Michael Mateas's research while affiliated with University of California, Santa Cruz and other places

Publications (243)

Article
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Choice-based interactive storytelling games such as Academical, our responsible conduct of research training game, show great promise as a novel way of providing efficacious ethics training. However, much work remains to determine what factors of such games contribute to their advantages over traditional text-based training tools, especially if we...
Chapter
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We trace the history of emergent narrative as both a term and a concept, with a particular focus on interactive emergent narrative (IEN): the use of emergent narrative as an approach or solution to the problems presented by the combination of interactivity and narrativity. We argue that discussion of IEN—both historical and modern—often fails to di...
Chapter
Full-text available
Interactive narrative systems are often embedded in games: works of playable media that enable players to participate in or experience a story through game mechanics. But play practices directed toward the expressive creation of story seem to challenge a games-centric understanding of narrative play. Consequently, we propose that some interactive n...
Chapter
In running tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs), game masters (GMs) are tasked with helping create and facilitate the building of a shared story between players based on player choices. In this paper, we look at how we can inform the design of computational tools for GMs through the use of qualitative interviews. We present GMs with a prototype of a...
Conference Paper
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Choice-driven narratives, such as those created through systems like Twine, are a compelling form of interactive storytelling that have been around for many years. But as long as this form has existed, it has grappled with a persistent design problem: consistently presenting choices that feel both effective and relevant. Brute force can achieve the...
Conference Paper
While there has been work in interactive narrative built using theory and practice from theater, it has mostly focused on the structure of narrative and how a player's interaction with the plot alters that structure. How a player interacts has usually been tied to common game interaction paradigms. There is an understanding that a videogame player...
Article
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Choice poetics is a formalist framework that seeks to concretely describe the impacts choices have on player experiences within narrative games. Developed in part to support algorithmic generation of narrative choices, the theory includes a detailed analytical framework for understanding the impressions choice structures make by analyzing the relat...
Preprint
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Choice poetics is a formalist framework that seeks to capture the impacts choices have on player experiences within narrative games. Developed in part to support algorithmic generation of narrative choices, the theory includes a detailed analytical framework for understanding the impressions choice structures make by analyzing the relationships bet...
Article
While generative approaches to game design offer great promise, systems can only reliably generate what they can “understand,” which is often represented in a limited, implicit form in hand-crafted evaluation functions or constructive rules. Proceduralist readings, a semi-formal approach for interpreting the meaning of a game based on its underlyin...
Conference Paper
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We extend the Expressionist project, and thereby the re-emerging area of grammar-based text generation, by applying a technique from software verification to a critical search problem related to content generation from grammars. In Expressionist, authors attach tags (corresponding to pertinent meanings) to nonterminal symbols in a context-free gram...
Conference Paper
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We present Generominos, a set of design cards to model interactive generative systems. While many ideation cards exist, Generominos attempts to model the constraints of making a transformative pipeline of data in the constraints of the cards themselves. For this paper, we contribute the design of the Generominos cards and a preliminary evaluation o...
Conference Paper
Scholars who study games lack many resources and abilities taken for granted by scholars of other forms such as literature. To begin to address this deficiency, this paper presents a basic formalization for different classes of resources associated with game critical practices, and ties those resources to a prototypical system for their reference,...
Conference Paper
This paper expands on and refines the theoretical framework of operational logics, which simultaneously addresses how games operate at a procedural level and how games communicate these operations to players. In the years since their introduction, operational logics have been applied in domains ranging from game studies to game generation and game...
Conference Paper
Many contemporary interactive digital narratives consist of cinematic content that combines performance, sound and dialogue with conventional patterns of player interactions that dictate the story path. The non-linear nature of the content makes applying methods of annotation and analysis currently used in text and film challenging, as any particul...
Conference Paper
We propose and evaluate a new technique for learning hybrid automata automatically by observing the runtime behavior of a dynamical system.Working from a sequence of continuous state values and predicates about the environment, CHARDA recovers the distinct dynamic modes, learns a model for each mode from a given set of templates, and postulates \te...
Article
We present Gamalyzer, a game-independent and efficient visualization of sets of play traces. Unlike previous work on game-independent visualization, we focus on sequences of game actions as opposed to sequences of game states. Action sequences directly represent players’ strategic decisions. Moreover, since game actions may already be recorded as p...
