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The New World Design Poll #3: Dialogue Checks

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The New World Design Poll #3: Dialogue Checks

Community - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 June 2018, 15:06:25

Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Iron Tower Studio; Vince D. Weller

The Age of Decadence was criticized by some for its CYOA-like all-or-nothing dialogue skill checks. It turns out that this is another design element that Vault Dweller is considering changing in The New World. In the latest community poll on the Iron Tower forums, he proposes an alternative dialogue mechanic based on a numeric disposition value altered by cumulative positive and negative reactions. Here's the explanation:

When designing AoD dialogue system, our goal was simple: your character’s skills must determine conversations' outcomes (i.e. success or failure). The dialogue checks were equally simple: if your skill is high enough, you pass the check, otherwise you fail. It created 3 problems:

1. You never had to consider what the NPC would respond best to. Any tagged line would result in instant success if you have the skill, meaning that your dialogue option was not an attempt (as it should be) but guaranteed success, which made considering the options redundant.

2. Since all dialogues had multiple checks to simulate realistic conversations, it didn’t matter how many checks you passed and how well you were doing until that last check that resulted in failure (i.e. early success didn’t contribute to anything and thus didn’t matter).

3. The rigid nature of the system forced us to lower the checks to make the hybrids (i.e. jacks of all trades with lower skills) viable, which in turn made playing talkers an easy mode.

We did have a couple of interesting dialogues. When you talk to Lorenza, she asks you some questions to understand your motivations better (before she makes her decision), and your answers modify the checks later on, making them easier or harder.

In The New World we’d like to engage the player, make him/her consider the options instead of clicking on the line with the tag matching your highest skill, yet still keep the system skill-driven. It’s not an easy task as this problem doesn’t have a perfect solution, so I’m asking you to consider both systems (see below) and vote for the one where the pros outweigh the cons.

The biggest conceptual change is that the tagged lines would now represent an attempt without any guarantees of success. It’s up to the player to read people based on the available info and consider what would work best. You can have two different streetwise lines, for example, one would result in a positive reaction, the other in a negative.

That brings us to the second biggest change. Most lines would no longer lead to success or failures but result in positive and negative reactions, represented numerically. Your skill level would act as modifiers, magnifying positive reactions and reducing the effect of blunders. The final check would tally up the reactions, which will determine whether you’ve succeeded or failed.

Let’s say your Persuasion is 3. You’re offered 3 arguments. The NPC will respond very favorably (+2) to argument #1, favorably to argument #2 (+1) and very negatively to argument #3 (-2). Your skill will modify these reactions to 4, 2, and 0. Let’s say the final check’s value would be 10, so assuming the conversation has 3 nodes with tagged lines, you’ll need to score at least 2 very favorable reactions and 1 favorable (or 3 very favorable ones) to pass the check. In longer dialogues you’d be able to fail a few times and still recover.

This system will maintain the importance of skills and encourage further investment but it will shift the focus to figuring out which lines would work best. Obviously, it might increase meta-gaming but that’s your choice and thus not our concern. Every time the player is offered to make a choice with different outcomes, 8 out of 10 people would want to know the outcomes in advance and the exact way to get to the outcome they want.

Anyway, let us know what you think and if you have any concerns.
Which shall it be, the old or the new? As always, you can respond to the poll over there or in the corresponding thread in our Iron Tower subforum.

There are 69 comments on The New World Design Poll #3: Dialogue Checks

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