Shape-shifter "interactivity" - Temporality and Spatiality
Some visions and their practical implementation
24th January 2000
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.Phil. Examination
in Architecture and the Moving Image, July 2000
essay 4,555 words
bibliography 499 words
appendix synopsis of MediEvil, MediEvil 2, & Common Tales
Shape-shifter "interactivity" - Temporality and Spatiality
Some visions and their practical implementation
How is narrative possible in a world where space and time can change? What
transforms a location into a narrative space? And how is this space "read"? This
essay addresses the relationship between space, narrative and interaction in 3D
The Playstation action-adventure games MediEvil (GB, 1998, Chris Sorrell) and
MediEvil 2 (GB, to be launched 2000, James Shepherd) will serve as main examples
for narrative 3D worlds as well as the Common Tales (GB, 2000, Michael Nitsche)
research-project hosted at the studio that produced the MediEvil games, the Sony
Computer Entertainment Europe Development Studio Cambridge. (see Appendix for
a short summary of these titles).
The relationship of space and narrative as well as the interactive access to this kind
of space are the two main focuses of the discussion. But first there is a more
fundamental question: Can there be narrative when there is interactive access?
The answer is: Yes.
Even traditional narratives do not have to be fixed. Russian grandmothers can tell
the tale of the Snow Maiden again and again, varying it, while still keeping within the
main story world. In the past, only the storyteller had the privilege of arranging a
certain variety of functions (Propp, 1968) in a special way, in order to create a story.
Now the listening grandchild has access to those alternatives. In a computer game, it
is up to the player to visit and activate the individual story parts forming any whole
story. Picture 1 shows the spatial fragmentation of the journey through one level in
MediEvil 2. Each of the separate parts contains variable story elements, but only the
player can combine them into one single experience while travelling from one
location to the other. Connecting the space forms the narrative.
In Half-Life (USA, 1998, Valve) the player has to escape a monster, lure it into a
laboratory and kill it by using the lab's machinery. Hero, monster, laboratory, and
killing mechanism represent story elements comparable to Propp's functions. Not
only does the player arrange them - one can go to the laboratory x-times before
facing the monster - but he is also positioned as AN active participant inside the
game. Within certain variables, we decide what to do when and where.
In "reality" this would lead not to a narrative but to an adventure - but as game
worlds are predefined the narrative is possible. The narrative in a computer game is
based on the functions it makes available. Only the predetermined parameters offer
access to drama. These parameters include traditional conflict, which enables a
variable story line.
In any narrative experience if we are not interested in the conflict then there is a
good chance that the upcoming events will not reach us at all. We might have left the
cinema, fallen asleep or switched off the computer. Conflict glues us to the narrative
making us cry, laugh or tremble. This element stays the same in interactive pieces.
In the Half-Life-scene we run from the monster only if we fear it, and we kill it to
release this fear. Our action relieves the conflict.
The lonely pilot battles with the controls as his little spaceship shoots down into the
narrow tunnel, ahead the only vulnerable spot that could stop the ultimate weapon of
destruction: the Deathstar. Behind: his worst enemy - pulling the trigger ...
Whether Han Solo's Millennium Falcon shoots down to rescue the hero as in Star
Wars (USA, 1980, George Lucas) or whether we get rescued by a friend during a
network session of the computer game X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter (USA, 1997,
Lucasarts/Totally Games) the conflict is generally appealing but is resolved in
different ways in different media. The dramatic construction of danger, fear, relief or
failure stays the - the action, the story, vary. Even in virtual worlds, traditional human
struggles are fought, and human desires drive the interactions (see Stone, 1998 p.
In order to improve interactive narrative, one has to find the balance between fixed
conflict and the new interactive way of experiencing it.
How then does a game manifest classic conflict and variable story line in
three-dimensional game worlds? How does it transport narrative through space?
"Writing" narrative space
"As a writer, the idea is to explore where the interactivity can take the audience. The
audience gains some control over the narrative, but not complete control. The
boundaries of the world must still be created and defined by the writer/designer.
