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Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Latest Blog: Writing a Basic Dialogue Tree

0 comments by A-Frique on Mar 6th, 2013

This is kind of the standard/basic way of doing dialogue trees in games so if it your work runs
like this (more or less) it should be acceptable for the player.

THE END PRODUCT
------------------------------

Read the following as though you were playing a game. Go over it and choose different answers.
I am starting here because reading this answers quite a lot of questions before breaking it down (it's easier to understand the principles if first seen in action- at least it was for me when I started out).

This tree is using 3 answers each time and 2 tailored end states. Character B starts a conversation with the player.
-----------------------------
B: Hey You, Nice to see ya, how you doing?

- I am not feeling too good. (go to B1)
- I am doing fine, pretty great actually. (go to B2)
- My party member is sick... (go to B3)

B1: What?  That's too bad....

- Actually I am feeling just fine, just kidding around with you, B. (go to B4)
- Any medicine you can recommend? (go to B5)
- Have you ever been sick, B? You're always so happy! (go to B3)

B2: You're doing okay- that's great!

- Actually... I am not feeling too great...(go to B1)
- You always seem to be fine- what's your secret? (go to B5)
- Yeah but I am looking for Doctor StrangeFix (go to B3)

B3: I got sick one time and oh boy, Dr. StrangeFix and his nurse Mary- they
work from the inn- anyway the doc was a prat and a half and on top of
that I was down for two weeks AFTER seeing him....

-  That's terrible- What did you do then? (go to B5)
-  Man, that's too bad, why didn't you try Medicine X? (go to B5)
-  That Doctor really sounds like a real quack ...(B4)

B4: If you ever get sick use Medicine X- had me back to my normal self in
hours! Here have some just in case- and don't EVER visit Doctor
StrangeFix. (END)

B5: Medicine X!!! - that's the stuff alright- it's the best!! That's what I
use all the time when I get sick now, here I've got a spare bottle-you
can have it- and don't EVER visit Doctor StrangeFix.(END)

You received (1) Medicine X
-------------------------------------

Not the best example of writing as I wrote this in a few minutes and cross checked it roughly by reading it as I was the player making choices - so please forgive any errors. So let's look at the actual  tasks and the content we had to work with:

TASKS
This is probably where you would start- information that needs to delivered in the scene to the player. This is a list of all the information that would make up the content of the dialogue both essential and non-essential in random order.

- Introduce Dr. StrangeFix
- Warn the player about Dr. StrangeFix
- Give the player Medicine X and let him know it works really well
- B is a cheerful upbeat character- sometimes a bit dramatic.
- Possible answers to choose if you  have encountered some information before. ( ie. heard of Medicine X or of Dr. StrangeFix before this conversation).
- Dr. StrangeFix works from inn
- Dr. StrangeFix has a nurse named Mary.

ESSENTIAL AND NON-ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

- Give the player Medicine X and let him know it works really well
- Introduce Dr. StrangeFix
- Warn the player about Dr. StrangeFix

The above is essential information listed in the order of importance that the player MUST have at the end of this interaction in order to reasonably continue.

In this Character B asks a question or strikes a conversation but in the tree there is a section/ options with more information than the others.

- B is a cheerful upbeat character- sometimes a bit dramatic.
- Possible answers to choose if you have encountered some information before. ( ie. heard of
Medicine X or of Dr. StrangeFix before this conversation).

- Dr. StrangeFix works from inn.
- Dr. StrangeFix has a nurse named Mary.

Also Dr. StrangeFix's location in this case is mentioned but only if you go via a certain route (ie. you're sick or ask why B is always so happy- will you know this) - he is mentioned as a bad doctor but you won't know where he works from unless you follow a specific route of choices. You  also get a bottle of Medicine X no matter which route you use.He also mentions the doctor has a nurse named Mary. This adds some nice colour to the interaction but at the point in time in the gameplay/story it is not essential  information to the player.

THE PRINCIPLES

So simply put- The principles are the following:

Route 1: Lots of information with NPC personality and experience- Dr Strange Fix and Nurse Mary work from the inn, Char B got sick once and was down for two weeks, Used Medicine X and got better real quick.

Route 2: Some variety showing NPC personality- You can say you're fine and then change your mind and say you're sick to see Char B's different reactions to your answer.

Route 3: Little information- leads fairly straight to the end where you get
Medicine X and are told that Dr. StrangeFix is not to be visited.

End: Essential information MUST be covered for the player to reasonably continue the game, with slight twist for the different routes or it can just be one final answer applicable to all choices if you wish.

Now please read through the end product once again to see everything coming together. :)

Additional Reading:

I learnt this technique from a book called "Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Video games". It's a good easy read and straight foward so I highly recommend it.

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