SAGA: A DSL for Story Management by Lucas Beyak and Jacques Carette (McMaster University).
Video game development is currently a very labour-intensive endeavour. Furthermore it involves multi-disciplinary teams of artistic content creators and programmers, whose typical working patterns are not easily meshed. SAGA is our first effort at augmenting the productivity of such teams.
Already convinced of the benefits of DSLs, we set out to analyze the domains present in games in order to find out which would be most amenable to the DSL approach. Based on previous work, we thus sought those sub-parts that already had a partially established vocabulary and at the same time could be well modeled using classical computer science structures. We settled on the ‘story’ aspect of video games as the best candidate domain, which can be modeled using state transition systems.
As we are working with a specific company as the ultimate customer for this work, an additional requirement was that our DSL should produce code that can be used within a pre-existing framework. We developed a full system (SAGA) comprised of a parser for a human-friendly language for ‘story events’, an internal representation of design patterns for implementing object-oriented state-transitions systems, an instantiator for these patterns for a specific ‘story’, and three renderers (for C++, C# and Java) for the instantiated abstract code.
I mention this only in part because of Jack Park’s long standing interest in narrative structures.
The other reason I mention this article is it is a model for how to transition between vocabularies in a useful way.
Transitioning between vocabularies is as nearly a constant theme in computer science as data storage. Not to mention that disciplines, domains, professions, etc., have been transitioning between vocabularies for thousands of years. Some more slowly than other, some terms in legal vocabularies date back centuries.
We need vocabularies and data structures, but with the realization that none of them are final. If you want blind interchangea of topic maps I would strongly suggest that you use one of the standard syntaxes.
But with the realization that you will encounter data that isn’t in a standard topic map syntax. What subjects are represented there? How would you tell others about them? And those vocabularies are going to change over time, just as there were vocabularies before RDF and topic maps.
If you ask an honest MDM advocate, they will tell you that the current MDM effort is not really all that different from MDM in the ’90′s. And MDM may be what you need, depends on your requirements. (Sorry, master data management = MDM.)
The point being that there isn’t any place where a particular vocabulary or “solution” is going to freeze the creativity of users and even programmers, to say nothing of the rest of humanity. Change is the only constant and those who aren’t prepared to deal with it, will be the worse off for it.