University of California Santa Cruz

UCSC Mascot

UCSC Hosts Symposium on Narrative Intelligence: AI Approaches for
Games and Fiction

DATE: October 14th, 2010 — 9:30am to 5:30pm
LOCATION: UCSC Campus, Engineering 2, Room 599
PRICE: Free (though UCSC parking pass required)
HOSTED BY: The UCSC Center for Games and Playable Media. Co-sponsored
by the Digital Arts and New Media program and Institute for Humanities

More information at

Symposium Topic
What would it take for computer games and digital literature to
dynamically offer meaningful story choices based on past interactions,
or draw analogies inspired by authors such as Virginia Woolf, or
create avatars that are meaningful characters with individual
motivations, or give us new means to understand the phenomena of
narrative itself? Any of these would require research into
fundamentally new computational models — but research that is deeply
informed by insights of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
This free, one day symposium (the first event sponsored by the new UC
Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media) brings together four
leading international researchers with UCSC’s active research groups
in this area.

Directions to UC Santa Cruz:

When arriving at the main campus entrance, stop at the parking and
information kiosk on the right side of the road, shortly after you
come through the main entrance. Park in the pullout next to the kiosk
and purchase a permit from the kiosk attendant. The attendant can also
provide you with a campus map and indicate the Engineering 2 building
(the symposium location) and the Core West parking structure (the best
parking location for the symposium). Please arrive at campus 20
minutes early to allow time for purchasing permit, parking, and
walking to the symposium location.

9:30-10:30am: Vadim Bulitko and David Thue, University of Alberta, Canada.
10:30-11:30am: Jichen Zhu, University of Central Florida.
11:30-1:00pm: Lunch Break
1:00-2:00pm: Mirjam Eladhari, Gotland University, Sweden.
2:00-3:00pm: Michael Young, North Carolina Statue University.
3:00-3:30pm: Break
3:30-4:30pm: UCSC Research Demos
4:30-5:30pm: Panel Discussion
Talk Abstracts
Agency for Everyone: A New Focus for the PaSSAGE Project

Vadim Bulitko and David Thue

Many forms of storytelling are well-suited to the domain of
entertainment, but interactive storytelling remains unique in its
ability to also afford its audiences a sense of having influence over
what will happen next. While the need for new techniques in content
generation and reuse is clear, a common assumption of the field
to-date – that providing more opportunities for players to act will
cause them to feel more agency – may not necessarily be true. Instead,
we draw on research in Social Psychology to propose that players’
perceptions of agency depend not only on alternative actions being
available, but also on the desirability of the consequences that
occur. Toward testing this hypothesis, we present the design of a
system which automatically estimates the relevance of in-game
decisions for each particular player, based on a dynamically learned
model of their preferences for story content. By actively choosing
among several potential consequences of a given player decision, the
proposed system highlights the relevance of each decision while
accommodating for its players’ preferences over potential story

Analogy-Based Computational Narrative

Jichen Zhu

Narrative is one of the oldest creative forms, capable of depicting a
wide spectrum of human conditions. However, many existing
computational narrative systems are confined to the goal-driven,
problem-solving aesthetics. Our current research focuses on using
computational analogy to generate stories about characters’ inner
world. Combining insights from literature, visual arts, cognitive
science and artificial intelligence, our work intends to expand the
expressive range of computational narrative.

Semi-Autonomous Avatars in Virtual Game Worlds

Mirjam Eladhari

Semi-autonomous agents are agents whose actions are controlled partly
by users and partly by artificial intelligence (AI) components. In
virtual game worlds (VGWs) users are represented by playable
characters, called avatars. Penny (2001) proposed that ‘avatars can be
fruitfully thought of as semi-autonomous agents, which have their own
behaviours and intentionality, but are intimately tied to the user’s
actions.’ What players can do in a given moment is determined by the
action potential of their avatars, which in turn is determined by the
game design. Avatar-specific properties can be used to represent the
world in individual ways for different players. The same data can be
used to automate avatar behaviours, such as reaction tendencies or
subtle body language.

