[IF Theory] Favourite method of conversation

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Gravecat

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Jun 25, 2004, 7:02:12 PM6/25/04
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The way I see it, there's basically three main ways conversation with
NPC's can be handled in a game: The tried-and-tested "ask orc about axe"
style, which seems rather clumsy and dated to me; the console RPG style
where the player would simply "talk to guard" and any relevant
information would be automatically exchanged; or the computer RPG style
(Monkey Island, Baldur's Gate), where the player initiates conversation
then selects from a number of predefined questions or phrases.

I've seen a few library extensions to handle the third type quite well,
but in my experience with IF so far, the vast majority of games seem to
still use the first type -- asking NPC's about objects, giving them
command orders, and so on. While this method works quite well, I can't
help but think it rather detracts from the realism of a game. You don't
just walk up to a stranger in the street and show them the contents of
your pockets, after all.

So as a general concensus, what is your preferred method of in-game
communication with NPC's? I'm leaning heavily towards the third type at
the moment, but I don't want to impliment something like that and then
find out everybody despises this system.

If I'm missing something horribly obvious, feel free to correct me. ;) As
always, curiosity killed the cat.


--
Keep on tranglin.
www.planetsomething.com

Rexx Magnus

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Jun 25, 2004, 7:25:47 PM6/25/04
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On Fri, 25 Jun 2004 23:02:12 GMT, Gravecat scrawled:

> So as a general concensus, what is your preferred method of in-game
> communication with NPC's? I'm leaning heavily towards the third type at
> the moment, but I don't want to impliment something like that and then
> find out everybody despises this system.

I personally prefer the third type. Trying to work out what is appropriate
to ask (and how to ask it) I always find a nightmare - I tend to see an
npc and go "Ugh!"

By having the NPC respond to the first query with something pertinent,
then perhaps guide the conversation in a subtle way, usually supplies me
with enough information to get a conversation working without seeming like
a bland menu, or having to ask a million different questions about every
object/location in the game.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.

M.D. Dollahite

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Jun 25, 2004, 10:18:39 PM6/25/04
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There are a number of articles concerning this subject on the internet,
including the Survey of IF Conversation Systems
(http://www.tads.org/howto/convbkg.htm) and Emily Short's article on NPC design
(http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/NPC4.htm).

Nearly all of these articles acknowledge that ask/tell has shortcomings, but
fewer of them than any other system seen so far.

The main issue is that ask/tell is the only system we've seen that both
provides intelligent responses and fits smoothly into the parser-based
interface.

Menus, particularly modal ones, are a completely different I-O model than the
command parser used throughout the rest of the game. The menus disrupt the
narrative form of the transcript, and selecting an option from a menu is a
totally different activity from entering a command.

Menus also call attention to the boundaries of the interface. The feeling of
having unlimited options is part of the appeal of text games for many players,
now matter how illusory it may be.

CRPG-style "talk to" is really a degenerate form of menus. It solves the
transcript issue, but takes even more control away from players. You also
encounter the danger of the "broken record" NPCs that are something of a
in-joke among CRPG players.

Ask/tell fits transparently into the rest of the parser interface and is
non-modal. It's main drawbacks, as you (and everyone else) point out, are the
limited range of expression, static nature of the conversation, and the
guesswork involved in figuring out what topics to discuss. I think the TADS 3
library has solved all of these problems admirably; the first URL I gave
explains how.

Unless someone comes up with something truly revolutionary, I think ask/tell
with the TADS 3 enhancements is about as good as we're going to get.

Mike Rozak

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Jun 25, 2004, 11:10:46 PM6/25/04
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I've been investigating AIML lately. See www.alicebot.org. It's a bit more
than keyword spotting (not much though).

Pros:
- 100% compatible UI with text-adventure commands

- If it ever gets good, it will be really compelling. (There are some
sentence parsing and synonym tricks you could use to improve it slightly,
but the real problems are that a) players can ask anything and all replies
must be scripted, b) the meaning of a statement relies on earlier portions
of the conversation. The only way to solve both (a) and (b) is with a
menu-based conversation, which is pretty dull.)


Cons:
- Lots of work to create a character. Just look at some of the alice
scripts.

- Can be annoying to players since it's close enough to a real conversation
that it might be real, but within a few sentences players figure out its a
machine. Players that are fooled into thinking it's smarter than it really
is get annoyed when they learn how stupid it is. Players that know how
stupid it is get annoyed with the guess-the-keyword problem. (Which is a
fundamental flaw with text-based commands too.)