What we end up with is a more collaborative experience between the audience and
(Terry Borst in: Wimberley/Samsel, 1995 p. 182)
The designer provides the spatial world and the variations - the player uses them to
materialize the story. As this essay refers to 3D games, the discussion of the game
world is to a large extent literally the discussion of the spatial structure of game
levels. 3D adventure-games usually offer the available narrative variations and
functions as spaces (see Picture 1). The player's journey to AND THROUGH these
places forms the story. But how exactly is the narrative “written” into the space?
A variety of studies about interactive narrative still concentrate on literary aspects
within the field of interactive media such as Multi-User-Dungeons, MUDs (Aarseth,
1997; Turkle, 1995). Though the immense growth of 3D games like DOOM (1995,
Sandy Peterson) is not ignored, neither is it elaborated. Aarseth comments:
"But the ergodic structures invented by Crowther and Woods (= creators of the first
text adventure "Adventure") twenty years ago are of course far from dead but instead
persevere as the basic figure for the large and growing industrial entertainment genre
called, by somewhat catachresic pleonasm, 'interactive games.' (...) It is a paradox
that, despite the lavish and quite expensive graphics of these productions, the
player's creative options are still as primitive as they were in 1976." (1997 p.102-103)
This is not the case. Instead, the development of these games/texts has left ITS
literary cradle of verbal signs, and entered far more spatial, graphical, cinematic
states that offer new creative options.
The player has to be positioned in relation to the virtual world, new visual
representations are combined with improving audio features both enhancing spatial
design and especially the movement in 3D demanded new interfaces. These new
options changed the process of writing a text to a process of designing a space.
"In electronic narrative the procedural author is like a choreographer who supplies
the rhythms, the context, and the set of steps that will be performed. The interactor,
whether as navigator, protagonist, explorer, or builder, makes use of this repertoire of
possible steps and rhythms to improvise a particular dance among the many, many
possible dances the author has enabled." (Murray, 1997 p. 153)
Creating a 3D level for a computer game is like preparing the stage for an event. The
game world makes all the morphemes available to the player to experience the story.
Among these variables are:
- positioning and definition of entities, good and bad
- "sub-tasks" such as puzzles and time limits
- spatial definition of the level, form and condition of access
- implementation of all the invisible rules, like pre-programmed behaviour of
characters and objects
- choice of presentation, like camera, lighting, editing
- audio effects extending the visual world
These elements - and more as each game develops a new world - have to be
arranged to work together towards a whole, enjoyable, interactively accessible game
world. They are part of the player's journey in a 3D adventure-game.
As shown in Picture 3 A to C, a game level includes not only the architectural
structure of the space, but also the network of conditions that steer variables such as
characters, cameras and objects. The implementation of these variables in the
game’s spatial world divides architectural walkthroughs from game worlds - pure
exploration from possible narrative.
There are various developments and improvements in all of these variables.
MediEvil 2 improved upon its predecessor by introducing more characters and more
relationships between them, to add deeper levels of conflict. In order to free the
Princess, the Hero in MediEvil 2 has to make his way through a dark dungeon. A few
steadily burning fires partially illuminate the interior. Thus, the design of the lighting,
as well as architectural design of the dungeon's layout already constitute obstacles.
They include a hidden level, as well as a barely visible room inside the level. In
addition to exploring a dim and dangerous space, the Hero has to battle enemies
and solve puzzles.
By far the most intriguing device is the use of light. The hero can carry a torch that
burns for a certain time and illuminate the hero's surrounding. But then the torch-light
fades, and the hero has to ignite it again at one of the few steadily-burning fires. This
clearly introduces a time-related tension to a spatially defined environment. The final
control of the light is left to the player and is a good example of how the narrative
evolves from a selection of given variables without restricting interactive access but
rather enhancing it.
The level's main goal is fixed through the conflict: a Princess has to be rescued. This
typical conflict is pre-determined and accessible to the player. The arrangement of
the space, the objects and riddles, include potentially dramatic experiences along the
player’s free story path.
But the tension in 3D game worlds is not created by obstacles alone. At predefined
locations, MediEvil 2 offers the "good" entities of a reappearing help-ghost, a shady
dealer, or various useful items, as helpful elements along the way. Instead of
complicating the hero's path, the designer can include these positive elements to lure
the player towards particular areas of the level. The tasks can be either refreshingly
helpful or just as complicated as a battle or a riddle, but are differently motivated.
