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QAYN: Dialoge Driven Games

Robert Clark

Games that speak for themselves.

In this project, I intend to outline the problems faced by previous efforts to create interactive dialogue in computer and video games, and to provide my own system, as evidenced by a series of games written and designed in Flash and Power Point.

LucasArt's decision-tree style of game dialogue, used in such adventure-titles like the "Monkey Island" series, proved useful for creators who wanted to quickly and easily come up with entertaining stories and humorous exchanges in their games, but proves too static and open in its revealing every line of dialogue open as a choice before actually letting it be spoken, in-game. The text-input of "Facade" has drawn accolades and criticism for its level of complexity in allowing users to type in any response to the game characters, but unfortunately it will forever be burdened by the nearly unlimited range of options players can type in and the comparitively small window of phrases the game itself will actually recognize and respond to. Console games like "Oddworld" made a good effort of trying to provide a limited range of input on a gamepad controller, but didn't do very much to supply much more than a vocabulary of grunts and flatulence for the game's speech. Bioware's latter-day decision-tree games like "Knights of the Old Republic" or "Mass Effect" make a good effort to streamline the interactivity, but in the end don't do a good enough job of providing clearly illustrated short and longterm consequences. In short, if game dialogue is to work, it has to work like games-- you have to either be able to win or lose, and know why.

After several generations of consoles, gamers have grown accustomed to the now ubiquitous gamepad design, featuring the cross-shaped D-pad, which until the advent of the analog stick was used nearly universally as an input for the physical movement of game characters, navigating an avatar Left, Right, Up and Down. Usually this translates to moving East, West, North and South along either bird’s-eye-view or side-scrolling perspectives, but this readymade system of input can easily be translated to fit a player’s control of dialogue, substituting the binary, opposing values of the cardinal directions for the binary, opposing parts of human speech. At its most basic level, all dialogue can either be separated into Questions and Answers, and many answers can be separated into variations of Yes or No. Just as the four directions of the D-pad or a keyboard’s arrow buttons represent the barest, most essential distillation of physical movement, Questions, Answers, Yes and No represent the barest, most essential distillation of human speech, and the parts which can be translated to game interactivity most easily.