Cracks in the Fourth Wall: Digging into a Humanistic Phenomenon Using
Computational Models

Michael Young

Research on computational approaches to narrative push the boundaries
on a diverse set of computational techniques. At the core of the area,
though, lies narrative itself. Narrative holds a position of privilege
in our minds, being a fundamental mode of understanding the worlds
around us. In this talk, I’ll describe a trajectory of projects from
my research group and the role that the nature of narrative and its
comprehension by people has played in setting our goals and the
methods we use to achieve them.

UC Santa Cruz Research Demos
UC Santa Cruz researchers will demonstrate narrative intelligence
projects which will include:

The Prom: Dynamic social interaction models enable social puzzle-based
gameplay with narrative progression.
Grail GM: Technology supporting dynamic quest progressions for
quest-based interactive stories.
Spyfeet: A cell-phone-based, outdoor role-playing game project, using
narrative motivations together with story and dialogue customizations
to encourage physical activity for middle school students.
Vadim Bulitko received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1999 and is currently an
Associate Professor at the department of Computing Science at the
University of Alberta. His interests are in strong Artificial
Intelligence, creativity and cognition. Vadim’s primary contributions
are in the area of real-time heuristic search. He has also worked in
emotion and culture modeling in virtual trainers, player modeling for
adaptive story telling in role-playing video games, enemy prediction
in tactical first-person shooters, hiding and seeking spatial patterns
in human behavior and other areas. In doing so, Vadim has collaborated
with Bioware Corp., Reykjavik University, Queensland University of
Technology, Canadian Forestry Service, Syncrude Research and other
institutions. He was the program chair for AIIDE ‘10 conference,
co-chair of an IJCAI’05 workshop on decision-making in uncertain
environments, a workshop and tutorial chair for ICML’06 and a co-chair
of the SARA’09 international symposium. In his free time Vadim enjoys
photography, painting and sketching, hiking, martial arts, jogging,
writing poetry, reading philosophy and playing video games.

David Thue is a 4th year Ph.D. Candidate in Computing Science at the
University of Alberta, Canada. His ongoing research project, PaSSAGE
(Player-Specific Stories via Automatically Generated Events), aims to
employ techniques in Artificial Intelligence to mimic the creativity
and adaptability of human storytellers, toward providing interactive
experiences that are tailored to the preferences of each individual

Jichen Zhu is an assistant professor of Digital Media in the School of
Visual Arts and Design at University of Central Florida, where she is
also the director of the Procedural Expression Lab. Her work focuses
on developing humanistic and interpretive framework of computational
technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), and
constructing AI-based cultural artifacts. Her current research area
includes digital humanities, software studies, computational
narrative, and generative art. Dr. Zhu received a Ph.D. in Digital
Media and a Master of Science in Computer Science from Georgia
Institute of Technology. She also holds a Master of Entertainment
Technology from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science
from McGill University in Montreal.

Dr. Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari is associate professor at the GAME
department of Gotland University. Mirjam’s main area of research is
AI-driven game design. The research approach she has adopted includes
exploration of the social multi-player game-design space through
experimental implementations of prototypes where both novel and
established AI-techniques are used. Her dissertation work (2009)
explored characterization and story construction in MMO’s focusing
semi-autonomous avatars. Before Mirjam went into research (2003) she
was lead game programmer at Liquid Media in Stockholm. Her first brush
with game research was in the applied research studio Zero-Game of the
Interactive Institute in Sweden where she was technical lead (2004).

R. Michael Young is an associate professor of computer science at NC
State University, where he leads the Liquid Narrative Research Group.
His work focuses on the computational modeling of interactive
narrative. Michael received an NSF CAREER Award in 2000 and has
received awards from NCSU for both outstanding teaching and
outstanding activities in economic development. Michael was
editor-in-chief of the Journal of Game Development from 2007 to 2008.
He serves as an associate editor of the Journal of Virtual Reality and
Broadcasting and of the IEEE journal Transaction on Computational
Intelligence and AI in Games.