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Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#1
Victor and I recently had this exchange:

Victor Tombs wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:43 am
Flatfingers wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:51 am
LT sounds more like -- Theory Time! -- it will be something near to "Freelancer without stories." It will offer all of Freelancer's freedom to explore and trade and fight and do basic missions, but Freelancer's story content is replaced in LT by a blend of RTS/4X goals that are achieved by engaging with LT's simulation/procgen features.

Yes, that's how it sounds to me, Flat. And as I'm not really a fan of RTS/4X I'm probably going to need some good mods to help ease my pain. :angel:

This got me thinking again about story in Limit Theory. Now hear the Word of Josh from the LT Kickstarter:

Limit Theory will not offer a story, a campaign, or a guiding direction of any sort. You are unique, so isn't it best that you craft your own unique story, rather than live out a pre-fabricated one?

Ooooookay, so no story from Josh, then. Got it. ;)

On the other hand, he's also (as far as I know) not planning on fully implementing a multiplayer mode, yet he's said he's interested in providing hooks in the LT code that enterprising modders could use to themselves build some kind of multiplayer mode.

So why not hooks for storytelling?

By implementing the components of the LT universe so that they can be stitched together in a story, with exposition (some of it directive) and characters and plot and maybe even dialogue, Josh would allow modders to create a version of LT that offers more of the guided fun of Freelancer.

I expect this is not as trivial as I'm making it sound. In particular, Josh's aversion to spawning events just to try to match what the player's doing suggests that objects (including characters/ships) are not intended to be static objects, guaranteed to exist, and thus not guaranteed to be available for a story. So there may be some significant technical rethinking necessary to be able to insert dynamic objects of a specified type into the appropriate slots of a narrative framework when needed.

Still, we've explored some ideas for how something like this might be done:


It's been a while, though, so I thought I'd throw this back open to see if it's worth discussing again, maybe with some new forum members.

What do you think? Is the idea of providing "hooks" for scripted storytelling worth considering at all? It doesn't seem unreasonable to me given that the idea of hooks for multiplayer play is OK... but I'm sure I'm not seeing all the difficulties and the possibilities :D in this concept.
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#2
You needn't worry about this. :) Hooks for storytelling won't need to be provided because you already have all the tools for that - and much more. Multiplayer hooks are purely for hardware-related things. Storytelling is part of the gameplay, and the gameplay is entirely in Lua code. You'll be able to do whatever you want with stories. :)

Edit: To be clear, I've seen the code, and I'm not actually talking out my ass right now. :lol:
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#5
What I mean is, anything that would be included as story - voice acting, text, custom-designed systems, custom-designed encounters, space stations, planets, premade maps - all of that would be mixed in with the Lua-side gameplay code. The only things in the non-Lua side, thus requiring hooks, are:
  • anything related to PC hardware
  • physics-related things such as collisions
  • major graphics things such as LoD
  • the engine itself, for rendering to the screen
  • the stuff that makes the Lua code hook in and play nice with everything else
  • other backend technical things
Everything else - the HUD, the system generator, the nebula generator, the ships, the weapons, the stations, the markets, the asteroids, all that procedural goodness (or non-procedural if you felt so inclined) - all of it is 100% in Lua. I'm saying that, if you really wanted, you could make Skyrim in space, with the same map layout and characters. There would be nothing preventing you from doing so... apart from, I suppose, a lawsuit from Bethesda. :D
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#7
I think I see now -- thanks! I hadn't realized so much of the gameplay would be living in the Lua side.

That being the case, I can imagine some kind of hardcoded, scripted story being not too hard to implement.

How much architectural work, I wonder, would some enterprising modder need to do to create a framework for letting non-technical writers create engaging stories inside LT? I suspect that's where we'd see the most interesting things happen.
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#8
Flatfingers wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:24 am
I think I see now -- thanks! I hadn't realized so much of the gameplay would be living in the Lua side.
No problem! Honestly, I was kind of surprised too. :D
Flatfingers wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:24 am
How much architectural work, I wonder, would some enterprising modder need to do to create a framework for letting non-technical writers create engaging stories inside LT? I suspect that's where we'd see the most interesting things happen.
I'm not actually sure. You'll have to wait a bit for that answer; while I've peeked through the code, I haven't seen enough of it to be 100% sure on how much work that would take.
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#9
I'm never at my best in the early hours of the morning but I was thinking you might be interested in the job/commission when the time comes, Nathan. I'd give you a free hand to come up with the story, I know you have skills as far as that's concerned and I don't doubt you will be the right man to implement the story. :D

What do you think? :angel:
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#10
To be honest I'm a bit surprised that Josh appears to be indifferent concerning this aspect of Limit Theory. He did give a bit of the backstory of the game during the Kickstarter but that seems to have been buried now. I can understand there were reasons in the past for not considering including a story in the game but with the new improved LT, I would have thought an official story followed by DLC updates (similar to what Chris is doing with SQ42) would be worth considering. :?