Technical Report
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We present GameSpace, a visualization of the videogame medium as a 3D explorable space. GameSpace takes the form of a galaxy of 15,000 stars, where each star represents an existing game and stars are positioned such that related games are nearer to one another. Users may fly around the space, using conventional game controls, to explore the medium...
Article
Game maps are useful for human players, general-game-playing agents, and data-driven procedural content generation. These maps are generally made by hand-assembling manually-created screenshots of game levels. Besides being tedious and error-prone, this approach requires additional effort for each new game and level to be mapped. The results can st...
Article
While general game playing is an active field of research, the learning of game design has tended to be either a secondary goal of such research or it has been solely the domain of humans. We propose a field of research, Automated Game Design Learning (AGDL), with the direct purpose of learning game designs directly through interaction with games i...
Article
We propose and evaluate a new technique for learning hybrid automata automatically by observing the runtime behavior of a dynamical system. Working from a sequence of continuous state values and predicates about the environment, CHARDA recovers the distinct dynamic modes, learns a model for each mode from a given set of templates, and postulates ca...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter, we present an architecture that, to our knowledge, simulates character knowledge phenomena more deeply than any earlier system has, all in service of a game that is fundamentally about character beliefs, called Talk of the Town. Although the game is still in development, the architecture that we present in this chapter is fully im...
Conference Paper
The act of writing is often a difficult process; writing partners can be a way to test ideas, provide critiques, and overcome the difficulty of adding words to a blank page. Writing Buddy is an in-development prototype of a mixed-initiative playful tool, intended to serve the role of a digital writing partner by combining the authoring affordances...
Conference Paper
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We present Expressionist, an authoring tool for in-game text generation that combines the raw generative power of context-free grammars (CFGs) with the expressive power of free-text markup. Specifically, authors use the tool to define CFGs whose nonterminal symbols may be annotated using arbitrary author-defined tagsets. Any content generated by th...
Conference Paper
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Dreams of the prospect of computational narrative suggest a future of deeply interactive, generative, and personalized fictional experiences that engage our empathy, curiosity, and sense of responsibility. But the gulf between our current moment and that future is vast. How do we begin to bridge that divide now, both for learning more specifics of...
Conference Paper
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The Expressive Intelligence Studio is developing a new approach to freeform conversational interaction in playable media that combines dialogue management, natural language generation (NLG), and natural language understanding. In this paper, we present our method for dialogue generation, which has been fully implemented in a game we are developing...
Conference Paper
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The AIIDE Playable Experiences track celebrates innovations in how AI can be used in polished interactive experiences. Four 2016 accepted submissions display a diversity of approaches. Rogue Process combines techniques for medium-permanence procedurally generated hacking worlds. Elsinore applies temporal predicate logic to enable a time-traveling n...
Conference Paper
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We present Juke Joint, a small work of interactive storytelling that demonstrates an extension to the Talk of the Town framework by which characters form thoughts, expressed in natural language, that are elicited by environmental stimuli. Juke Joint takes place in a procedurally generated American small town, in a bar with a haunted jukebox and two...
Conference Paper
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Computationally assisted performance is a burgeoning area for AI applications, and an important stepping stone toward the dream of generative and personalized narrative experiences. As more pieces of computationally assisted performance are developed, it will become ever more important to develop a vocabulary with which to describe them. Inspired b...
Conference Paper
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In this paper, we present a novel approach to natural language understanding that utilizes context-free grammars (CFGs) in conjunction with sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) deep learning. Specifically, we take a CFG authored to generate dialogue for our target application, a videogame, and train a long short-term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural networ...
Conference Paper
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We have developed a videogame dialogue manager that, when fed onto itself, offers a nice authorial affordance: the ability to trigger generative, procedural conversations among non-player characters (NPCs). By feeding the system onto itself, we mean that NPCs converse with one another by virtue of the same dialogue manager—that is, a single system...
Conference Paper
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The immense proliferation of videogames over the course of recent decades has yielded a discoverability problem that has largely been unaddressed. Though this problem affects all videogame stakeholders, we limit our concerns herein to the particular context of game designers seeking prior work that could inform their own ideas or works in progress....
Conference Paper
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We present a fully procedural alternative to branching dialogue that is influenced by theories from linguistic pragmatics and technical work in the field of dialogue systems. Specifically, this is a dialogue manager that extends the Talk of the Town framework, in which non-player characters (NPCs) develop and propagate subjective knowledge of the g...
