Many RPGs have more than one ending, but even then you still have limited ways to control the story or to interact with the characters. Disney Research, however, wants to make real interactive games -- ones where your actions can affect how it progresses and ends -- so it has created a platform that can help developers do so more easily than if they use traditional tools. This platform makes it simpler for creators to spin as many story arcs as they want that can be triggered any time by your actions. It also automatically detects and fixes conflicts in the storyline that you'll inevitably cause as you interact with the characters. Take the bears in the video below the fold, for example.
Say, the story arc calls for a beach ball to be in the scene, but there is no beach ball anywhere, because you were playing God earlier and taking all the props away. If that's the case, one of the bears will ask you for a beach ball, so the story can run its course. Alternatively, the game can trigger the appearance of a ball vendor and a treasure chest, so the bears can buy a beach ball for themselves.
Ex-Disney researcher and Rutgers University assistant professor Mubbasir Kapadia explained:
We want interactive narratives to be an immersive experience in which users can influence the action or even create a storyline, but the complexity of the authoring task has worked against our ambitions. Our method of modeling multiple story arcs and resolving conflicts in the storylines makes it feasible to author interactive experiences that are free form, rather than constricted.
In short, this method could be used to create some truly open-world choose-your-own-adventure games if developed even further -- games you can play again and again and get a different experience each time. The team has uploaded a scientific paper you can sink your teeth into for the technical details, but you can watch the video below for a demo of how it works.