Argax Project

About Argax

The Argax Project is working on developing new interactive drama systems.

Overview of Interactive Narrative

An interactive narrative (IN) is a story that adapts or changes depending upon actions taken by its reader. It might also be called interactive storytelling (Crawford), cyberdrama (Murray), ergodic literature (Aarseth), or ractive (Stephenson). Usually, interactive narratives are computer-based. The term overlaps with a number of other, related fields.

Various fields within the spectrum from narrative to interaction.
An overview of interactive narrative and related fields

Digital Literature
Hypertexts, multimedia, "new media". Though usually a static, pre-established text, the text is revealed or explored by the reader's actions.
Community spaces
Includes MUDs, MOOs, MMORPGS, and other online community spaces (the setting of which may be based on a story in another medium). Narratives emerge through social interactions of the users. Also includes Murray's hyperserials or "encyclopedic" narratives, such as fan sites and forums which annotate or extend an established narrative (such as a TV show).
Computer Games
To date, most commercial games have been either plotted (with an author-defined storyline--possibly branching with alternate endings--usually revealed through user problem-solving) or simulation (with a rule-based world with little established storyline besides what the user projects upon the action). Ludologists focus on creating responsive, non-narrative computer games.

Work in automated story generation is often relevant to interactive narratives. Both require some means of modeling or producing a story.

Not all interactive narratives require a computer, however. Probably the best example of IN at the moment are table-top role-playing games and live-action role-playing games. Also, work is being done in interactive film, video, and television. In print, there are hypertext-like novels (including "Choose Your Own Adventure" books), gamebooks and Oulipou experiments. Improvisational theatre also tends to be very interactive with the audience.

Interactive drama is a subset of IN in which the user assumes a character role within the story. The narrative is enacted before the user, rather than narrated or described.

IN is divided on how best to interactively generate an story. Some projects hold that stories are essentially character-driven. They hope that, given sufficiently believable and responsive characters, a engaging narrative will emerge through their interactions . Other projects rely on a strong plot, usually directed by some sort of "drama manager". In these systems, characters are often much less autonomous so they remain subservient to the drama manager's story. Other projects--usually from the ludology domain--define the interaction rules of the story world model such that stories will emerge from user actions and world reaction.

Inspiration and Focus

I am inspired by table-top role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS, as a model for interactive drama. In such as system, a Game Master (GM) designs the world and characters, the details of which are encoded using the particular game system's ruleset. The GM then verbally describes that world to the other players, performs the roles of all supporting non-player characters (NPCs), and adjudicates any rule conflicts.

Based on this model, the Argax Project is interested in an interactive drama system with:

The Name Argax

Argax is an amalgam of the names of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, who wrote the Chainmail, Blackmoor, and original Dungeons and Dragons rule systems. This progression took strategic miniature wargamming into the realm of the table-top roleplaying, allowing for richly detailed player characters (PCs) and stories beyond simple combat simulation. In a similar way, the Argax Project hopes to help move computer-based roleplaying beyond branching trees and world simulations. (Arneson and Gygax themselves have nothing to do with the Argax Project.)

People

Zach Tomaszewski -- Director/Principle Designer
The Argax Project currently serves as the basis for my PhD dissertation for the CIS Program at the University of Hawaii. Though I played many computer RPGs in high school, I didn't get into table-top roleplaying until 2002. A year later--now addictedly spending hours building fantasy worlds, yet still at a loss for academic direction--I took a general class on interactive narrative. All the connections fell into place, and I started studying interactive narrative in earnest at the start of 2005. (My name is pronounced: ZAK TOM-ah-SHESS-kee).
Dissertation Committee