Emergent Story

Emergent story's a hard problem. I'm gathering some notes for research, and presenting them here for future reference. I summarize some notes here on Craig Lindsey's work. The first problem in emerent story is to define what a well structured narrative is, so you can know it when you see it. From the point of view of player interested in immersion or performance, the answer might be "a complex, multidimensional character, going through varied emotional experiences and evolving relationships, in a life of unfolding complexity and interest". A traditional way to deliver such a thing might be through the three act restorative structure, or other Aristotlean arc. The problem in emergent story telling is how to deliver such a thing without knowing the plot in advance. There are various methods that can be employed - tools for the player - that can provide building blocks to support emergent story. Relationships formed within the narrative structure provide a framework for emotional experiences. Relationships can be either friendships or griefing. Friendships provide an impetus for characters to want to experience things together, griefers look to use other characters and players for their own personal gain. Leadership is another factor that can emerge in relationships, where a player can gather a group and influence events on a large scale. A skillful leader can make great things happen, whereas a weak leader can cause a group or effort to disintegrate. Immersion is a factor that is supported through having enviornments to explore, a back story for the player character, and other characters to explore the environment with. Achievement is a factor whereby players want to achieve power, goals, or successes within the framework of the story. Achievement can be as basic as leveling up a skill, or as complex as forming a dominant guild. There are a number of frameworks for creating an emergent story. These frameworks are typically described in terms of graph theory. The Exploratorium - a set of connected nodes where every node contains a completely connected subgraph of narrative nodes Open Structure - like an exploratium except that instead of a sequence, the overall structure is a graph of nodes where each node is a subgraph of narrative nodes Parallel Plot - a digraph consisting of linear sequences with links between the sequences Nodal, or Dead end plot - a connected graph with multiple end points Modulated nodal plot - a connected graph where subgraphs are gated by conditions. Conditions may be one way, and may be switched on or off permanently by other nodes.

Content by Nick Porcino (c) 1990-2011