listing conversation topics

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Michael Gentry

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
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Okay, I have another opinion poll.

I'm using the standard ASK/TELL ABOUT (topic) format for conversation in my
game. All possible conversation topics have been coded as objects for
purposes of flexibility.

Some of these topics do not become available to the player until later in
the game. For example, as soon as the protagonist encounters the pink
crystal ankh (or whatever), he/she may ask people about it; before then,
however, the topic is not available because the protagonist would know
nothing about it.

Now, if you ask someone about something that is not anywhere in the list of
topics -- hormonal regulation of brown adipose tissue growth, for example,
or Guam -- the NPC will answer with a standard "I don't know much about
that," response. If you ask them about something on the list and known to
the PC, they will answer or not depending on whether they're coded to have
an intelligent response to that topic. If you ask about something that is on
the list of topics but which the PC *has not yet encountered*, you get a
message like "You can't think of anything to to say about that at the
moment."

Which is something of a giveaway, I know, but I figure most of the players
who are trying out topics earlier in the game than they should are the ones
who are playing it a second time, anyway. I've tried to be careful about
which topics start out as "generic knowledge" and which ones are only
revealed during the course of the game.

Okay, my two questions are:

1) Would you find that "You can't think of anything to say about that"
message annoying?

and

2) How would you feel about a meta-command TOPICS, which would list all the
topics that the PC is currently able to talk about with others? Would this
make the game too easy? Would it make the conversation system seem more
mechanistic than it needs to be?

Let me know.

-M.
================================================
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Joe Mason

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
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Michael Gentry <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:
>
>Okay, my two questions are:
>
>1) Would you find that "You can't think of anything to say about that"
>message annoying?

Yes. I'd recommend simply adding it to the list of topics when the player
refers to it. This might, in theory, mess with the flow of the game, but
like you said it's probably going to be second-time players doing this.

If you do decide on a special message for this situation, "You can't think
of anything to say about that" seems like an especially annoying one. A
simple, "But you don't know about the <topic> yet" would be better.

>2) How would you feel about a meta-command TOPICS, which would list all the
>topics that the PC is currently able to talk about with others? Would this
>make the game too easy? Would it make the conversation system seem more
>mechanistic than it needs to be?

I'm in favour of that. People who don't like it can just not use it.

Joe
--
Congratulations, Canada, on preserving your national igloo.
-- Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas

odd...@openface.ca

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Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
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In article <7515ft$3...@chronicle.concentric.net>,
"Michael Gentry" <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:

> 1) Would you find that "You can't think of anything to say about that"
> message annoying?

No. In fact, I would argue that this response should be the standard one given
for a topic not on the list, so as to do away with that problem of its being a
giveaway. It would also do away with the problem of the NPC replying "I don't
know much about that" to >ASK NPC ABOUT HIS MOTHER.

> 2) How would you feel about a meta-command TOPICS, which would list all the
> topics that the PC is currently able to talk about with others? Would this
> make the game too easy? Would it make the conversation system seem more
> mechanistic than it needs to be?

Umm, I'm not quite sure I like these conversation topic lists. I usually end
up working my way through them without regard to the game, as if said lists
were shopping lists. If you think you must implement it, it should probably
belong in the hint menu. Or cleverly written in the form of a "stuff I know"
journal entry. Or something.

>
> Let me know.

Okay.
Christopher Huang

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Aris Katsaris

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Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
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odd...@openface.ca wrote in message <751u63$u35$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...

>In article <7515ft$3...@chronicle.concentric.net>,
> "Michael Gentry" <edr...@concentric.net> wrote:
>
>> 1) Would you find that "You can't think of anything to say about that"
>> message annoying?
>
>No. In fact, I would argue that this response should be the standard one
given
>for a topic not on the list, so as to do away with that problem of its
being a
>giveaway. It would also do away with the problem of the NPC replying "I
don't
>know much about that" to >ASK NPC ABOUT HIS MOTHER.


I agree.

>> 2) How would you feel about a meta-command TOPICS, which would list all
the
>> topics that the PC is currently able to talk about with others? Would
this
>> make the game too easy? Would it make the conversation system seem more
>> mechanistic than it needs to be?
>
>Umm, I'm not quite sure I like these conversation topic lists. I usually
end
>up working my way through them without regard to the game, as if said lists
>were shopping lists. If you think you must implement it, it should probably
>belong in the hint menu. Or cleverly written in the form of a "stuff I
know"
>journal entry. Or something.


It depends whether the IF story one is planning is puzzle or story-oriented.
If its puzzle oriented it may be bad to have a topic list. If it's story
oriented then topic lists may give rhythm and the illusion of realism to a
conservation but only if its done well.

Aris Katsaris

Ethan d'Arcy

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Dec 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/17/98
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>

I think that conversation by multiple choice would be preferable to a clunky
TOPICS command -- unless we are talking about -huge- lists of topics. I like
vanilla ask about/tell about, but I'm not getting into that one...

---Ethan


Michael Gentry

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Dec 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/17/98
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Ethan d'Arcy wrote in message <3678ACC4...@umich.edu>...


I should have made it more clear: the game still uses ASK someone ABOUT
something (I'm a fan of vanilla myself). However, after I made all the
possible conversation topics objects in their own right, it occurred to me
that I could give them all short_names and implement a command that lists
them, just in case you forget which topics you've learned about and which
you haven't. It looks like this:

>ASK PORTER ABOUT JIMMY STEWART
You can't think of anything to say about that at the moment.

[Huh? thinks the player. I could have sworn I've encountered Jimmy Stewart
already. Hmm...]

>TOPICS
Currently, you are able to talk about Tony Bennett, nuclear physics, the
thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is, and Guam.

[Ah, thinks the player. Jimmy Stewart must have been in that other saved
game.]

>ASK PORTER ABOUT GUAM
"Oh, let me tell you about Guam..." enthuses the Porter. "That's where I
first met Jimmy Stewart...."

>TOPICS
Currently, you are able to talk about Jimmy Stewart, Tony Bennett, nuclear
physics, the thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is, and
Guam.

Jon Petersen

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Dec 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/17/98
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Michael Gentry wrote:
> >TOPICS
> Currently, you are able to talk about Jimmy Stewart, Tony Bennett, nuclear
> physics, the thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is, and
> Guam.

I REALLY REALLY hope this is an excerpt from the game you're working on!

Jon

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