Search-Based Drama Management

Ari Lamstein and Michael Mateas

A major obstacle to creating compelling story-based video games is shaping the player’s experience into a narrative structure without impinging on the player’s sense of agency (interactive freedom). Story-based video games (e.g. adventure games, many RPGs) tend to prescript linear or mildly branching stories, alternating periods of relatively open-ended and story-free interaction with non-interactive story events (cut-scenes) or discrete story choices. Simulation world games (e.g. Grand Theft Auto, some RPGs) present the player with many possible courses of action at every moment, at the expense of global story structure. We propose a system, a Search-Based Drama Manager (SBDM), which can help guide the player’s experience in more open-ended story worlds along narratively pleasing story arcs. SBDM rests on two assumptions: that an evaluation function can encode an author’s aesthetic for a story, and that search can be used to effectively guide a user’s experience in a story world. We present preliminary work on applying SBDM to the Interactive Fiction piece Anchorhead.


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