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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » IGN - It's How You Say It, Part 1

Default IGN - It's How You Say It, Part 1

May 28th, 2009, 15:25
I'm surprised to find this at IGN…It's How You Say It posits the RPG genre has failed to innovate dialogue and then looks at several large titles such as Fable II, Oblivion, Mass Effect and Rise of the Argonauts. Here's the intro:
Amidst this marketing cyclone, one genre seems to be falling behind the pack when it comes to examining its own, some would say stale, conventions. The RPG, whilst arguably the most complex of game types, seems rather content to mosey along, repeating itself ad nauseam, with few serious attempts to change or at the very least examine its most important gameplay element. We are, of course, referring to conversation, or more specifically conversation interfaces.
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May 28th, 2009, 15:25
That was a surprisingly good article. I'll be looking forward to Part 2.

There's just one thing: while I haven't played all of these games, I've played a few — and IMO none of them had a system that was actually *better* than the hoary old dialog tree. Mass Effect's system was better in some ways — it made for a more fluid, naturally flowing conversation — but something significant was also lost in the process; I felt less in control of the conversation, and more like a spectator.

Perhaps if there was a little bit wider choice of options and the options were a bit less predictable than "Paragon/Neutral/Renegade/(Persuade)/(Intimidate)," it would've worked better.

I'm interested to see how Alpha Protocol solves this; on the face of it, the "stance" system seems interesting.
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May 28th, 2009, 16:31
I haven't played Rise of the Argonauts reminds me of something to do with Plato's philosophy, where reaching true idea, which is compared with Zeus, can be achieved by various starting virtues such as love and valor, compared with Aphrodite and Ares respectively. I think the concept also influenced Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.

Part 2 is already out. While Dragon Age seems to be going back to the old dialogue tree approach, Alpha Protocol's stance system seems to employ one word prompt which characterizes the attitude toward the NPC with time limit. I'd wait how the stance system will turn out but, of course, I'm inclined to welcome the old dialog tree system.

The ideas given in Think Tank column sound interesting but they are just at the stage of brainstorming at their best. I guess this is an area which wasn't benefited by modern technological development. At the moment, ironically, I'd take the traditional dialogue tree system over any other implementation given here.
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May 28th, 2009, 16:35
A surprising good read, I agree…

However, I don't agree with the premise that every conversation in an rpg needs to mimick or be similar to conversations in real life; it is game, we're playing, after all. It is not an real life simulator…

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May 28th, 2009, 16:40
I actually played RoA and can't shake the idea that I stumbled upon a title that should have been cancelled. Dialogs in it? Get serious, we could see better dialogue solution in Tetris.

But I won't write more, let's see what will be in the part 2.
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May 28th, 2009, 16:45
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
However, I don't agree with the premise that every conversation in an rpg needs to mimick or be similar to conversations in real life; it is game, we're playing, after all. It is not an real life simulator…
One of the approaches of role-playing game tries to simulate a life in an imaginary world…so, the approach is not so alien. That said, when you'd like to be involved in story development, a different system is needed. At least, at the current level of technology, the traditional tree system works better than most, IMO.
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May 28th, 2009, 16:52
Snippet: "What earns Alpha Protocol a space here is a design feature that prevents players from replaying conversations. In many traditional RPGs, it's possible to get the 'best answer' by repeating your conversation with an NPC. In Alpha Protocol, every conversation will be a once-through affair, and to further pressure your decision you will need to make a choice between the three approaches explained above against a ticking clock."

There are two features at play here: 1) let conversations end naturally; no "let's go back to the beginning" option, which I like, and 2) let's make the player feel realistic "pressure" by timing the interaction, which I do NOT like. I'm old. I like to take my time.

However, the first innovation is a good one and one I'd be happy to see implemented in all RPGs going forward. One could ask why the early RPG developers ever decided to allow players to go back to the beginning of a dialogue branch with a "trunk" option that allows access to explore the entire tree. The only answer I can come up with is: ego. The original developers wanted to make sure that all of their lovely dialogue was readable by players in game without having to reload a saved game to do it. That led to CRPG players feeling entitled to view all of the flowery prose, rather than just the one tree that most matches what their characters would say. This, of course, goes against how PnP roleplaying games were designed, where the whole point was to speak "in character" and suffer the consequences of doing so (i.e., no good DM ever provided players the option to "try that again from the beginning").

Overall, that was a suprisingly good and well thought out article from IGN.
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May 28th, 2009, 17:19
Originally Posted by Cabel Blacke View Post
The only answer I can come up with is: ego. The original developers wanted to make sure that all of their lovely dialogue was readable by players in game without having to reload a saved game to do it. That led to CRPG players feeling entitled to view all of the flowery prose, rather than just the one tree that most matches what their characters would say. This, of course, goes against how PnP roleplaying games were designed, where the whole point was to speak "in character" and suffer the consequences of doing so (i.e., no good DM ever provided players the option to "try that again from the beginning").
I think of a few other reasons. One possible reason is just as simple as technological limitation, which you will see only by figuring out how the dialogue trees work in toolsets. Another reason would prevent the players from missing important information given by NPCs. The latter reason could become a problem in the stance system approach. A good quest diary interface could be enough for this purpose, though.

Also, even after reading every single lines available, the players still can choose the most appropriate line for the character. More importantly, at times, it is hard to figure out what the lines exactly mean till they are all read like in the example of Mass Effect in the article.

Even in actual PnP sessions, a GM tends to give a player time to think before answering to NPCs with some exceptions, especially, the character's intelligence is high.
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