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  Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:20 pm
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Competent Minion
When people process information they pay more attention to things at the beginning and end while everything in the middle is read with less importance. I learned from a writingexcuses.com podcast that you can use that to your advantage if you don't want a telling clue to be too obvious. For example if the narrator describes a scene of a murder and starts with "A gun on the mantelpiece"; that's an obvious murder weapon. But you can blend that detail into the room by putting it in the middle of a list: "A picturesque hunting cabin with a bear rug on the floor, antique pistol on the mantel, and a lamp made of antlers hanging from the ceiling high above."
The gun isn't so obvious now because it feels decorative. It's advantageous to put a red herring is at the beginning or end of the list. "The the gun-case door was missing a glass panel." Suggesting the real weapon came from there. It sounds important but it's misdirection.

In video games, you'll probably won't be narrating a scene like that, but you will be providing direction to the player. So for clarity begin with where they have to go and do first, followed by whatever reasons the characters will have.
This is related to another common piece of writing advice that dialogue shouldn't mimic real speech. Generally this is understood as leaving out the "how are you? I'm good, thanks." But another aspect of real life conversations that should generally be left out is an apparent process of problem solving during a conversation.

"Can we stop by the orphanage? It's been a long time and there is something I want to do there."

It starts with a suggestion of where to go next, followed by a reason that's just vague enough to pique the player's curiosity about what will happen when they get there. Compare that to this:

"There's something I've been meaning to do for a long time... I want to go to the orphanage. Will you come with me?"

It stuffs directions for the player in the middle, and structurally tricks the player into follow murky logic. The points at the beginning & end suggest that "coming with" is somehow related to "the thing". A problem, answer, and solution which gives the player a sense that their action is required.
In the first statement, the player can accept the character's reasons as their own and withhold judgments and expectations. But in the second statement, the reader will attempt to exercise problem-solving in some small amount, by empathy or by some social instinct to synchronize with the whoever they're engaged with.
That may or may not be desirable.

Edit:*I realize the examples are concise enough to be easily understood anyway you read it. But it's my hope that you can still see the principle behind it.

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  Thu Nov 22, 2018 12:57 am
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Big Dumb Guy

Location: UK
It's this stuff that can sometimes make me spend 30 minutes trying to write out 3 lines of dialogue.

The tones of the two examples feel different. First one feels a bit more active, whilst the second one feels more passive. I think for general game progression you want to be passive with the player, make them feel like they're calling the shots based on information they've gathered from the dialogue.

The other thing is choice boxes, I think the actual choice question should be at the end of the lines before the yes/no is presented. "Will you come with me?" feels like the right place to have a Yes/No pop-up "There is something I want to do there." feels like a Yes/No would be surprising.

This also looks to me like an easy guideline to force more natural, characteristic dialogue. Removing "There's something I've been meaning to do for a long time" and having the critical information at the very start completely dilutes the character I imagined saying these lines, makes it read more 'game-like' and less natural.

I'd like to see character name-dropping handled this way too. I really, really hate RPG Maker games that have dialogue lines that are literally "I'm X, nice to meet you!" - when you first meet a new character you probably need to convey all their personality in one go, the name drop is the moment you sort of conclude introductions, so to have it at the start of their dialogue ruins it so much. Have the name drop in the middle of something more fleshed out. Name drops at the end of dialogue is also pretty bad for me to read.

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