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Influential dialog

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I was thinking about allowing the player to alter NPC emotions and moods through dialog. To help explain, here are a few states: + Anger (enhanced aggression, power attacks, rushed strategies) + Fear (less aggression, more distance, defensive strategies) + Displacement (unsure of situation, less confidence, random strategies) Character skill(s) would link to the player's ability to influence these states through dialog. They can also be influenced further during combat, but that's not what this is about. Here's an example of a simple conversation that might take place after the player fights through some vampire lackeys and runs into their leader: Vampire leader: I need your blood! Option 1: Well <point backward>, I dropped plenty of it on the floor back there. Help yourself. [Anger 10%, Displace 20%] Option 2: Then why aren't you trying to take it? [Fear 15%] Option 3: What, no introduction? No foreplay? Just straight to the blood, huh? [Anger 25%] I'm not sure if it would be better if the effect of each option was spelled out or not. You can sort of see a pattern to it. You insult them, they become angry. You show intense confidence, they become fearful. You make non-insulting jokes, they become displaced. Rather than have dialog options be scripted to do a specific thing, the options would be scripted to orient the character into a specific mood, and specific moods would change the way that person makes decisions. The effects could cause behavior changes during ensuing fights, influence trading, change dispositions depending on personality types, and alter that NPC's decisions that occur later on inside of that same dialog tree. The player may notice that an NPC seems uneasy, or intimidated by him. If he wants to change that, he could use non-insulting jokes or self-degrading jokes to lighten him up. What do you think? Would this be an interesting way to communicate with AI driven NPCs? Do you think option effects should be hidden, hinted at, or fully displayed with values? Any other changes that would make it more interesting?

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I wouldn't recommend doing this through dialog if it would break the flow.

To show courage/confidence/determination, the character could could take out a piece of cloth from inventory and wear it like Rambo.

To anger a boss, the character could throw a monster head to the boss's throne.

To show fear, the character would put potions to the quick slots.

To show bordom, the character starts painting her nails or something.

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The old PS1 game Persona 2 had this idea.

At the start of combat rather then attack the enemy you could interact with them.
Each character had a number of social actions, and there were combined ones as well like 100 ghost stories. Different enemies had different reactions to the social actions. If you managed to get three reactions of the same type then that resulted in some effect.

Fear – Some or all the enemies would afraid
Anger – Some or all the enemies would be berserk.
Intimidation – The give you some random item or cash instead of fighting.
Love – You can talk to them and choose to have them join you, do something for you, tell you a secret, or give you cash or an item.

It was simple and fun mechanic.

Not all enemies could do stuff for you it was dependent on the level and enemy for instance on one level there was an enemy that could clear all the damaging areas from the floor, on another they could clear block sections.

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Rather than have dialog options be scripted to do a specific thing, the options would be scripted to orient the character into a specific mood, and specific moods would change the way that person makes decisions.

Another way to make a mechanism like this smoother (instead of letting the player select an emotion right before the fight) is to let the boss's emotion to be associated with the items the player character collected along the way.

In a normal RPG the game could determine whether the PC has been collecting money, equipment, potion, decoration items (pendants and jewelry made from the monsters), or collecting nothing at all. The boss could directly interpret the situation based on the inventory and the equipment. In this method, the PC cannot express competence by "throwing the monster head to the boss" if the PC got to the boss by avoiding the monster instead of killing it. This ensures that the content of the "conversation" follows the progress and actions preceeding the encounter.

Another way to show confidence is to simply interrupt the dialog of the boss and just charge. The game could automatically select the appropriate dialog line for the PC without stopping to let the player select a dialog choice.

Example: The vampire leader pops and say, "I need your blood!"

The player simply move forward toward the vampire. The game interprets this and select the line, "That's my line," or your choice: "Then why aren't you trying to take it?"

To display the leader, the PC might continue to loot the vampire subordinates (e.g. take off their teeth), and the game would select the line, "Help yourself. There were plenty back there."

For your option 3, the "dialog trigger action" is simply not moving or to refresh the armor. Then game selects the line, "What, no introduction? No foreplay? Just straight to the blood, huh?" (To illustrate this in the context of Final Fantasy, after the boss says his line, the player simply buffs himself by casting Protect IV. The game detects that the PC's action is "buffing up" and choose the dialog line.)

