"The idea of interactive movies stems from the text-based interactive fiction That appeared on computers for the first time in the mid-1970s. Interactive fiction and fantasy grew out of role-playing games, and the first interactive computer fiction, 'Adventure', was based on the game 'Dungeons and Dragons'. The 'reader' was faced with a series of branching options, which if correctly negotiated led to the treasure trove. The interface was simple: a text statement and a range of options. This kind of branching narrative contains thousands of options and permutations. Indeed, 'Adventure' was modified and extended by many of the programmers and computer hackers who played it. Because digital text requires very little storage space (one byte per letter), and minimal display technology, text-based interactive fiction is no problem for the current generation of CD-ROM-based home entertainment systems (the storage capacity of a CD-ROM is around 10 million words).
Imagine the same branching structure applied to movies, however, where each frame of the movie requires at least 100,000 bytes. If we devised a movie with a very simple branching structure, offering the user a choice of two options after watching each one-minute segment of the film story, after just five choices we will have nearly reached the capacity of the CD-ROM, and generated over 60 one-minute film sequences. There may be over a thousand ways of viewing our interactive movie, but each unique viewing would be only five minutes long. The more choices, the shorter the movie.
The shape of interactive movies will ultimately be determined by two factors the nature of the distribution media, and the power of the hardware system. The main option for distribution media is currently the CD-ROM. These are due to double in capacity (double- and even quad-density CD-ROMs are under development ), while fibre-optic networks will soon be able to deliver linear or interactive movies straight to a consumer 'teleputer'. Such systems will store software in large-capacity memory, and decompress the motion video data in realtime when required. Equipped with powerful processors, teleputers will create the conditions for a new type of interactive movie, a 'hyper-movie' that would combine virtual reality, expert systems and realtime computer graphics.
Employing software techniques developed for movies such as Lawnmower Man and Jurassic Park, special effects programmers are already developing ideas for the creation of 'soft actors' digital reincarnations of famous film and TV stars of the past, or of hybrids of these stars. It may not be long before soft actors appear in feature films, and very soon home-based technology could support the realtime generation of soft actors (albeit of low resolution) or indeed of the entire movie mise-en-scène. Furthermore, expert system techniques could be used to generate complex 'story arenas' through which the user may wander at will, meeting with soft actors that have distinct characters, and intentions, of their own."