While an architectural VR model offers a walkthrough experience - it delivers mainly
information - a game level is full of potentially dramatic locations and conflict - it
offers dangers and assistance along the way. Game levels - as in MediEvil - use
every element available to fill their spatial world with potential for drama that can be
activated by the player.
This dramatization of space is comparable to the way movies work. Rolling rocks
threaten the hero in Raiders of the Lost Ark (USA, 1981, Stephen Spielberg),
dungeons are filled with traps, monsters and enemies in Conan the Barbarian (USA,
1982, John Milius), and various Bond movies establish a ticking bomb and put every
obstacle imaginable - including beautiful women - between James and the bomb.
The use of light, staging and montage adds to the impact of these elements.
"The design of interactivity is scarcely taught in film school, at least to whatever
degree it can be taught. Designing for the little screen on the desktop has the most in
common with designing for the Big Screen (directing theatrical films)." (Ted Nelson
quoted from Laurel, 1990 p. 243)
Another parallel between films and games is their development. Cinema evolved, but
finally separated itself from, the various media that were necessary for its birth.
Today computer games are in the process of separating themselves from their
ancestors and the early pioneering interactive pieces that used text or primitive
graphics, due to the limited capacities of older machines.
Nevertheless, there is one serious difference between a film's set design and the
current level design of most 3D games. While film often uses the visible stage to
represent the inner feelings of the character at present, the interaction-motivating
aspects of most game-levels by far outnumber this possible feature in video games.
Game-worlds are dominated by the potential for dramatic experience which will
engage the player. A film-set may also mirror the condition of one character, as this
view into the "interior" world is engaging for the audience of a movie. The journey up
the Cambodian river in Apocalypse Now (USA, 1979, Francis Ford Coppola) is a
journey into the heart of darkness, to the inmost center of a tormented soul. Its
staging, editing, lighting, and design mirror this internal journey (Production Design:
Dean Tavoularis; Art Direction: Angelo P. Graham). The advantages of this
cinematic space design are obvious. It draws the audience closer to the protagonist,
narrowing the gap between hero and spectator. As this technique relies heavily on
cinematographic storytelling, it is hard to transfer it to the spatial design of
game-worlds. Extreme montage and staging are still hard to implement in 3D
video-games, as they tend to confuse the player's sense of orientation.
Nevertheless, some games already employ such techniques. In Silent Hill (USA,
1999) the final levels mirror the descent of the lonely hero into hellish realms. The
last levels are barely understandable from an architectural point of view, but raise the
eerie feeling of “being lost” in the player - the same feeling of horror that the hero
Common Tales offers a comparable approach. A chase is not shown in realistic and
spatially logical order, but in a more cinematic style, that relies heavily on
camera-work instead of coherent movement in 3D (for camera in interactive titles
see: Galyean, 1995; Drucker/Zeltzer, 1995; Drucker, 1994).
Whereas editing and changing camera positions threaten the player's immersion in
the world, the level of sound adds distinctively to this immersion. Listening to sound
might even been interpreted as an unavoidable participation. The user is obliged to
"The eye blinks when you turn your head to look at something else, but the ear never
blinks. We are working hard with the programmers to make certain that there are no
seams in the soundtrack - no moments of dead silence that will break the spell of the
sense of place." (O'Donnell, 1997 p. 638)
From classic computer games - such as Myst (USA, 1993, Rand&Robyn Miller) with
its piano riddle - to current titles - offering Dolby stereo surround sound - sound is
growing more and more important. Listening could hardly be described as interactive
participation as it does not change the action on-screen. But combining the sound
effects with their virtual sources in the level's spatial architecture simplifies
maneuvering in 3D spaces. You do not only see a waterfall in front of you – you hear
the sound of water ahead and imagine its source even before you see it. This
influences the interaction indirectly. Players change their inter-actions not only
according to the visible, but also to the hearable game world.
