A Little Less (dumb) Conversation

 Pages PREV 1 2
 

I love your articles Shamus.

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

It can happen. One time, I'd been reading too much Shakespeare, and when a friend was accusing me of lying to him, I replied, without thinking, "I deceivèd you not!" (Note the accent). I didn't even realize I was doing it. Sometimes, common sense fails us and madness seeps in.

As to the article, very on board with the separation of buttons for 'skip dialogue' and 'select answer', it happens so often. Also on board with the clear summaries point - my brother was playing ME1 earlier today and we spent a minute or so trying to figure out what one of the options meant before we pushed it - an option that would've been pretty easy to label clearly. Not entirely on board with having the option to leave the conversation at all times, as sometimes that would have logical implications that would totally derail the game's story (like a very tense hostage negotiation - you don't get to take a coffee break and look in the middle of it), nor am I on board with 'attack' options always succeeding, for the reasons stated above - and that sometimes, there's nothing wrong with declaring your intent to attack - the Renegade interrupt allows for the two options to coexist.

Kahunaburger:
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.

Good question. HR seemed to have really good conversation to me, but maybe thats because it only had very few 'gamey' conversation sequences so I didn't have time to figure out the system.

FO:NV springs to mind as another game with decent voiced conversation. Possibly because NPCs were mostly limited to being mission dispensers and loreopedias. When designers know the limits of a technique I think the result often improves.

Then of course there is Grim Fandango, which I thought had excellent voiced conversations. The Double Fine guys, Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer made a video where they chat about adventure games, and the topic of conversation comes up at one point. The whole video is worth watching but I made a link to the bit about conversation in games. In short they don't think modern games do very well at all.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=re_LWmRJK-g#t=13m45s

I never really got the complaints about Alpha Protocol saving after ever conversation. The conversations are a game in which you have to try and manipulate the person in front of you using the three different stances available. Being able to redo these because you don't like the outcome you ended up with would undermine the entire idea of having deep-reaching effects from the choices you make.

The timer also works well since it allows the conversation to just flow naturally, as opposed to other games with awkward silences between each person's speech segment. I really appreciated that addition. It doesn't particularly affect what option you choose either once you understand what each different stance works out as (Suave, Aggressive, Professional).

Bostur:

Kahunaburger:
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.

Good question. HR seemed to have really good conversation to me, but maybe thats because it only had very few 'gamey' conversation sequences so I didn't have time to figure out the system.

FO:NV springs to mind as another game with decent voiced conversation. Possibly because NPCs were mostly limited to being mission dispensers and loreopedias. When designers know the limits of a technique I think the result often improves.

Then of course there is Grim Fandango, which I thought had excellent voiced conversations. The Double Fine guys, Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer made a video where they chat about adventure games, and the topic of conversation comes up at one point. The whole video is worth watching but I made a link to the bit about conversation in games. In short they don't think modern games do very well at all.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=re_LWmRJK-g#t=13m45s

Aha! So the solution, as it so often is, turns out to be following Tim Schafer's lead :D

Reminds me of one time in ME2, when tali expresses concerns about working for ceberus.
You get the option "Im the one in charge."
I chose that thinking it would be like "Im in charge of this operation, ceberus just funds us." or something like that, but nooo he says "Im not working for Cerberus, they'r working for me."

The default condition of anything is shit untill someone improves it. I cannot stand these dumb systems that any option is selectable the millisecond it pops into existence and has no trigger delay.

Clarity should be priority, as is immersion, which brings us to why-the-flip is the cinematic camera and static position hard-set and the nonexistence of shut up/get over it button. We can say some games simulate combat, but no game simulates conversations, they merely contain em.

I am pleased by your plea.

Alarm me when a game makes you go jumping around in circle saying yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes

Shamus:
It shouldn't be possible to accidentally say something.

Here is how it always goes: At some point, I'll miss out on what a character is saying because of mumbling / thick accents / in-game sound effects / ambient noise in the room where I'm playing. So I turn on subtitles. Like most people, I can read faster than people can talk, and so with subtitles on I end up reading the text and then waiting for the character to finish speaking. This gets annoying after a while, so I start hitting the "skip" button when I'm done reading. However, if I happen to finish reading just as the character is done with their line, then the response selector appears just in time for me to accidentally select a response.

A simple solution here is to have different buttons for "skip dialog" and "select response". Another option is to have the conversation wheel default to a neutral position with no default response, so that I must make a deliberate selection before the button will do anything.