Conference Paper
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We present a method for generating social networks for gameworlds with very many characters. The method, a generalization of the approach we employ in Talk of the Town, operates from a simple principle: characters' affinities for one another evolve as a function of the compatibility of their personalities and the amount of time they spend together....
Technical Report
Full-text available
In this paper, we present a novel approach to natural language understanding that utilizes context-free grammars (CFGs) in conjunction with sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) deep learning. Specifically, we take a CFG authored to generate dialogue for our target application for NLU, a videogame, and train a long short-term memory (LSTM) recurrent neura...
Article
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Levels are a key component of many different video games, and a large body of work has been produced on how to procedurally generate game levels. Recently, Machine Learning techniques have been applied to video game level generation towards the purpose of automatically generating levels that have the properties of the training corpus. Towards that...
Article
The procedural generation of video game levels has existed for at least 30 years, but only recently have machine learning approaches been used to generate levels without specifying the rules for generation. A number of these have looked at platformer levels as a sequence of characters and performed generation using Markov chains. In this paper we e...
Chapter
Interactive and personalized narrative – two aspects of interactive storytelling – are familiar as a pair of science fiction visions. The Holodeck, from Star Trek, imagines real-time, plot-defining interaction as a protagonist in an immersive virtual world. The Illustrated Primer, from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, instead imagines a computeri...
Conference Paper
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We introduce a research framework for the design of interactive experiences in the domain of emergent narrative, an application area of computational narrative in which stories emerge bottom-up from the behavior of autonomous characters in a simulated storyworld. Prior work in this area has largely concerned the development and tuning of the simula...
Conference Paper
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New communities of generative text practitioners are flourishing in novel expressive mediums like Twitterbots and Twine as well as the existing practices of Interactive Fiction. However, there are not yet reusable and extensible generative text tools that work for the needs of these communities. Tracery is an author-focused generative text tool, in...
Conference Paper
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Knowledge and its attendant phenomena are central to human storytelling and to the human experience more generally, but we find very few games that revolve around these concerns. This works to preclude a whole class of narrative experiences in games, and it also damages character believability. In this paper, we present an AI framework that support...
Conference Paper
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Natural language generation (NLG) has been featured in at most a handful of shipped games and interactive stories. This is certainly due to it being a very specialized practice, but another contributing factor is that the state of the art today, in terms of content quality, is simply inadequate. The major benefits of NLG are its alleviation of auth...
Conference Paper
The idea that people tend to like games that are alike is intuitive, even obvious. But is it true? Like many intuitive ideas, it may be wrong, and it could be challenging to test. While it is relatively straightforward to test how well a particular notion of game likeness predicts which games an individual will like, the difficulty lies in developi...
Conference Paper
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We introduce two tools for videogame discovery built using latent semantic analysis, a foundational technique in statistical natural language processing. The first, GameNet, is an explorable network in which 11,829 games are linked according to how related they are. The second tool, GameSage, takes a user's free-text description of an idea for a ga...
Conference Paper
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In this paper, we endorse and advance an emerging bottom-up approach to game studies that utilizes techniques from natural language processing. Our contribution is threefold: we present the first complete review of the growing body of work through which this methodology has been innovated; we present a latent semantic analysis model that constitute...
Conference Paper
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We present three large-scale interactive visualizations of nearly 12,000 digital games. These were built using techniques from natural language processing and machine learning, namely latent semantic analysis, clustering analysis, and multidimensional scaling. In this paper, we briefly describe these visualizations and some of the insights that the...
Conference Paper
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This paper addresses the problem of enabling non-scripted social interaction with virtual characters, and of authoring the underlying behavior in reusable form. We hypothesize that social behavior can be decomposed into social games, which are collections of affordances surrounding social state, and claim that non-scripted player interactions can b...
Conference Paper
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We present an annotation scheme and combinatorial authoring procedure by which a small base of annotated human-authored dialogue exchanges can be exploited to automatically generate many new exchanges. The combinatorial procedure builds recombinant exchanges by reasoning about individual lines of dialogue in terms of their markup, which is attribut...
Article
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Scott Turner's Minstrel is considered a landmark story-generation system, cited as an important system in our field's history for the quality of its output. Other influential systems such as Meehan's Tale-Spin have inspired modern successors, but although a few systems have followed Minstrel's case-based approach, none of them use its “imaginative...
