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RPG Dialogue Systems

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Kem0sabe, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Kem0sabe Arcane

    Kem0sabe
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    RPG Dialogue Systems, these days we can safely categorize them into three styles...

    Keyword driven

    As pictured bellow, had it´s last great hope in the form of Elder Scrolls Morrowind. Somewhat abstract, often confusing, keywords have been around since Zork.

    While they provide the player with the opportunity to drive the dialogue straight to the point and inject some depth, the abstraction often removes a sense of personality from the player character.

    [​IMG]

    List driven full conversations


    Planescape Torment is the poster boy for this kind of dialogue system, where what you see is what you get, unlike Keywords, you have the option to read and act out your inner dick, or your obnoxious do gooder, and everything in between.

    The ideal system for a story intensive setting, it´s often more miss than hit, as it´s more dependent on the quality of writing than anything else.

    [​IMG]

    Emote driven

    Mass Effect, Dragon Age 2, The Old Republic... Bioware literally invented the wheel on this. Forget the depth of the keyword system, or the character of full conversations, what matters is how your characters acts. The player is asked to choose an action often based on vague descriptions with unforeseen consequences.

    While Undeniably cinematic, the system often puts the player in backseat of the developers joyride through space, time and homoerotic fiction.

    [​IMG]



    The questions i´m asking are which do you prefer and why?

    I´m asking this because after watching the recent Wasteland 2 gameplay video, i got to thinking about the system they used (Keyword) and how detached it felt from the characters. Personally i prefer a full list driven dialogue system in my rpg´s.
     
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  2. Lilura RPG Codex Dragon Lady

    Lilura
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    I prefer deeper, stat-checking dialogue systems as seen in PS:T, Fallout and Arcanum.

    Keywords are ok in games like Jagged Alliance 2, where personality and character aren't as important.

    The dialogue wheel is an awful invention, where what you choose doesn't always end up being what you say, or what you choose isn't voiced out in the tone you thought it would be.
     
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  3. I personally prefer a hybrid of the First and the Second as implemented in the Betrayal in Antara. But BaK I like too. It was mostly descriptive with Dialogue mixed with the flavor text.
     
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  4. Lord Andre Arcane

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    Gothic's system was the best. :troll:
     
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  5. Surf Solar cannot into womynz

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    I like the way Fallout 1 did it. Written out sentences with the optional "Ask me about" feauture (which needed a bit more loving though)
     
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  6. Wolfus Cipher

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    First is good for gathering information, second is good for C&C, third is good for faggots.
     
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  7. Morrowind had listed conversations too (with 2 options at most, IIRC), the most memorable being Crassius Curio :wink wink nod:

    I don't agree with the comment that only 2. requires good writing, either. Well-written keyword responses are more fun to read than badly-written ones (Wiz7 is known to be polarizing in this regard), same as there is less incentive to follow a badly-written branching dialogue.
     
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  8. Kem0sabe Arcane

    Kem0sabe
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    Interestingly i blocked out that piece of information from my mind. I think that i will always remember Morrowind´s dialogue as being mostly an example of a "keywords" system mainly.


    Everything should be well written. But a keyword or a Bioware like system allow more leeway in that regard, in the first you are basically hunting for information, be it quests, or new words to add to your points of interested with other npc´s, in the second the over the top exposition of your choices, dramatic voice acting included, often leave you with the sense of what happened but with the feeling you can´t quite recall what your character just said.

    Lists on the other hand force you to read your characters exact responses and not just some info dump.

    As others have said, a mix of both is often the best approach, tho games that opt for it and do it well, are a rare thing these days.
     
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  9. Zed Codex Staff Patron

    Zed
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    It depends on the context.

    Skyrim is attempting to use a dumbed down version of 2, but falls flat. Morrowind had great use of keywords. The dialogue of WL2 seems a little lifeless because of keywords. FO:NV would probably have been better off using keywords (and fo3).

    In general I prefer list-based dialogue, because it can also interpret actions and player speech skills. But for open world games I kind of prefer keywords. At least if the game is open world and very rich in locations, characters and stuff.

    Like RPGsaurus Rex says Morrowind actually had a few lines of dialogue as well. I think a mix is a good compromise.
     
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  10. Lord Andre Arcane

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    Keywords would be a great system if developers had unlimited time and resources so they could craft each NPC's reaction to a keyword separately. But since they don't, it ends up with a NPC responding to a list of keywords, and each of those keywords draws its text from the same shared pool of text pieces, resulting in each NPC responding exactly the same and having zero personality. The exceptions are key NPCs who get a few custom keywords but for general keywords they still draw from the usual pool making the fallacy even more obvious.
     
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  11. Broseph Fabulous Hoosier Patron

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    You can kind of circumvent this by making NPCs answers to certain keywords based on class, their location in the gameworld, and other variables and have all NPCs that meet those conditions respond in that way.
     