Sorry for the long quote but this has happened to me so many times. Your articles help maintain faith in humanity Shamus. I did like the timer in Alpha Protocol, it just made the conversation flow fantastically and it killed the Bioware Stare(TM).

Irridium:
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.

another serious issue is how games handle quests,
1.quests must be cancellable and not autoaccepted
2.dont just give me one quest at a time from every NPC.
3.unlockable quests should form a tree in quest log.
4.quest target and context must be there and displayed separately.
5.if you don't fail it, give me conversation about the quest, or replace the monologue with fucking bounty board post.

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

Shepard:
Snide insinuations

RedEyesBlackGamer:

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?

Actually you don't need to max it out either.
The dialogue options are not made availible if you have x points of moral choice a.
They unlock if you have a percentage of paragon/renegade.
The game counts how much moral choices you made and how many of them have been paragon/renegade.
Or at least it says this in the wiki

It's interesting that you point out the combat menu and how it breaks flow. I've never thought of command wheels like that.
I relentlessly use the combat wheel. I love being able to pause and issue a slew of commands to my minions. It would seem intuitive to transplant so many of the lessons learned from combat mechanics into conversation mechanics. Just as many variables are present in a combat sim as a conversation sim so the vast number of options aren't an issue. It seems like dialogue is the only thing that holds in game conversation back.

'IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE CLEAR WHAT I'M ABOUT TO SAY.'

I preferred Human Revolution's answer: short-hand until you hover over it, at which point you'll get a more detailed summary, or the full line.

The dialogue wheel is among the things that I hate most about Bioware games. One of the worst examples is with the companion system in Star Wars: The Old Republic when your choices affect a companion's opinion of you.

Of course the options aren't clearly labeled and I have to make a guess at what my character is actually going to say as well as how my companion will react to it, basically making it a guessing game every time the wheel comes up.

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.

Oh gosh this, so much this, I eventually completed the game but a lot of the time did so badly at the interogations because I think "I dont have evidence I dont think, but they arnt telling the truth so i'll doubt" thinking the doubt would have cole say "I don't beleive you" or "your not telling me the whole truth sir/ma'am" instead he says "YOU KILLED THEM ALL DIDNT YOU, ADMIT IT!", ugh

Thanks for the Firefly spoilers, jerkwad
#sarcasmisdifficulttoconveyacrossapurelytextualmedium

Spot on as always. I hate how its unclear the dialog choices are in Mass Effect 2. After trying to pick the responses I would personally have for a play through, I gave up and now only pick the top choices for paragon play throughs and only the bottom for renegade ones. The game rewards you for sticking to only one anyway, but that's a whole problem unto itself.

One of the few good things about Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, it highlighted various nouns in the dialogue that could be clicked for a definition during the game's agonizingly lengthy conversations.

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 fucking love "disingenuous assertions".

OT: I would have facepalmed, had it not made me laugh but (going spoiler free here) in ME2, when you have to flirt with a certain character in a club and you can go out and dance. She is then like "never do that again... -_-"

I've been thinking about dialogue in games a lot lately.

To my mind, there are two kinds of ways to approach the player-character relationship -- for the purposes of discussion, we'll call them "play-acting", and "role-playing". In play-acting games, the character acts as a proxy for the player; Dovahkiin in Skyrim, or Shepherd in Mass Effect. You pick the choices you would pick, and the character acts as a tool which expresses your agency within the game-space.

Role-playing games, on the other hand, task you with stepping into the shoes of an already-established character, with his control scheme, and indeed the entire perceptual framework of the game, carefully crafted to make you feel like that character, and approach decision-making the way they would. Batman in the Arkham games, for example.

And what's interesting to me, and worthy of deeper exploration, is that the vast majority of dialogue in games has been of the "play-acting" variety -- EVEN in games where the player-character relationship is otherwise almost completely "role-playing".

Dialogue in "play-acting" games, of course, has to account for the full spectrum of player choice, from moralistic idealogue to dickass jerkface. The result is that you have to invent this wiggle-room which could theoretically allow for the main character's personality to veer wildly between two extremes. Even when it's smartly toned-down ("What if it's just good cop vs bad cop?") it still leaves the character feeling vaguely bland at the center.

While Deus Ex: HR does indeed suffer from that problem at a top-down design level, and Adam feels a little bland as a result, I will say it approached the actual meat-and-potatoes of dialogue in a very interesting way, and that's probably why the "social boss battles" got such recognition.

