable refinement in graphical imagery and
application to varied subject matter.

One problem with resistant-plot stories is that they demand a
great leap of faith. The player must spend a considerable amount
of time struggling to make something happen, all the while unsure
if the end result will be particularly interesting. Many people
are understandably reluctant to spend a good chunk of their lives
beating their heads against imaginary walls. As a former writer
and player of 'interactive fiction,' my current feeling about
this part of the computer game genre is best summed up by a line
from Voltaire: "life is too short to learn German."

Even in the best 'interactive fiction,' once all the puzzles have
been solved the plot is revealed in all its naked linearity. A
finished 'closed-ended' work is like a punctured balloon, emptied
of all ambiguity. There is little reason for anyone to go through
it again.

OPEN-ENDED STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY

By contrast, an 'open-ended' work becomes more ambiguous, not
less, the more it is played. It is through repeated playings,


comparing different plots chosen through the same web of

potential plots, that the experience becomes most meaningful.
This can be most clearly seen in the genre known as
'simulations.' Here we must once again sort out the different
uses for a term.

Classic computer simulations are designed as serious analytical
tools, or as a means for training people in specific tasks. By
setting up a model of some real-world system (a power plant, an
airport control tower, an all-terrain vehicle) players and
designers can examine the workings of that system. Modifications
can be tested out on the model before actually being put into
practice, potential problems can be identified, trainees can
learn their jobs in an environment where mistakes cause no real
damage.

Narrative simulations, however, are designed with more broadly
didactic and expressive goals in mind. By taking on a role within
a simulated system, players may explore that system as the author
has chosen to model it, and experience the underlying conflicts,
powers and constraints peculiar to that role as it is played in
the real world.

Two recent examples are "Sim City," by Will Wright and Maxis
Software, and my own "Hidden Agenda," written with TRANS Fiction
Systems. "Sim City" puts the player in control of a city, which
begins as a bucolic stretch of riverbank seen from the air. As
the player creates residential areas, roads, power plants, and
industrial areas, the city quickly comes alive. Little houses
start to appear once people (the 'sims') move in. Soon the 'sims'
may be seen going back and forth to work in cars and commuter
trains. Opinion polls tell you how they feel about your skill at
managing their city. They complain about taxes, demand that you
spend more on police and fire protection, and plead for emergency
aid in the aftermath of floods and earthquakes.

"Hidden Agenda" also puts the player in a position of power, this
time the President of a fictitious Central American country.
Action takes place in encounters with characters, represented by
photographic images and bits of dialogue about policy choices.
Representing political parties, Army factions, social groups,
professions, economic classes, other nations and international
agencies, each tries to convince you to follow his or her own
policy agenda. If they grow impatient or disillusioned with your
leadership they may take action on their own.

These two games present the world very differently--one through a
graphical representation of a growing metropolis, the other
through changing positions taken by characters as expressed in
words and background graphics. They are alike, however, in
inducing players to feel increasingly responsible and ambiguous
about the effect they can have on a virtual culture. Players
inevitably measure each city they build in "Sim City" against the
variant cities they might have built had they made other choices.
The city itself--*your* city, which you may name for yourself if
you so desire--becomes a kind of character for whose growth,
problems and personality you feel directly responsible. Since you
can save the position of any city at any point, you can build two
or more variant cities and observe the effects of even minor
modifications of policy.

In "Hidden Agenda" the player's choices amount to the incremental
selection of one plot out of an extremely varied number of
potential plots. For example, midway through the game the
Presidente can decide to hold elections. Depending on various
other choices made along the way, various things happen during
the election season. Sometimes events play out like the
Salvadoran elections of 1982 and 1984: terrific violence,
assassination of leftist candidates, strong right-wing army
control of the process, U.S. proclamation of the results as a
triumph for democracy. Sometimes instead they play out more like
the Nicaraguan elections of 1984: minimal violence, withdrawal
of rightist candidates, strong left-wing army control of the
process, U.S. denunciation of the results as a fraud.

As author I am making ironic points in this obvious example,
points that the interactive structure amplifies and sets in
context. Each subsequent time the player enters the election
campaign, comparisons naturally arise between what happens this
time and what happened other times. This serves to deepen the
player's awareness of the range of structural possibilities.

In both simulations, it is up to the player to decide whether
they 'won' or 'lost.' "Sim City" is extremely open-ended: you
can follow the progress of your city on through the centuries if
you wish. In "Hidden Agenda" your term of office is limited to
three years (if you are not overthrown in a coup or voted out of
power). Whichever way your term of office ends, the simulation
concludes with an encyclopedia entry supposedly written far in
the future (the 'Verdict of History'), detailing what you tried
to do and what resulted. It is up to you to interpret this
Verdict, evaluating your successes and failures according to your
own sense of priorities.

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-------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------

IF BRECHT WERE ALIVE TODAY, WOULD HE BE DESIGNING COMPUTER GAMES

(Part 3 of 3)

Jim Gasperini


Jim Gasperini (ji...@well.sf.ca.us) is author, with TRANS Fiction Systems,
of "Hidden Agenda," a narrative simulation of politics in Central America.
Chosen role-playing game of the year in 1989 by MacWorld, "Hidden Agenda"
has also been used to train diplomats by the Foreign Service Institute of the
US State Department. Also with TRANS Jim co-authored the text adventure
"Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy."


