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Default Why Dialogue Trees Stink @ TGR

April 16th, 2009, 05:39
Don't you hate it when you have to move the mouse when you're playing a video game? Obviously coming from an action point of view, The Game Reviews explains Why Dialogue Trees Stink:
These days, as games look more and more real each day, its as if they want to create this so-called "cinematic" experience, but fall short of it when it comes to interactive dialogue. Even in Mass Effect, arguably the best iteration of prerendered cutscene and interactive choice made yet, were still constantly taken out of the scene unraveling as were too focused on making our dialogue choices. Pause too long, and the scene comes to a halt. We want engagement and we want choice, yet this stop-and-go rhythm is still a bit jarring. Its like watching a movie on your computer and forgetting to turn the screen saver off, so you have to constantly remind yourself to move the mouse every so often.
The author does have a point with exhausting every option in dialogue trees, though.
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April 16th, 2009, 05:39
Sounds like the author wants a 'Dragon's Lair' approach to dialog. Might be ok in some games. Keep that out of serious CRPGs though.

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April 16th, 2009, 06:54
Dhruin, that little snippet you posted is all I want to read from that guy. "The stop-and-go rythm is a bit jarring." What is this guys mind so fragile that he has to have his games just like his movies? There can be no differences between the two?

I have no problems with cut scenes. As a matter of fact I prefer it when the game has them in there. Anyone play Privateer 2? Best movie/game ever made. I played it for the movie and stayed for the game.

Anyways, I could rant for many pages but I think I'll keep my rage on a slow boil this time. No sense wasting it all on this schmuck.

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April 16th, 2009, 07:56
Man, I just don't get this thinking. When I settle in to play a game, all I want to do is lose myself in a world as far from reality as possible. Sure, plausible physics is nice, but that's where I draw the line. Cut scenes, camera angles, lips sync, etc… good Lord… who cares? As if I don't already have enough cut scenes and dialogues in my real life. And on those occasions when I want a good story (or am feeling masocistic) there's always Hollywood. I certainly don't need games to provide a sort of crutch of psudo realism and drama to enrich my life, all by means of over-the-top cinamatics and/or meetings and encounters bathed in realism; and woe to the soul who does. All I need when I play a game is one thing: FUN!
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April 16th, 2009, 08:29
It took me a second to figure out just what it was, but eventually I came to the conclusion
Maybe just not a very patient person .

There is nothing wrong per se with taking cues from movies for a more engaging "packaging" of dialogue. The danger is of course that you also treat the narrative like a movie - make it linear and non interactive that is. Considering the enormous cost and effort that goes into AAA graphics, thats a real concern.

At least he somewhat realizes the limitations of his approach:
Arguably, one could say that it just wouldn’t work at all in an RPG, as it’s a genre based on choice.
But didn't he just use Mass Effect as his main example? Duh!
Last edited by GhanBuriGhan; April 16th, 2009 at 08:43.
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April 16th, 2009, 09:40
Originally Posted by CarcusRex View Post
And on those occasions when I want a good story (or am feeling masocistic) there's always Hollywood.
Sorry, but Hollywood does not produce good stories.
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April 16th, 2009, 12:51
So his point is that if a game is to have a cinematic feel, there shouldn't be any dialogue choices, because clickng a few times ruins the immersion?

Hm, how about a game where you actually have to say the lines that you choose?
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April 16th, 2009, 12:54
I guess this is just another influence of Action-RPGs on the whole genre.

Everything's got to be "action" nowadays".

Maybe the author just consumed the marketing speak of the major companies just too much. I think he would be a great marketing staff member of any action-oriented company - and that's almost all bigger ones nowadays.

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April 16th, 2009, 12:59
I'm getting somewhat fatigued by the popular notion that games should be like movies. We're getting invaded by Hollywood wannabes who couldn't make it as scriptwriters in that world, and want to turn gaming into a hobby with limited interaction and overwhelming aesthetics.

I love movies - I REALLY do. But I love games even more, and I don't think cinematics should replace my beloved gameplay and sense of freedom in a gameworld.

Combine them if you must, but don't overlook what makes gaming unique and let's please just ignore people who don't understand or appreciate what games should be.

This is all just my opinion, of course.
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April 16th, 2009, 15:51
The author does have a good point there though. If the 'dialog tree' is there just to put a pause in a speech, might as well not have it. Or dialog trees where you just exhaust all options, might as well have it all in the speech/cutscene. It would be different if the dialog tree was non-repeatable, i.e., when you choose a branch, the other branches are gone. That is choice.
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April 16th, 2009, 16:43
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm getting somewhat fatigued by the popular notion that games should be like movies. We're getting invaded by Hollywood wannabes who couldn't make it as scriptwriters in that world, and want to turn gaming into a hobby with limited interaction and overwhelming aesthetics.

I love movies - I REALLY do. But I love games even more, and I don't think cinematics should replace my beloved gameplay and sense of freedom in a gameworld.

Combine them if you must, but don't overlook what makes gaming unique and let's please just ignore people who don't understand or appreciate what games should be.

