I heard an interesting talk yesterday by Michael Mateas who’s a computer science professor at U.C. Santa Cruz who works on developing tools to create interactive narrative. I’ve heard people talk about interactive narrative from a Media Studies or English perspective, but it was interesting to here about it from someone who is trying to work through all the gory technical details to make it happen. There’s a lot of tricky AI to make a character seem believable. He talked about the challenges of making characters that react to player input while still maintaining long term goals in order to shape the narrative.
The main project he described is Façde, a psychological drama in which two of your old friends reveal their unhappiness with married life. The game is different every time you play it, and it’s interesting to try different things and see how the characters respond. I think the biggest problem at this point is the natural language understanding system. You can type arbitrary English, but I was left unsure how much of what I typed actually made a difference. Still it’s definitely worth the download.