The author of a novel or play, of course, does more than string
together sequences of ambiguities. The ambiguous elements must
have at least a surface coherence and be informed by some
encompassing vision. Can the designers of simulation games do
something similar? Can these works be said to be 'authored?'

I believe they can. Though most simulation games offer schematic
renderings of the essential processes of real-world systems,
exactly which processes are incorporated into the model and
exactly how they play out is a matter of artistic choice,
reflecting the author's understanding and passions. The
schematization allows a player to participate in processes
speeded up and rendered comprehensible, and allows the designer
to impose his or her personality on the work as a whole. Though
designers may honestly attempt to model reality with as much
balance and accuracy as possible, they inevitably construct works
that at bottom reflect their own vision of the world.

A term already exists, of course, for imaginative exercises that
ask a player to actively perform a role: game. This word already
covers so many different activities, however, from charades to
baseball to Monopoly, that its use in this context tends to
confuse and trivialize. To many people the term suggests
something slight, entertaining perhaps but certainly not
'artistic' (unless you wish to consider baseball, say, to be a
form of dance with a set, familiar choreography on the theme of
conflict, within which individual performers have a certain range
of interpretive freedom. I suspect, however, that few ballplayers
think of themselves as 'movement artists.')

The assumption seems to be that since a game requires the player
to take some sort of action it inherently offers less density of
meaning than forms which ask the audience to remain relatively
passive. This assumption arises, quite naturally, from our long
familiarity with many types of games. From earliest childhood we
use games to amuse and instruct ourselves, starting with the
simplest and moving on to ones of increasing complexity.

Whatever the main point of interest--which players win and which
lose, how they play the game, how much fun they have along the
way, how much money they can make by playing it--most games are
designed as elaborately simple sets of procedures for tamed,
managed conflict which can be repeated many times. Game designers
have usually ceded so much control over how the experience plays
out that players can have very little sense of participating in
someone else's artistic vision.

Yet here I am, arguing that new technologies allow such
exceptional authorial control over an interactive experience that
a 'game' may be designed with enough precision and depth to be
considered a form of narrative art.

WANTED: TERM FOR NEW CATEGORY

Part of the difficulty is semantic. Once we manage to find a
distinctive name for this category of experience, it will be
easier to evaluate it on its own merits without having to
endlessly distinguish it from other things. Unfortunately, all
the words used to describe authored interactive works--game,
simulation, interactive fiction, multimedia--are too broad,
pointing in too many directions at once (too ambiguous!) Take
'simulation,' for example. If defined very broadly:

A simulation of human behavior experienced by watching actors on
a stage is called:
drama, play, theatricals, the stage, histrionics.

A simulation of human behavior experienced by reading words in a
book or periodical is called:
narrative, literature, novel, story, fiction.

A simulation of human behavior experienced by watching patterns
of flashing lights on a screen is called:
cinema, motion picture, movie, television, video.

A simulation of human behavior experienced by interacting with
computer technology is called:

what?

We sorely need a new term or two. Interactive works are not
sub-genres of drama, fiction, or cinema--they are a fourth thing
entirely.

STRENGTHS OF THE MEDIUM

Every medium has its peculiar strengths. This one is so new that
its strengths have only begun to appear. Since we have only begun
to simulate human behavior in interactive works, we have vast
amounts of subject matter yet to address.

One great strength, clearly, is the medium's ability to present
the world from another person's perspective. What does the world
look like to a Latin American? What powers come with the role of
leader of a small country, what limitations and constraints?
Interactive works already enable a player to experience 'a day in
the life of an Israeli,' 'a typical Australian neighborhood
barbecue,' and 'what it was like to be a French gentleman during
the Enlightenment.'

So far most of these works have been designed with instructional
purposes in mind, offering the player insights into sociology,
language, and history. As time goes on, we may begin to see more
personal uses of the interactive medium. One game might explore
what it is like to be a woman on the edge of madness; another
what it is like to be a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis; a
third simply 'what it is like to be me.' We will see
propagandistic uses: interactive Leni Reifinstahls creating
strongly biased simulated worlds.

Some interactive artists may decide to use the new medium to
address subject matter traditional to narrative art. On the other
hand, there may be aspects of human experience that the
interactive medium can better address than can more traditional
forms. Questions of economic theory and political philosophy, for
example, can be more easily woven into a narrative structure in a
medium that places the audience in the role of protagonist.

Novels, plays and films about men and women in public life
usually focus on the tension between the public and the private
person. They do so in part because the form (at least as used
conventionally) works by inducing the audience to identify with
and care about the principal characters. Since the 'audience' of
an interactive work no longer sits to one side judging how the
protagonist meets various challenges, authors can build emotional
resonance on the player's sense of direct responsibility for how
those challenges are met.

