A Little Less (dumb) Conversation

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A Little Less (dumb) Conversation

Bioware has some issues conversating.

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Yes, that is one of my big pet peeves. I should never be guessing what my character is going to say when I select a dialogue option.

They should also not make me be a dick to everyone just to have enough "evil points" to do an evil action later. I want morinth, yes. I don't want to have everyone else in the game hate me because I had to kick every puppy from the citadel to mordor to get enough points to do so.

dogstile:
They should also not make me be a dick to everyone just to have enough "evil points" to do an evil action later. I want morinth, yes. I don't want to have everyone else in the game hate me because I had to kick every puppy from the citadel to mordor to get enough points to do so.

Actually, you just need near max something. I got her when I was near max paragon. You just need to be able to resist her mind control with any option. It still forces you to max out one or the other, though. Yay for forcing metagaming in a game about role-playing?

RedEyesBlackGamer:

dogstile:
They should also not make me be a dick to everyone just to have enough "evil points" to do an evil action later. I want morinth, yes. I don't want to have everyone else in the game hate me because I had to kick every puppy from the citadel to mordor to get enough points to do so.

Actually, you just need near max something. I got her when I was near max paragon. You just need to be able to resist her mind control with any option. It still forces you to max out one or the other, though. Yay for forcing metagaming in a game about role-playing?

Oh really?

... I still enjoy being a dick to some of the characters, so it seems i'll never get morinth, but thanks for the tip.

Oh, I'm totally going to use this space to talk up two of my favorite games.

"I SHOULD BE ABLE TO LEAVE THE CONVERSATION WHENEVER I WANT."

Demon's Souls and Dark Souls totally do that. In fact you have pretty much 100% control of your actions when people are talking to you. If you walk too far away most of them have a "rudely leaving" and a "return after rudely leaving" line. Hmm... you could probably straight up attack them too, but I've never tried that.... hmm....

hush, I know D'sS and DS don't really have 'dialogue' as much as 'people talking at you' but I'm nothing if not biased.

burningdragoon:
Oh, I'm totally going to use this space to talk up two of my favorite games.

"I SHOULD BE ABLE TO LEAVE THE CONVERSATION WHENEVER I WANT."

Demon's Souls and Dark Souls totally do that. In fact you have pretty much 100% control of your actions when people are talking to you. If you walk too far away most of them have a "rudely leaving" and a "return after rudely leaving" line. Hmm... you could probably straight up attack them too, but I've never tried that.... hmm....

hush, I know D'sS and DS don't really have 'dialogue' as much as 'people talking at you' but I'm nothing if not biased.

I love how shop owners will get snarky if you look at their wares and decide to not buy anything.

Few more:

"Humorous" voices are that. Once.

If you're not giving me an option because I'm too low, hint at that.
If you're not giving me an option because it's reliant on something else, don't hint at it.
The former stops me arsing about for ages trying to find out what's wrong, the latter highlights something I might not have ever considered (Easter eggs should be slightly hidden).

"Disingenuous Assertions" - Not even Victorian ACTORS speak like that.

If I need to collect 3 rat tails/dilithium crystals/plantpots of growing; I really don't need to know why beyond "This will really help/I need these/I need rid of you".

Give me one moment in the game when I can really lose my shit over something. Even if it cripples me later, give me a moment when I can actually let loose. Just one moment where I can go "YUSH, eat this you petty minded twerp!" or whatever cuss words I'm allowed to use.

"In BioWare games this is bad because the paragon / renegade system punishes you for "moral" inconsistency."

Protip: Paragon is always up, Renegade is always down. Smart ass comment aside dialog wheels and the skipping dialog button issue infuriate me. How is it that it hasn't been fixed?

I agree with the parts about dialogue matching the choices *shakes fist* and access to the Codex/Quest log.

I should totally not have to take fifty notes on a quest.

