LCC 6317 Interactive Narrative

Georgia Tech, Spring 2004

Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Skiles 349

Michael Mateas (
Office: Skiles 361
Office Hours: email for appointments

Course Description

Interactive Narrative covers a wide range of practices including hypertext, interactive drama, videogames, literary interactive fiction, socially constructed narratives in multi-user spaces, and artificial intelligence-based story generation. Each of these approaches takes a different position on the relationship between interaction and narrative structure. This class, through a mixture of readings, discussion, and project work, will explore the theoretical positions, debates, and design issues arising from these different approaches.


Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
Additional article-length readings to come.


The Sims
Grand Theft Auto 3
Black and White


Week 1, Jan. 7



Readings for next week

HoH: Chapters 1 - 3

Week 2, Jan. 14


Discuss: HoH Chapters 1 - 3

Introduce: Electronic Literature: Places & objects, links and lexia


Play Zork I for 2 hours and play one of the IF competition entries (Photopia, For a Change, Shrapnel, Spider and Web, Shade, Bad Machine). Read Afternoon for 2 hours and choose one of the other hypertexts (cybertexts) (Grammatron, Pax, Intruder, Asteroids, Nine, Field of Dreams, From Lexia to Perplexia, Fair-e-tales, Clues). Compare the experience of IF and hypertext. What works best/worst about both forms? How does each work make use of (or not) the affordances of digital environments? How does the more recent work compare with the classic in each form (e.g. Zork vs. an IF entry, Afternoon vs. one of the more recent hypertexts). How does it feel, as an interactor, to interact with the various works? Turn in your response to the CoWeb as screenshots, charts, text, or in interactive form.

IF and Hypertext Works

Zork I


For a Change


Spider and Web


Bad Machine




From Lexia to Perplexia



Fields of Dream




(Quasi-interactive work)

Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries


Download directions for IF

Download Zork. 1

The Win95 and Mac versions are stand-alone versions of Zork. The ZIP version is a Z-machine file that is interpreted by a Z-Machine interpreter.

Zork 1 clues

Z-machine Interpreters. A Z-machine is a virtual machine (analogous to the Java VM) that Inforcom developed for their interactive fiction products. Much of contemporary IF runs on the Z-machine (written using languages such as Inform that target the Z-machine) - all of the pieces we're looking at run on the Z-machine. On the PC, WinFrotz is a popular choice. On the Mac, Zip Infinity is a popular choice.


For a Change

Shrapnel (notes)


Spider and Web

Readings for next week

HoH: Chapters 4 - 6

Adam Cadre's introduction to interacting with IF

Cybertext killed the hypertext star - Nick Montfort

Hayle's Response to Montfort

Luesebrink's Response to Montfort

Rosenberg's Response to Montfort

Week 3, Jan. 21


Discuss: IF and Hypertext

Discuss: HoH Chapters 4 - 6

Introduce: Story Generation I: Morphemes and Grammars

Readings for next week

HoH: Chapter 7


Pick a genre serial story (e.g. Friends, H.P. Lovecraft horror stories, Seinfeld) and develop a grammar (morphemes plus rules) that generates new stories in the genre. Demonstrate your grammar by presenting three different stories generated by the grammar.

Week 4, Jan. 28


Discuss: Story Generation I: Morphemes and Grammars

Introduce: Games vs. Narrative

Readings for next week

Towards Computer Game Studies, Part 1: Narratology and Ludology - Markku Eskelinen

Beyond Myth and Metaphor - The Case of Narrative in Digital Media - Marie-Laure Ryan

Simulation 101: Simulation versus Representation - Gonzalo Frasca

Game Design as Narrative Architecture - Henry Jenkins

Markku Eskelinen's short response to Jenkins

Ludologists love stories too: notes from a debate that never took place


Pick one of the games (Black & White, The Sims, Grand Theft Auto 3) to play. Play for at least 6 hours with a partner who also plays for 6 hours. Compare experiences. Present screenshots/diagrams/text that indicate elements that affect (positively or negatively) the experience of immersion, agency, and transformation, and the active creation of belief. To what extent can the experience of these games be interpreted as narrative? What elements work with and against a narrative interpretation? How are these game experiences situated within the Ludology/Narratology debate?


Black & White

The Sims

Grand Theft Auto 3

Week 5, Feb. 4


Discuss: Games vs. narrative

Introduce: Project 1

Week 6, Feb. 11


Present proposal for an interactive narrative

Week 7, Feb. 18


Present draft prototype and design critique

Week 8, Feb. 25


Final prototypes due

Introduce: Story generation II: Author simulation

Readings for next week

Story Telling as Planning and Learning - Michael Lebowitz

Chapters 1 & 3 of The Creative Process: A Computer Model of Storytelling and Creativity - Scott Turner

The Recombinant History Apparatus Presents: Terminal Time - Steffi Domike, Michael Mateas & Paul Vanouse

The Generation of Ideologically-based Documentary Histories - Michael Mateas, Paul Vanouse & Steffi Domike

Week 9, Mar. 3


Discuss: Story generation II: Author simulation

Introduce: Characters

Readings for next week

HoH: Chapter 8


Do a paper-and-pencil design of an author-modeling based interactive story system. The assignment should first provide a quick sketch of an interactive story experience that could potentially be implemented using authoring-modeling story generation techniques, and then provide a high-level description of the architecture and knowledge (e.g. authorial goals and plans, or story event cases + adaptation, or rhetorical devices or something you make up yourself) employed by the system. Include a description of how the player interacts with the system and the nature of the narrative experience. Don't worry about how you would implement it. Feel free to invent your own kinds of knowledge structures - you don't have to use the exact structures from Universe, Minstrel and Terminal Time. View these systems as example points in the space of author-modeling techniques. The point of this assignment is to think about how you would integrate an author-modeling-based story generation system into a complete interactive narrative experience. As always, your assignment doesn't have to be turned in as a lump of text - you can employ images, diagrams, animations, perform an interpretive dance, build physical models - whatever media helps you to work through the design of such a system.

Week 10, Mar. 10


Week 11, Mar. 17


Discuss: Characters

Learn about Character Maker

Readings for next week

HoH: Chapter 9 - 10



Implement a chatterbot using Janet's Character Maker software. Pick a strong "genre" character, a character who strongly scripts the interactor.

Week 12, Mar. 24


Week 13, Mar. 31


Look at chatterbots

Discuss: Interactive drama

Introduce: Project 2

Week 14, April 7


Present proposal for interactive narrative

Week 15, April 14


Present draft prototype and design critique

Week 16, April 21


Final project due