Branched simulation scenarios

…the next generation of learners, roughly those age thirty and younger, have grown up playing computer games. These once and future learners have learned how to learn through interactions with computers. They expect to be engaged on multiple levels simultaneously, in a fast-feedback, graphical, high stimulation, extremely immersive, user-centric environment. – Clark Aldrich

FLIGBY is a scenario-based learning program —also known as problem-based learning or whole task learning—with a highly interactive course design that puts the learner in the role of a problem solver responding to realistic workplace problems or situations. The lessons are built around a series of progressively complex workplace assignments or situations. Scenario-based e-learning is a proven method to build expertise in tasks that are unsafe or infrequent in the workplace, or to build critical thinking skills.

Scenario-based learning combines the magical appeal and relevance of stories with the realism of hands-on training within a virtual environment. Virtual scenarios let learners gather professional expertise and experience within a much shorter duration than what they would have obtained from just working at their real jobs. What is more, scenario-based learning lets them learn through a trial-and-error process that is as effective as getting an on-job training but without having to face the consequences or bear the costs of a wrong decision.

Narrative is an important part of the way we interact with and make sense of the world. Interactive narrative systems tell stories in a virtual world in which the user is an interactive participant. Since the behaviors the user performs in the virtual world can affect the way in which a storyline unfolds, interactive narrative systems often use a branching story structure where non-interactive story presentations are interleaved with user decision points.

FLIGBY’s scenario-based approach is a complex structure of branching stories: players make multiple-choice decisions along an ongoing sequence of events. It means that FLIGBY offers the player a choice about which direction a given segment may proceed, by offering multiple paths that run parallel to each other. Story branching occurs when the players’ choices determine which levels, objectives, and other choices they will face later in the game and which will be lost. FLIGBY offers multiple endings, depending on how the player performs at key events within the simulation.

FLIGBY takes this approach further and with its “game restart function” encourages players to experience all the endings in order to fully understand the game’s overarching narrative. For example, various endings might give differing perspectives, with the plot elements that may not make sense in one ending making sense in another ending; by viewing these differing perspectives, the player thus gains a better understanding of the simulation’s overarching narrative.


The Strengths of branching path stories:

  • Branching path stories have multiple decision points (number of choices of varying importance) throughout the story, allowing the player to make a series of decisions as he progresses through the game;
  • Let the player explore many different possible progressions and outcomes of the story. Some decisions may have little to no effect on the main plot while other can cause it to branch off in a different direction entirely;
  • Offers the player a chance to experience the story from multiple angles and perspectives;
  • The best synthesis of traditional and player-driven storytelling.

FLIGBY uses branching narrative in which there are many points in the story at where some action or decision made by the user alters the way in which a narrative unfolds or ends. Branching narratives are typically represented as directed graphs in which each node represents a linear, scripted scene followed by a decision point.

The degree of engagement by a user within an interactive narrative lies, to a great extent, with the user’s perceived degree of control over his/her character as he/she operates within the environment. The greater the user’s sense of control over his/her character, the greater will be his/her sense of presence – the sense that he/she is a part of the story world and free to pursue her own goals and desires. The producers of FLIGBY found it important that the players be able to identify with the scenario and the challenges immediately, at the start of the scenario. To do this, the made the scenarios as real as possible by using big-budget videos with actors performing real life situations. Video makes it possible to use specific emotions as a response to decisions made by a player.