Paper Outline (Mark Nelson is Awesome)

Catching up on two weeks of work without updates: GO!

Besides reading a bunch of papers, I’ve begun the info-gathering process of the paper from authors of ABL. I need more authors of different systems to say anything broad about the interactive character authoring part of this, but it’s a start.

Mark Nelson and Michael Mateas’ Requirements Analysis for Videogame Design Support Tools has been immensely helpful for structuring my goals for the paper as it is very similar to what I’m trying to do. What they were reasoning about was formal, so they had a bit more concrete subject matter, but the fuzziness of people using and understanding their tools is very similar to mine.

Abstract: will be written last!

Introduction: A description of the interactive character and its uses (in games and drama) and the rough problem statement that they are very difficult to author. A combination of mental state and reasoning, procedural animation, and (in most cases) natural language processing: making a human-like character is insanely difficult and requires a LOT of content to be contributed from vastly different disciplines into one cohesive project.
Different groups from different backgrounds have attempted parts or even all of this feat, but each project is cumbersome, challenging to author in, and ultimately falls short of this task. The following analysis will hope to clarify the major challenges in authoring interactive characters and offer insights that may be applied across any similar authoring system.

Design-Support Systems: Nelson analyzes CAD as a starting point/an analogy for a semi-formal design-support system that integrated computers with the design process.  He speaks of systems that supported the vocabularies of different disciplines in order to aid more narrow-focused designers (for me, it would be a look at Narratoria). It is useful to note here that early in the design process, many disciplines use sketches, rough drafts, quick ideas that get zipped down easily without worrying about complication (find source!). A “mode” of that would be a good idea. Finally, the idea of “enhancing creativity” is mentioned whose words can pretty much be applied word-for-word to my problem as well.

Schon proposes four main uses of a design system: enhance the seeing-drawing-seeing loop, allow construction and exploration of microwolds, help manage a repertoire of prototypes and apply them in specific design situations, and allow the designer to discover and reflect on their design knowledge

Videogame Design Support (aka Interactive Character Authoring (Design?) Support: Nelson focuses on all these design questions because he is helping design games. I’m focusing on authoring, so should I focus on authoring questions? But what about “designing” the character that you’re authoring? Are those two different things, or one in the same?
Nelson says, for games, you design (game mechanics) to produce gameplay (challenges, rewards, decisions encountered by a player). But design questions are posed in terms of gameplay first. As an interactive character author, what do you do? Code behavioral decision-making to produce reasonable actions by the actor? Write performances such that actions by the actor are readable and meaningful? Author whole scenarios to demonstrate the last two? There are SO MANY things at play that it is very hard to find a simple translation to my domain.
Nelson’s work helps to do two main things: “find sequences the designer thought shouldn’t be possible” and “query for states or sequences of events meeting some criterion”. We certainly want our tools to help find sequences that the designer/author thought shouldn’t be possible. We also want to find those that are inappropriate (violate norms) unless that was intentional.
What is the natural visual representation for an interactive character, which is fundamentally a procedure and performance spanning a potentially infinite possibility space? (to use another borrowed mangled quote from Nelson). How do we make non-graphical concepts or ideas read graphically?
We’ll probably need to borrow heavily from drama, theater, and cinematography language for individual performances, as well as game design terminology for the possibility space.

Interview Methodology: Process Mapping. I’ll talk about it more when I’ve done it a bit!

Case Studies: ABL, FATIMA, and some thing(s) from ICT. Still need to contact those folks.

Conclusions: THIS IS HARD

Future Work: Making a tool.


If you couldn’t tell, I ran out of time before my meeting. Still got a ways to go, but I’m certainly making good progress I think! I came up with three discussion questions to talk about during Pod this week with my advisers. Wish me luck!


About robbierabbit

As of the making of this account, a 1st year phd student in computer science with a focus in computer games and intelligent agents.
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