Cyranus Architecture Iurgel October 2009

The Cyranus-platform is an authoring framework for conversational interactive storytelling, developed within several projects. For instance, it was employed within the EU-project art-e-fact, “Virtual Humans with Social Intelligence” (a German-US research project commissioned by SAP research), partly within the German research project Virtual Human, and others.

One of the museum aplications that were build with the Cyranus-platform is depicted in the following figure:


One of the requirements of development of the Cyranus-platform was pragmatism. In particular within the art-e-fact project, we had fixed dates for displaying results as working and stable museum installations, so too risky technological experiments were out of question. Thus, the core architecture and the technologies chosen were conservative, and challenging features were built on top of the conservative choices.

The conservative choices were (a) a hierarchical architecture with a central control unit (“Narrator”), with only limited autonomy of the subordinate parts, (b) a directed graph was not the only control module, but it was always available, and (c) for chatting with the keyboard, a chatterbot (ALICE) was adapted.

Innovative features were built on top of these choices. Concerning the authoring process, the most interesting and fruitful development was to allow other control methods to activate states. The hierarchies of the Statechart were employed to encapsulate the range of action of these other control strategies. Thus, it was possible to use an arbitrary number of control strategies in parallel. In practice, we have employed mostly forward-chaining as an alternative.

If the directed graph was employed together with another control strategy, within a composite state of a Statechart, then a delegation chain took place: If the graph could not handle an event, it was handed over to this other control strategy.

With this system, it was possible (i) to combine branching stories with (ii) highly interactive sections displaying (iii) quite intelligent behavior, and (iv) to integrate some state-based chatting with stimulus-response-style chatting.

Concerning the authoring process, another important implication was that the Cyranus-platform allowed for a simple start of the authoring process, employing the directed graph, and then enabled a migration and addition of other control strategies, as the story idea evolves.

The architecture of the platform is as follows:



The LRRH Concept in Cyranus Iurgel October 2009

Synopsis: Make a talking "game" out of the fairy tale. Assume that LRRH is a dream of a woman, Julie, and she is now seeking your advice to interpret it. Julie is a talking virtual character, a torso without hands, but with a very expressive face. You chat with Julie about the dream, and you have a persuasion task.

That is, I do not pretend to make the LRRH story interactive in any straightforward way. The Cyranus system is well adapted to chatting games, and I will exploit this faculty. The player talks to Julie about the story (as if it were a dream). The player has the task to lead the conversation to a certain goal. The goal is to persuade Julie that the dream is indeed meaningful, and that it is about sex. Many rounds of playing are likely to be necessary to achieve this aim of persuading Julie.

This interpretation is not my own and not new at all. Erich Fromm, for instance, has made a psychoanalytic interpretation of LRRH in this vain.

Is it possible to make an entertaining and elucidating game with these settings? How are the dialogues to be construed? How can Julie guide the dialogue, in spite of her (its) very limited “intellectual” faculties? How is the personality of Julie to be designed?

These are difficult questions that can hardly be answered without trying. This idea of “trying” is central to the Cyranus-framework: It is possible to start with some very simple structures, with directed graphs, and then to improve and adapt according to user feedback and the author’s intuition. The directed graphs can be replaced gradually, where appropriate, by rule based control strategies.

Here is the abstract of the LRRH-persuasion-game:


• You: Friend of Julie and hobby psychoanalyst

• Interpretation of the nightmare of Julie: (à la Erich Fromm):
   Wolf = Man
   Being eaten = Sex
            consequence: Julie is fearing sex (and the player has to persuade Julie of this)

•Your task: Persuade Julie

–You win: Julie says “Oh, now I understand!”

–You lose: Julie says “Bullshit!”


Would this amount to the funny game that teaches also on persuasion strategies? I guess so, but I do not know for sure. For the workshop, I could only build a very few exemplary dialogues. It is difficult to estimate how much time would have to be invested until some experimental conclusion could be reached on whether this is the right path. I think that some weeks of intensive work by an individual would be necessary. However, some weeks of work would be an acceptable time, it seems to me. Thus, even with Cyranus, the results are not immediate, but it is an essential tool for such experiments.

Cyranus Example Scene Iurgel October 2009


The following two exemplary interactions should give a taste of the intended interactions. The player uses the keyboard to talk, Julie (the virtual character) uses text-to-speech.

1)      Example of an unsuccessful interaction. This interaction is not successful because the player goes straight to the point. The “lesson” to be learnt: When speaking about such delicate issues, is better to talk cautiously.

Julie says: "I feel bad, because of the nightmare"

User says: "You were dreaming of sex!"

Julie says: "Bullshit"

Whenever Julie says “bullshit”, the user looses the game. Thus, the user has lost this game.


2)      Example of a successful talk. The user acts like a psychoanalyst, who rather tries to ask the right questions, in order to achieve his goals. The “lesson” to be learnt, from this example: It is essential to find out the best question, at every moment.

Julie says: "I feel bad, because of the nightmare"

User says: "Why do you feel bad?"

Julie says: "I do not know exaclty, I think it was frigthening"

(some dialogue steps after)

Julie says: "But who could the wolf stand for?"

User: "Does the wolf remind you of someone?"

Julie says: “I do not know. It is as hairy as my husband.”

User: “Can you imagine that the wolf stands for your husband?”

Julie says: “Yes, it could be!”

User: “But your husband never tried to eat you, I hope.”

Julie says: “No!”

User: “But are you sometimes frightened by your husband?”

Julie: “Well, yes, sometimes…”

(some dialogue steps after)

Julie says: "I think this dream was about sex. Oh my God!"

(User wins the game)




Creation Process with Cyranus Iurgel October 2009

 Test Post