§4.6. Plot Management

A plot manager (sometimes called a drama manager) is a piece of the program whose job it is to plan out events so that, whatever the player does, the story advances and an interesting narrative results. The plot manager might, for instance, decide that the player has wandered around for too many scenes without making any progress, and might compensate by making something happens that gives him a new hint on his current problem. It might trigger characters to act when it thinks the story should be reaching a crisis point. It might introduce new complications when it determines that the player is running out of problems to solve.

This is a theoretically challenging field. Sophisticated plot management requires that the game make difficult guesses, such as whether the player is "stuck" and what the player is working on right now. The advantage of using such a system is that (done very well) it makes the story extremely responsive to the player's behavior, which means that he is a real agent in the unwinding of the plot. It also contributes to the replayability, since trying the game a second or third time will produce quite different outcomes. But it is procedurally difficult to design a good plot management system and it requires a huge amount of content, as well: in order for the plot manager to give the player hints, change the course of events to suit his focus, and so on, the game has to have available many, many more scenes than will ever occur in any single playing.

Fate Steps In is only a very brief sketch in this direction, one in which the "fate" entity is trying to accomplish an end goal and, every turn, looks for ways to push the game towards that conclusion, whatever the player does.

* See Goal-Seeking Characters for alternate ways to make characters act on their own


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***ExampleFate Steps In
Fate entity which attempts to make things happen, by hook or by crook, including taking preliminary actions to set the player up a bit.