I'd like to add that if you're going to tie the "correct" dialogue option to a skill, or, if you must, a karma meter, don't highlight it or something. Planescape Torment did it right. Give me more options for higher skills or stats, and then let me choose the correct one from the ones added. Even if the choice is obvious, its still more satisfying than having it given to us.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Give me one moment in the game when I can really lose my shit over something. Even if it cripples me later, give me a moment when I can actually let loose. Just one moment where I can go "YUSH, eat this you petty minded twerp!" or whatever cuss words I'm allowed to use.

Disingenuous assertions was that moment. It is, however, topped by:

"Ok, I've just about had my FILL of riddle asking, quest assigning, insult throwing, pun hurling, hostage taking, iron mongering, smart arsed fools, freaks, and felons that continually test my will, mettle, strength, intelligence, and most of all, patience! If you've got a straight answer ANYWHERE in that bent little head of yours, I want to hear it pretty damn quick or I'm going to take a large blunt object roughly the size of Elminster AND his hat, and stuff it lengthwise into a crevice of your being so seldom seen that even the denizens of the nine hells themselves wouldn't touch it with a twenty-foot rusty halberd! Have I MADE myself CLEAR?!"

I love Baldur's Gate.

Totally agree with all of this. Games can be rather infuriating.

I'd like to add something else.

When I sad "not interested", don't give me all the damn details of the quest. When I say I'm not interested, I'm not interested. It's even worse if they stick the quest in my journal even when I say I'm not interested.

PureIrony:

Disingenuous assertions was that moment.

Yeah, but you know it would have been better with "this bullshit". Disingenuous just seemed to turn the moment against Shephard.

Compare/Contrast your example, Dexter's "I own you", "I am your Father", "This is Sparta!" or "He is the One."

If you can get that one moment - and it can be like Tali's blushing acceptance or Rimmer's "Smoke me a kipper" - then you've not only sold the dialogue, but the character and, quite possibly, the game.

Wake up, Mister Freeman, wake up and smell the ashes.

The_root_of_all_evil:

PureIrony:

Disingenuous assertions was that moment.

Yeah, but you know it would have been better with "this bullshit". Disingenuous just seemed to turn the moment against Shephard.

Compare/Contrast your example, Dexter's "I own you", "I am your Father", "This is Sparta!" or "He is the One."
[/i]

I'm going to disagree with you on this one. If Shepard had said something like "I've had enough of your bullshit!" it would have just been another Renegade interrupt. "Disingenuous assertions" elevated that moment to something memorable, even if it doesn't sound as much "bad ass action hero" as the former option would.

I think you guys are taking that whole summary of dialogue choice to an extreme. this is more of a case of noticing the bad, but forgetting the good. those dialogue tests that shamus proposed are made. But you cant be perfect, specially in a game MADE 50% of dialogue selections n stuff. And you cant be perfect when people can interpret things so differently from individual to individual. in the ME things, i only 3 or 4 times got a thing i didnt expect. the renegade for the reporter? knew it was gonna be bad from the dialogue. not kill bad, but punk bad. as well as many paragon stuff. of course there will always be a thing here n there that yoll be like OH DAMN IT i didnt think it would be THAT bad or THAT idioticly good. and the problem really is that youll remember that stupidity, but forget the other 90% that went more or less like you chose. the attack option in dialogue choice IS sth i want fixed thou...

The worst experience I ever had with BioWare's summary wheel was the first Mass Effect where the tabloid reporter jumps Shepard coming out of the elevator for an interview. I was doing fine until I selected the option "Time to Shut You Up!" (which I don't believe is marked as being Renegade or Paragon specifically). I thought it'd be some witty repartee that would leave her speechless. Pretty shocking to instead see Shepard punch a reporter right in gut. Worse, I was playing with an audience, who were all just as shocked as I was as to what had just transpired.

That last one.

ESPECIALLY that last one.

Seriously.

That last one is brilliant.

I kind of agree with your other points, but ho boy, that last one. Bioware- take note.