That a work is built with structural ambiguity does not preclude
the use of other levels of ambiguity as well. We will soon see
much more poetic use of textual ambiguity within interactive
works than we have seen so far. As for interpretive ambiguity,
this is a natural consequence of the way author and player
collaborate in the final production. The effects of this
collaboration may already be seen in the tendency of complex
simulated systems to behave in ways not explicitly planned by the
designers, a phenomenon known as 'emergent behavior.' For
example, as certain Sim Cities mature slums begin to appear. This
was not planned by the designers, but emerged as the natural
consequence of the way some players act within the simulation.

Simulation games have the potential to accomplish some of the
same purposes Brecht sought to achieve in his experiments with
theatrical form. The interactive medium can inform while
entertaining, make the audience an active and aware participant,
illuminate the political and cultural context within which
audience and performance exist. The way the player can choose to
examine information from many different standpoints during the
course of some games (for example by viewing charts and newspaper
reports) is arguably analogous to the Brechtian technique of
underlining the significance of events on stage with placards
inscribed with statistics.

On the other hand, many of Brecht's theatrical innovations were
designed to create aesthetic distance, not break it down. Brecht
fought against the idea that theater-goers should lose themselves
in the characters on the stage, but the appeal of many computer
games is precisely that they induce players to lose themselves in
a character (or, worse, in a sequence of pointlessly aggressive
actions). What Brecht would have thought of the interactive
medium is idle speculation. I suspect, in fact, that he would
have hated most current computer games.

INTERACTING WITH THE FUTURE

Though I firmly believe that computer games can be serious works
of art, I will not argue that works produced so far manage to do
much more than point up the possibility. A serious work of art
will not only evoke emotion, it will embody the expression of
emotion on the part of its creators. Just how deeply the
interactive medium will be able to probe the human psyche and the
human condition remains to be seen. Are we witnessing the birth
of a new art form, showing promise of accurately expressing the
tenor of our times? Or will it be a new hype, a way to sell us
the illusion of control, packaging a safely neutered rebellion
against the enforced passivity of so much of our current cultural
experience? It may well be both.

Much of our audience remains unprepared to look beyond the
immediate gratification of closed-ended game structures on
trivial themes. As the generations growing up with interactive
entertainment mature, however, the medium will mature along with
them.

The medium is very new, and still difficult to work with. For
designers it can be a struggle simply to keep the logical nature
of our primary tools from dominating our thought processes. All
computers really know is how to count to one, after all;
everything else is illusion. The challenge is to build works that
pretend to some artistic character in a context set by the binary
thinking of computer programs--to somehow use logical computers
to recreate human fuzziness.

Perhaps it is only natural that this form of narrative developed
in the age of quantum mechanics. Our physicists tell us that what
we take to be the solidity of matter is only a reflection of our
limited means of perception... that time may be bidirectional...
that things can be true and untrue simultaneously... that it is
entirely possible for alternate universes to be created and
destroyed. The way the interactive medium plays with ambiguities
in the structure of experience may parallel the way we have come
to view our universe. Perhaps our cultural imagination is only
following, in crude and timid fashion, our vision of the
ambiguity of existence as it molds the structure of our dreams.

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-------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------


COMPUTATIONAL DRAMA IN OZ

Joseph Bates


Dr. Joseph Bates (joseph...@wizard.oz.cs.cmu.edu) is director of the Oz
project at School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University. He was co-
host of the Workshop on Interactive Fiction and Synthetic Realities at the
AAAI-90 conference. (Abbe Don)


>From working notes of AAAI-90 Workshop on Interactive Fiction and Synthetic
Realities, Boston, July 1990. These are informal notes prepared as background
material for a lecture given at the AAAI workshop.


The Oz project at the CMU School of Computer Science is developing
technology for high quality interactive fiction. Our goal is to
provide users with the experience of living in a dramatically
interesting simulated world that includes simulated people.

A variety of researchers on human interfaces are studying virtual or
artificial realities. These are computer simulated interactive visual
environments that people experience as real. Most existing research
concerns issues close to the interface, that is, how to take an
underlying simulated world and present it in a convincing fashion.
The Oz group plans to use this interface technology as it develops,
but our work is on creating rich, deeply modeled underlying worlds.
Thus, we study the simulations behind the interface, which we call the
deep structure of virtual reality.

Our work applies existing artificial intelligence technology to the
problem of building dramatic worlds. These worlds are composed of a


(simulated) physical environment, intelligent/emotional agents which
live in the world, a user interface and theory of presentation to let
one or more humans interact with the world and its agents, and a
computational theory of drama which plans and controls the overall

flow of events in the world. There are clear applications of such
simulations to entertainment (interactive fantasy experiences) and to
training (e.g., improving interpersonal skills in business). Also,
since we think art develops as new media develop, we hope our work
will be the basis for one of the first sophisticated knowledge based
art forms, using computers as the underlying medium.

We believe these simulations, which today require engineering
workstations, will run on future consumer electronics products that
integrate video and audio with RISC engines, large DRAMs, and digital
signal processors. Interactive fiction was the most popular home
software in the U.S. in the early 1980's, despite an extremely low
level of technical sophistication. We suspect that by taking
advantage of known technologies, interactive fiction can develop into
a popular and long lasting art form. We think it can serve as a
primary motivation for people to own the personal digital systems of
the middle 1990's.

