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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Puppitor: Building an Acting Interface for Videogames

  • Author(s): Junius, Nick
  • Advisor(s): Wardrip-Fruin, Noah
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Videogames have historically relied on players picking what their characters say or do from a list or entering their desired action into a text parser and then having those intentions carried out in some form by the game characters. There is an understanding that a videogame player exists somewhere between an audience member and a stage actor---but rarely are players allowed to express themselves in a manner similar to an actor. This thesis argues that the acting and directing knowledge of theater is a potentially bountiful resource for designing player and NPC interactions and proposes the reversal of the player picking an action and the characters acting out the response: have the player gesture and move as their character and interpret those actions to alter the lines of dialogue characters are speaking (or in this case, displaying on screen). To illustrate this, this thesis presents a literature review of theatrical methodology, its existing relationship to games, and a survey of projects in the interactive narrative and character interaction spaces. The chosen theater practices provide a useful basis for a new type of interaction between players and non-player characters. Additionally, particularly when looking at acting practices, their major concerns with the relationship between character and actor provide useful language to describe and further explore the relationship between the player and their avatar. As part of this exploration, we created Puppitor, a rules-based input detection system that translates mouse and keyboard inputs into emotional affect values for use in changing the tone and direction of dialogue heavy scenes. We discuss the design principles behind Puppitor's architecture, how its inspiration from theater and fighting games influenced the implementation of each system module, authoring of rulesets and animations, and propose a direction for further work in the realm of interactive drama and storytelling more broadly.

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