Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 55 – Conversation Systems


We discuss the differences in conversation systems in various games in the RPG genre, touching on such topics as:

  1. Pre-scripted narrative vs. control of your character and what they say
  2. The illusion of agency
  3. Systems differences: keyword-driven versus the Mass Effect style
    1. UI differences
    2. Keyword inflexibility (NPCs not accepting “yes” or “no” to a question where those would be a valid answer, but expecting a very particular keyword)
  4. Multithreaded vs. single-threaded conversation trees
  5. Voice-over vs. no voice-over
    1. Silent protagonist (but with voiced NPCs)

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3 Responses

  1. Corv says:

    I am late to the party here, but I recently listened to this podcast and agree with a lot of what you guys said here. Especially that the flavor text is so important. Like you said it creates intimacy and breathes live into those NPC pixels.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      Pretty much. One point we didn’t draw out explicitly, but which kind of seems to animate much of our thinking, is that we as players need to care about the other characters in the game, both any potential companions AND the NPCs. That experience of even a fleeting flash of connectedness, of empathy, with these virtual characters is what will draw us deeper in to the game.

      • Corv Corv says:

        Couldn’t agree more. Not every single NPC needs to have a detailed backstory, but most of them should at least show some character. They need to seem human… with their own problems and priorities. Best negative example in a good game are NPCs in Skyrim. I positively hate those “zombie” NPCs who do nothing but regurgitate the general rumor database. I’d rather have them not in the game at all. (Skyrim has other issues in the dialogue department but that’s one of them).