University of Southern California
Narrative Group USC Institute for Creative Technologies

Project: Data-driven Interactive Narrative Engine

A project of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, 11/1/2014 to 10/30/2017.


There is a strong need for immersive training environments that allow for interactive narrative, i.e. where the learners experience a coherent narrative with pedagogical content while allowing them to shape the events of the narrative through their own actions. Current commercial game titles achieve only part of this need, typically by allowing only very limited ways that player actions can effect future events, thus avoiding combinatorial explosions in the cost of authoring new player content.

Among many interactive narrative researchers, the presumed solution to this problem is to generate content automatically, i.e. through the use of character behavior models, environment physics, and an automated director to manage storyline coherence. However, these approaches have thus far only shifted the authorial burden from creative artists and writers to programmers and model-builders, typically yielding unsatisfactory results.

Earlier work by Reid Swanson, formerly a PhD student in the ICT Narrative Group, demonstrated a radically different approach. Instead of generating new content from scratch, his "Say Anything" system drew its content from a million nonfiction personal stories posted to Internet weblogs. The approach was restricted to text-based interaction, but provided the first glimpse of what might be possible using a case-based reasoning approach.

Research Objective

The objective of this project is to develop a interactive narrative engine for use in immersive training simulations that determines the effects of user actions using tens of millions of nonfiction personal stories posted to Internet weblogs.


We begin our research with a corpus of 35 million personal stories posted to Internet weblogs from January 2010 to September 2014, collected as part of previous projects of the ICT Narrative Group. With this corpus as an experiential knowledge base, we pursue three high-level tasks:


This research is being conducted by Andrew S. Gordon (Project leader) and Melissa Roemmele.



This project is being conducted as part of the mission funding of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, contract number #W911NF-14-R-0018, project period of performance 11/1/2014 to 10/30/2017.


Andrew S. Gordon
Institute for Creative Technologies
University of Southern California
12015 Waterfront Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90094-2536
Phone: (310) 574-5700
Fax: (310) 574-5725