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May 18th, 2007, 18:50
RPG Codex has a new interview on the subject of dialogue in games, with answers from Brian Mitsoda, J.E. Sawyer, Scott Bennie and David Gaider. Here's an early question and the responses:
2. What is the role of dialogues in RPGs, in your opinion? What do they add (or suppose to add) to the overall gameplay experience?

Brian Mitsoda
: This is a tricky question because it depends on the game. In some RPGs, itís to prompt you to hit the ďAĒ button really quickly so you can get back to power-leveling. In some itís to figure out what path the designer wants you to go down to get the best reward, probably by being sycophantic to Whistliní Bilboo the Street Sweeper. In the few that take reactivity into account and allow the player interaction to change up the dynamics in the relationships between the characters and even affect the characterís fate and the story, these dialogues serve to enhance the roleplaying aspect and just possibly make the player a bit more interested in the plot because they can get involved. Adequate to good dialogue (and story) motivates a few players to continue playing and finish the game and hopefully makes the characters and world more real, completing the necessary illusion for a zesty bit of escapism.

J.E. Sawyer: Character dialogue helps define characters, mood, and setting. Like many aspects of design, it gives a sense of style, time, and place to what's happening. In its most blunt application, it conveys rudimentary information, but I think that's using very little of its potential.

Player-selected dialogue helps the player express and define the personality of his or her character. Again, it's often used to reveal basic information, but I think that sells it short, especially for RPGs. If that's really what it's being used for, it doesn't need to be a
player-driven event.

Scott Bennie: Well, you have to give the players directions somehow. I think dialogue is as important a defining element as any in an RPG. It's also a key to mood. A game has three tools to produce mood: dialogue, sound, and art. Of those three, dialogue is the easiest to adjust in the design process.
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May 18th, 2007, 18:50
Brian Mitsoda had lots of good thoughts. So did Sawyer, but I was kind of expecting that.
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May 18th, 2007, 22:26
All four of these guys clearly know what they're doing, and being writers, were able to express their ideas very well. What a fabulous interview!

The first question following the introduction outlined everything -- the ambition of dialogue in CRPG as the writer sees it, the challenges involved, the tools available and a realistic assessment of what works best. But while they talked about paths and rewards, dialogue, sound, art, motivation, illusion, moods, settings and direction -- nobody said anything about the workings of the game itself and the value of that or its impact. I was left wondering why not. CRPGs are games, after all.

Scott Bennie's response in particular omitted game-play from the list of things that establish mood. How can that be? Games themselves establish mood, and not just computer games. Why shouldn't these? Why should CRPG have the same limitations as a book or a film? Why should they rely soley on dialogue, sound and art to create mood? Isn't that the essential difference between this medium and the others? There's no game being played in a film, no game in a book…

IMHO, it's because they all accept the current paradigm as inevitable. But I think CRPG has reached an impasse and needs to be reconsidered. Game designers need a to find a better way to approach CRPG, a way that will better utilize today's processing power and free up the potential for storytelling and role play.
Last edited by Squeek; May 18th, 2007 at 22:33.
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May 19th, 2007, 02:10
The most intresting interview I've read in a long time.
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May 19th, 2007, 03:00
Squeek, your concerns were addressed; publishers like what they know will sell and they don't like originality/risk!!
Yep, as usual from VD, and excellent article!!
If God said it, then that settles it!!

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May 19th, 2007, 03:37
Great article and a compelling read. I have a lot more respect for David Gaider(and subsequent hope for Dragon Age )after reading these views on dialogue, player skills, scripting and plotting--well, mostly since they happen to coinicide with my own…

And no one used a word of PR/Hype publicity-speak in the entire article. What a relief!

Found it interesting that Gaider scripted both Deekin and HK-47, two of the characters that made their respective games more bearable for me. I did wonder if Sawyer had written the rather dry dialogue for Deekin's bit part in NWN2. It was some of the funnier writing in the game. If so, he wasn't telling in this article.

Good stuff.

This little comment by Brian Mitsoda kind of says it all, though--and unfortunately not in a very good way:

All this comes back to marketing, which doesn’t like anything that can’t be justified by research, which means they like games that are like other games. I thought marketing was created to figure out how to take a product and figure out how to sell it, but that’s not how it works in any medium anymore…Each dollar is a vote, so as long as people keep buying games of a certain genre/style, don’t expect to see anything that isn’t a slightly different version of something you’ve already played.
Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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