Character Maker 4.2

About
Background

Concepts
Authoring
Advanced Features
Embedding Characters

Run Character Maker

 

About

CharacterMaker is a research project directed by Prof. Janet Murray, Director of Georgia Tech's Graduate Program in Information Design and Technology. It derives from her belief that the procedural power of the computer should be put in the hands of writers. The program allows the user to create, test, and run web-based interactive characters who can carry on a conversation in the tradition of Joseph Weizenbaum's Eliza. The theoretical underpinings of the system can be found in chapters 3 and 7 of Murray's book, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Free Press, 1997; paperback MIT Press, 1998).

Version 4.2, which runs in Java, is the latest in a series that began in the early 1990s as a hypercard and C-based set of programs, and was ported to the web in a perl version during the early heady days of Mosaic. These early versions of CharacterMaker were programmed by Jeffrey Morrow, Matthew Gray, and Michael Paskowitz who were at various times undergraduates in Murray's course in Interactive Fiction at MIT. All the students who have taken this course and who participated in the Eliza contest contributed to the design process that has resulted in the current functionalities. The program was re-implemented, as version 4.1, under Murray's direction, in Java as a graduate project by Michael Privat during his time as a visiting student at MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives (1998). It has now been updated and refined by Chaim Gingold, a graduate student at Georgia Tech (2001), as version 4.2, and is currently running off a web server at Georgia Tech's Laboratory for Advanced Computing in the Humanities, which is Janet Murray's new research home. Janet is grateful to all of the student programmers and authors who have helped to shape CharacterMaker! She is sorry that the older characters are no longer available here, and she remembers them all fondly!

The goal for a CharacterMaker character is that it sustain a conversation for the longest possible time. It is used in Janet's classes as part of a contest in which students try to create a character that will produce the largest number of coherent successful interactions with a user. The user is expected to try to sustain the conversation rather than to test for ways to break the flow. See the [Janet Murray's Tips] section for authoring strategies for the creation of such characters. See [TO COME] for a gallery of available characters to converse with.

If you want more general information about CharacterMaker or would like access to it, please contact Janet Murray. If you are having
problems with the current version, please contact Chaim at chaim[at]slackworks.com.

The next sections of this document were written by Chaim Gingold to explain the basics of how ELIZA works, introduce the conceptual organization of CharacterMaker characters, and serve as a tutorial and reference point for the user interface and features of Character Maker.