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Project Dialogue

Author: 
Maximus

A few weeks ago, I was trying to think about how the official campaign could have been improved upon, and I realized there's something that has been lost in the evolution of RPG games as far as BioWare handles it. I'm speaking of the dialogue between NPC characters and the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to dislike the dialogue box. Yes it works very well, and the conversation editor in the toolset makes it really quite easy, but it's the closed system aspect of it that I think bothers me the most. By that I mean, the limited number of choices steering you through a set path.

I think back on my days playing games like Ultima, where you had to type out sentences using keywords that you thought might reveal an answer. Nothing would impress me more than typing something arcane and actually getting something useful for my quest. Of course Ultima can't compare to the amount of text and dialogue in games like the official campaign or the Baldur's gate series, but I began to wonder if it wouldn't be possible to create a module or campaign that didn't use the dialogue box except for things like merchants and for more of the story to be revealed.

Then on Wednesday, a module was released from BioWare created by their staff member, Keith Warner, that uses listening patterns in a version of Blackjack where the Dealer will actually listen and respond to what you type. I've seen it also used in a few fan created modules and while I am sure it's a lot more work in terms of scripting, I think it would greatly enhanced the realism and freedom of playing by having to literally talk to the NPCs. If it can be done in Ultima, then I am confident that it can be done in NWN. In fact I would take it one step further, where you would create a simple Dialog AI engine that would check the distance of the player, the direction they are facing to the NPC and certain characters to choose from.

So for general NPCs, once you create your NPC you simply assign it a character type and now when the player wants to talk to them, they talk to them using the chat. For plot related NPCs the engine would also accommodate keyword packages, which would include the keywords to respond to as well as the text that should be displayed. Now there is nothing wrong with that text showing up in the dialog box, with the player having to hit [CONTINUE] or [END DIALOGUE], and the dialogue box will have to be used to initiate any merchant activity but this dialogue engine offers the player much more exploration and interested instead of just clicking a choice to get through the popup.

The possibilities of this type of system are probably endless but if are working on something like this or interested in working in a group towards something like this, drop me a line.

Project Dialogue © Maximus

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