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Please don't ban exposition from dialouge


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J.E Sawyer made this comment on Something Awful yesterday:

 

Putting mundane exposition into dialogue is, IMO, often a huge waste of the designers' and players' time. If conversation is not furthering player or NPC characterization and conflict, I think it's being ill-used. If straight exposition needs to be part of a "proper" conversation, I think it should be split off from whatever the main conflict of the character(s) is. But really, in that case, you've essentially just turned an NPC into an encyclopedia (especially if it's literally something like asking an unnamed character how to get to a location).

 

Here's the thing. I loved asking people in Planescape: Torment about random things. I loved hearing their view of Sigil, the Lady of Pain, Pharod and whatnot. It gave the world and the charachters depth to me.

 

I don't need every bit of dialouge to further my charachter or the NPC. It's not necessary. Sometimes I just want to do small-talk. Sometimes I want to hear about the world through an NPC.

 

 

 

Please, Sawyer. Don't take this away. Especially if this game is a spiritual successor to the IE games.

Edited by C2B
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In F:NV, you could ask specific named characters for directions, but their responses were typically not given "straight". Their answers typically told you more about the character and his or her view on the world than "Oh yeah New Vegas is to the north peace see ya ~*"

Trudi is the main person who tells you this (often in the process of talking about where Benny et al. came from) and she does contextualize it/give it her own spin.

 

EDIT: Lore is very valuable; I just think it's more valuable (and entertaining) when it's communicated with a voice and an opinion from the author/speaker. This can happen in a book, a note, a poem, a conversation, whatever. I just think that designers are wasting opportunities when they present information "straight".

 

Doesn't really sound like he wants to ban exposition to me, though I agree, that was ill-said.

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I agree that random NPC conversations can do alot to flesh out the world, and and give it a sense of realism...

"It is an extraordinary act of courage to come to know a stranger's pain. To even consider such a thing demands a profound dispensation, a willingness to wear someone else's chains, to taste their suffering, to see with one's own eyes the hue cast on all things -- the terrible stain that is despair."

 

-Tulas Shorn

"Toll the Hounds" by Steven Erikson

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I'd go for a happy medium, if dialogue regarding the npc and your current quest didn't contain too much exposition then I can avoid it by choosing that particular dialogue option.

 

If the npc also has an "Ask more questions" option I'd be fine with that too for those of us who sometimes like more info.

 

One of the things that really annoyed me about Dragon Age Origins dialogue was that some npc's, including merchants, wanted to talk about the weather or whatever for a few lines before asking me if I wanted to buy something, even though I'd spoken to them 10 times already that day. The Codex in DAO was both a godsend and too much information. I much prefer BG's level of dialogue for standard npc's and PST's level of dialogue for key npcs.

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Also please, don't make me feel like the world only exists as a videogame world. Incidental details and thing that go beyond the central conflict and the player quests do a great deal making me feel *~immersed~*, in a way that the first-person perspective, full voice-acting, etc. simply don't really manage.

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Here's the thing. I loved asking people in Planescape: Torment about random things. I loved hearing their view of Sigil, the Lady of Pain, Pharod and whatnot. It gave the world and the charachters depth to me.

 

This worked well in Torment, since you had no memory and asking stuff everyone would already know made sense. Also, there's always clueless people around in Sigil. Not so much with the infamous "What's a paladin?" line from Ultima IX, if you need an example of this gone horribly wrong.

Of course asking some NPC about his opinion is always fine, but a lot of the dialogue in rpgs these days can make the player character look utterly retarded and might be better off in books . In Dragon Age this would be stuff like "What's the chantry?" or "Tell me about the fade", think you can actually ask both of those in the mage intro without anyone wondering what happened to your head.

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Agree with OP! Maybe it's not necessary to be able to ask unnamed NPCs about useless information, but I think some NPCs should be talking encyclopedias to some extent.

 

The guy in the smoldering man bar in PS:T who tells you about all the other planes and stuff is a perfect example of this.

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Here's the thing. I loved asking people in Planescape: Torment about random things. I loved hearing their view of Sigil, the Lady of Pain, Pharod and whatnot. It gave the world and the charachters depth to me.

 

This worked well in Torment, since you had no memory and asking stuff everyone would already know made sense. Also, there's always clueless people around in Sigil. Not so much with the infamous "What's a paladin?" line from Ultima IX, if you need an example of this gone horribly wrong.

Of course asking some NPC about his opinion is always fine, but a lot of the dialogue in rpgs these days can make the player character look utterly retarded and might be better off in books . In Dragon Age this would be stuff like "What's the chantry?" or "Tell me about the fade", think you can actually ask both of those in the mage intro without anyone wondering what happened to your head.

 

That's entirly a question of execution though. For example how you formulate the question.

 

For example instead of *What's the chantry* you ask *What do you think about the Chantry*

Edited by C2B
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I don't understand why somebody would want to remove dialogue if it wasn't immediately important.

