Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling and Storytron

In September Dr. Dobbs Journal published a very interesting interview with Chris Crawford. (I’ve discovered this interview just yesterday). Chris Crawford, a prominent game designer and writer, talks about interactive storytelling. Chris shares his views on game design in general, but the bulk of the article is dedicated to his new brainchild: interactive storytelling technology called Storytronics. I was excited when I found this conversation, for I am very interested in game design and interactive fiction. With discussions of the way the narrative in the games should be designed being all over the place, I was anxious to hear what the famous game design guru will disclose.

Well, after reading the article I was somewhat disappointed. In the beginning of the conversation Chris told that

The Sims is neither interactive storytelling nor a game. Will [Wright] considers himself a toy designer. It's the finest toy anybody ever developed, but it's not interactive storytelling.

But the more he was telling about his new system, the more I felt that he actually is building something very similar to “The Sims”. And, at the end, I thought that now he plainly contradicts himself:

Basically, it's a social interaction simulator. In fact [it might be] better to think of it as a simulator, because the stories it generates are very different from conventional stories. They don't have plots.

Personally, I think that stories with no plot just aren’t stories. And Storytronics – at least, as Chris described it – seems to be no different from “The Sims”. I was also surprised that Chris didn’t mention the whole genre of Interactive Fiction. Even in the page called “Different Approaches in the Quest for Interactive Storytelling” on his site he never mentions it – which is really strange, because IF is all about interactive storytelling, and can provide a humongous amount of useful information, experience and insights.

The Storytron site allows everyone to download a pre-alpha version of their software. I definitely will do it, because I respect Chris, and I don’t want to judge his ideas based on just one interview. As soon as I try his software, I will post my impressions.

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