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Bioware on Writing for Digital Actors


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AGC: BioWare on 'Writing for Digital Actors'


From the player perspective, this is dialog interface is a faster, more seamless experience and provides more entertainment value, since they can be surprised by the delivery of the chosen line. Walters also said this results in more replayability because a player can't read all the responses the first time through. The net effect feels more like a continued game experience, rather than stopping the gameplay to read.


Interesting approach. Although I wouldn't want to see the picture when Bioware crew eventually steps into Gaiders office (fully armored for self-protection of course) to tell him the good ol' times of writing tearjerker-lines is over and now he has to adapt the new forms of how Bio does dialogs. Arma-Gaid-on I say.

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shoulda' been obvious to developers that dialogues in games gots more in common with dramatic works and comic books than does the scribblings w/i short stories and novels. games likes ps:t and kotor further support this notion when we sees just how much difference voice-acting can makes or breaks a character.




games is largely visual media... gotta approach as such. am not sure we is far 'nuff long from an art/technical standpoint to really has crpg characters become virtual actors, but the priciple seems sound.


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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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The initial idea of "It's not the content, it's how you deliver it" sounds like a great idea on how the future of RPG's handle interaction between the characters in the game. But as Gromnir put it, these things are really difficult to implement. The voice-actor might be really competent, but it demands the same competence and understanding of the scene from the animator aswell.


I think that we will not see a "Brando and Sheen" a la Apocalypse Now!-conversation and delivery in games for a long time.

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"I dream things that never were and say why not?"
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Well using the UE3 which now can render characters almost human like (yeah, I bet in a few years I say it looks like wood-puppets) it's a necessary step to improve workflow, tools and team-communications to keep all other components like AI, Body-language, animations etc. credible. The more details you show, the more skeptical and critical people are going to be about it, which increases the effort for the devs to create the content exponentially. But Bioware doesn't seem to struggle with that.

I'm wondering if Obsidian is also so well prepared with PNJ/PG, since both use the UE3 as well.

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paraphrased choices on a wheel

I winced when I read this. I think Oblivion's persuasion mini-game has scarred me for life. :)


Good to see motion capture becoming more widely used. I really enjoyed it in Fahrenheit. However, there is no substitute for good voice actors delivering well-written dialogue, and that means you need professional and talented writers, you need to hire decent actors, and you need a director with the time to work with the actors to get good performances out of them. I think some of these may cost money.

"An electric puddle is not what I need right now." (Nina Kalenkov)

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Yeah, how about they change all gun names to "small gun", "big gun", and "mystery gun"? Players will know roughly which gun they are equipping, but they may be surprised by the reality of the gun they chose. Thus, we will be able to have a more complex mood system.


They should also fire randomly different projectiles on each shoot.


I'd rather have NWN dialogue than this.


More reasonably (and perhaps less archaic-like:) sure, delivery through visual means sounds nice, but I can guarantee that we are not yet up to the standard of delivering complex emotions, especially on alien faces/bodies, enough to displace, say, Torment descriptions. I'm not saying go back to Torment descriptions, but we will definitely lose way too much until technology goes up more.


Furthermore, that approach has nothing to do with their stupid decision of 'masking' player responses - I mean, hello? "entertainment value" because you can be "surprised"? I guess any kind of surprise anywhere is good, in that case.

Edited by Tigranes
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I don;t particularly like it because it takes away player control of his or her character. Certainly in baseline CRPGs you only have so many dialog options but what dialog options you have is the direct line in which you character speaks. In this method you can only choose how the character speaks and not exactly what is being said thusly the player loses control of his own character.


Remember, the PC means Player character.

Edited by Judge Hades
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I don;t particularly like it because it takes away player control of his or her character. Certainly in baseline CRPGs you only have so many dialog options bu what dialog options you have is th direct line in which you character speaks. In this method you can only choose how the character speaks and not exactly what is being said thusly the player loses control of his own character.


Remember, the PC means Player character.


