For Untitled SENG Game, party conversations are a required feature, and as yet unimplemented. For those who haven't paid attention, Untitled SENG Game is a 3rd person, single-player, party-based RPG. Something like Baldur's Gate and the other Infinity Engine games.
Now, I don't know that I want to go totally crazy with the party interactions. Making every combination of party members have meaningful plot-lines and dialogue seems like a good way to spend a lot of time writing content that most players won't ever see. But, at a minimum, if you promise the Valiant Knight to rescue the Virginal Princess when he joins the party, he better have a way to get unhappy about it if you don't!
I've thought of 3 approaches to this problem, all with their positives and negatives:
- Non-interactive dialogue. By non-interactive, I mean that the dialogue is simply put into the message window, with no chance for detailed conversation. For instance, the Valiant Knight would say "We haven't rescued the Princess yet!", maybe every five minutes. This text would just be placed into the message window. Eventually he could escalate the unhappiness of the messages, and leave the party as a last resort.
This would be nice, in that it wouldn't disrupt the gameplay much. However, there's some worry that the player wouldn't notice the dialogue, or would just ignore the messages.
- Party member forces conversation. In this case, if the Valiant Knight decided he had something to say, he would march up to the main character, and start talking. We'd then be in the full conversation mode, with full interaction between characters, and no way to ignore the conversation.
The full conversation interface would be nice, but is very disruptive. What if I had just clicked on a door to have the Valiant Knight open it, but instead he walks over to my character and starts talking? That might be OK if he just did it once in awhile, but too much, and it would be very annoying.
- Hybrid. In this case, the Valiant Knight would say "Can we talk about rescuing the Princess" in the message window. Then, you (the player) could have your character talk to him if it was a good time, or ignore him (for the time being) if it isn't a good time.
Something that will have to be implemented across all systems is some sort of daemon system, where (say) every five minutes the engine runs a little piece of script to determine whether each party member wants to chatter right now. This daemon would also take care of determining whether "now" is a good time to talk; obviously we don't want conversation going on right in the midst of battle!
So, I guess once we've implemented the daemon code, we've basically implemented all of the pieces for the Hybrid system, and then it's just a game design question. Hybrid is the best for the player, so that's what I'll go with, barring some sort of simplicity revelation.