This way, the player is not asked to do anything extra to declare a stance, since moving toward the boss is already part of what the player wants to do--to fight the boss and end the stage.

A way to detect fear is to show the leader earlier in the game. Imagine that the PC is fighting the subordinates in a hall, when the boss appear. If the PC starts moving away, then the boss could automatically consider that the PC is afraid of him and starts chasing. If the PC does not move, move toward the boss, or that the PC is defeating the subordinates like nothing, then the boss hide and run. If the PC sees the boss is running away and chases, then the boss runs faster.

This way, the relation between the boss and the PC (who pursuring whom; who is on the run) is defined way before the fight. If the PC is caught, then you start the dialog. You cannot break the flow in this situation because the PC already cannot move. But if the boss is caught, there should be no interruption unless the player wants to converse.

The player may notice that an NPC seems uneasy, or intimidated by him. If he wants to change that, he could use non-insulting jokes or self-degrading jokes to lighten him up.

The default body language would be simply stop moving, sit down in front of the NPC, or to step back. In a normal RPG, you could make it default such that when ever the PC walks toward a stranger with his sword unshealthed, the NPC would be automatically feel threatened. If PC cannot unshealth, the PC could do /salute and cast Protect on the NPC to show friendliness. (The exception is when Protect is an Ice elemental spell and the NPC is a fire golem.)

The point I get from this is that if you aim for believability, PC movement and action (body language) is the primary mode of interaction, dialogs should support the body language. If you have the dialog but not the body movement, the interaction would feel like a play. If you let the player select the dialog and the body moment using dialog boxes, the flow would be choppy. Selection of movement is already part of the gameplay, so if you generate dialog based on the movement, the flow would be natural.

You could make this dynamic somewhat universal, such that the player could experiment this on NPCs. Then you don't need to tell the player the effect of each action choice. The player would learn just by interacting with the NPC

(i.e., by the time the PC fights the boss, the Player would already know that walking toward the boss with weapons in hands would be recognized as a hostile stance. There is redundant to be told that it has a meaning. Then, if the boss does not move away and does not summon minions, it would be obvious to the player that this boss is not afraid, because the player could compare the boss's reaction to those of the other enemies.)

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I didn't really mean it to be some type of cheap gimmick that takes place before battles. The idea is to make every dialog line in the game have at least some small influence on an NPC's mental states.

I'm also leaning more toward hiding the effects. Make the player aware of how certain types of statements can change someone's mood or attitude, but then don't show them exactly what it influences on the spot.

I've always thought this type of multiple choice seemed useless:
NPC: Would you like me to go with you?
Option 1: As long as you don't slow me down.
Option 2: I could definitely use some backup.
Option 3: Why not? With the two of us, they won't know what hit 'em.

Now these types of options could actually have meaning. #1 could boost the NPC's motivation (to prove himself), #2 could boost defensive strategies or teamwork, and #3 could boost spirit and confidence. Not so much that the game sways in one direction or another, but enough to make an impact.

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I think it is good without showing the percentages. It would make sense to the player if the game has no normal mean to select the style or the stance of an NPC. Then your dialog options would let the player choose the stance.

To me, your description of option 1 means that the NPC would automatically attack, which is different from option 2 when the NPC is defensive, and may also be different from option 3, which might mean that the NPC would attack, but only in the proximity.

It would be weird if the game normally allows the player to select a stance for the NPC at will.

I think it is better to separate any tactical effect from emotional choices. The reason is that once the player recognize the tactical effects, the emotional choices are no longer genuine. Let the player make an NPC happy just for the sake of making it happy, not for any other reason.

For example, option 1 and 3 could both mean attacking automatically, but if the player chooses option 1, there would be a score board showing the kills of the NPC compared to yours. There is no difference in how the NPC attack, but the mood is slightly difference just because there is a scoreboard. If you choose option 3, a high damage scoreboard would display instead, and it would show the highest damage dealt by combos the PC and NPC make. In option 1, if you chain off the NPC, the NPC would curse you for stealing his kill, but there would be no change in behavior otherwise.

This way, the player could enjoy having a competitive relation with an NPC without worrying that the overall tactical effect (since tactical effect is independent to the mood).

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