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Old Rambler

Writing for a Village

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Hey there,

     Has anyone written dialogue for interactable villagers before?  What did you set as your aim for the interactions between player and NPC?  Humor, deeper understanding of the main character, foreshadowing, giving each individual their own unique personality / concerns, or something else entirely?

Best,

Dan

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What did you set as your aim for the interactions between player and NPC?  Humor, deeper understanding of the main character, foreshadowing, giving each individual their own unique personality / concerns, or something else entirely?

IMO, all of the above - but that's not a very helpful answer. Lets take a theoretical example of 'Violent Orc Village'. The culture of this village tends toward war, raid and plunder - but this is at odds with the players mission to bring peace to Hippytonia. Luckily there are some in the village who want the endless violence to come to an end, who might be useful allies.

This is the idea which I think the individuals should be framed around. They shouldn't all be the same violent, bloodthirsty caricature though - they should form a web of points of view that build the story of this town. A child who doesn't understand why his father didn't come back from battle, a widowed women trying to rally the women to join in raiding, an injured veteran who hates what his village has become, the merchant profiting off the war. They are all different but they are united under the culture they live under. So these smaller personal stories create a greater web that is your main story. You can even have people who have little to do with the story dotted in there. A girl who wants to grow the biggest, spiciest pepper for example - a fun outlier that makes the town more then 'we may or may not have a violence problem' while still having a link to the wider culture.

I think a lot of what your questioning about character/foreshadowing is down to choice. Is your game a funny game? Is it perhaps missing humour? What foreshadowing do you think is required? But also, I think if your character is oging to interact then every interaction should demonstrate character - because your character will have different views and reactions to these villagers and their ideas. Your peaceloving character may be baffled by the widowed women who wants more violence - or the widower might give the character food for thought. Your character might really help the child who's lost his father or be a little broken by it. All these things build your character and the world.

This is I think my first post on here, so I hope this is helpful and actually what you wanted.

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Crashbang, that was awesome!  Very helpful.  One of the things your post made me realize was that I've probably been too focused on the development of the main character as opposed to cultural development.  I loved your examples of villager personalities within the 'Violent Orc Village.'  I'm gonna change some dialogue up to develop the world at large and give the NPCs depth with their personal concerns.  Throwing some humor in will help it out too.

The reason I'm going to include some subtle foreshadowing into the conversations is to make the interactions rewarding to the player who decides to go through all of these optional conversations.  I don't want it to be an overt spoiler of what is to come, but I would like to have it so dedicated players can have an "oh shit! this is from the conversation with that lady" kind of moment.  I think that'd be a nice touch.

Thanks a lot for your thought-out response!

If you want to watch the game come together, you can follow our progress on YT:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-BAM17lS0Almry96WgFo7Q

Best
-Dan

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NPC's also have the difficulty of having any content at all.  A real-world town has thousands of people, a real-world city has millions of people.  Games don't have the scale, but they can have the problem of a ton of NPCs.

If your player is going to a restaurant with a bunch of NPC's in it, let's say there are 30 NPCs, do you really want to write interesting dialog for all 30 of them?  Even if there are only lines for the first, second, and 3+ encounter that's about 100 lines of dialog. Repeat that process for every inn, tavern, shop, arena, and city guard in a large scale game and you're looking at a tremendous number of dialog lines.

Decide early on in the design how you handle this.  If everyone in the game world can have meaningful unique conversations and personalities, you will have sparsely-populated worlds. Some games do exactly that, other games have densely populated cities with reused lines, or meaningless lines like "...".

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A quick way to set up an NPC is to answer the question, "What does this NPC want?"
From there, you can eye-ball dialogue responses in relation to whether or not the dialogue aligns with the goal.

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On 5/24/2019 at 4:16 PM, frob said:

If your player is going to a restaurant with a bunch of NPC's in it, let's say there are 30 NPCs, do you really want to write interesting dialog for all 30 of them?  Even if there are only lines for the first, second, and 3+ encounter that's about 100 lines of dialog. Repeat that process for every inn, tavern, shop, arena, and city guard in a large scale game and you're looking at a tremendous number of dialog lines.

Our game is going to be small in scope and only one level really needs 'heavy' NPC dialogue.  By heavy, I mean about 10 NPCs that you're able to briefly converse with as you walk through the character's village and pass by neighbors and friends.  There will be more NPCs going about their daily routine in the background, but many will not be interactable.

I really appreciate the response -- scope creep is a crafty devil.  I can see how dialogue might sneak up on me if I'm not careful.

On 5/24/2019 at 9:14 PM, Lendrigan Games said:

A quick way to set up an NPC is to answer the question, "What does this NPC want?"
From there, you can eye-ball dialogue responses in relation to whether or not the dialogue aligns with the goal.

I like it.  Thanks for the advice!

-Dan

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