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Interactive multi-speaker game conversations

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I've been sitting back wondering how to go about designing the dialogues in my game to support all of the things I want to be able to do with it. (My game is a RPG, hence this thread is biased towards RPG). I did a search through GameDev and only found this article, which honestly wasn't helpful at all. I'm sure that someone on these forums has developed an advanced engine for player/NPC dialogue, so I'm hoping to catch their attention with this thread. [smile] Anyway, here are the design points (in bold) and questions (in italics) that I have in regards to my own situation. New dialogue icons appear above sprites with new information (a la Diablo II) The purpose of this is so that you don't have to keep querying a sprite to find out if you've read everything they have to say. Pretty damn convenient to have around I think. Q: Should new dialogue icons appear when partially un-read dialogue becomes available? What I mean is say that for a certain conversation with a sprite, if character X is in the party, then there is an extra little segement for that converstaion. On one hand I think it could be a little superfluous (or even annoying) to bother the player with this insigificant new partial dialogue, but on the other the perfectionists (like myself) want to read absolutely everything... Multiple speakers (both NPCs and PCs) can participate in a single conversation It will feel much more natural if talking to a NPC doesn't just result in that NPC spitting out some text and then leaving. Plus this design leaves room for some interesting dialogues to take place. [wink] Q: What happens if not all parties are present for a multi-dialogue? We'll assume that the NPCs are always present, since otherwise the dialogue can't take place at all. But if the dialogue requires 3 different PCs to take part in the discussion, what happens if you only have two or one? Should the dialogue not be allowed to take place at all, or should a character 'fill in' for his/her missing companions by also saying their lines? (This may lead to an awkward conversation though!) Conversations may be different depending on the characters that are actively in the player's party Along the lines with what was said above. Q: Should conversations be specific to certain PCs, or should they be generic? Or should both be supported? What I mean here is lets say we have characters X, Y, and Z in the party. If a certain conversation requires three PCs to participate, should it specify the *exact* characters that need to be in the party for the dialogue to take place (lets say characters X, W, and V), or can any three characters fit the bill? On one hand the generic way makes it easier to make sure certain key conversations are heard. But it also can kill individuality of the characters since the lines wouldn't change no matter who spoke them (we could support slightly different lines depending on what characters speak what, but that's more work than what it's worth IMO). Right now, I'm thinking supporting a mix of both generic and specific would work best, where the generic lines are carefully constructed to be "neutral". (This would be impossible in other languages like Japanese though, and we are planning to support multiple languages). I guess that's good for starters. I hope I can get some good guidance into designing this system. [grin]

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Q: Should new dialogue icons appear when partially un-read dialogue becomes available?

I don't see why you can't have it both ways - maybe for NPCs you've never spoken to before or haven't for a while that have something completely new to say, one icon, and if they just want to talk a little bit to PC-X, have a different icon?

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Q: What happens if not all parties are present for a multi-dialogue?

IMO, either ensure that all parties that need to be present are present, or write all new (or at least modified) dialogue if different parties are not there. The former is easier, of course, but it might not be what the story needs. The latter could result in having to write a -whole- lot of new dialogue, though, if you have to write it anew for each different missing character. For a real RPG, I don't think it's acceptable to just cut out lines or paste them onto other characters, though.

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Q: Should conversations be specific to certain PCs, or should they be generic? Or should both be supported?

This questions seems similar in consequence to the one above - unless it's very basic mission information being passed, it's awful hard to put in any personality without creating strangeness by having your angry lone ranger use the dialogue that was written with the bubbly mage in mind.

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Original post by Roots
Multiple speakers (both NPCs and PCs) can participate in a single conversation
It will feel much more natural if talking to a NPC doesn't just result in that NPC spitting out some text and then leaving. Plus this design leaves room for some interesting dialogues to take place.


I was thinking about something like that myself. I belive it will be faily easy to program, but can take some work on the level design part.

Here is my idea:
Each sentence has an index. Similar sentences can share the same index - there is no need for two different indexes for "goodbye" and "farewell", since they should have the same response. Now, the players sentences list is given to him when he enters a new room, when a NPC enters or leaves the room, when he gets new information, when he changes something in the room ect.

The player is not saying something to a particular NPC. He just throws the sentence to the air of the room, and all the NPCs gets the index of that sentence. If one of them has a response, he says it, and every other NPC in the room gets it's index, and can respond to it if they have a response. The player also gets the index, and new sentences might be added to his sentences list.

When I have the time, I will try and program a simple text based program and a single room to see if that system works.

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