This is all just my opinion, of course.
Seconded, especially the notion of failed scriptwriters turning gaming into "lit-er-a-ture!" Games are not movies. Games are not books. Games are games. They are fun. They are interactive. You play a game as an active participant. It has more in common with playing a sport than watching a movie. Games started with pong (a primitive representation of tennis). Then, someone decided to marry Dungeons and Dragons and video games and it's been all downhill from there…

Just kidding… sort of. RPGs are my favorite genre, but I play for interactive enjoyment, stress relief, and a very minor intellectual workout. I watch movies to be a vegetable on the couch and let my brain be co-opted by visuals and story. When games become movies, they become bad games.
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April 16th, 2009, 17:25
Interesting.

What about a dialogue that plays out automatically according to your choice of character stats/skills, background, relationships and previous actions?
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April 16th, 2009, 18:24
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Interesting.

What about a dialogue that plays out automatically according to your choice of character stats/skills, background, relationships and previous actions?
I have a hard time imagining that actually working on a level satisfactory to the player.
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April 16th, 2009, 18:48
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm getting somewhat fatigued by the popular notion that games should be like movies.
Would it shock you if I agreed?
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April 16th, 2009, 18:48
I read that snippet and I wanted to scream in his ear "DONT PLAY CRPG'S THEN!"

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April 16th, 2009, 18:53
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I read that snippet and I wanted to scream in his ear "DONT PLAY CRPG'S THEN!"
That's the problem with mixing RPGs and shooters (Fallout 3, Mass Effect). They'll want it less RPGy and more Shooty, until all that's left is Quake with a few irrelevant numbers
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April 16th, 2009, 19:03
Could do something like the Indigo Prophecy where you had a timer to make a choice on your answer/question/line of dialogue. If you didn't pick one by the time, the game would pick the worse choice for you and you would watch your character talk himself into trouble or lose his chance to rekindle his relationship with his Ex. Not sure how well this would translate to RPGs, but surely it's a funner Social Mini-Game then the wierd Oblivion/Fallout3 minigames.
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April 16th, 2009, 19:11
I like exhausting dialog trees very much, and games that don't allow it (at least arbitrarily) drive me nuts. And there's a reason for them. Being able to exhaust a dialog tree doesn't mean it might as well just be a single movie! It's about choice. Look at Planescape: Torment. There was SO much to read in there, but you didn't have to. If you are like me and wanted to read a dissertation about the Planes, well you could, but the option NOT to skip all that would be terribly wrong.

Choice is what matters. I always play a goodie-goodie when I get the chance, but it's only meaningful to me when I have the option to be evil. Drakansang was a good game but being a good guy really didn't mean anything to me because I couldn't really be anything else.

Now back to dialogue trees - if I say something in the conversation that makes a branch no longer sensible (like if I ask one question, get it answered, and that answer answers another question I'd ask) then fine, prune it. But in real life, I can walk up to you can ask any damn thing I please. I may not get an answer, but I darn well can ask it. With dialogue trees where a branch suddenly disappears just because I asked something else, that infuriates me. It's so unrealistic. It utterly jars me out of my immersion.

Instead make the conversant's answer fit the context of the discussion thus far. But never take away my option to ask a question or make a comment. NEVER.

Edit:
Originally Posted by Sergius64 View Post
Could do something like the Indigo Prophecy where you had a timer to make a choice on your answer/question/line of dialogue.
I thought Fahrenheit (the version of Indigo Prophecy that I played) was a brilliant game. But the constant QTEs in it made for one of the more miserable playing experiences of my life. If any game less enjoyable, story-wise, had played like that, I'd have never made it more than 2 hours into the game before quitting. Please let's not ever consider that a good option for RPGs. Think of the children!
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April 16th, 2009, 21:06
Thankfully, the author did say toward the end that his idea arguably wouldn't work in an RPG, and that reduced my blood pressure some. Clearly, Jeffrey Matulef wants to play interactive-movies.

Though he's not much of a fan of RPG, he did put his finger right on one of this genre's problems. Dialogue in role-playing game is where the player finally gets his chance to speak, to perform. We want good lines! Clever, witty conversation! Tools we can use to display our impressive imagination and raw talent!

But no. That's not the function of dialogue in this genre. CRPG dialogue serves a higher purpose than our desire for satisfaction. Because their interfaces offer no opportunity ever to indicate personality or style decisions, those choices have to be offered and made during conversation.

Exit subtlety. Goodbye nuance, delicacy and finesse. Hello Dick & Jane. "My name's Buff…I'm a barbarian from far away…and I'm on a quest to save everyone from a big bad guy."

Roles that are worth playing have great lines. There's more room for that when there are other opportunities to indicate and display character. That could be done via the software interface (and game mechanics). Today’s games rely on dialogue trees exclusively instead.

That's going to become increasingly problematic as video games become more and more like interactive movies (what Matulef is saying he wants).

RPG ought to be done a lot differently. IMO, if they're to be like movies at all, then they shouldn't even be "talkies."

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April 16th, 2009, 21:26
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Thankfully, the author did say toward the end that his idea arguably wouldn't work in an RPG, and that reduced my blood pressure some. Clearly, Jeffrey Matulef wants to play interactive-movies.
They had those back in the 90's. The gaming companies were experimenting with real actors in the games. Only a couple managed to pull it off well. Privateer 2 and Gabriel Knight 2. Still he would have those damn cut scenes. So I guess he wouldn't like those either.

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