I agree with every damn point in this list.
Although i imagine most of the people who enjoined mass effect dialogues and put thought in choosing answers does.

Well the big problem Shamus is that Bioware is pretty much into "do nothing" desicians that don't really influance much except maybe a sidequest here or there. No matter your desicians or moral compass all of the same basic events take place the exact same way.

People have this vision of games where you can make all of these meaningful desicians with equal, but differant content coming from each one, and the game winding up being entirely differant based on what you choose to say or do. Right now, no company has wanted to invest the time, effort, or resources into doing that, especially for a very long game. The technology for it exists, especially in games with a fairly sandbox approach to begin with, but nobody has really wanted to go there.

In the case of games like "Mass Effect" or "The Old Republic" your storyline isn't going to change much based on what you do. What's more there is a deliberate effort being made to prevent one path or another from giving an undue advantage. Being able to make fights easier by say blowing a minion or boss away during dialogue with one moral choice or another would make that desician advantageous and give you an advantage over someone who made the other desician.

Likewise you can pretty much guess that a dialogue desician that would change the purpose of the NPC or plot development (which is usually pretty shallow and predictable) isn't going to turn out that way. To be honest I think Bioware is screwing with people intentionally with the whole "what you pick, isn't what comes out of the guy's mouth" schtick.

To be honest though my big problem with Bioware is that I increasingly feel like a moron playing their games, since your character rarely picks up on the most obvious subtexts, asks the right questions, or presents reasonable, oftentimes obvious, alternative solutions to various problems. In general if you play the "bad" path you are pretty much going to kill people or do nasty things for da lulz, if you play the "good" path your going to be a frakking moron with no sense of scope. In a Bioware game your pretty much given an option where you for example either turn a superweapon you just recovered on the civilian population or let it rape a planet of all it's resources to fire, or destroy it right then and there... no middle ground, no thought for the long term, just one moronic all or nothing solution or the other, neither of which are going to change anything as far as what you do next is concerned.

Honestly a lot of this is why I'm becoming less enthused of all the cinematics and "fully voiced conversations" in games nowadays, I saw the potential in this, but it long ago ceased to move forward, and 90% of the people doing it can't even be bothered to have multiple main character voice tracks for the same plotline like Saint's Row 2/3 did, never mind actually making them mean anything, or even put any serious weight behind them because usually I wind up with a choice of two equally stupid or extreme things, neither of which I would do in that situation IRL.

The worst example of the first complaint I can think of.

I was playing the Jedi Knight story in TOR and interacting with a companion who is a potential romance. I had 3 options along the lines of:

1. I don't like you in that way.
2. [Flirt] You can bullseye my womp rat whenever you want.
3. [Flirt] You're not man enough.

The result of #3? In a completely straight, serious manner, "Not if you were the last being in the galaxy" and negative affection.

Or one that comes along quite often:

"I'll play along" translates to "Of course I will do it, I am a slave to your every desire. Would you like your shoes shined too?"

My biggest thing is, I wish every game from here to doomsday would copy Alpha Protocol's timed speech segments. Not with such short timers all the time, but timers nonetheless. That one inclusion transformed talking from something you plan (what do I do now to get the response I want? Let me wiki that for you...) to something you simply act on. (Three seconds left; do I insult the girl or flatter her?)

A dialog option wheel without even a selection of choices might also do this - think "Nice, Angry, Ingratiating, Coy, Sarcastic" with all the options present at any juncture and mapped to the most appropriate response. Less "I'm gonna choose Paragon now, 'cause Paragon points!" and more "I have no idea which response will be good, so I'll go with my gut."

Actually, Deus Ex: Hunan Restitution (pre-magic pheromone box) pretty much perfected this. A selection of very vague choices (styles of speaking), a black box of an opposing character, and present (albeit very, very long) timers on boss conversations made it a GAME mechanic, rather than an information siphon. You went in there and were left with just one option: Talk. And that's what made it great. Quite frankly, getting

was one of the most rewarding gaming moments in years, simply because I worked towards that point and succeeded. Bioware, would you kindly take notice? This is supposed to be your thing. Yet your RPG with shooter mechanics was beaten black and blue on this point by an (admittedly accomplished) shooter with RPG mechanics. I don't care how you spin it, that's just wrong.