AN OVERVIEW OF OZ

As preparation for the workshop lecture, this document presents an
overview of the Oz Project. Our efforts can be partitioned into six
areas: physical world simulation, the minds of simulated characters,
the user interface with its theory of presentation, theories of
drama, the world building environment, and the artistic use of the
system, each of which is described below.

Oz is built in Common Lisp, with substantial use of the Common Lisp
Object System. The system incorporates large amounts of code from other
Lisp based AI projects. We develop Oz on Mach/Unix workstations, but do
not presently rely on anything beyond Lisp.

The Oz group at CMU includes Bates, five Computer Science graduate
students, an undergraduate, and a gradually growing collection of
users from the English and Drama departments and elsewhere in the CMU
community. We are assisted, especially on dramatic theory, by Brenda
Laurel.

With Brenda and with Margaret Kelso, of the CMU Drama department, we
have started studying real life interactive improvisations. These can
be viewed as simulations of Oz, and can tell us both about the
inherent nature of this art form and about how to build computer based
IF (interactive fiction) systems.

PHYSICAL WORLD SIMULATION

The Oz physical world simulator provides a commonsense model of the
physical world. It is an abstract model, thus many aspects of the
real world are omitted. Unlike existing interactive fiction systems,
our emphasis in not on manipulating objects in the world, but on
character and plot. Thus, while we are applying object oriented
techniques to flexibly model the world, and while these models could
ultimately become quite rich, our requirement is only to provide
enough of a physical reality to let authors construct interesting
characters and stories.

THE MINDS OF CHARACTERS

These are the minds of the (non-human) agents that populate worlds.
One of the claims of the Oz project is that the mental architectures
and real world knowledge bases that have been developed in AI over the
last 15 years, while perhaps still too weak for real robots, are well
suited to the demands of interactive fiction. Our goal is to draw on
the best of these existing systems, such as work from Yale, CMU, and
Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC), and
interface them to Oz as frameworks for the minds of agents.
Once these frameworks have been established, the builders of worlds
will use them to construct individual characters.

We are currently working on two frameworks: a goal driven reactive
planner called HAP and the Prodigy planner. We are developing HAP
within the Oz group based on work at MIT by Agre and Chapman and on
work at Yale by Firby. Prodigy is a planner/learner being developed
at CMU by Jaime Carbonell's machine learning group. We expect to
extend both systems using ideas of Wilensky, Dyer, Carbonell, and
others to provide some level of social awareness and emotion, in
addition to rudimentary intelligence.

In addition, we are interested in exploring other systems. The
developers of Soar (particularly Allen Newell at CMU and John Laird at
University of Michigan) and CYC (Doug Lenat at MCC) have expressed
interest in connecting their systems to Oz. We are hopeful that this
will occur during the next few years.

USER INTERFACE AND THEORY OF PRESENTATION

The user interface connects human agents to the simulated world. For
the immediate future, we expect this connection will be via natural
language text. We have been using software from the CMU Center for
Machine Translation to generate text, producing both the narrative
description of the world and the textual "speech" of computer
modeled agents. We are now developing Glinda, our own generator, with
careful attention to the PENMAN work at ISI.

In our application, parsing is easier than generation. At present we
use a general purpose bottom up parser with a simple grammar and ad hoc
semantic and pragmatic analysis. We are considering using
instead a word based parser, such as the DYPAR parser originally
developed by Roger Schank's group at Yale. These parsers seem
appropriate for processing short, syntactically limited, possibly
ill-formed input, which is typical in interactive fiction.

We have started studying ways to "tune" the natural language
generation to provide subtle emotional influence on the human player.
In theatre and cinema, extra-semantic influences such as music,
lighting, point of view, zooms, and film editing play a significant
role in determining viewer reaction. The artistic technique developed
in these areas is crucial to their respective media. Our report
"Towards a Theory of Narrative for Interactive Fiction" describes
results of our initial efforts to find analogous technique for
interactive fiction. We are pursuing this research, with the goal of
having Oz adjust its style of output to suit the varying dramatic
content of the story. Hovy's work on PAULINE is directly relevant to
our efforts.

As individual character architectures develop, they may well bring
their own mechanisms for natural language processing. Where these
mechanisms improve the quality of characters, we will probably use
them in place of Glinda.

Oz presently uses a text interface for two reasons. First, an
argument can be made that text based IF is a valid form in its own
right, allowing certain kinds of artistic technique, such as
narrative, that cannot easily be applied in a VR setting. Second, we
feel that our research effort and computing capacity is best spent now
on characters, natural language, and dramatic theory. However, as
virtual reality interface technology matures and as we develop
efficient implementations for inhabited dramatic worlds, we plan to
investigate ways of replacing the text interface with facilities for
speech, animation, and gestures. We hope this work will be in
collaboration with researchers studying each of these areas.
We have discussed, but not taken, such steps with Andy Witkin's
animation research group.

COMPUTATIONAL DRAMA

Oz worlds are intended not only to be realistic, but to be
interesting. Often this means giving people the feelings that come
with good stories, feelings that arise in part from the structure of
plot, such as complication, climax, and resolution.

