This project will conduct the first exploration of a computational system that co-generates intertwined narrative and gameplay progressions. The system will utilize a novel representation called ludo-narrative units (LNUs), representing combinations of narrative, gameplay challenges, and choices. Utilizing audience experience models taking into account phenomena such as player agency, narrative comprehension, and gameplay learning objectives, the system will reason about progressions of narrative choices, narrative exposition, and gameplay challenges, and can dynamically reshape content to match designated goals and audience context. To accomplish this, the project will build an artificial intelligence director to construct interactive scenarios for audiences during their engagement with a game-based narrative.

The dynamic construction of scenarios from a pool of authored LNUs would already comprise more flexibility than currently appears in state-of-the-art scenario driven games and other popular interactive narratives, since LNUs can be selected in multiple orders in response to audience activity. But the envisioned system will provide further flexibility and customization through modification of LNU content using story generation technology. Specifically, it will use a story-planning system based on imaginative recall to dynamically provide this content. Further, global narrative and gameplay structure will be provided by using a constraint-solving algorithm to create full experiences satisfying the various system goals, written using answer set programming techniques. This enables the crucial flexibility that allows the system to reason over an arbitrary number of domains without locking it into pre-planned interfaces and infrastructure.

A high-level impact of this research will be contributing to a deeper understanding of these scenarios, as it defines them with the level of rigor required for generation. At a more technical level, the research will produce the first system that generates mixed interactive narrative and gameplay guided by shared experience goals. One of the high-level motivations for pursuing this work is that it has potentially profound impact for education, allowing next-generation educational software to benefit from the motivating power of scenarios and to be generated specifically for the learning profile, goals, and progress of particular learners. It is also potentially the case that experiences generated in this manner, and based on these models, could more effectively reach audiences that have grown up with games as a primary media form.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
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William Bainbridge
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University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
United States
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