In a forum at the IGDA, (to some degree) came up the question of what is required from an Interactive Drama authoring system. And I'm using the term Interactive Drama because I believe is what people are using these days, but you may call it Interactive Stories, Interactive Fiction, etc.
An authoring platform for interactive drama, should take in consideration not only how storytelling works, but how storytellers work, because they may be the ones with more chances of becoming the most capable new authors.
Why? Because interactive drama requires a combination of skills; storytelling and interactivity. But I believe storytelling is more critical than interactivity, and in general, it's easier for a good writer to learn some basic interactivity, than for anybody else to learn the required storytelling skills to create an engaging Interactive Drama.
So why don't create an authoring platform that allows current storytellers, by learning something reasonable, to create interactive Dramas. And reasonable means that enough authors will jump to try the platform and come up with decent output in a short period of time.
Yes, all this is relative, so ideally we should be able to compare which authoring platform is easier to master and gets better results. The problem is that there is not platforms ready yet, however you can check how one of the most advanced and famous one, Chris Crawford's, works:
My opinion is that Storytron may prove too complicated to use for most writers, given that they will have to create a story world in a non linear way. And the entertaining value of the results may not be certain. Setting up all the elements to act with a level of autonomy, expecting to create drama in any combination of actions the player takes, may prove highly improbable. So, why not take in consideration how storytellers work and create an authoring system that allows authors to pre-write interactive story worlds more like they build stories, allowing them to "guarantee" exciting consequences to most player choices.
So how an AlterAction authoring platform may work?
Let's base it in how Masq works. There are other possible approaches, but Masq has been already played by thousands and most of them found it exciting. So we have an actual product to base our analysis.
In Altercation’s design platform the writer creates different what-if alternative stories, and even when these stories have to be decomposed in short steps triggered by choices, these story steps still follow the linear logic that the writers use all the time. The difference is that here they have to create many more story steps, and select those who can keep all branches working together.
The writer needs also to write the choices, but these are the choices that characters face in traditional stories. So again, it follows current writer’s logic.
The author also needs to understand some basic principles of interactivity, like keeping track of variables, but writers do that all the time anyway when they write s story, the only difference is in volume, so give them a tool to store the variables and retreive them fast. Authors also need to write some basic if-then logic, but even this programming is kind of linear; If Nikki is angry, then show these two options. If this option is clicked and Susan knows about the affair, do this, if not, do that. Even when these logic statements get complicated, the fundamentals of how they work will be clear to many traditional writers.
I have to clarify that, I'm assuming that Chris Crawford platform will be used to create a sort of Interactive Drama that resembles Masq, but it may be something different. And who knows, he may be trying to have a system capable to create better experiences with worst screenwriters, and that will be a great achievement. We’ll need to wait and see.