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# Dialog as Exposition vs. Prose

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Two types of in-game description: "Jev is sitting at the breakfast table, staring down at the counter. When he sees you, his sad eyes brighten-- but only a little. ''Pirates. Three days ago. They killed Mara and took your son. I tried to stop them, but I...'' He doesn''t finish, and just goes back to staring at the table." OR "After taking your money, the old trader turns to you. His voice is a low whisper. He tells you that the pirates visit this place a lot. They''re from Cygni 59, he explains. But he doesn''t know where, exactly. He thinks they''ll be here next month. You get the impression that for a few more credits, he could be a lot more certain." Excusing my ability as a writer (), if you were to encounter one or the other of these forms of description as NPC interaction, which would work more for you? One is more descriptive, the other more explaining. Technically in writing you''re supposed to show, not tell. Yet the second example could be coded into an engine, and capture some of the low-level detail that won''t be possible in an RPG for some time to come. ''Course, as a coder, I like the second one , but that doesn''t make it acceptable for an RPG. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator

Two types of in-game description:
[snip]
One is more descriptive, the other more explaining. Technically in writing you''re supposed to show, not tell. Yet the second example could be coded into an engine, and capture some of the low-level detail that won''t be possible in an RPG for some time to come.

''Course, as a coder, I like the second one , but that doesn''t make it acceptable for an RPG.

Don''t forget an important third type: interior monologue. It''s not as commonly used in games as the two above, but it can be used to excellent effect for communicating both characterization and description.

"I just can''t understand what went wrong. I''m not supposed to be in jail! And look at this place - I bet not even cockroaches would live here. The walls are even falling apart!"
(This could be a hint that you''re supposed to do something with the cracks in the wall.)

Many adventure games use this because they only have one main character, so there aren''t any opportunities for dialogue between party members.

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Well, the first one could be a scripted animation sequence, but that would mean a linear storyline, which can be bad. I think if you want a more lifelike feel, go with the first one. It seems more interactive the way his feelings are portrayed by just stopping midsentence and staring back down at the table.

Maybe like a table of emotions and resulting actions could solve this? Like a sad emotion could trigger slumping shoulders or a bowed head. Or a happy emotion could trigger a bouncy step. Just a thought.

==============================
\\// live long and prosper; \||/ die short and rot.
==============================

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A table won''t work. You get similar responses from everyone who is sad, to the point that the description doesn''t mean anything beyond ''he is game state sad''.

Just look at the romance novels that recycle the same text from book to book. They use a large database of paragraphs and just change the names. Yes, they do still sell well, but no, not to sophisticated game players.

My reaction to the responses would depend on how far into the game I am, how redundant the information is, and the overall pace of the game.

Diablo II, for example had some long narrative pieces of spoken dialog. I''m sure they paid good coin for the voice actors. But I skipped 90% of it. Why? Because the game wasn''t about story, it was about hack and slash. The dialog was only useful as plot points.

Monkey Island, OTOH, I listened to all of the dialog. I even went out of my way to try and catch all of it. Not only because it was funny, but because it drove the game, and contained many clues.

The other thing to think about is what type of game you''re making. If it''s an RPG, and I''m supposed to be able to act in a variety of ways, then by all means go with the second, coded to a variable game world that can respond differently depending on my character''s actions. Just make it so the responses have a flag on whether I''ve heard them already so I won''t get 50 NPCs telling me about the same damn pirates.

If it''s an adventure, or the character roles are fixed, then the first would be acceptable, only keep it brief if the storyline is generic.

I think Darkstone would have been much better if the sage that shows up at the beginning would have said: "Go get the magic seven crystals. You know the drill."

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator

Two types of in-game description:

"Jev is sitting at the breakfast table, staring down at the counter. When he sees you, his sad eyes brighten-- but only a little.
''Pirates. Three days ago. They killed Mara and took your son. I tried to stop them, but I...''
He doesn''t finish, and just goes back to staring at the table."

OR

"After taking your money, the old trader turns to you. His voice is a low whisper. He tells you that the pirates visit this place a lot. They''re from Cygni 59, he explains. But he doesn''t know where, exactly. He thinks they''ll be here next month. You get the impression that for a few more credits, he could be a lot more certain."

Those are 2 types of dialog representation in language, known as direct speech and indirect speech, corresponding to the first and second examples respectively. Both well-analysed and contrasted concepts by linguists.

quote:
Technically in writing you''re supposed to show, not tell.

*gasp* Who said? Who makes the rules? Smash those rules!

ahem.

Don''t be afraid to do something unusual, just be sure that you know why you''re doing it... and usually ''just to be different'' isn''t a good enough reason Sometimes, you do have to -tell-. An interesting example are stories written in the 2nd person, eg. "you saw a flicker at the window... but it was nothing." These are directly prescriptive, but in some cases can be more immersive and provide a different experience.

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Though I tend to agree with Kylotan''s rule-breaking spirit, Show-don''t-tell is still a damn good guideline. Showing gives you so many more options and so much more depth than telling does...

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By the way, this post is in the wronf forum. It really should be in the Writing Forum... oh wait! We don''t have one. Oh well.

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I''m not quite sure what the question is ? Sounds interesting though? Exposition AFAIK means setting up the starting plot details, and too much of that is bad ie. the starting (unskippable) animation in Zelda 64.

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I was thinking about an emotional and gesture "engine" that would generate exposition. I don''t have much faith in (or money to develop, for that matter) 3D facial animation technology and kinematic (?) scripting, so I was investigating low tech solutions.

If you take the first example I gave, the details are nuianced enough to require a writer (heck, even a darn coder can tell that! ) But given an "exposition generator" you __might__ be able to capture the second one in text.

If you tried to do either the way an AAA title would, you''d be talking lots of \$!!! Dialog, 3D animation, rendering, engine scripting / display, etc. So I was exploring how effective you could be with cheap text.

Any thoughts?

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Ah right, I see the first is a player recounting what they have just seen & heard, whereas the second is text. Yes, games can use text quite well. As long as people are prepared to read text that is, nowadays it seems that less people are.

I mean, text can help create dramatic situations but don''t overdo it, I think that Planescape: Torment overdid the dialogue.. (15m per conversation), but other people didn''t feel this.

SPOILER SPOILER Ultima Underworld.

When the Knight gave me the poison chalice and told me to drink it (it describes this in text, and gives you several choices of what to do.. ie. talk, drink, don''t drink and it gives you a second chance if you choose to drink it, I got quite upset at the concept that it might be poison.. or not. So text can be used to help create dramatic situations.

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