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Plain Terror

Case Study

Authors: Daniela Genz, Karim Omar, Cesar Pozzer, Thomas Römer, Georg Struck, Steve Hoffmann, Gregor Mehlmann

This case study is the result of a workshop with the title "Modelling a storyworld based on finite states" which was conducted during the Summerschool 2011 in Wiesbaden, Germany and was finally implemented in the SceneMaker system.


The player finds himself in the middle of a high-jacking and has to mobilize a resistance group among the close by passengers to overwhelm the terrorist. He is assisted by a retired air marshal sitting next to him. The player’s task is to convince the passengers around him to overcome their fears - or to prevent a sudden irrational reaction - to reach a critical amount of helpers and tools that would lead to a positive ending. He has to react under time pressure and an ever-present danger of being caught by the terrorist.


The figures below show the user interface of the “Plain Terror” scenario in which at the left figure the player interacts with the so called “WatchOut” lady, who is used as a simple tutorial and therefore doesn’t have to be convinced an tries to help directly. The left area should show the layout of the plane for orientation or video files that could have been played. The upper right part shows the user interface; there she/he can enter text into the top line. The field below shows a history of what the player said. On the lower right part the current non-player character and her/his corresponding reaction is shown. Between single conversations the player sees an additional part of the user interface (lower left in the right figure). Here she/he chooses the next conversation partner.

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The pictures below are showing the final presentation of the small implementation of the story.

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Creation Process

The final story “Plain Terror” derived from a long conception phase in which multiple possible scenarios were brainstormed and discussed. The figures below are showing on the left some basic decisions that were made right at the beginning. The second figure shows the final layout of the stage the story takes place. A simplified version of the creation process is shown on the third figure. The right figure shows the final flowchart structure of the story.

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The main steps (in multiple loops) were:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Finding a setting
  3. In a loop:
    1. character creation
    2. finding meaningful values
    3. finding dialogue ideas
    4. finding keywords for dialogues
  4. Creating the abstract story structure

The figures below show some part of the brainstorming regarding possible dialogues between the player and the non-player character. The goal was to find possible arguments that could be used to convince them. This part of the brainstorming also consisted of thinking about how the player is aided in finding those possible arguments. On solution was to give her/him graphical representations of the characters and “hide” hints in there. For example can the player find out that one of the passengers is (or was) a soldier because he has an army tattoo on his arm. So he could appeal to his national pride and is also informed that this person is able to fight.


The figure below shows one step during the conception of the story structure. It already shows the linear introduction and the tutorial which can be repeated multiple times until the player understands what to do. It also contains multiple sub flowcharts in which the single dialogues are happening. On the lower right the three possible endings are shown, depending on the previous flow of the story and a lowered or raised value called “ATTACK LEVEL” (in the implementation named "Chance of Success").


The pictures below are giving some impressions of the work.

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The figures below are showing some of the implemented sceneflows.

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State machine 1: Top level state

After starting with "Introduction" state, system stays in "Playing" state until "mChanceOfSuccess >= 10" or "mTimeProgress >= 60", after that it goes to state "Aborted" (see machine 6)

State machine 2: "Playing" state

Two sub states started simultaneously: "Time" (see machine 3) and "Select"; progressing from "Select" state to "Talk" state (see machine 4) after user has chosen character (button in GUI) by checking variable "mDialoguePartner" which should not be empty

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State machine 3: "Time" state

Counter for time: loop that add every 3 seconds (3000 ms) one to the variable "mTimeProgress", realising progress to state "Aborted" (see machine 1) after 3 minutes (60 * 3000 ms)

State machine 4: "Talk" state (see machine 2)

Depending on chosen character progressing to corresponding state, e.g. "mDialogueParter == WatchOut" goes to the state "WatchOut" (see machine 5), meaning the sub dialogue with the "Watch-out-woman"

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State machine 5: "WatchOut" state

Linear dialogue with the "Watch-out-woman"; 3 dialogue turns are shown in which the user has to say the right words to progress to the next turn, if failing the user jumps back to the "Await" state of the current turn; by reaching the end state "Content" the variable "mChanceOfSuccess" is raised by 1

State machine 6: "Aborted" state (see machine 1)

Processing of story ending, 4 linear states are each responsible for "production" of parts of the epilogue, first introducing it, second dealing with convinced passengers, third dealing with gathered weapons, last describing the final outcome (failure, partial success, success)

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State machine 7: "StartUp" state (see machine 6)

Introduction to 3 different endings depending on the value of "mChanceOfSuccess" (failure, partial success, success)

State machine 8: "WOConv" state (see machine 6)

Substate of "Convinced" state (see machine 6) to check if the "Watch-out-woman" was conviced or not




by Dr. Radut.