Detail adds to the depth of the world, mindless prattle makes you more immersive.

 

How often do you talk to someone in real life and they say nothing but what is immediately pertinant?

It leads to a drab and souless playing experience, you get no feel for the world or the culture, npcs seem like static 'dialogue sacks' and not real people.

 

Would you get rid of the books in an elder scrolls game? You might not read them but they add depth to the world and they're entertaining.

The call of the deep.

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I think some of you people need to read the full text of that discussion in the somethingawful forum. Maybe Sawyer isn't presenting his views very well in the snippet above, but he goes on to say the following:

 

 

Giggily posted:

I remember a lot of people pretty much straight up telling me how to get to New Vegas without being mauled by death claws and radscorpions and that's it. I think I may have missed something somewhere.

 

[JE Sawyer]: Trudi is the main person who tells you this (often in the process of talking about where Benny et al. came from) and she does contextualize it/give it her own spin.

 

EDIT: Lore is very valuable; I just think it's more valuable (and entertaining) when it's communicated with a voice and an opinion from the author/speaker. This can happen in a book, a note, a poem, a conversation, whatever. I just think that designers are wasting opportunities when they present information "straight".

 

 

I think what he's trying to get at is that characters in the world won't just dispense useful information, they'll put their own spin on it and because of that personalized spin you'll get a sense of their character ... hell, you might even get wrong information or flat out lies depending on the speaker.

Edited by nikolokolus
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Which is fine (And even really good. Torment did that too). That doesn't really change his first comment which seemed very negative on the inclusion of asking such questions.

 

Nor should it be the case everywhere. Sometimes asking the way is just asking the way.

Edited by C2B
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I rarely disagree with Sawyer but I'd sorely miss some exposition in the dialogue, even though I agree with the encyclopaedia comment; some of my favourite moments in PS:T are when I come across one of these characters. On the other hand if we could have Elder Scrolls style books in the game then I really wouldn't miss it, I just enjoy getting large lore dumps now and then.

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I always thought the worst parts of the dialogue in games is when you talked to an NPC and milked them for information, knowing that everything they told you was completely true. There are better ways to convey important story-related information without resorting to expository text in conversations with passers-by. or even central story characters. So in that respect I do agree with Mr. Sawyer.

 

Do people really believe that the dialogue is going to be stripped out or dumbed down in this game based off that single comment in a discussion forum? Was Fallout New Vegas hindered by the lack of exposition?

Edited by nikolokolus
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Do people really believe that the dialogue is going to be stripped out or dumbed down in this game based off that single comment in a discussion forum? Was Fallout New Vegas hindered by the lack of exposition?

 

Perhaps not, but was it like the IE games? Not really.

 

I get the feeling that Josh would like to make something like an "isometric Alpha Protocol", a game not unlike the controversial upcoming indie Age of Decadence.

 

Hopefully, MCA will dump tons of text onto him and he'll be forced to put it in. ;)

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I always thought the worst parts of the dialogue in games is when you talked to an NPC and milked them for information, knowing that everything they told you was completely true. There are better ways to convey important story-related information without resorting to expository text in conversations with passers-by. or even central story characters. So in that respect I do agree with Mr. Sawyer.

 

Do people really believe that the dialogue is going to be stripped out or dumbed down in this game based off that single comment in a discussion forum? Was Fallout New Vegas hindered by the lack of exposition?

 

No, but it shows a design philosophy I (and others) don't quite agree with. He even says that it's a *waste of the developer's and player's time*. So, forgive me if I have my worries.

 

And especially this line

 

If conversation is not furthering player or NPC characterization and conflict, I think it's being ill-used.

 

Is simply not how dialouge should work all the time imo. Small-talk and similiar isn't something horrible. As I said before the *fluff* text contains some of my favourite moments in Planescape. I want options. I want to ask the *important* NPC's at least about a lot of things.

 

Also what WUE said on the last page

 

Also please' date=' don't make me feel like the world only exists as a videogame world. Incidental details and thing that go beyond the central conflict and the player quests do a great deal making me feel *~immersed~*, in a way that the first-person perspective, full voice-acting, etc. simply don't really manage.

[/quote']

Edited by C2B
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I don't know, maybe your fears aren't unfounded, but personally I see it as a tempest in a teapot ... especially when it seems as if Josh is arguing for deeper and richer conversations and interactions and the player having to spend more time deciding if what he's hearing is true or not or at least accurate or not.

Edited by nikolokolus
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I don't know, maybe your fears aren't unfounded, but personally I see it as a tempest in a teapot ... especially when it seems as if Josh is arguing for deeper and richer conversations and interactions and the player having to spend more time deciding if what he's hearing is true or not or at least accurate or not.

 

As I said before. I totally want NPC's lying to me and I agree. (Before I posted in other threads several times about you being able to manipulate a companion and he in turn you.)

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