A movie’s main draw is its story. The team here at Visual Purple have long been evangelists of the ‘Power of Story’ but realize that not all simulation companies are created equal when constructing a simulation and utilizing the power of story to draw the trainee in and engage them. There are parallel challenges (both in games and intelligent simulations) when crafting together game play and story. Ask any producer, cracking the code on making a blockbuster movie is tough. Usually, Hollywood blockbuster movies have a mix of a-list actors (and of late way too much CGI) and a great script with some character development. One Hollywood blockbuster after another shines with a terrific story, well written from the likes of well-known (and maybe overpaid) Hollywood writers and tons of captivating, if not over-the-top, special-effects.
While some may think it a stretch to compare an intelligent simulation to a Hollywood movie, they do both contain much of the same elements (and in the case of Visual Purple simulations, Hollywood writers, too!). Some games and/or simulations offer a storyline but that’s as far as it gets. Sometimes the storyline is poorly written and irrelevant or perhaps it may be barely developed and still irrelevant. While it may be a thin line to get a happy medium of just enough of a story-line matched to game play, it is possible to do when crafted correctly. Some may consider making the simulation more directed and constrained in order to protect the element of story, but putting the player “on rails” may make them feel more like they are on a ride at Disneyland than mastering skills in a simulation environment. The key is immersing the player in a story construct/world that the player always perceives to be large with many interesting choices. In essence, player-directed game play allows for the story to have distinct and useful paths, all dependant upon player choices. The story will take different paths and have appropriate experiences based on player decisions balanced against training goals. By utilizing narrative devices, the story unfolds at a pace influenced by the player as specific events unfold. By intelligently guiding the trainee through the sim, many training goals are achieved, e.g., the sim is ‘aware’ and will in real-time challenge the player to their level of competence or skill so as to continually raise the training bar – seamlessly and automatically.
“When you think of the word “simulation,” what comes to mind? Some people instantly think of screen capture tutorials. Others might think of medical simulations, interacting with a patient or medical equipment. Others might think of military simulations. But what you probably don’t think of is story.”- Jack McGrath
When you play through a simulation one seeks to be challenged, to be drawn in and placed in the environment by feeling like they can relate to the events unfolding and the realness of the surroundings. Visual Purple simulations have the unique ability to draw the trainee in because of the use of a story allowing for the trainee to play the simulation through not only for the challenges that it presents but for the COMPELLING STORY that unfolds and captures attention. Learning objectives (ELO’s and TLO’s) are easily met when basing a simulation around a storyline. Some worry about game play detracting from the story, but in reality our experience of producing intelligent simulations for the past fifteen years allows for a proven approach to blending the two together: arguably, as much art, as it is science.
Some companies offer a troubled approach to storytelling, making the storyline hard to follow and character development just plain awkward. Tools often used to help deliver a message and/ or story are typically in the form of Non-Player Characters (NPCs for short) but the use of the surroundings help as well. Some simulations may seem primitive at best and it is these that give the simulation training market a bad name: Second Life’s many technical, social and story deficiencies have not done well-executed training simulations any favors.
There is, however, a better choice that represents a balanced marriage of game play and storyline – harnessing “The Power of Story” to achieve measurable training results.