We understand how this can be achieved for static text: an author
carefully constructs the text to convey the structure. However, in
interactive fiction we do not write out the whole text in advance, and
we don't know in advance the detailed sequence of events a reader will
experience. Thus, the Oz system must dynamically, and subtly, adjust
the behavior of the world and its characters to provide experiences
with the desired dramatic structure. This means developing and
implementing a computational theory of drama, and using it to guide
the behavior of worlds.

We see several approaches to developing such a theory. The simplest
comes from having the author express a partial order on the
significant events of the story (an "abstract plot graph"),
explicitly representing that partial order in the system, and using it
to drive the character goals and narrative decisions in the rest of
the system. This approach would leave almost all the dramatic theory
in the mind of the author, with the plot graph serving as a kind of
partially ordered program to be executed by the system.

A richer approach is to develop a library of abstract plot units and
then, as the interaction proceeds, rapidly search abstract plot space
for controllable paths that have the desired dramatic structure. We
can view this as a kind of abstract adversary search, where we define
a set of abstract operators, means for mapping operators into concrete
moves, means for recognizing the abstract effects of the users moves,
and an evaluation function on event histories (ie, stories) that lets
us recognize sequences with "good" dramatic structure.

We are working toward implementations of both of these approaches.
The former appears to be a relatively easy way to provide dramatic
control signals for experiments with the rest of Oz; the latter is a
self-contained long term research goal. In both of these efforts, we
are drawing on Brenda Laurel's studies of computational versions of
Aristotle's Poetics.

(editor's note: the workshop lecture discussed these matters in greater
detail).

WORLD BUILDING ENVIRONMENT

Once we gather and integrate available AI technologies, thus making
dramatic worlds possible, we need to provide some means for "normal
people" to construct such worlds. For interactive fiction to develop
as an art, many artists must explore it, because their feedback is
crucial to guide the technology toward artistically desirable goals.
While these artists may be computationally inclined, they do not need
to be experienced Lisp/AI programmers.

Designing the right tools for a general purpose Oz authoring
environment can only come after we have some experience building
individual Oz worlds. However, we know that building Oz worlds will
be a kind of programming. It will involve creating, accumulating, and
reusing large numbers of world parts, such as physical objects and
settings, parts of minds (planners, plans, kinds of social knowledge),
sets of linguistic rules, and components of narrative and dramatic
theories.

The Oz "parts" libraries, similar perhaps to the backlots of
Hollywood studios, will be large and varied. The libraries will
contain mechanisms for modifying and building objects (meta-knowledge)
as well as individual objects of special value. We believe that the
overall library structure and the processes for building it may be
similar to those of the NuPrl system. NuPrl is an interactive
environment for mathematicians and programmers to use in
semi-automatically creating large bodies of explanations and
procedures. It is one of the first and most successful systems of its
kind, and has spawned related research in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
Bates was one of the leaders of the PRL project, and based on that
experience has designed a successor system, called MetaPrl, which is
planned as the basis for the Oz authoring environment.

USE OF THE SYSTEM

It is very important that the technical efforts of building Oz be
guided by the needs of artists building worlds. We have already
involved several people from the CMU English, Drama, and other departments
in this process. We intend to have the population of Oz users grow as
the system develops, by teaching courses to the full CMU community and
by making Oz available to the research communities outside of CMU.
This widespread use is necessary in practice, since it will require
great effort to construct a substantial library of world parts and
the effort must be distributed over a large base of developers. But
we believe it is even more necessary in principle, to learn the
potential of interactive fiction as a new art form and to guide the
development of Oz toward reaching that potential.

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-------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------

WELCOME TO THE MATRIX:
FROM OBJECT ORIENTED TEXT TO QUANTUM INDETERMINACY

John G. McDaid


John G. McDaid (u1...@applelink.apple.com) is an instructor in the English
Dept. of the New York Institute of Technology. He is currently completing
his doctoral dissertation on hypermedia composition at NYU, and is also
working on an interactive fiction, "Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse." He
is a co-founder of the TINAC collective, a group of writers and teachers
investigating hypertext and narrative.


"Down among the dancing quanta,
Everything exists at once.
Up above in Transverse City,
Every weekend lasts for months..."
-Warren Zevon,
"Transverse City"

Jay David Bolter, in a talk at last year's Modern Language
Association conference, spoke about the duality of hypertext:
the dialectic of node and link, or as he put it, "looking at"
vs. "looking through." The reader experiencing the text he
says, is "aware of oscillation; [and this is an] explicit
measure of interaction." Ultimately, he was arguing,
hypertext wants to be both at the same time. Text which can
present itself as surface, and yet effortlessly yield through
to other levels. Hearing this, I immediately began to suspect
this hypermedia duality was the mirror and analogue of the
duality of particle and wave, of energy and matter, in
physics. What we are seeing in hypermedia is the appearance
on the macrolevel (of 2-meter humans and similar Objects) of
quantum reality.