The implementation of music and sound effects in games such as The X-files Game
(USA, 1999, Greg Roach) or the early LucasArts iMuse system, proved to be potent
elements for increasing dramatic impact and raising the narrative value. They use
the sound level to hint at upcoming events and intensify the player's immersion in the
Common Tales offers a separated Voice-Over track that cannot be influenced
directly by the player. It establishes the characters, and drives their relationship,
without taking the spatial control away from the player. Thus, Common Tales uses its
sound-track to enhance the conflict, while the action during the dialogue is still in the
hands of the player - mirroring the dualism of predefined conflict and free story
But now the stage is prepared, the evil creatures are hiding in their caves, treasures
shine in secret rooms and a faint sound of singing sirens is luring the adventurer into
deadly dangers ... now it is up to the player to enter this world, to do the "dance", to
use and activate these elements and to make the story happen.
"Reading" narrative space
"Just because you can make a choice doesn't mean it's an interesting one." (Riordan in:
Garrand, 1997 p. 4)
Interaction for interaction's sake is not the goal of an adventure game. The goal is to
make players participate in the game's drama beyond the willing suspension of
disbelief. Positioning them in relation to the ongoing narrative is one crucial step. The
player can inhabit several positions in relation to the narrative. One extreme position
is Laurel's demand to establish the player as an actor on the stage.
"People who are participating in the representation aren't audience members
anymore. It's not that the audience joins the actors on the stage; it's that they
become actors - and the notion of 'passive' observers disappears." (Laurel, 1991 p.
Next to this actor-on-stage approach there are other ways to create a relationship
between player and game world.
For example, the position of a god-like creature overlooking the game space.
"This does not mean the viewer does not have influence on the narrative, but that
influence (regardless of whether it is direct or indirect) happens without the
characters being aware of the viewer. A ghost or god can have an influence on the
world without their presence being known." (Galyean, 1995 p. 58)
Strategy games especially use this player-positioning (e.g. Warcraft (USA, 1994,
Blizzard Entertainment) or Command & Conquer (USA, 1996/1998)).
As a third way, MediEvil 2 offers control over one main hero and - in special cases -
over his separated head. In both cases, the player is positioned in a 3rd person
point-of-view outside the main character, but clearly steering him, like a puppet-actor
on the stage of the game world. Although the embodiment does not happen
completely - the identification can. One can identify with the hero without being the
hero. MediEvil 2 and Common Tales use identification-methods comparable to those
of cinema and TV, in order to engage players in the narrative and connect them to -
identify with - the characters.
Common Tales elaborates this approach by offering control over two main heroes,
and the ability to switch between them. The player does not participate as
first-person actor but, instead, participates in the quarrels between the heroes. The
player’s immersion in the show is through the whole narrative - not just as one of the
heroes, but as part of their shared story. The desired identification is comparable to
the impact of long running TV series and soap operas. Their characters and story
lines can turn into important elements of a TV audience’s social life (Beile, 1994;
No matter what the player-game-relation is: The conflict still starts in the player’s
imagination - but in Common Tales it stretches further. It also happens on the
screen. This screen is no longer a projection of somebody else's story, As in cinema,
but my story. I simultaneously see and participate in the projection of my
story-journey. The reading gives birth to the story.
How does the reading take place then? What is the magic spark that ignites the
process, connects the screen with my imagination and keeps the machine running?
"During the cybertextual process, the user will have effectuated a semiotic sequence,
and this selective movement is a work of physical construction that the various
concepts of 'reading' do not account for." (Aarseth, 1997 p. 1)
Espen Aarseth defines this movement as ergodic participation in the interactive text.
In addition to the conflict that happens in the player's imagination, the ergodic
participation is the external "human output". It can be any kind of controlled
muscle-activity that assists in constructing the text.
Within the realms of 3D adventure-games, this muscular activation aims mainly at
interacting with the game's spatial design. In MediEvil, MediEvil 2, and Common
Tales the ergodic participation consists of pressing buttons and moving the joystick
on the Joypad, the Playstation game controller. This constitutes a reading event that,
in return, forms the final narrative.
"We could say that there is no story at all; there are only readings" (Bolter, quoting
Aarseth, 1997 p. 85)
There is not one single way to travel through an interactive narrative, as Joyce's
hypertext novel Afternoon (USA, 1990), or Shepherd's MediEvil 2 adventure-game
demonstrate, but experiencing it forms a unique event. The player can participate in
a MediEvil-level in numerous ways. A limited number of tasks and goals can be
fulfilled in unlimited ways, forming unique individual game-experiences. The progress
in time and space of this story-journey depends on the player.
