“Roger, liftoff, and the clock has started”

However you categorize it, the first sub-orbital flight of Siboot is a milestone.

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Versu Relaunched

Back in February of 2014 Emily Short announced that Linden Labs was no longer supporting Versu. The future of this interactive storytelling tool looked grim.

Yesterday, Emily announced on the new Versu site that she and the other creators of the technology have reached an agreement with Linden Labs.

After Versu’s cancellation, it looked for a long time as though neither the underlying technology nor the finished stories had a future. However, we are delighted to be able to announce that Linden Lab has negotiated a new arrangement that will allow us to release these stories and explore a future for the engine.

You can read the post in its entirety here.

Posted in Tools | 11 Comments

Wanted: One Paradigm Shift – Pt. 1

The term “paradigm shift” was first coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it he described the method by which science conducts its “business.”

Think in terms of a hierarchy of ideas. At the bottom of the hierarchy is a hypothesis: a single proposition about reality. The hypothesis should be testable and subject to disconfirmation. The next step up is a theory: a larger, more abstract idea that generates a number of testable hypotheses. A paradigm is the next step up: it is the entire set of concepts and relationships that are assumed by a theory.

But new paradigms do not effortlessly replace old ones. There’s resistance from those who have invested time and effort in the old system.

This creates serious tension within the community. The old pros are telling everybody that the new scheme sucks, while the youngsters are praising it to the skies. How is this conflict resolved?

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Nothing For Dinner

This month’s topic was presented by Nicolas Szilas in Switzerland, on his IDtension interactive narrative system and its Nothing for Dinner demonstration project.

nothing_for_dinner

The video below, Nothing for Dinner, demonstrates features of the system in a simple dramatic scene.

Rather than modeling personality states or moods for characters, the system offers actors a variety of actions to take with the aim of reaching their goals and overcoming obstacles along the way.

Definitely a project to keep an eye on.

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Siboot Face Technology

This meeting was devoted to a presentation of the face technology that I (Chris Crawford) have been developing in partnership with Alvaro Gonzalez. This is a simple technology that allows an author to apply any of a group of defined emotional expressions to any of a group of defined actors. The design emphasis is on the rejection of photorealism in favor of a more artistic style such as that used in the comics. I have created a graphical editor that permits the designer to adjust the facial features that comprise an emotional expression. The parameter values unique to each actor’s face can be specified in an XML file. I am developing this technology for use in my Siboot project, but I would like to make it open source if I can get some volunteers to help.

I recorded this meeting, so you can review what happened by going to this address:

http://www.instantpresenter.com/chriscrawford/EB50DC868447

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Ever, Jane

Judy Tyrer highlighted today’s meeting with an excellent presentation on her project, “Ever, Jane”. This is an MMO that emphasizes social interaction. Based on the novels of Jane Austen, it looks to me as if this thing really could bust the doors down. Here are just some of the design features that struck me:

Natural language input. We all know that it doesn’t work, but we also know that the future of interactive storytelling requires it. Ms. Tyrer intends to take a very serious stab at the problem; I think that the degree of success she attains will determine the success or failure of her game. She recognizes that the first generation probably won’t be good enough, but expects to be able to improve the technology in subsequent generations. I’m biting my fingernails in the unconfident hope I have for her success.

Spatial orientation. This has long been a big bugaboo for me; I strongly believe that we should dispense entirely with spatial factors and concentrate all our efforts on the social interaction, for which we need only the simple construct of a stage. However, Ms. Tyrer is committed to a traditional 3D universe, and there are a few situations, such as making eye contact, that require this. I fear that it might chase away female players because it “looks just like a video game”. We shall see.

Complex rules of etiquette. The social system in Regency England was most complex and difficult to master. If Ms. Tyrer succeeds in emulating it, then she’ll have difficulty communicating the rules of etiquette. I suspect that this is a problem that will hurt only at the outset; once the game has a reputation for excellence, people will be willing to absorb the complex rules system.

All in all, I think that “Ever, Jane” may prove too complicated a design to get working properly, but if it does work, then it will be a great success. I’m rooting for it.

You can see the game at http://www.everjane.com.

Our next Phrontisterion will be on Wednesday, February 19th, at 0900 Pacific Standard Time.

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Siboot SympolTalk

Dan Fabulich started us off with a brief description of the game that his company will be releasing on Friday. The player is a lawyer in a strange world of “demonic law”. Dan expressed some pride in the quality of the writing. It can be found at:

http://www.choiceofgames.com/2013/12/coming-december-20th-choice-of-the-deathless-by-max-gladstone/

We were hoping that Judy Tyrer would show up to tell us about her successful Kickstarter project to get funding for “Ever, Jane”. Unfortunately, her ISP was particularly intransigent, and Judy was not able to get on until rather late in the hour. She’ll have something for us next month, complete with pretty pictures.

Chris therefore followed through on his threat to talk about Siboot. He explained the basics of SympolTalk, the iconic language used for Siboot.  Here is a short conversation held in SympolTalk:

A short conversation in SympolTalk

A short conversation in SympolTalk

Here’s the sentence-by-sentence translation, starting in the upper left, going down, then to the upper right, going down:

Camiggdo greets Nynub nicely.

Camiggdo asks Nynub if there’s any news.

Nynub decides to tell the truth to Camiggdo.

Nynub tells Camiggdo that Skordokott said nasty things about Camiggdo to Soome.

Camiggdo expresses slight skepticism about that.

Nynub assures Camiggdo that she got it from Soome.

Camiggdo responds noncommittally.

Camiggdo says goodbye to Nynub.

Chris showed other examples and explained some of the details of the operation of the language. Participants seemed unsure about the ease of learning the language, but expressed some confidence that, with practice, people could figure it out.

There was also some question as to the merits of the abstract system in SympolTalk as compared to the use of specific natural language. Chris defended the abstraction as an important benefit, on the grounds that the glyphs in SympolTalk have more semantic volume than words in natural language — they are interpreted more broadly by the user.

Bill Maya pointed out that the underlying concepts about abstraction versus specificity are very well expressed in Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics”.

Stephanie Spong raised the Simlish language used in “The Sims”.

The group discussed some of the problems of referencing past events using a “history book” display, especially the difficulty of creating an effective user interface for such a reference.

Dan Fabulich suggested that it might be more productive to design a board game using the basic dream combat system in Siboot as a way of polishing that sub game, then adding the software to play it over the computer. Chris Crawford was intrigued and promised to explore the possibility.

There was also some discussion of the value of keeping the system as simple as possible. Storytron had suffered badly from a too-complex system. Chris Crawford mentioned that he had completed “Gossip”, a very simplified system and made it available. The iOS version is available on the Apple App store under the name “Teen Talk”. The Android version is available on the Android App store under the name “Gossip”. A Macintosh version is available for free at Chris Crawford’s website at:

http://www.erasmatazz.com/library/software/index.html

There was also some discussion of the value or recording the meeting for future reference. Chris Crawford, being an old fogey, expressed reservations, but promised to open up the subject for discussion on this blog. Let’s hear some opinions!

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