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Default Narrative in RPGs @ Grand Text Auto

February 6th, 2008, 16:53
It's been a few years since we linked the collaborative writing blog , Grand Text Auto. This time they have a lengthy treatise on narrative in RPGs starting with a brief overview and history of the genre and moving in to a more technical structual look, discussing things like quest flags and their impact on narrative:
Of course, with computer RPGs the situation is somewhat different. Many computer RPGs are single-player experiences. In these cases, if there is a group of characters played in the game, the same player controls them all. Or, if multiple players work together (as in massively multi-player online RPGs, such as World of Warcraft) the game is structured for players to communicate over a network, rather than face-to-face.3 Crucially, no player has the part of the game master. The execution of the rules, presentation of the fictional world, portrayal of NPCs, and shaping of the story is left to computational processes and data.

When brought to the computer, then, the core experience of story and character in RPGs shifts from collaborative performance (in the tabletop and live action variants) to digital media (especially for single-player games). In particular, two operational logics have come to prominence in the story and NPC presentations of computer RPGs. These are quest flags and dialogue trees.
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February 6th, 2008, 16:53
I didn't really get much out of this piece, other than the obvious unasked question — is there a better way to do dialog in cRPG's?

I think there is. Chatbots are getting pretty good nowadays, and it's quite possible to get them to "know" things and divulge them if talked to the right way. Their personality can also be tweaked a fair bit. Sometimes the dialog is a bit on the clunky side, to be sure, but then again human-written dialog trees aren't always smooth as malt whiskey either.

I think that it would be entirely feasible to write a game where every character can be chatted with, with "quest characters" knowing critical information that you'd have to pump out of them through conversation, either just by being charming or by referencing other information you've collected beforehand. Chatting would be a quite a natural way to interact with them, too, since very many people do that with humans on a regular basis.
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February 6th, 2008, 17:14
I came to the belief that the "next big bang" in computer games is an AI = the GM.

An AI that measures the players behaviour (the idea came from one of the forum members here, although I don't remember the name ( was it Squeek ? ) [my name-memory is *usually* bad] ) .

I think that's it. An GM-AI.

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February 6th, 2008, 20:52
As far as I can tell, it was me. I suggested this in my thread about reinventing CRPG a while ago and just keep going on and on about it (and I want to thank everyone for tolerating me, btw). GhanBuriGhan among others has also voiced similar ideas.

This article may have even been inspired by some of the conversation we've had here, I think. I agree with its analysis, especially its point about collaboration. It's the first thing worth getting straight about RPG. Collaboration is what makes role-playing in RPGs worthwhile.

Imagine an interface that works like this. An NPC speaks, and a multiple choice of responses is provided, but that's not all. The player could either choose from that or alter those choices by speaking commands like "doubt, apprehension, alarm, receptive, acceptance, rapport or sarcasm." Those indications could alter those choices.

In other words, instead of dialogue choices being used as a driver for indicating roles and personality, roles and personality can be used as a driver for enabling dialogue choice.

But that's not all. Choices about roles and personality can drive other facets of the game besides dialogue. It could drive just about everything.

There are two potential sources for collaboration in single-player games. The first is a sort of meta-AI. The game can think like a GM as was sort of the point here. The second is code. The player (or the game) can download and install mods (it's something only players do right now — it's collaboration in super-slow motion).

Due to their client-server architecture, applications like MMOs can do the first but not the second (because everyone needs the same version on the client side). Single-player applications can be modified, and that opens the door to a huge, huge variety of alternatives.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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February 6th, 2008, 21:01
My intuition says that this could become a big thing.

The concept feels like something we could really use.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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