Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction

Abstract (in English): 

A general method for the generation of natural language narrative is described. It allows the expression, or narrative discourse, to vary independently of the underlying events and existents that are the narrative’s content. Specifically, this variation is accomplished in an interactive fiction (IF) system which replies to typed input by narrating what has happened in a simulated world. IF works have existed for about 30 years as forms of text-based computer simulation, instances of dialog systems, and examples of literary art. Theorists of narrative have carefully distinguished between the level of underlying content (corresponding to the simulated world in interactive fiction) and that of expression (corresponding to the textual exchange between computer arnd user) since the mid-1960s, when the field of narratology began to develop, but IF systems have not yet made use of this distinction. The current project contributes new techniques for automatic narration by building on work done in computational linguistics, specifically natural language generation, and in narratology. First, types of narrative variation that are possible in IF are identified and formalized in a way that is suitable for a natural language generation system. An architecture for an IF system is then described and implemented; the result allows multiple works of interactive fiction to be realized and, using a general plan for narrating, allows them to be narrated in different ways during interaction. The system’s ability to generate text is considered in a pilot evaluation. Plans for future work are also discussed. They include publicly released systems for IF development and narratology education, adding a planning capability that uses actors’ individual perspectives, and adapting automatic narration to different sorts of interactive systems.

(Source: Author's abstract)

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Scott Rettberg