In this essay, I'll attempt to explain this perspective
(and any lack of clarity is purely my own, and should not be
attributed to Bolter) and try to link this with a notion of
texts as "transformative utterances," occasions for semiotic
recombination which serve the function of conscious dreams.
As Jung said somewhere, "The psyche seeking transformation
yields symbols." It seems to me as if there is a hidden
agenda in media evolution which has guided us into stumbling
over just this dichotomy...

The ideal for texts that Bolter describes seems already to
exist in our minds. Each idea, embedded in an interconnected
holographic space, can serve as both the Node, and then,
vanishing into itself and passing on to the Other, as the
Link. In physics, we understand that all "particles" are
really energy, that "energy" is in fact a "particle" with a
different 'spin.' The search for the Grand Unified Theory
(GUT) is a search for the invariances, the symmetry which,
when shattered, gives rise to the duality of fermions and
bosons-- things and force-bearers. Our idea of Idea is in
fact such a symmetry-breaking operation, cutting out of the
quantum flux of mental process this "thing," which we proceed
to label an idea, and which then surprises us when it
vanishes into its interconnections.

Ideas, in the mind, are active symbols in a Hofstadterian
sense. Not "signals," or arbitrary strings of characters to
be decoded Chinese-Box-wise, but living entities, each with
its own propensities, capable of acting. Each "word" in the
mind is a nexus of activity. If you will, the mind is
Indeterminate Text in its richest sense. Our mind is this
constant being and yielding, the entiteification and
recombination, the process of being created and sustained
above quantum flux, interfacing back down into web-woven
synthesis. But this is the ideal of Indeterminate Text; the
actualization of this, in current hypertext schemes, can only
be Object Oriented.

"It is rather a question of
substituting signs of the real for
the real itself, that is, an
operation to deter every real
process by its operational double, a
metastable, programmatic, perfect
descriptive machine which provides
all the signs of the real and short-
circuits all its vicissitudes."
-Jean Baudrillard,
"Simulations"

Michael Joyce has created a taxonomy for hypertexts: those
which are exploratory, and those which are constructive. An
exploratory hypertext, says Joyce, is one which fundamentally
recapitulates the models of interaction with previous media,
like, say, books. You can poke around in an information
space, perhaps making a few notes or building trails, but
there is a hidden geometry to the space to which you stand in
the relation of discoverer, or interpreter. Hypermedia
dictionaries, pre-scripted virtual realities, parser-driven
interactive fictions are the paradigms of the exploratory.
These texts are object-oriented in a deep sense. Like object-
oriented computer languages, they comprise a domain of
demons, each awaiting its invocation. But they also deeply
replicate the phenomenology of objects in our everyday world:
they recapitulate what we know about our world.

Well, so what? We return, for a moment, to the world of
the quantum, a world where Objects can both "exist" and "not
exist," where location is a probability, and where, with
sufficient energy and time, improbabilities become manifest.
Clearly, our presumptive world, the world of our human-size
epistemology extruded into exploratory hypertexts, is not
isomorphic with the quantum. However, Joyce's other category,
the constructive hypertext, provides an indication of the
right direction:

Constructive hypertexts...require a
capability to act: to create, to
change, and to recover particular
encounters within the developing
body of knowledge....These en-
counters, like those in exploratory
hypertexts, are maintained as
versions, i.e. trails, paths, webs,
notebooks, etc.; but THEY ARE
VERSIONS OF WHAT THEY ARE BECOMING,
A STRUCTURE FOR WHAT DOES NOT YET
EXIST.
[CAPS mine]

The constructive hypertext is the embodiment of
Schrodinger's Cat. Constructive hypertexts do not proceed
from discovery of hidden content, but rather by symbolic
creation. A constructive hypertext (and it must be admitted,
there are few examples) is necessarily elliptical, open, and
metaphoric. For this reason, we are more likely to find them
in the province of interactive fiction or 'narrative' than in
the commercial world, for reasons that Elizabeth Eisenstein
and Marshall McLuhan would explain by pointing to the
linkages between literacy, social control, and capitalism...

Pragmatism again. But if we are to look for the leading
edges of true hypermedia, we must look beyond the pragmatic.
When the protomammals internalized their media ecology,
putting a symbolic representation of the world into their
brain, they leaped immediately ahead of the presymbolic,
associative idea-space of the reptiles. But this technology
(and its technological progeny) have at their heart this
implicit pragmatism, a pragmatism engendered by the world of
sensory experience. If we are to catch glimpses of the future
of 'text,' we must look for metapragmatic characteristics:

1) It will not be visual. At least not in the same way that
we currently think. As McLuhan said, "[Euclidian] visual
space...has the basic character of linearity,
connectedness, homogeneity, and stasis." Instead, think
about virtual realities in 4-D worlds, or Reimannian
geometries. Or fractals. And what of the Hilbert Space
which had been spoken of...

2) It will not be linguistic. As Roger Penrose maintains in
his book "The Emperor's New Mind," language, localized as
it is in the left hemisphere areas of Broca and Wernicke,
is inconsistent with whole brain knowing or symbolic
cognition. He takes issue with the common assumption that
without language, thought is impossible.