That control is a facade. You don't have any more or less control over what your character really says. It just means you don't know what the PC is going to say before he says it. Dialog options in today's RPGs are still pretty cut and dry, and I don't think it's a stretch that most people pick them based on what sort of impression the dialogue is, rather than what the words specifically are.


People often pick the "nice" option or the "evil" option, or the "neutral" option. It's a very rare thing to have two options that are both "nice." And if there are, it's usually dealing with an extreme (one is much nicer than the other). Which is still easy enough to replicate with the system Bioware is implementing.

Edited by alanschu
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I don't get how you "hardcore" RPG guys can defend dialogue choices over Oblivion's wheel-of-fortune thingie. If you want to roleplay, you'd probably want to be able to choose exactly what your character was going to say. With dialogue choices, you can only choose one of the choices presented to you. In most cases (for me) noone's even close to what I would want to say. With an Oblivion wheel thingie, you can at least provoke forth the response your own message would produce, even though it doesn't use words.


To me, dialogue options is as far from roleplaying as is possible.

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alan, that's like saying choosing "Candy" or "Chocolate" is the same as choosing "Apple-flavoured Candy" or "Chocolate-flavoured Chocolate". Now, you may say: "it doesn't matter whether you pick "Evil" or you pick "Haha I kill you now", the outcome within the game is the same and the code responds the same way". This is true, but it is logically too response-centric. There is a choice and difference in the PLAYER choosing "I kill you now" over "Evil"; it need not be responded to by the mechanisms of the gameworld for it to be a worthwhile choice. Otherwise it would be like saying it doesn't matter how you kill this critter, upon death the scripts that fire are exactly the same; so why have the choice between killing him with a sword or a bow?


Answer is that the killing itself gives the player a different choice and experience, even if upon the act of killing the response is the same. I often find myself in great dilemma when picking some dialogue choices in RPGs, because sometimes I really can't bring myself to pick an option even if I 'should' (to get the outcome I want). Will we have the same level of dilemma and empathy and involvement with paraphrased options? No, rather we would have "Hell no, that's not what I wanted to say".


You must remember that human language is one that is not there to be deciphered, but to be interpreted. People can look at a dialogue option and interpret it different ways: I have often found optins that were clearly designed to be "good" or "evil", but did not agree that they were. I was clearly interpreting them in a different manner to the author of the text; we are not afforded this variety with paraphrased options. It is killing something beautiful that can only be achieved with the delicate touches of the written word, and not the crude pressing of buttons.


mkreku: it is true that dialogue options are still grossly limited (e.g. 3-4 out of infinite number of answers) - but it is so, so much better than paraphase wheels. And even if it is not 'realistic', the offered responses themselves can be literary gems - how many of you have read one of the dialogue options in a CRPG and laughed at it, or found that it was great, or later quoted it for various purposes? They too can be memorable just like NPC quotes, and while they are limited for roleplaying purposes it is a step in the right direction. Mass Effect is NOT.

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I'm iffy on BIO's plan for their dialogue wheel, and keeping the actual content of the words secret from the player. That sounds silly. Hmmm.


However, from what I've seen and heard of Oblivion's 'dialogue system'; it's just friggin' lame. The mini game is retarded, and has no soul.


If done right, ME's dialogue system might be really good. Done poorly, it might be really bad...


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Sounds good to me. Anything that begins to reduce the static aspect of selecting pre-formed dialog options 1-x is interesting to me. I'm sure there wil be some failed experiments, but trying something new is a good thing.



Mike Laidlaw




Try reading a book. :/


edit: Nope, I'm wrong. Different Laidlaw. Ah well, research before you post, dummy. >_<

Notice how I can belittle your beliefs without calling you names. It's a useful skill to have particularly where you aren't allowed to call people names. It's a mistake to get too drawn in/worked up. I mean it's not life or death, it's just two guys posting their thoughts on a message board. If it were personal or face to face all the usual restraints would be in place, and we would never have reached this place in the first place. Try to remember that.
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