Interactive Storytelling

So this is a toughy. How do you make a completely interactive story? To make a story completely dynamic, that by playing it, you control every outcome? How is that possible? It’s not (right now) technically or otherwise. I just couldn’t imagine it, designing a system that could take into account every action and have an according reaction… it’s wild.

To begin, where do we begin? A story needs 3 things to be a compelling story, a beginning, middle and end. How do we get all those in a game where at any point you could change the direction of everything? Say you get 10 minutes to get to a location or your girlfriend is killed. And you don’t make it. She gets killed, she had knowledge to secret of destroying the villain, no one ever finds out. Is that really telling a story? Maybe a really disappointing, sad story. But not very compelling.

Now, if you can qualify a story as just a player romanticizing his own exploits within it, then that is something different, but again lacking a structure that would make it interesting to experience. I’ve logged 20 hours in Skyrim, and although I’m enjoying it (and there were quests here or there with strict outcomes and requirements to complete them), I doubt anyone would want to read about me ducking in corners for hours slowly killing bad guys that are too hard for me take head on. It’s just not an interesting plot. But, a video game is a personal experience, so should it matter? If we excised the main quest from Skyrim, and even all the others, and simply left the NPCs to interact with (buy, sell, make friends, whatever else), We could technically have the interactive story the most ambitious developers strive for… but we won’t have an ending. So where do we draw the line?

Dark Souls might be a better example. The world doesn’t have the random assassins like Skyrim that come for you when you have a big enough name, but the world is just sitting there, and it’s completely up to you how you want to approach it. Even the main quest is sitting way in the back, hard to notice, just hanging out. You do what you want, at your pace, and although it doesn’t have the girth of Skyrim (can’t really make any wives in this one), it does have a vast universe to explore.

But, for right now, I’m sticking to the Uncharted’s for my story. It’s structured, linear, well put together and excellently presented. No, it’s not the transcendent game that will change the way we tell stories in video games, but the level of interaction on a purely physical level is unmatched. It is imitating film, yes, but I happen to like a good movie.

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