A strong tendency in video game evolution has been to afford players more personnalized experiences. Exploration and interaction with game worlds, character development, elaboration of game tactics and strategies are all areas in which players often have space to express themselves through play.
However, even in state of the art AAA titles, when it comes to conversations with non-playing characters (NPCs), players still lose all form of initiative and are submitted to choosing from a handful of canned options. The different conversation systems available today, ranging from choosing discussion topics to exploring conversation-trees, haven’t changed much in the past 30 years (an eternity in video game time).
If video games are to be serious about “interactive storytelling” they need to afford a stronger role to the player in conversations, a key aspect of any narrative involving more than one character. And if players are to participate more in conversations, they need to be able to formulate their own “conversational moves”… that is to talk. Only when players will be able to talk through their virtual characters will they be able to effectively “role-play” with NPCs.
The LabLabLab’s main project is to explore the potential of natural language for NPC conversations. By allowing players to formulate their own dialogue lines rather than selecting them from a menu of pre-written ones, we think we can afford them to be creative in the embodiment of their virtual characters. We also think this can make conversations with NPCs more meaningful, interesting and challenging.
The LabLabLab’s method is one of research-creation: research feeds the development of prototypes which in turn generate new knowledge and questions for research.
The results will be presented in the form of a series of playable prototypes and conventional research papers.