Bringing Characters to Life Webinar
The games industry is finally starting to show some interest in storytelling and characters in games. Unfortunately, the information being bandied about comes from storytelling professionals such as Hollywood scriptwriters and novelists. These people know a great deal about traditional storytelling, but they don’t know anything about interactivity, so the advice they give tends to produce interactive games with non-interactive stories tacked on. I’ve been working on the problems of interactive storytelling for nearly twenty years now, and I can provide instruction that’s based on direct experience with the problems.
The first task in building any sort of game character is the creation of a personality model. Models are, in fact, central to all software design; most people simply don’t recognize that they’re interacting with models, not the real thing. A personality model is not meant to be a precise numeric specification of a person’s character; for entertainment purposes, a personality model is to a real human being as a caricature is to a photograph of that person.
I recommend that designers start off with a simple three-dimensional personality model; this model is based on many years of work and is, I think, the best first step in personality modeling.
These variables are expressed in what I call “Bounded Numbers”, which simplify the computational problems of working with personality models. Moreover, these values as perceived by others provide a good set of basic relationships. For example, the basic personality trait Good_Bad, as perceived by others, becomes, for operational purposes, the affection that the perceiver holds for the perceived. In other words, Joe’s affection for Mary is really no different from his perception of how “Good_Bad” she is.
Once a personality model is in place, the designer must also create verbs that permit the expression of character. Aristotle pointed out that “action reveals character”; if we turn this idea around, we conclude that “the revelation of character requires action”. But the kinds of actions permitted in most games (turn right, turn left, move forward, move backward, jump, and shoot) do not reveal anything about character.
Hence the personality model is only useful if the designer also provides the player with a set of verbs that permit the expression of personality.
I explain how such verbs can be handled and, more importantly, how to use the personality model to make decisions among the verbs available to a player.
This webinar has 46 slides for its 45-minute duration. It requires the Algorithms Webinar as a pre-requisite.