is a labor of love. I grew up enjoying roleplaying games like Fallout, Planescape: Torment, and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. These games provided players with numerous avenues to weave the narrative around their unique play style.
Wanna play like a dumb brute who can barely form a cogent thought? Great! The inhabitants of the world will respond accordingly. Do you prefer playing as an intellectual who pontificates on philosophy to strangers? Well, you can, but you might get some weird responses in return.
Games that conform to the player are expensive and time consuming to make! Trying to support dialogue options that only a tiny fraction of your game’s players will ever see is often seen as financial suicide by publishers. That’s where the idea of came about.
I’ve been interested in this topic for a long time. I initially thought AI was the answer, and tried to explore the topic during undergrad, but at the time (2000-2004) the topic was not in vogue. I remember trying to take the one neural networks course offered at Purdue at the time. Rather than being taught by the CS department, it was actually offered by the EE department. Unfortunately, by the time I tried to take it in my senior year it was only open to graduate students as the professor was retiring and there were no seats available.
Instead of going down the research route, I decided the game industry might allow me to tackle the problem in an applied manner. My thesis project when I graduated from the games-focused program at SMU Guildhall in 2007 was titled Proposal for Computer Assisted Storytelling in Video Games).
While I greatly enjoyed the people I worked with in the game industry, I came to realize that the only I was going to help advance interactive storytelling in games was through PhD research. That’s why in 2018 I started my PhD journey.