Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

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Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

Chris Crawford



Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling
Chris Crawford


Copyright © 2005 by Chris Crawford


Published by New Riders. For information on New Riders Games books, contact:


New Riders
1249 Eighth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510/524-2221 (fax)
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To report errors, please send a note to
[email protected]
New Riders is an imprint of Peachpit, a division of Pearson Education


Acquisitions Editor: Wendy Sharp
Development/Copy Editor: Lisa M. Lord
Production Coordinator: Andrei Pasternak
Technical Reviewers: Mark Barrett, Aria Danika
Compositor: Amy Hassos
Indexer: Lynne M. Grimes/Interactive Composition Corporation Cover Design: Charlene Charles Will
Cover Illustration: Andrei Pasternak
Interior Design: Mimi Heft


Notice of Rights


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information on getting permission for reprints and excerpts, contact
[email protected]


Notice of Liability


The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis, without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book, neither the author nor Peachpit Press shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer software and hardware products described in it.




Throughout this book, trademarks are used. Rather than put a trademark symbol in every occurrence of a trademarked name, we state that we are using the names in an editorial fashion only and to the benefit of the trademark owner with no intention of infringement of the trademark. Some of the methods, systems, and algorithms described in this work are covered under U.S. Patents #5,604,855 (Feb. 18, 1997) and #5,805,784 (Sep. 8, 1998).


ISBN 0-321-27890-9
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Printed and bound in the United States of America


I dedicate this book to my long-suffering wife Kathy, who has supported me emotionally and financially for thirteen years as I have worked on interactive storytelling, patiently enduring my endless promises that “commercialization is just around the corner.”


My thanks go to Laura Mixon for serving as sounding board, mother confessor, critic, and fellow explorer as I have groped through the complexities of interactive storytelling. Thanks also to Dave Walker for his many contributions to the development of the Erasmatron technology, both technical and artistic.


Lisa Lord, Mark Barrett, and Aria Danika struggled through the morass of my verbosities and helped me clean up the mess, de-polysyllabic-ize my vocabulary, and actually make some sense. Linda Harrison, Stephanie Wall, Wendy Sharp, and Andrei Pasternak provided top cover, bottom cover, and side cover for the project. The gestation period for this book, about 21 months, was the same as an elephant’s, and now we all know what an elephant pregnancy feels like.

Contents at a Glance



Part I: From Story to Interactive Storytelling


Chapter 1


Chapter 2


Chapter 3
Interactive Storytelling


Part II: Styles of Thinking


Chapter 4
Two Cultures, No Hits, No Runs


Chapter 5


Chapter 6
Verb Thinking


Part III: Strategies for Interactive Storytelling


Chapter 7
Simple Strategies That Don’t Work


Chapter 8
Environmental Strategies


Chapter 9
Data-Driven Strategies


Chapter 10
Language-Based Strategies


Part IV: Core Technologies for Interactive Storytelling


Chapter 11
Personality Models


Chapter 12
Drama Managers


Chapter 13
Verbs and Events


Chapter 14
HistoryBooks and Gossip


Chapter 15


Chapter 16
Roles and Sequencing


Chapter 17
Development Environments


Part V: Applications


Chapter 18
The Erasmatron


Chapter 19


Chapter 20
Distant Relatives


Chapter 21

Table of Contents



PART I From Story to Interactive Storytelling


Chapter 1


The Development of Storytelling


Mental Modules Interact


At Last, Narrative


The Nature of Stories


Strong Structure












The Tyranny of the Visual


Spatial Thinking


Temporal Discontinuity


Chapter 2


How Wrong Art Thou? Let Me Count the Ways


My Definition of Interactivity


Second-Person Insight


A Model for Human Understanding




Degrees of Interactivity








So What?


Incentive #1: Basis of Competitive Advantage


Incentive #2: Revolutionary


Incentive #3: Power


Chapter 3
Interactive Storytelling


Extrapolation from Games


Interactivized Movies


Plot Versus Interactivity


It’s Different


How Do You Generate Enough Interesting Decisions?


How Do You Pare Away the Boring Decisions?


How Do You Keep the Storyworld Interesting?


Atoms of Interactive Storytelling


The Ideal Scale of Dramatic Resolution


What Can’t Be Part of Interactive Storytelling


PART II Styles of Thinking


Chapter 4
Two Cultures, No Hits, No Runs


Techies: Programmers and Games People


Artsies: The New Media People


Bubble Intellectualism


Cross-disciplinary Futility


Neurophysiological Basis


Exhortations and Prognostications


Chapter 5






Pulling It Together


Playing God


Chapter 6
Verb Thinking


Verb Thinking Versus Noun Thinking


Case in Point: Multimedia


Getting Started with Verb Thinking


Causal Relationships


Modeling as Metaphor


Aside: Quantifying Humanity

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