I am thinking of changing the subject matter of the Principles & Personalities tutorial storyworld that I am building for Storytron.
Instead of loosely basing it on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, using characters and situations from the novel, I considering modeling a political candidate debate (see my Campaign Puppets idea from 2016 for the backstory).
First some history. When I first decided to create a new tutorial storyworld for Storytron I initially thought that I would port the Teen Talk app that I created for iOS to the Storytron format. The interaction was simple—as the main character you call up one of your schoolmates, tell them how you feel about one of your other mutual schoolmates, and then the person you called tells you how the schoolmate you’re discussing feels about you. Your schoolmates can also gossip among themselves (Teen Talk is based on Chris Crawford’s original Gossip game). The goal is to become the most popular person in school after a certain number of turns.
I started working on the design of this tutorial storyworld, mapping the personality models of the two games.
- Teen Talk (iOS) – Gullible, Dishonest, Vain
- Gossip (SWAT) – Bad_Good, False_Honest, Timid_Dominant
And sketching out the beginnings of a verb web based on the structure of the Teen Talk code.
But as I worked on the idea it appealed to me less and less. It certainly would show how to build a few verbs and link them together but overall it seemed like more of a porting exercise, much like my original port from Java (Gossip) to C#/Xamarin (Teen Talk) that I did in 2013. And it didn’t seem to be very extensible (though Chris Crawford attempted something like that with his Prom Night and Bagatelle storyworlds).
I also haven’t been in high school for thirty-eight years so I might have a problem coming up with situations and verbs beyond the original verb web.
So I put that idea of a Gossip/Teen Talk port aside while I worked on other stuff.
Chris Crawford has written that soap operas like Downton Abbey suggest a possible structure for interactive storytelling because they consist of a sequence of small short stories that can be combined in interesting ways, an “an endless story with no overarching plot.”
The Regency England era has appealed to a lot of people working in interactive storytelling and games. Back in 2009 Laura Mixon’s started on a storyworld called Vanities & Vexations, compiling a large spreadsheet of characters and verbs. Emily Short’s Versu launched back in 2013 with The Unwelcome Proposal, an interactive scene adapted from Jane Austen’s signature work. There is a virtual world called Ever, Jane that I heard about back in 2014 where you MMORPG you way around a Regency England environment trying to invite and get invited. There is even a card game called Marrying Mr. Darcy and a Pride & Prejudice board game XYZ. I’ve also played a solitaire based card called XYZ set in the same era. There have also been numerous movie adaptations of the book.
At the beginning of February I decided to use Pride & Prejudice as source material for the tutorial storyworld. I started reading the book. I considered watching one of the movie adaptations. I even bought the card game and played it with my wife a couple of times.
But still I wasn’t excited about the subject matter. For some reason it didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t have a feel for the setting and characters. I certainly could develop the feel but I wanted to get started as soon as possible and didn’t want to spend months on research. I also thought it might be to “big” for a tutorial storyworld, especially since it might require features like encounters that are not currently not in SWAT v1.1. I also was afraid that attempting to tell a dramatic story with the current technology might muddy the waters. I was also leary of imitation.
By imitation I mean the fact that all new medium attempts at first to imitate the media that came before them. Back in the 1900’s motion pictures
I also think the flaw that has plagued all previous attempts at creating a Storytron storyworld is imitation. By that I mean that people have been attempting to emulate books with its text-based interface.
The question will be how to fit a political debate into the Storytron Verb/Actor/Stage/Prop paradigm. Is it even possible to do that?
I think so. It might not be easy but it is possible. It will probably be a bit kludgy since I’ll have to create core actor traits to model candidate positions on the issues (I won’t have to model every political issue a candidate faces just a few to show how it’s done)