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June 08, 2006

Perlin's Law


How Free Do We Want to Be?

"...For a long time now, I’ve been struggling with a conundrum of interactive storytelling that I dubbed “The Problem of Internal Consistency” in a lecture I gave at the Game Developers’ Conference in 1995. I also wrote about it in an earlier Designer’s Notebook column, “Three Problems for Interactive Storytellers,” back in 1999. The essence of the Problem of Internal Consistency is this: how do we balance the player’s desire for freedom with the designer’s desire to tell a consistent, coherent story? What do we do when the player wants to do something that doesn’t work with the plot that we’ve laid out? Refuse him permission to do it, and take away his freedom? Or allow him to do it, and destroy our story? I never came up with a good answer for it.

So last November, I went to a conference called Virtual Storytelling ’05 in Strasbourg, France. It was a small enough conference that every session was plenary—you didn’t have to choose between sessions, so as long as you showed up, you were bound to hear everything. Ken Perlin was one of the speakers, and in the middle of his lecture, he made an almost throwaway remark that really brought me up short. This was what he said, the thing that I think is so important:

Ken Perlin’s Law: The cost of an event in an interactive story should be directly proportional to its improbability..." From The Designer's Notebook: Introducing Ken Perlin's Law by Ernest Adams, Gamasutra. [Via Game + Girl = Advance]

Posted by jo at June 8, 2006 08:22 AM