Article
This paper presents Comme il Faut (CiF), an artificial intelligence system that matches character performances to appropriate social context, with the goal of enabling authors to write high-level rules governing expected character behavior in given social situations, rather than specific fixed choice points in a curated narrative structure. CiF mod...
Conference Paper
The super-exponential growth of digital data world-wide is matched by personal digital archives containing songs, ebooks, audio books, photos, movies, textual documents, and documents of other media types. For many types of media it is usually a lot easier to add items than to keep archives from falling into disarray and incurring data loss. The ov...
Conference Paper
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Authoring embodied, highly interactive virtual agents (IVAs) for robust experiences is an extremely difficult task. Current architectures for creating those agents are so complex that it takes enormous amounts of effort to craft even short experiences, with lengthier, polished experiences (e.g., Facade, Ada and Grace) often requiring person-years o...
Article
Play trace dissimilarity metrics compare two plays of a game and describe how different they are from each other. But how can we evaluate these metrics? Are some more accurate than others for a particular game, or in general? If so, why? Is the appropriate metric for a given game determined by certain characteristics of the game's design? This work...
Conference Paper
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Cultural anthropologists use the terms emic and etic to refer to different methods of gaining understanding of different cultures. Whereas the etic approach attempts objectivity by focusing on the observations of a scientist outside the culture in question, the emic approach is concerned with accounts by locals living within the culture. Journey to...
Article
Formal game modeling tools could support the automated analysis of game rules and rapid automated playtesting, but are not widely used. Furthermore, existing game design support tools are often limited to very specific classes of game, require significant programming expertise to use or customize, or are fully-automatic tools with limited affordanc...
Article
Prom Week places players in a typical high-school, abuzz with excitement over the upcoming prom. Players indirectly sculpt the social landscape by having these hapless highschoolers engage in social exchanges with each other. The results of these social exchanges are many and varied---ranging from mild fluctuations in respect to characters professi...
Article
This paper describes work towards the goal of enabling unscripted interaction with non-player characters in virtual environments. We hypothesize that we can define a layer of social affordances, based on physical and non-verbal signals exchanged between individuals and groups, which can be reused across games. We have implemented a first version of...
Article
This book takes a single line of code--the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title--and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a tex...
Article
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Computer role-playing games (CRPGs) have strong narratives, but in general lack interesting and meaningful choices for the player within the story. As a result, the stories are not playable. In this paper we present an existence proof for a new approach to CRPG stories that addresses this, while providing details of our implementation. We designed...
Article
Some problems in procedural content generation for games involve hard constraints (e.g. that a generated puzzle is necessarily solvable). Common techniques for generator design lack a way to specify crisp (yes/no) constraints on what counts as a valid content artifact and guarantee these constraints are satisfied in the generator's output. In this...
Article
Natural language understanding (NLU) systems are promising alternatives to traditional menu-based dialogue systems more commonly employed in games, yet they remain widely under-explored and under-studied. In this paper, we present the results from a qualitative study we conducted on different versions of an NLU interface, inspired by previous resul...
Article
Micro-rhetorics are the representational units of meaning that emerge from the rhetorical affordances of videogame mechanics, abstract gameplay patterns, and thematic depiction. This paper explains the concept of micro-rhetorics, how game dynamics can be interpreted, and how designers can make use of game mechanics to express ideas through simple v...
Conference Paper
In this paper, we describe Game-O-Matic, a videogame authoring tool and generator that creates games that represent ideas. Through using a simple concept map input system, networks of nouns connected by verbs, Game-O-Matic is able to assemble simple arcade style game mechanics into videogames that represent the ideas represented in the concept map....
Conference Paper
Procedural content generation (PCG) has the potential to create unique artifacts, levels, and gameplay mechanics. However, it remains challenging to generate content that satisfies gameplay constraints: methods to achieve this include generate-and-test, search-based generation, and constructive methods. In this paper, we present a prototype, a simp...
Article
Goal-driven autonomy (GDA) is a conceptual model for creating an autonomous agent that monitors a set of ex-pectations during plan execution, detects when discrep-ancies occur, builds explanations for the cause of fail-ures, and formulates new goals to pursue when plan-ning failures arise. While this framework enables the development of agents that...