Pausing at any time to access the codex should be present in any game with that much information. I like the ME2 idea of random renegade/chaotic good moments that can fully interrupt happenings completely. Skyrim unofficially had that, where you could bow out of conversations while the other person is still talking and whack them in the face to shut them up. It would be nice to have that all the time, with consequences to follow. That would be fun, oh yes.

Shamus Young:
A Little Less (dumb) Conversation

Bioware has some issues conversating.

Read Full Article

Bioware should hire you immediately, end of story. All your points are great and I wish they were taken into account.

The worst part about Alpha Protocol was the timer. You have completely vague dialog options that give you absolutely no clue what your character will do, and you have a time limit. Get rid of that crap. It's a game, not a real conversation. It's not a big deal if I stop and think for a moment about what I want to choose next.

You wanna talk choices not matchin what you say in game? Look no further than L.A. Noire. I literally can not finish that game because the interrogation parts are so fuckin stupid.

If I select the truth option, I expect my character to say "I believe you." End. Of. Story. What I do not expect is for my character to literally accuse someone of murder over some petty reason after I select the option that translates to you believing what the other person is saying is true.

I love Experienced Points. It's like having my brain read by a psychic who then posts my thoughts on the internet in much better words than I could write.

I really wish I could make use of the "walk away and end conversation" thing in Skyrim, but my odd compulsion to hear what every line of dialogue a character has to say keeps me listening, even if what they say has no bearing on anything that I'm currently doing.

omicron1:
Snippety Snip

I agree on every account. I loved the timed decisions of Alpha Protocol, which actually made in game conversations feel like, well normal conversations.
And the dialogue options in Human Revolution, especially the (far too few) "verbal boss battles" were awesome! I almost wish they could allow you to talk your way through the entire game using the mechanics they have.

Granted, I don't know how effective that would be on guys who are heavily armed and have shoot to kill orders, but I'd certainly like to have the option to find out.

mjc0961:
The worst part about Alpha Protocol was the timer. You have completely vague dialog options that give you absolutely no clue what your character will do, and you have a time limit. Get rid of that crap. It's a game, not a real conversation. It's not a big deal if I stop and think for a moment about what I want to choose next.

It is pretty easy to work out what will happen in Alpha Protocol if you remember the "Rule of J.B.s"
Suave is James Bond, Thorton will act like a dickhead.
Aggressive is Jack Bauer, Thorton will act like a psychopath.
Professional is Jason Bourne, Thorton will act like a professional.

I liked that the game autosaved after conversations, I liked that the decisions were timed, but most of all I liked that the conversations actually meant something, unlike most games.

the choices for my sith inqusitor in tor are horrible, especially in quests that are not part of the main chain. i know it has to work for agents and BHs too but no sith will ever say "I will do as i am told" to an imperial officer.
also: where can i turn off that every time i agree to kill someone the actual spoken text is "murder and mayhem await"?

I completely agree with all of Shamus' points.

There is another thing I miss. I want to be able to bring up a transcript of past dialogues, or at least a summary. Especially in quest/mission based games when juggling many quests at once it's nice to be able to refresh my memory. This is especially lacking in Skyrim because the quest descriptions are so brief.
Sometimes I almost feel back to the times of Ultima where I needed to keep extensive journals on paper. That really shouldn't be necessary with modern hardware.

Grim Fandango had an option to bring up complete transcripts of past conversations, that was very handy.

Scars Unseen:

The_root_of_all_evil:

PureIrony:

Disingenuous assertions was that moment.

Yeah, but you know it would have been better with "this bullshit". Disingenuous just seemed to turn the moment against Shephard.