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  12. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    "A better option for the tone system is in combination with the Keyword system. Instead of just asking about a topic and getting a response, you can ask about that keyword in a certain tone. This, based on the NPC's opinion of you, your manner of speech, and the topic, could result in different responses. Daggerfall, with its attempts at dynamically generated conversations, tried this method, although they didn't exploit its full potential. In fact, Daggerfall's generated dialogue represents perhaps the best chance for advancing the state of RPG dialogue systems. Combining generated dialogue with carefully written text, in the same way that the Diablo games combine randomly generated environments with set pieces, could result in the holy grail of dialogue systems, one which allows the player to express themselves in a powerful manner while still allowing the designer the ability to carefully convey subtle meaning."

    http://www.irontowerstudio.com/forum/index.php/topic,414.0.html
     
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  13. Lord Andre Arcane

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    This just limits what keywords the NPC has available and has been done already (Morrowind). The problem is that not even plot important NPCs have handcrafted responses, except their specific quest dialogue of course. As long as everyone draws responses from the same shared text pool, characterisation is going to be a low-point.
     
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  14. Lilura RPG Codex Dragon Lady

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    Storm of Zehir had mild success in "list-driven" dialogue for multiple user-created NPCs, and cohorts.
    What happened was, the dialogue window popped up, but it had these small portraits of your party members running along the top, and you could click the portrait of the one who you wanted to reply, based on lots of checks on their stats and stuff.
    So in a single conversation, you could easily talk using several party members, all with varied insights and ideas, to get their valuable contributions.

    Its different to most games, where you have to quit out of talkmode with your barb and then start it back up with your bard to pass some charisma check, or whatever.

    Anyway, SoZ dialogue is simple but quite lively due to this rarely seen feature.
     
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  15. Similarly, a lot of RPGs have generic NPCs #1, #2, etc. that have the same list-based dialogue.

    There's no reason why can't have NPCs react differently to same keywords in a keyword-based system: a unique NPC can have unique responses, a faction member can have faction-based responses.

    The problem with keyword-based systems is that there usually are too many sensible things you can ask leading to an endless array of "I don't know"s and "What?"s.

    To avoid it, you will have to limit the number of things a player can input, directly or indirectly (e.g. by highlighting important keywords in Wiz8 to nudge the player in the right direction).

    In the end, I think that in general list-based > keywords, precisely for this reason. Any keyword system can be replaced with a list-based one (Wizardries wouldn't have gotten any worse if you just limited the inputs to the ones that actually worked), on the other hand replacing a list-based one with keywords can stifle the developers' narrative options (imagine PS:T with a keyword-based dialogue system...).
     
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  16. EG Nullified

    EG
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    It's an aesthetic choice. All three forms can support tone, skill checks, and branching.
     
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  17. Lord Andre Arcane

    Lord Andre
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    I think a perfect dialogue system cannot be reached through meta-mechanic tweaking alone. There will always be the more or less subjective problem of "Is this dialogue interesting or not ?", that arises independent of system and mechanic. Let me give some examples:

    - The dialogue with Raven in PST. Oh my god, it was heaven !
    - The dialogue with a centaur like creature in PST, where it describes its homeland in detail and how it got lost in Sigil. It has no bearing on plot, it's not remotely interesting and feels as an unwanted gamestoper at that point.

    The two examples share the same system, but one is good while the other is bad.

    I would actually prefer that in the case of unimportant NPCs and in particular exposition dispensers, the game would give me only one dialogue option: "Gather information.", then dump the info in my journal so I can read it at my leisure . This would free writer resources to focus heavily on important NPCs and their characterisation.

    However, even if the system is good and resources are focused efficiently, you can still end up with corny Bioware style NPCs. So, I guess my conclusion is that a good writer is paramount to having good dialogues, while a good system and efficient use of resources come second.
     
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  18. Kem0sabe Arcane

    Kem0sabe
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    I feel that the system has a great influence over the writing process itself. If it´d purely keyword based, player dialogue is secondary, as well as player characterization. If you have a list based system, your writer will have to get into the mindset of not only the information dispenser (npc) but the player character itself, exposition is not enough, you have to have actual believable interactions.
     
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  19. TalesfromtheCrypt Arcane

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    I'm ok with both full conversations and keyword system. Keywords are good for all kind of RPGs, the exception are games like Planescape Torment, where the main character and his interactions with NPCs are a major plot and gameplay element.

    What I don't like is Mass Effect style dialogues - the worst of both worlds. You basicly chose a keyword, but then your character uses full sentences and you don't really know what he will be saying. If you're gonna use a full sentence system, give the player full knowledge and control over what his character says.
     
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  20. BobtheTree Savant

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    Lists, because unlike the other two you always know what you're going to say and if that might piss off/please the person you're talking to.
     
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  21. CappenVarra phase-based phantasmist Patron

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    But only if the character's ability to represent information in written form was determined by his Journal Updating skill :obviously:
     
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  22. SearchEngine Learned

    SearchEngine
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    :bro: I wish more rpgs took advantage of this method.
     
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  23. Excidium P. banal

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    Morrowind has a p. terrible example of keyword system. It's like browsing a document with hypertext.

    You want good keyword systems look for text adventures like Gateway.
     
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  24. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Less talk, more fight!
     
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  25. dab Learned

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    Project: Eternity

    :eek:
     
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