Game Design

Working on Dialogues

When we first started preplanning the game, we searched for interactive storytelling tools to make it easier to integrate all dialogues in the game. Amongst all options, we decided to buy the commercial version of ChatMapper. It can export dialogues in .xls and .xml, supports Lua and the interface layout it’s pretty good, so it was a nice candidate.

Anyways, then Jose Manuel came and coded his own tool to assist on creating the dialogues, and as you saw on his last entry, it rocks! =) Anyways, as he finishes the load/save coding, i’m creating the first dialogues of the game with Chatmapper to later copy&paste it all on our own dialogue tool. Chris Avellone recommended not to do so. Instead, to boost creativity it’s better to work on your own editor and be able to test the texts in the game with the NPC graphic assets to get a better feeling of it all. But as we are tight on budget and time, i must move forward to at least set the building blocks of the main arch story for the first scenario, that’s composed of several chapters.

Above: at the left of the screen you can see the different NPC dialogues, at the center the main node editor and at the right an overall view of the current branching dialogue.

On the writer side of things, I’m having much fun creating all texts for the dialogues and cinematic scenes! =) The main challenge is creating a believable history and characters that help players to be under the influx of the famous suspension of disbelief. Branching trees have their own limitations in this regard and it’s not possible to make an open world with so many dialogue options… even James Ohlen from Bioware said that the main arc story of SWTOR didn’t branch until the last hour of gameplay, so I’m relieved to hear that! Even this, i’ll go great lenghts so players can enjoy a good story with many twists and, above all, that they crave to know more about the game world.

One thing that i’ve found lacking in many rpgs is that connection and empathy with your game characters and other NPCs. I constantly asked myself why this happens. There can be many reasons: the motivation of the writer, the synergies of the designing team, technical limitations, time and budget constraints, but for must I would say it’s about the fact that the player, after a while, isn’t interested in the history anymore. This is due to several factors. First, the writer’s imagination must draw a coherent world, with predictable outcomes, and at the same time being able to surprise the player when confronting him with unexpected situations. After that, it’s the writer’s ability to implement all situations in a way that doesn’t differ much of what his imagination devised. This of course depends on the tools and the project scope inherent limitations, but most importantly on the writer’s experience. Having written other game plots or played many games to have a good  frame of reference will help the writer to be aware of the pits and falls the task implies.

Also, many NPCs seem totally disconnected from the story, that make in it’s turn gradually disconnect the player from it. NPCs with flat personalities add to this awkward feeling of lack of cohesiveness. There’s also another interesting point: ethical choices. Even in Dark Triad players will have clear goals and the impact of moral choices is still to be ironed out, the fact is arising opposite feelings within the player. Everyday life doesn’t give us much chances to confront this emotional dialectics because things happen outside of us in a state of passivity. As a clearly different media, games offer us the opportunity to involve the player more actively than films.

Another thing you’ll find in Dark Triad is a direct relationship with what’s going on in our current society, with its economic, speculative, religion and war turmoils. I think if we are so drawn by epic medieval stories, like in Game of Thrones, it’s because we can stablish some parallels we our outer and inner world and thus get identified with what’s going on.

Anyways, there’s a lot do yet so i’m going to work, see you later! =)

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