Compare/Contrast your example, Dexter's "I own you", "I am your Father", "This is Sparta!" or "He is the One."
[/i]

I'm going to disagree with you on this one. If Shepard had said something like "I've had enough of your bullshit!" it would have just been another Renegade interrupt. "Disingenuous assertions" elevated that moment to something memorable, even if it doesn't sound as much "bad ass action hero" as the former option would.

i agree. disingenuous assertions was perfect because it was such an unexpected and archaic expression (which made you take notice), followed up by a puch to the face (which was a really good payoff).

it's true it broke the atmosphere, but like mordin's song (scientist salarian) the moment became memorable BECAUSE it broke the flow.

case in point: does anyone remember what shepard said just before punching the reporter in ME1?

dogstile:
They should also not make me be a dick to everyone just to have enough "evil points" to do an evil action later. I want morinth, yes. I don't want to have everyone else in the game hate me because I had to kick every puppy from the citadel to mordor to get enough points to do so.

This was all in all terrible. Especially since those options became insta win. If you decided Shepard was going to be a nice gal you had to go from situation to situation boringly insta solving everything with a 'hey guys, would it be nice if you stopped trying to kill each other'

You didn't even have a choice, because if Shepard is nice, well she'd try that wouldn't she? It's just that maybe if possible you could make me work even slightly for my happy ending Bioware?

shintakie10:
You wanna talk choices not matchin what you say in game? Look no further than L.A. Noire. I literally can not finish that game because the interrogation parts are so fuckin stupid.

If I select the truth option, I expect my character to say "I believe you." End. Of. Story. What I do not expect is for my character to literally accuse someone of murder over some petty reason after I select the option that translates to you believing what the other person is saying is true.

The LA Noire system is very much a game so in one sense the content of the three options isn't important. You don't need to know what he'll say with I believe you, because you know whatever it is, you're just being rewarded with information for correctly seeing that the witness isn't being shifty. And it doesn't matter what he's saying with the 'true' option when you lose either, because if he says something stupid, it's only because you chose the wrong option.

Unlike conversation systems LA Noire isn't a choice but a test and it isn't based on what you say, but how you've judged the other person.

The problem is with doubt and lie. Because the game can be really really idiotic about what the person is doubting/lying about. It's sometimes recoverable with lie because when you thought you were going to accuse her of being at the scene of the murder and it turns out you're actually accusing her of murdering the guy with a toothpick you can say 'oh i'm sorry' and try again. (The problem is when he says something generic like 'stop lying to me' and you can't actually tell what you're trying to prove)

So doubt. The game is really really stupid about what is concealing information and what isn't and gives you no helpful clue in any way, until it's too late and when it's obvious from the beginning that the guy faked his death, you're forced to accuse someone of murder because you were trying to say that person was there helping him kill the pig

Shamus Young:
A Little Less (dumb) Conversation

Bioware has some issues conversating.

Read Full Article

I think the problem developers have had forever and ever is that they try to hard to view conversation they way they do combat.

Combat can have a kablillion different methods, but only one outcome: one person kills the other. So the methods are just window dressing -- do you prefer shooting, stabbing, slashing, punching, etc.?

Conversation has just as many outcomes as it has methods, and a well-designed system has to try to account for as many of those as is feasible. And that's hard. Boiling it down to two (maybe three) possible outcomes is like looking at the entire range of colors and saying, "Pick two."

Also, combat ends. Conversation doesn't (at least not in the same way). If I kill you, that's the end of our interactions. If we have a conversation, the result of that will make changes (minor or major) to our future interactions. It's just far more complex.

TL;DR: Combat is like tug-o'-war, and conversation is more like chess. While it's possible (even desirable) to make combat more chess-like, it's nearly always a bad idea to force conversation into the tug-o'-war.

Which brings up the question - have we seen a good, voiced conversation system? Like, ever? I did like the "social boss battle" thing in HR, but that doesn't seem like something you could consistently achieve for an entire game. Might be a good point to expand from, though.

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