Creative Work
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Ice-bound is an interactive novel that combines a printed art book with an iPad app. Our goal was to create an experience with both high-quality surface text and significant player agency. The story concerns an encounter with a fictional artificial intelligence, a simulation of a long-dead author who enlists the player's help to finish his original's final novel. Inspired by the dense, labyrinthical texture of works like Nabokov's Pale Fire and Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, the novel is a unique collaboration between two artists, both of whom are writers, coders, and graphic designers. Each story is built around a dynamically chosen set of symbols representing possible elements of the story. These might be traits a character could have, or plots that could be included in the story. When a story is first visited, the symbols are assigned to an author-defined group of sockets which can be turned on or off by the player. However, the player can only turn a limited number of sockets on at one time. As different combinations of sockets are activated, a version of the story is displayed, projecting what might happen if the symbols associated with those sockets were part of the story. While players explore possible stories, they also carry on an ongoing conversation with the AI character, who comments on the reader's activity, engages in philosophical discussions, and ultimately demands physical proof that a reader's selected ending for the story is appropriate. The reader provides this by finding a page from the companion printed book that contains an overlapping theme with the selected ending. Using markerless tracking augmented reality (AR), we can identify which page of the print book the player is pointing the iPad's camera at, and display additional layers of story content overlaid on the physical book. Once a story is resolved, the themes associated with it are strengthened. In this way the next story has thematic connections with the way the reader resolved prior stories, and as play progresses subsequent stories become more and more similar to the reader's own aesthetic. (Source: authors abstract)

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Elias Mikkelsen