In a text-based MUD, the spatial construct of the world is implemented through a
description by the creator of the space, the author. This definition is read and
interpreted by the player. The space comes to life solely in the player's imagination.
This way of reading forms one basic distinction between classic textual adventures
like MUDs, and 3D games (for a detailed discussion of MUDs: Turkle, 1995). A
typical space description in a MUD looks like this:
Heavy flagstone tiles line the road in front of you, stretching on as far as your eye can
see. A wooden ladder, leading up to the catwalks and guard house, rests firmly along
the fence, just off the ground. Row upon row of houses and establishments fill the
area around you, with no end in sight.
[ obvious exits: E W ]
A lantern has been left here.
A guard of Baerlon stands ready to protect the city and its citizens.
A guard of Baerlon stands ready to protect the city and its citizens.
A guard of Baerlon stands ready to protect the city and its citizens.[sic]" (from the
"Wheel of Time IV" Diku/Circle MUD)
In a 3D game, the player actually sees the world and its contents (e.g. Pictures 2,
4D). A picture of the ‘Gate Road’ scene would differ from the quote, and its
information would be "read" differently by the player, and lead to different
Game worlds define a new universe for the player. They are no longer metaphors,
like the graphics in a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get editor (Laurel, 1990; Laurel,
1991), but form an integral entity instead. They do not represent anything else than
the game’s world on screen. MUDs mediate the space as text; WYSIWYG editors
mediate the access to the world behind the editor-screen as icons. In MediEvil, the
world is on the screen.
Thus, highly visualized games leave less imaginative freedom to the player,
delivering more information instead. They form arenas for a spatial interaction (see
Picture 2) far more complex than ‘going East’ or ‘West’. Understanding this spatial
design and handling the controls are part of the reading (Greenfield, 1984; Provenzo,
1991). It even lead to new interfaces: the joystick, Joypad, and trackball. The
steering itself becomes part of the story.
MediEvil does not have a clear overall timeline. But an arrangement along a virtual
timeline can also structure 3D narrative. Aaron Connors designed The Pandora
Directive (USA, 1995) as subdivided into "days". Each day includes a further
development in the main plot, offering new conflict and revealing information.
"... it should be thought of not as a feature film but rather as a mini-series with a
number of small conflicts and cliffhangers at the end of each day that gradually lead
to the major climax at the end." (Garrand, 1997 p. 270)
Stepping further ahead in this virtual timeline is comparable to the spatial progress in
MediEvil. Just as MediEvil offers secrets and ‘extras’ for the expert player - and thus
"enhances" the space of the level - games like Time Crisis (JP, 1997) and various
racing-games that use explicit time-limits, offer "time-bonuses" that miraculously add
to the timeline. The time gets “enhanced”.
Interactive titles enable access to these elements of space and time; but the ergodic
process of reading forms the (inter-)action that relate to Aristotle's idea of the three
"Clearly the story must be constructed as in tragedy, dramatically, round a single
piece of action, whole and complete in itself, with a beginning, middle and end, so
that like a single living organism it may produce its own peculiar form of pleasure."
(Aristotle 1459, 19; translation: Aristotle, 1973)
The pleasure is the pleasure of playing the game, the organism is the
game-experience, and this experience forms its own beginning, middle and end,
depending on the player. The Aristotelian unity of Place, Time and Action into a
performance, has been transformed into one of space, time and inter-action as an
"Narratives have two levels, description and narration. A game such as football has
one level, the ergodic. A video game (e.g., Atari's Pac-Man) has description (the
screen icons) and ergodics (the forced succession of events) but no narration (the
game may be narrated in a number of ways, but like football, narration is not part of
the game). A hypertext such as Afternoon has all three: description ("Her face was a
mirror"), narration ("I call Lolly"), and ergodics (the reader's choices). (...) To make
sense of the text, the reader must produce a narrative version of it, but the ergodic
experience marks this version with the reader's signature, the proof that Afternoon
does not contain a narrative of its own." (Aarseth, 1997 p. 95)
3D adventure games include description in the form of the spatial definition,
narrativity in the form of functions offering potential drama to the player. These are
not narration in themselves, but need ergodic participation for the creation of the
narrative. Not only do 3D adventure-games include narrative, they also lead towards
more narrative experiences and greater impact because - and not instead - of
Future improvements will emphasize this momentum. They will do so by optimising
the already-existing variables (comparable to the complexity of the torch riddle in
MediEvil 2), build better relationships (like the heroes’ relationship in Common
Tales), establish cinematic camera language (like Silent Hill; also one goal of
Common Tales) and invent new variables. In other words, narrative space will
become a more exciting place than ever.
