CS 7634 / 4803 SVW / LCC 8803 MR : A.I. Storytelling in Virtual Worlds

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Tu,Th 4:35 - 5:55
ES&T building, room L1116

Mark Riedl, riedl@cc.gatech.edu
234 Technology Square Research Building
Office Hours: Monday 1-4pm


Narrative play a central role in our communication, entertainment, and learning. Emerging applications of artificial intelligence have the potential to revolutionize the way we use technology to communicate, entertain and educate. This course will explore technologies for generation, management, and execution of stories in virtual worlds and computer games.

Advances in artificial intelligence, 3D graphics, and understanding of narrative phenomenon have made it possible to begin thinking about and designing computational systems that reason about and manipulate stories. Why is this important? Narrative is a fundamental mode of cognition used by humans for communication, sense-making, entertainment, education, and training. Storytelling has recently gained popularity as a tool for motivating and engaging users in a variety of application domains. The canonical example is computer games, which use story plot lines to guide a user through a dramatic sequence of encounters with puzzles and opponents. However, there is evidence that stories can be used to engage learners and illustrate principles in educational domains, and to structure tasks in training applications. In this course we will ask, and attempt to answer, the following question: How can artificial intelligence enable us to do new things with stories in virtual worlds for the purpose of entertaining, educating, and training human users? The course requires a moderate background in artificial intelligence and an interest in psychology and media. At the end of the course, students will be able to (a) perform original research in the area of AI storytelling, and (b) develop entertainment and/or educational software systems using storytelling as a metaphor for user experience.

Course Topics

The purpose of the course is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the issues and principles underlying AI for storytelling in virtual worlds and games. Topics of study may include:

Course Structure

The course will be conducted in seminar format. Discussions will center on key AI research systems and publications. Students will assist the instructor with discussions and participate in discussions comparing and contrasting particular approaches as described in academic publications. Periodically, the instructor will lead in-class activities related to course material.

Course projects: There will be a semester-long project in which small teams will work to build a fully functional interactive storytelling game. The game will be based on Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG), a new form of game in which an interactive story (murder mystery, conspiracy, spy story, etc.) unfolds in the real world with the assistance of mobile technologies (smart phones, etc.). The project will involve a significant AI component, functioning as Game Master, virtual characters, or other capacity chosen by the project team. Several times throughout the semester, teams will be asked to present their designs and progress. At the end of the course, teams will play each others' games "in the wild." While the topic and parameters of the projects are established by the instructor, teams will have vast creative leeway in designing and implementing the vision of the project.

Presentation and discussion: Most classes will revolve around discussions of reading material, which will be led by the instructor with the assistance of students assigned to cover the reading material. This may be in the form of presentation of a portion of the reading material or leading directed discussion points.

Critical writing assignments: Every week, students will be assigned a short cirtical writing task. The purpose of the task is to reinforce in-class discussions and to also practice critical thinking about the role of AI in entertainment and storytelling. A critical writing task will consist of approximately 2 pages. Several times throughout the semester (coinciding with project presentations), project teams will be asked to write a short report on the designs and progress of other teams as if one were preparing a report for an investor interested in commercializing ARGs. The purpose of this task is not to critique presenters, but to help teams learn from each others' experiences. Evaluations will be a few pages in length.


Coursework in artificial intelligence such as an introductory course in AI or a game AI course is required. System building, game development, or game design skills will be helpful but are not required.


Grades will be determined by (1) class participation, (2) discussions and exercises, (3) critical writing assignments, and (4) the team project.

All assignments and projects will be graded by letter grade. The course grading policy is that any assignment that has been turned in on time that receives at least a ā€˜Cā€™ can be resubmitted at any time for re-grading without penalty.


I reserve the right to modify any of these plans as need be during the course of the class; however, I won't do anything too drastic, and you'll be informed as far in advance as possible.

I expect you to understand and follow the honor code.