I'd pay shiny coin for that. :D

I'm not sure if our CM has discussed this with Josh and/or the others in Team LT. There's still so much In the ongoing entity which is developing this game that is surrounded by fogginess. :angel:
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#12
Victor Tombs wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:35 am
I'm never at my best in the early hours of the morning but I was thinking you might be interested in the job/commission when the time comes, Nathan. I'd give you a free hand to come up with the story, I know you have skills as far as that's concerned and I don't doubt you will be the right man to implement the story. :D

What do you think? :angel:
I'll give this request a very cautious "maybe". I'd not only be coming up with a story, but I'd need to remove a lot of the procedural elements, likely, and perhaps manage voice acting, level creation, that sort of thing. At best, I'd need to custom-design a handful of systems. At worst, I'd need to custom-design and balance an entire Freelancer-sized galaxy of them. I might also have to strip out procedural weaponry to implement and balance my own, possibly remove the free market system so I can have balance leveling and progression with the story... I feasibly could do it, but I don't know that I'd have the time for something of that magnitude.
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#13
Talvieno wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:53 pm
I'll give this request a very cautious "maybe".
That's all I'm asking for, Nathan. :)
Talvieno wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:53 pm
I'd not only be coming up with a story, but I'd need to remove a lot of the procedural elements, likely, and perhaps manage voice acting, level creation, that sort of thing. At best, I'd need to custom-design a handful of systems. At worst, I'd need to custom-design and balance an entire Freelancer-sized galaxy of them. I might also have to strip out procedural weaponry to implement and balance my own, possibly remove the free market system so I can have balance leveling and progression with the story...
I didn't say it would be a walk in the park, my friend, but if you're prepared to give it a go I can be generous to recompense you for your time. (but I don't have to tell you that surely). It would be a challenge and could be a great learning experience for you.

Obviously, I don't know as much as I'd like to know about what will finally make it into the official game. :?
Talvieno wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:53 pm
I feasibly could do it, but I don't know that I'd have the time for something of that magnitude.
Hey, no sweat! It's just an offer, Nathan. If I need to approach someone else to get what I want that's fine. I do understand that there are constraints on your time. :angel:
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Re: Code/Data Hooks for Storytelling

#15
This is a very exciting area for me because I've been thinking about Hybrid ProcGen-Handcrafted environments and stories in LT for a few months now, and seeing the tools start to develop for that has driven my imagination wild. The real dampener on this is that its difficult to imagine what handcrafted LT AI NPCs and Political entities would be like, when we have yet to see what the ProcGen ones are like. However I think that playing with probabilities for things like Mean-Time-To-Happen events in Mean-Distance-From-Trigger-and-Anchors You could alone get you some interesting results... If you want something guaranteed to happen at a specific time and place in relation to a trigger, the probability is 1, but if the probability is anything less than 1, it opens up many more possibilities for environmental storytelling.

I also wonder about the possibilities of pseudoemergent events, where say for example, the storyline calls for a civil war to break out in your local empire, but only if you're not in charge. Some time before the events which require the civil war to be in effect, values affecting the relations between several factions in the empire are forced into a slow decline, meaning that while no one knows exactly who will rebel or why, hostilities will slowly arise, and perhaps the player will be forced to choose a side, and as relations get worse, threshold triggers go off and while the actors are somewhat random, the overall story still takes place. Some events may take place regardless of what you're doing, while others only occur if you trigger them...Perhaps you're just some trader that gets caught in the middle, maybe you took that suspicious package from the Milicorp Facility to the Rainbow Guild and to you it was just another delivery for an unusually generous safe-delivery bonus, how could you have known it was the Crown Prince kidnapped and put into cryostasis... well you could have, if you bothered to inspect it thoroughly, but you didn't, however you still delivered it safely, and the poor boy was executed and now the Empire is going to deploy it's fleets and dozens of planets will burn, and heavens help you if the Empire finds out that you were involved.

That situation might play out over several days of playing, and you might have totally forgotten that you made such a delivery to the when the news hits that the Crown Prince was killed by terrorists likely funded by the Rainbow Guild. If you had talked to the right people, who had a 95% chance of being at the station you frequent, things could have been very different, maybe you could have been caught, your involvement revealed, and you would be on the run for your life and having to get support from the "terrorists" Maybe you would have been able to rescue the prince had you inspected your cargo and delivered him to the authorities and told them where you got him. Maybe you could have inspected the cargo, freaked out, and threw it out the airlock, and now the prince has mysteriously vanished, and Milicorp is furious with you for failing to deliver their precious cargo. Maybe you never took the cargo from Milicorp because your ship was full and these events had a MTTH and some random NPC delivered the package...or didnt, and the pseudoemergent storyline still happens, but you aren't involved at all.

So many possibilities.
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