Yet, this only covers one side of what is going to happen. Future platforms such as
the Playstation 2 will not only address the games-market. They will stretch further
into the "real" space of their owners, and occupy a new social position there (see
Stone, 1998). Playstation 2 will force its way out of the children’s room, into the living
area - and people will accept new interactive media just as they accepted television.
This, in turn, will change the games and their narrative devices.
Common Tales heads towards new narrative. It combines television as the
accomplished "medium of socialisation" (Gerbner/Gross 1976 p. 175) with Stone's view
of computers as "arenas for social experience" (Stone, 1998 p. 15). In doing so,
Common Tails will use the form of a TV series instead of a stand-alone title (such as
MediEvil, or MediEvil 2). Instead of a single solvable overall task, it will rely on a
never-ending conflict. This conflict will be integral to its main characters - as in most
successful TV-series - and thus unsolvable. The conflict here is a discourse, instead
of one single dramatic problem. There is no end predefined in this discourse.
This technique of continuous discourse, using television for narrative guidance, and
cinema's visual language for spatial presentation, is Common Tales’ strategy for
moving ahead towards the new narrative.
Common Tales in its prototype form barely takes one step towards this development.
But in looking for new ways to reach the player lies the future of interactive narrative.
Extending the tools is only one way of progressing – more interesting is the new
social relationship between the medium and it's users. This relationship will change
the face of interactive narrative, and of narrative space.
- Aarseth, Espen J. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore.
- Aristotle (1973) The Poetics. Longinus on the Sublime. Demetrius on Style.
- Beile, Judith (1994) Frauen und Familien im Fernsehen der Bundesrepublik: Eine
Untersuchung zu fiktionalen Serien von 1954 bis 1976. Frankfurt am Main [et al.].
- Drucker, Steven Mark (1994) Intelligent Camera Control for Graphical
Environments. PhD MIT.
- Drucker, Steven M./ Zeltzer, D.: CamDroid (1995) A System for Intelligent Camera
Control. SIGGRAPH Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics.
- Galyean, Tinsley A. III (1995) Narrative Guidance of Interactivity. PhD MIT.
- Garrand, Timothy (1997) Writing for Multimedia: Entertainment, Education,
Training, Advertising, and the World Wide Web. Boston [et al.].
- Gerbner, G. / Signorielli, N. (1979) Women and minorities in television drama:
1969- 1978: Research report. Annenberg School of Communications, Philadelphia,
in collaboration with the Seven Actors Guild, AFL-C10.
- Greenfield, Patricia Marks (1984) Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video
Games, and Computers. Cambridge.
- Laurel, Brenda (1993) Computers as Theatre. Reading [et al.].
- Laurel, Brenda (1990) The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Reading.
- Murray, Janet H. (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in
Cyberspace. Cambridge Mass.
- O'Donnell, Martin (1997) Creating Audio for the Sequel to Myst or The Ear doesn't
blink. In: Computer Game Developers Conference, San Francisco p. 635-639.
- Propp, Vladimir (1968) Morphology of the Folktale. Austin/London.
- Provenzo, Eugene F. Jr. (1991)Video Kids: Making Sense of Nintendo. Cambridge/
- Stone, Allucquere Rosanne (1998) The War of Desire and Technology at the
Closure of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge/London.
- Turkle, Sherry (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New
- Wimberley, Darryl/ Samsel, Jon (1996) Interactive Writer's Handbook. Los Angeles/
- Wulff, Hans-Juergen (ed.) TV-Movies "Made in Germany" - Struktur
Gesellschaftsbild und Kinder-/Jugendschutz. manuscript (March 2000)
Apokalypse Now USA, 1979, Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope Studios
Conan the Barbarian USA, 1982, John Milius, Universal Pictures
Raiders of the Lost Ark USA, 1981, Stephen Spielberg, Paramount
Star Wars USA, 1980, George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd.
