dialog_wip

Dialog System: Injecting Gameplay and Reactivity

Hi guys, happy Friday! We’ll we’ve covered the design pillars of Project Resurgence in one of my previous posts, and today I want to go a little more in depth on the Exploration pillar: specifically the dialog system.  Since Resurgence is such a narrative heavy game, the dialog system (I use the short version of the word, deal with it) is an extremely important element. We’ve spent many hours debating various features and looked to a variety of sources for inspiration, and in the end we came up with the following goals:

  • Dialog and narration should be written in a novel-like style of prose
  • Dialog should have reactivity and reflect player traits and choices
  • Dialog should be real gameplay, not simply choosing stock responses

Novel-like Approach

We settled on this goal early on, because first and foremost we want to tell a good story. We knew we wouldn’t have the resources to do fully animated and voiced conversations, so we set to figuring out how to tell the most compelling story we could through text alone. In order to still convey the tone of voice, body language, environment detail, and other dialog subtleties, we decided to add a healthy dose of narration to compensate. That way we wouldn’t just be telling what a character says, but also how they say it and what else the player can perceive from that action. If we pull this off correctly, we hope to give players the vibe of a good choose-your-own-adventure book, where they are fully immersed in the fiction and totally in control of their own personal story. Along these same lines, we are striving to keep the dialog tight so that players are never overwhelmed by options to the point exploring them becomes a chore. Every piece of dialog should contribute to the themes, character development, or lore in some way, or be put on the chopping block.

Reactivity

We feel strongly that any RPG worth its salt should have a story that reacts and changes based on player decisions; the more so the better! I don’t mean just reaching a different conclusion of the story, but rather showing ramifications of player actions in the short, medium, and long term.  Those effects should also be meaningful, causing the player to reflect on the weight of decisions made and the ripples they may have caused. For us, we plan to show much of this reactivity through interactions with NPCs. Since you as the player can create a custom avatar, we want the characters you meet in game to treat you differently based on those choices. Some will have different reactions based on your chosen sex, tribe, skillset, and even your previous dealings with them and the rest of the world. This level of reactivity will also extend to your chosen companions, where you can build trust and rapport with them through your actions. If favorable, they will lend you their talents more readily, and if not, they may eventually leave your group…or worse. Our intention is that the effect of your actions should always be subtle, so just like real life, you can never be sure what kind of impact a decision will hold for the future.

Real Gameplay

One area that we would particularly like to innovate is bringing real gameplay to our dialog system. In our opinion, far too many RPGs don’t allow players to improve their social skills, typically relying on a generic “speech” skill or very little player choice at all. Our plan is to instead use a combination of 3 skills that can affect conversations in your favor:

  • Deception – attempt to lie, misdirect, or conceal information/intention
  • Awareness – detect Deception in others
  • Persuasion – attempt to convince someone of your opinion (by one of 3 styles)
    • Persuade – utilize your Clout to appeal to a target’s sensibilities
    • Intimidate – utilize your Strength to frighten the target
    • Charm – utilize your Beauty to flirt with the target

The way this all works in-game is that in certain dialog contexts, you will have the option to push your own agenda by using one of these skills. Each of these options will have an associated difficulty, and chance of success based on your aptitude with the selected skill. After the skill option is chosen, the action’s success or failure will be displayed and the appropriate repercussions will be carried out. If you have companions that are particularly gifted in any of these skills, they may also interject in these situations (if they like you enough).

Beyond just these social skills, we’ve also planned for a number of other ways you can enhance your conversation abilities. As you gain experience and level up, you can learn these abilities the same as any others. Some of them reveal additional information about NPCs as you talk to them (such as their mood and likes/dislikes), others further enhance your social skills (letting you see the likelihood of success or retry a failed attempt), and others add even more options to your dialog abilities (for Jedi mindtrick-like abilities). At the end of the day, the dialog system is just as important to our game as combat, and you should be able to advance your character’s performance in either or both areas as you see fit.

Well, I hope that gives you a better understanding of what we intend to do with our dialog system, and how we hope to push things forward for the genre in that respect. And as always, please let us know what you think of these ideas as well as the work-in-progress dialog UI. Have a great week, talk to you soon!


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5 thoughts on “Dialog System: Injecting Gameplay and Reactivity”

  1. I LOVE the RP depth potential here. A few questions:

    Will PCs need to keep track of the relationships, or is there going to be some sort of relationship meter that will display the strength of the relationship between the PC and NPC?

    Is there going to be a single narrator that will be voice acted (ala Bastion), or is it going to be solely text based?

    Are there plans for items that can be equipped to enhance your persuade, charm, etc.?

    Is there a plan for the potential for mod support for the community to add in their own voice acting later if they want?

  2. [QUOTE="SeaEnvy, post: 381, member: 54"]Will PCs need to keep track of the relationships, or is there going to be some sort of relationship meter that will display the strength of the relationship between the PC and NPC?[/QUOTE]

    Notice in our WIP screenshot a small "hole" below the NPC's name; this is where that meter will be in the near future.

  3. Awesome, glad to hear you're excited! Let me provide some As for your Qs:

    [QUOTE="SeaEnvy, post: 381, member: 54"]Will PCs need to keep track of the relationships, or is there going to be some sort of relationship meter that will display the strength of the relationship between the PC and NPC?[/QUOTE]

    Yes, it's exactly as Landon described. We're planning on it being a meter that ranges from -100 to +100. You generally start at 0, but some of your stats give you an initial boost here. The number goes up if you do favors for them (quests) or say things they like, and down for things they dislike (steal, lie, attack, etc).

    [QUOTE="SeaEnvy, post: 381, member: 54"]Is there going to be a single narrator that will be voice acted (ala Bastion), or is it going to be solely text based?[/QUOTE]

    I would personally love to have a Bastion-like narrator, but we're currently planning on text only just for cost and production time.

    [QUOTE="SeaEnvy, post: 381, member: 54"]Are there plans for items that can be equipped to enhance your persuade, charm, etc.?[/QUOTE]

    Yes, absolutely.

    [QUOTE="SeaEnvy, post: 381, member: 54"]Is there a plan for the potential for mod support for the community to add in their own voice acting later if they want?[/QUOTE]

    We haven't planned for that yet, but it would certainly be awesome!

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