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The Cruise


Case Study

Authors: Georg Struck, Steve Hoffmann, Ulrike Spierling, Gregor Mehlmann

This case study is the result of a collaboration between the IRIS partners University of Applied Sciences RheinMain in Wiesbaden and the University of Augsburg (Germany) together with the professional author and script writer Georg Struck. The goal was to test and further explore previously researched creative principles and try to implement an interactive story into the SceneMaker system that is based on finite state machines.
The story developed over three main versions to its current state. The evolution of “The Cruise” centred around two key questions:

  1. ‘What can the player do?’
  2. ‘Why should the player act?’


In the final version of “The Cruise”, the player finds himself on a boat full of dangerous criminals, after a case of party crashing gone seriously wrong. When his friend is thrown overboard, she/he quickly realizes that his only chance of survival lies in pretending to belong there. Since this is a reunion of a mafia family where everybody knows everybody, the only solution offered by a helping character (the mafia don’s daughter) is to play the role of a long-lost mafia family member who went missing on a storm years ago. If the player fails to enact his role convincingly, she/he is thrown overboard, too and the game ends unsuccessfully.


The figure above shows a map of the main characters relations. Ben, the character who is embodied by the player, is assisted by the don’s daughter Julia, while Barry, who instigated Ben to crash the party on the yacht gets thrown overboard right at the beginning of the story to convey the danger of the situation. While Ben has to convince the people aboard that he is a long lost smuggler and family member, he gets assistance by Julia and her picture book that is filled with photos and notes that can be used by the player when speaking to other characters. A permanent thread is Hamid, the antagonist of the story who will never believe Ben. During the conversations the player is able to collect or loose trust and mistrust points which help him to gather friends or - if he fails - lead to knew enemies. Different thresholds trigger certain actions and courses of the story.


Creation Process

The figure below shows an abstraction of the steady ‘narrowing down’ process of the three versions, which aimed for a challenging and enjoyable user experience by answering the two initially raised questions and that would also have a manageable size and complexity for a final implementation. The motivations for iteratively abstracting and redesigning were both technically motivated as well as conceptually. While simplifying the scope of actions for users, not only implementation issues could be solved more easily, also the perceived motivation for interaction was made clearer from the script outline.


The story draft offered by the author Georg Struck is a script similar to a common movie script, but it already includes alternative actions depending on certain preconditions, mostly the trust and mistrust level.

The figure below shows an idealised working process. Starting from the left side - the script - the story has to be analysed and structured into small independent blocks/story elements to make it easier to get an overview. If the script is written with that in mind it is straight forward to create an abstract story structure like in the second picture. In the next step the story element has to be structured into single conversations and the final dialogue structure has to be created. If the dialogues in the script already contain alternatives and preconditions, that’s also a straight forward process. Finally the state machines have to be created what needs the assistance of an experienced system engineer.


The figures below are showing details of the figure above.

TheCruise04 TheCruise05 TheCruise06


by Dr. Radut.