Interactive title index
Afternoon: A Story USA, 1990, Michael Joyce, Eastgate Systems.
Command and Conquer USA, PC 1996 / Playstation 1998, Westwood
Common Tales (research project until June 2000) Michael Nitsche, SCEE / CUMIS /
DOOM USA, 1995, Sandy Peterson, id Software. Playstation: 1998, Williams
Half-Life USA, 1998, Valve, Sierra Studios)
MediEvil UK, 1998, Chris Sorrell, SCEE.
MediEvil 2 (to be released spring 2000 in the UK), James Shepherd, SCEE.
Myst USA, 1993, Rand & Robyn Miller, Broderbound Software.
The Pandora Directive USA, 1996, Aaron Conners, Access Software Inc.
Silent Hill USA, 1999, n.n., Konami
Time Crisis JP, 1997, n.n., Namco
Warcraft: Orcs and Humans USA, 1994, n.n., Blizzard Entertainment.
Wheel of Time IV Diku/Circle MUD code by Jeremy "Ras" Elson, at
The X Files Game USA, PC 1998/ Playstation 1999, Greg Roach, Hyperbole Studios
X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter USA, 1997, n.n., Lucasarts/Totally Games
Short description of the main interactive titles used as examples
Once upon a time, the evil sorcerer Zarok was defeated in battle. Due to the
confusion during the battle, Dan Fortesque was falsely pronounced the hero of the
day, when in fact Dan died during the first attack, and never even met Zarok. Years
later, Zarok rises again. He casts a spell that resurrects the dead, and transforms
friendly villagers into bloodthirsty creatures. The very same spell awakens the dead
Dan has to battle his way through a variety of levels, solving puzzles and finishing
tasks before he reaches Zarok’s fortress. There he defeats the evil sorcerer and
breaks the spell. As he has proven his true heroic nature, Dan can return to his tomb
and fall asleep again.
Parts of Zarok's spell book have fallen into the hands of the evil nineteenth-century
occultist Lord Palethorn. Once again the spell is unleashed upon the land, making
the dead walk the earth, and magnifying evil. Again Dan Fortesque awakens from
the dead, this time in a grotesque version of Victorian London.
On his quest to defeat Palethorn, Dan finds new friends, among them a mad
professor, a helping ghost, and Kyra, an attractive Egyptian mummy-princess he will
fall in love with. Palethorn searches for the last pages of Zarok’s spell-book, to gain
control over the evil army he has awakened. Dan tries to stop him, facing Palethorn’s
monster-allies. But when Kyra gets killed by one of Palethorn’s henchmen - Jack the
Ripper - Dan loses hope. Only via a time machine is he able to rescue his beloved
Egyptian princess. The time-jump confronts him with his “elder” self, and both Dan’s
unify into one. Dan’s powers increase, and finally he can confront Palethorn, break
the evil spell, and spend his future with Kyra.
Common Tales, takes place in a world where, whenever a story is invented, the
characters - good and bad - come to life not only in our imaginations, but also in
reality. These characters live among us - hidden in the postmodern real world. Most
of these characters have adjusted to reality. They have assimilated themselves into
the present real world. The centre of social life among the English story-characters is
an exclusive Gentlemen's Club in London, the "Cube Club". In the shielded security
of this establishment, the former heroes and foes of story do not have to play their
"realistic" second selves.
Thomas Lloyd is a small-time burglar - he breaks into the "Cube Club", and steals
the sword Excalibur for his client, the evil knight Mordred. In doing so, Thomas
unknowingly messes up the balance between reality and fiction, because the
superior magic of Excalibur threatens both worlds if unleashed through the wrong
hands. Thomas and Fiz Ferman, a children’s-book fairy and fictional character, have
to get Excalibur back, and stop Mordred from using it, in order to save both worlds.
From working on opposite sides, they develop during Episode One (the current
prototype) into a team, ready to continue the series as a constantly battling romantic
couple, who will work together as a detective-team in every case that is settled in
their twilight zone of reality and fiction.