See, rather than giving you a cross-section of every conceivable response you could want to make at any given juncture (as the Mass Effect series does) it gave you a selection limited to what Adam Jensen would or could say, at any given time.

But more importantly, it uses that character's background as a way to inform your decision-making. So rather than simply blindly picking lines of prose, you've got that nice little "PRESS" "CHALLENGE" "INTERROGATE". Your potential choices are framed as tactical decisions, taking into account Adam's history as a police officer, in the context of an interrogation -- in THE EXACT SAME WAY that the Arkham games take into account Batman's skill-set, in the context of combat.

I'd like to see more along those lines. One can imagine a game where you would play an expert orator/logician/rhetorician, and the core gameplay would be nothing but dialogue, navigating the nuances of human communication itself.

EDIT: And I think 99% of the time, when the dialogue system in a game falls through and you find yourself frustrated, it's because the game has momentarily forgotten (or never figured out) whether its main character is a proxy for the player's will, or a character in his or her own right.

Great points Shamus! I wish I had more to add but I hope a lot of developers read this article.

I really want a mod for skyrim that whenever I leave a conversation in the middle Fry's voice comes up saying "I'm bored, you're boring me."

Absolutely nailed it on the head for the conversation wheel and accidental selecting dialogue when skipping.

I think the one game that got the conversation wheel right was DX: HR. Sure you got a single word summary, but it was also supplemented by a longer summary that was more or less in line with what actually comes out of Jensen's mouth.

The one time the ambiguous approach pleasantly surprised me however was in the Witcher 2. At the beginning, Geralt's hands are tied and an "ally" of his without thinking things thoroughly extends his hand for a handshake. The option says "Very funny" but what Geralt says is a very appropriate "Fuck you."

A shield bash is a dialogue option.

Skyrim, I've been critical, but sometimes I love you.

I just wanted to take this space to comment on Skyrim, since Shamus did bring it up in his article.

Am I the only one that found the dialogue (not to mention much of the voice acting) to be painfully bad? I don't know who wrote this stuff, but Skyrim is chock full of the worst examples of "fantasy speak" and just plain terrible arrangements of words that I've come across in a long time.

I also can't believe how, despite the much lauded fact that the VA budget was increased for Skyrim, that not only am I hearing the same actors over and over again, I'm hearing the same ones from Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout: NV.

I appreciate Bethesda's loyalty to their VA crew, but they are some of the least believable, clunkiest, least versatile sounding actors I've yet heard.

Not to beat the dead horse of comparison yet again, but both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls had some of the most well done, nuanced, flavourful voice acting in any game I've ever played. Whomever was in charge of the english voice casting for those games deserves an award if they haven't already received one.

Tying this back to Skyrim and dialogue, I find many of the choices in the game do not fit the character that I see in my mind, the character I've built through in game actions. When I have a bad-ass mage-thief, who calls no man master and spends her time looting ancient ruins for fun and profit, I'm not down with being deferential to NPCs or acting like a "good guy". My character is an anarchist and an individual and the game shoehorns you into a "chosen one" role, with all the lawful good tropes that come along with it. The game really doesn't do much of a job reflecting your gameplay choices within the world of Skyrim.

This article makes a lot of good points... but more importantly, i now got Elvis Presley's a little less conversation stuck in my head.

Fr]anc[is:
"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?

That's not really what he's saying. He's saying if you are a Paragon you can't get mad and punch Puppy Kicker the Third. It's not about knowing which is the Paragon and which is the Renegade option. It's about knowing what each actually means. In the example given the Paragon would say "Stop kicking puppies you jerk!" and the Renegade would say "Cool, I think I'll join this puppy kicking party!" Where is the "vigilante" option to kick the jerk like he kicks puppies?

Shamus Young:
I don't know if it was BioWare that pioneered the "summary" style dialog wheel, but I first encountered it in the original Mass Effect

The first instance of such a system I remember encountering was in Lucasarts' Sam & Max Hit the Road. Instead of dialog options you'd have a symbol-based UI. You'd have a question mark to ask a question, an exclamation mark to give some info, a squishy toy to pull the other guy's leg or symbols relating to other characters or objects in order to talk about them.

The clear difference, of course, is that the humorous nature of the game, combined with its linearity and its no chance of dying would never make you feel you did something wrong.

 Pages PREV 1 2

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here