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Old 07-28-2003, 11:36 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2002
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There has lately been increased success (IMO) in automating the "plausibility" aspect of textual muds.  But one might argue that the ideal mud would not be 100% plausible (beyond gameplay issues).   Rarely are the best-loved stories completely plausible.  Or maybe a better word would be "probable."

For instance, who really believes four hobbits would pass through the various epicenters of such a great war without even one of them dying?  But if even one of them had died, it would have put a bit of a nick in the whole strength-via-friendship theme.  A lot of good stories couldn't have gotten even much of a start if it weren't for some coincidence or another that brings key characters together.  I'm sure there are people out there who would prefer that such things didn't happen in stories, but they can go read history.  Shoo!!

Anyhow, supposing you agree with me so far, do you think it would be possible to successfully implement an automated system that generates such improbabilities in an accurate manner when it comes to telling a good story (from the player's point of view)?  Or would it inherently be too inaccurate because of a lack of information as to what type of story a player would reasonably enjoy at any particular time?  Also, do you think such a system would inherently destroy the gameplay aspect of the MUD even if designed well for its immediate purpose?

Here's a scenario:

Tennith and Ocero, two very recently created characters, together walk unwittingly into the path of an incredibly dangerous predator that is being stalked by Vijo, a master hunter.

There are several possibilities for what could happen:

The predator could completely change course causing the three characters to never meet.  That would not be much of a story, though it may simply mean a delay.

Better than a delay would be if the characters met despite the predator's changed course.  For instance, maybe Vijo loses the tracks, and so he keeps straight until he reaches the two characters.  The player of Vijo has the option of going back and continuing to track the predator or RPing with the two new characters.

The best story would probably include the predator charging at the two victims, Vijo rushing in to the rescue, the predator turning on the master hunter, . . .  Whatever happens after that, the stories of all three characters will likely have been impacted greatly.  Maybe Tennith runs away without helping Vijo and has to deal with having being a coward.  Maybe the master hunter dies, providing an interesting end to his story and an interesting beginning to theirs.  Or maybe they help each other, survive, and become good friends...or maybe their later conversation ends in them slowly realizing that they must be enemies.

Then again, that option opens up the possibility of the new characters dying.  (You can't reasonably force Vijo to attempt a rescue, especially since that might mean his own death.)  Allowing both of them to die may be worse than the delay option, for it is not certain that their death would impact the story of Vijo, the only other important character present; and Tennith and Ocero are too new for it to mean anything for their own stories.  Allowing only Ocero to die might have the same problem, or it might have a significant enough probability of improving either Tennith's or Vijo's stories that it would be worth it.

So story-wise, it might be best to have the predator keep to its course, or it might be best to have it change course at almost the last moment and make Vijo lose track of it at that time.  I would go with the latter, personally, supposing I had that level of choice in the automation of the system.  There is still a possibility for excitement, since the predator hasn't exactly disappeared.  I would just be situating things to the overall story's advantage before it continues forward.

However, do you think you'd want such things to happen automatically, just because it makes for a good story?  Or would you favor letting what happens to happen without automated story intervention? If you do think it would have its place, then in what situations would you favor the idea?
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:46 AM   #2
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The way I look at it, is that what marks an interesting story as different from normal history are those improbable events. These coincidences do occur in real life and it's those 1 in a 1000 events that are interesting enough to be remembered and retold. It's not so much that you need it to be artificial to make a good story, but that it's the improbable stories that we care about the most.

Therefore I might approach it from this angle: generate 1000 sets of events, and pick out the most unusual or interesting 1 or 2 as candidates for a story.
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