3) It will be a reflection of the active constitutory action
of mind. William Gibson's book "Neuromancer" highlights
this distinction. In "Neuromancer," there are two varieties
of digital experience: simstim and cyberspace. Simstim (or
sensory stimulation) is the digital equivalent of
television: neural implants in the "actor" transmit sensory
experience which you "tune in" for the experience of "being
there." But the cyberspace cowgirls and cowboys dismiss
this as a "meat toy." The real action exists in the Matrix,
or cyberspace, which is a "Consensual hallucination...a
graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of
every computer in the human system." Not everyone can jack
into cyberspace and project their consciousness into the
matrix. Like reading and writing, or tv viewing and
production, there could be another broken symmetry here, if
we allow certain models of hypermedia development to
dominate...

"The sect...would hide in the
latrines with some metal disks in a
forbidden dice cup and feebly mimic
the divine disorder."
-Jorge Luis Borges,
"The Library of Babel"

Evolutionarily, we are phenomenological pragmatists. Our
ideation, our "minding," our language, our Texts, all reflect
such habits of mind, and the technologies we externally
create to instantiate these ways of minding are all
rigorously subject to the contraints of the practical. We are
all naive realists and tacit essentialists. "Reality is the
shattering of the highest law of motion taught us by
experience," says Ernst Cassirer. Quantum mechanics is the
shattering of pretty much the REST of the truths we learned
poking around in our world of Object-Oriented Childhood.

Roger Penrose argues that thought is non-algorithmic and
strongly dependent on quantum effects. According to Penrose,
"having" a thought is the result of virtual quantum
computation, a collapse of superposed thought-functions, and
which particular thought we have is a non-local solution to
the presenting problem (non-local in the quantum mechanical
sense). In the face of this, algorithmic representations
(which are the pragmatic progeny of natural language) become
sterile replications of received pattern, as unable to
produce artificial intelligence as cookie cutters are to
produce gingerbread humans. What Penrose's argument implies
for hypermedia design is a deep challenge on its most basic
assumptions.

It seems likely, then (he said, falling into the
teleological snare), that the function of consciousness is to
become aware of its limitations--factors latent in the
anthropotropic media with supply it--and to bootstrap itself
through technological augmentation into modes of
awareness/consciousness which are enactments, on this layer
or level of reality, of the fundamental indeterminacy of the
universe and our brains.

Our dreams of the Matrix then, are dreams of a TIKKUN, a
re-integration of the microlevel and macrolevel. Is it
accidental to have choosen such a metaphor as the Matrix, the
mother? Is the coincidence in the rise of patriarchy and
phonetic alphabets happenstance or a smoking gun? As the
ekstasis of intuition was paved over by the tarmac of
pragmatic text, so went the model of self and the symmetry of
gender. Object-Oriented Artificial Intelligence is nothing
more than the latest attempt by the patriarchy to reproduce
itself, AB NIHILO, by uttering the Word.

It remains to be seen if truly Indeterminate Text can be
instantiated macroscopically. Perhaps not by digital systems.
They are either/or systems, and while they can model, or
approximate indeterminacy, they do not, at bottom, embody it,
and therefore seem essentially incapable of manifesting it.
Mind, however, seems to have this capability. Perhaps, as
Penrose suggests, understanding mind will give us insights
into the pathways of the probabilistic. Were we to construct
a fictiverse whose laws were those of quantum mechanics, a
fictiverse we could inhabit as a metapragmatic consciousness,
would we would be capable, in principle, of constructing
indeterminate texts about our experiences?
Maybe.

Perhaps the immobility of the things
that surround us is forced upon
them...by the immobility of our
conceptions of them.
-Marcel Proust,
"Swann's Way"

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-------------- A R T C O M / DECEMBER 1990 / VOL. 10(10) / #44 --------------


LIFE-LIKE CHARACTERS IN INTERACTIVE FICTION

David Graves


David Graves (d...@hpsemc.cup.hp.com) has been doing research and development
in Interactive Fiction for the last six years. He is currently collaborating
with writers on several IF projects, using a software platform of his own.


A common failing of interactive fiction today is that the player is totally
responsible for the progress of the plot. Whenever the player cannot solve a
given puzzle, progress grinds to a halt. Most interactive fiction works are
entrenched in this obstructionist model. There is no plot continuity, and too
little dramatic interaction. Our characters are not pulling their own weight.

The first step is to take the player out of the role of being responsible for
the flow of the plot. In her PhD dissertation, Brenda Laurel explains: "The
user of an interactive system may indeed make contributions on the level of
plot; however, the responsibility for integrating such contributions into the
whole and creating other plot elements that maintain the necessary dramatic
qualities in the whole belongs to the system. When that responsibility
devolves to the user, first-personness is destroyed, as in the classroom
improvisation where the actor must divide his attention between acting and
playwriting tasks. By assuming formal control of the action, the system
frees the user from playwriting concerns and allows him to immerse himself in
the experience of his character."

