The last few weeks have found me occupied with making a good base of conversations for Hightown. Conversations in Fallout 3 generally refer to NPC to NPC interactions. Players can overhear or observe these conversations when in proximity to NPCs. These conversations are especially important in town settings, as they will lend strongly to the immersion of the PC in a living, breathing town whose inhabitants have interests, interactions and lives outside the sphere of the PC's influence. Or at least the creation of an illusion thereof.
For Hightown I aimed a might bit high it seems, as I am currently standing at over 1200 lines of conversation. This number is not strict, and is a simple tally of the lines as turns that NPCs possess. It also doesn't really reflect the variety of conversation that can be had, as these 1200 or so lines have been rigged so that they can be mixed and matched to give a multitude of 'conversations'. This generic base of conversations is mostly done, and is currently being tested and enhanced with a handful of specific and non-generic conversations.
The conversations are set up to be initiated and guided along 'alignment' lines. NPCs in Hightown have five different alignments; Very Good, Good, Neutral, Evil, and Very Evil. Conversation elements are defined according to one of these alignments. NPCs of differing alignment will react to each other in different ways. As an example, a good NPC would be very friendly and talkative with a Very Good, Good or even Neutral NPC. However, the same NPC would engage in arguing or insulting behaviour when speaking with an Evil or Very Evil NPC. The same goes for an NPC of any class. Their conversation and reactions will be determined largely by the alignment of the NPC that they are speaking with. To a lesser extent NPCs will also react to each other based on sex and even Faction membership.
In addition to these generic conversations, approximately 500 lines of generic dialogue for combat, detection, and services has already been created. These conversations support the immersion of the player in Hightown, via specific references to Hightowners during combat. Instead of the usual "I'm gonna make you my bitch" an NPC might utter "Come on Hightowners...let's carve this bitch up!" during combat. (I also used a large number of combat taunts from Fallout 1 and 2. Fans of those two games might recognize a few, should they cause too much trouble in Hightown) Furthermore, a complete set of Generic Karma reactions have been created to give feedback to the PC based on their Karma and crime standing in Hightown.
Next up will be dealing with specific and non-generic conversations, which will add reactions based on specific NPCs, quest results, PC actions etc. A good start has been made here already, but I still expect to spend some time yet, to make things lively, detailed and believable.
However, one looming issue is that the more care and detail I put into this area, the less likely a complete set of voiced dialogues being created seems.