Furthermore, the characters found in most computer games are cardboard cut-
outs, without any personality. In her PhD dissertation, Mary Ann Buckles
points out this failing in the original Adventure game, which still applies to
most games today: "The characters the reader encounters in the fictional
underworld have no significance other than to pose a puzzle for the reader.
The reader has little emotional involvement with the characters because they,
in turn, do not represent any emotional or spiritual facets of human
existence." Artificial Personality addresses this need for simulating
personality in our characters.

Almost all attempts to generate behavior in computer-controlled characters
have followed a simple stimulus/response model. For each statement you may
make to character, there is one response it may display. Giving the same
stimulus several times in a row, the character will mindlessly repeat the same
response. Clearly, there is room for improvement in creating lifelike
characters, but how can we attack such a difficult task? To start, we can
borrow a number of ideas and methods from the field of Artificial
Intelligence, avoiding the difficult software problems, to produce the
>illusion< of intelligent, emotional, motivated characters.

In order for characters to act intelligently they must be able to interpret
the state of their environment and apply appropriate behaviors. While
applying a problem solving procedure to achieve some goal, however,
complications may arise. In traditional interactive fiction, we pass all
these problems to the player. Instead of troubling the player character with
minor complications, the game software could automatically resolve them. For
example, given the command "Drink the beer," rather than having a character
complain "The beer isn't open," it could recognize "Open the beer" as an
implied subgoal. Any given goal could give rise to a number of subgoals,
which may create subgoals of their own. When a character is able to handle
low level logistics without being given explicit instructions, he appears much
more intelligent. This technique also provides a mechanism for handling
tedious logistical details on behalf of the player, who is then free to think
at higher levels.

No organism's behavior is ever unmotivated. Thus, in order for characters to
display behaviors that appear reasonable and believable, they must have their
own motivations. These motivations help stimulate the generation of plot.
However, without guidance for the plot, chaos is a likely result. To ensure
that the generated plot is interesting, the system could have some concept of
drama and apply it to the currently unfolding story. Laurel's dissertation
gives an outline of an expert system to do just that. "Understanding a story
in its totality is a task that integrates natural language understanding and
the understanding of characters' goals, plans, traits, and emotions, and
utilizes still other techniques for identifying larger patterns of action."
This computerized playwright would recognize opportunities for new plot twists
and act on them. Clearly, this is a lofty vision, requiring vast resources to
implement.

Several projects have been successful in creating small expert systems that
focus on character behavior and interaction, rather than attempting to
recognize and generate plot units. This requires a representation (in
software) for the emotional state and goals of each fictional character.
Using this model, each character's emotional state and current goals drive the
selection of a specific behavior from a large set of possible behaviors. The
intensity of the appropriate emotion values is then used to determine the
intensity of the expression of the behavior. Even when performing simple
actions, a character's hidden emotional state may "leak out." Thus, the way
in which a character attempts to accomplish his goals may be influenced by his
emotions and those of the other characters. Due to the complexity of the
emotional state of the characters, the sub-plot twists are unpredictable, and
due to the goals inserted at plot-critical times, the author can control
the overall plot coherence and pace.

In creating a model of personality and relationships, one must select a
manageable set of emotion variables. The magnitude of these variables will
define how each character relates to the others. Each of these emotion values
tells how one character feels about another. John may love Mary, but Mary may
not love John. Conflicting emotions and goals between characters help keep
the action lively, giving rise to new goals all the time. In addition to
these two dimensional emotions (directed towards other characters), some one
dimensional emotion variables may be created, which indicate a character's
internal emotional state or mood, or personality attributes that remain
constant. Michael Lebowitz, creator of a program that writes soap opera
stories, uses one-dimensional attributes such as niceness, guile, physical
appearance, and promiscuity.

In most interactive fiction products, characters are treated as objects. Most
interactions with other characters are limited to making imperative statements
to them (giving commands). True interaction with characters is impossible in
these worlds because the representation of the world is void of any
"interactive media." You cannot talk with them because there is nothing to
talk about. In worlds containing only objects, the only topic of discourse is
the "object economy" (physical objects that may be manipulated). In order to
produce interaction on more human terms, a system must have (1) a rich
representation for emotions, knowledge, and beliefs, (2) a rich set of
behaviors that are driven by those items, and (3) a rich grammar for
communication of knowledge, events, beliefs, and emotions. These subsystems
must be fully integrated with each other. One would not want to design-in
emotions that cannot influence behavior, or that cannot be talked about using
the input grammar.

At the center of any Artificial Personality system is an emulation of human
emotions. Besides providing new motivation for believable behavior, emotions
give the characters a new domain for discourse. They may interact on the
levels of physical state, information state, and emotional state. In
designing an interactive story, the designer must keep in mind the
interlocking dimensions of physical state, emotions, character beliefs,
behavior, and communication. One must also keep sight of the vision:
characters displaying believable original behavior and engaging in
interesting, dramatic interaction.

NOTES

Brenda Laurel: "Towards the Design of a Computer-based Interactive Fantasy
System" (1986). Defines the vision and the technologies required to implement
it.

Mary Ann Buckles, "Interactive Fiction: The Computer Storygame 'Adventure'"
(1985).

Michael Lebowitz, "Creating Characters in a Story-Telling Universe" Poetics,
13, 171-194. (1984)

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