- It has more applications in MUDs (and online interactive fiction) where
players are already used to talking to other players using chat. A
chatterbot can use the same UI.

--

Mike Rozak
http://www.mxac.com.au


Gravecat

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Jun 26, 2004, 2:24:04 AM6/26/04
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> CRPG-style "talk to" is really a degenerate form of menus. It solves
> the transcript issue, but takes even more control away from players.
> You also encounter the danger of the "broken record" NPCs that are
> something of a in-joke among CRPG players.

There are many guards in the castle.

But seriously, all good points there. I think everyone here will agree with
me that the dumbed-down CRPG style is to be avoided at all costs. I wonder
if it'd be possible to make an IF game that gave the user an option to
select between the two styles (ask/answer/tell or 'talk to'). That could be
interesting to try.

Gravecat

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Jun 26, 2004, 2:28:24 AM6/26/04
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"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in
news:WO5Dc.64742$sj4....@news-server.bigpond.net.au:

> I've been investigating AIML lately. See www.alicebot.org. It's a bit
> more than keyword spotting (not much though).

I was playing with that a while back, but the problem is that it'd require
a parser to be built pretty much from the ground up around it -- I can't
really see something like that being plausibly built into Inform or TADS.

The idea could work though. I remember an old text adventure on the Acorn,
which I think was called "Gorm", that had a pretty advanced parser.
Ironically, it was a lot easier to have conversations with the (rather
condascending) game than to actually get around and *do* things.

Gravecat

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Jun 26, 2004, 2:29:26 AM6/26/04
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> I personally prefer the third type. Trying to work out what is
> appropriate to ask (and how to ask it) I always find a nightmare - I
> tend to see an npc and go "Ugh!"

Seconded.

> By having the NPC respond to the first query with something pertinent,
> then perhaps guide the conversation in a subtle way, usually supplies
> me with enough information to get a conversation working without
> seeming like a bland menu, or having to ask a million different
> questions about every object/location in the game.

Pretty much my thoughts exactly there. Menus may detract somewhat from the
immersiveness, but there's nothing worse than spending 20 minutes showing
every item in your inventory to the guard in the hopes that it's the one
they're looking for.

Eric Eve

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Jun 26, 2004, 4:48:24 AM6/26/04
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"M.D. Dollahite" <ryu...@aol.com.NOSPAM> wrote in message
news:20040625221839...@mb-m25.aol.com...

FWIW I agree with all of this; in fact I was going to say something
pretty similar but I'm glad you've already said it, probably rather
more eloquently and clearly than I would have done. One specific
point to add:

Gravecat wrote:
> You don't
>just walk up to a stranger in the street and show them the contents
of
>your pockets, after all.

The TADS 3 conversation system also handles that to some extent by
the use of greeting protocols, so that if you walked up to an NPC in
the street and showed them the contents of your pockets, the
exchange would start something like:

>SHOW STRANGER CONTENTS OF POCKETS
You walk up to the stranger and say, "Excuse me."

She stops, and turns to look at you with a puzzled frown, "Yes?"

"I have something to show you." you announce, producing a dirty
handkerchief, three bronze coins, and a gold sovereign.

Her eyes light up, "Where on earth did you get that?" she asks,
snatching the sovereign from your palm.

In any case, since the TADS 3 conversation system is so new, we've
not even begun to explore the limits of it.

-- Eric


Jan Thorsby

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Jun 26, 2004, 7:30:31 AM6/26/04
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"Gravecat" <grayw...@btinternet.com> skrev i melding
news:Xns951468556B6...@217.32.252.50...

> So as a general concensus, what is your preferred method of in-game
> communication with NPC's?

Here are my opinions. Conversations can be interesting in the context of the
story, but I think I have yet to see an ask/tell conversation or a
menu-based conversation that offered interesting gameplay. If the game uses
ask/tell, the surest way to solve it is to write a list of everything that
seems like it can be a topic, and then ask all the characters about those
topics. If the game has menu-based conversation the surest way to solve it
is to go through all the options in the menus. Either way the player is
doing no real thinking, just work. Games that rewards boring playing styles
are going to get boring. And games that seem like they might reward boring
playing styles are going to get boring too.

Not all menu-based conversation has the option that one can go through the
conversation several times. But that still means the player may save the
game before the conversation, and use restore to go through all the
possibilities, which is also boring work. Possible
one-attempt-menu-system-conversations might be interesting if the player is
told at the start of the game that the goal of the game is to win on the
first attempt without using undo and restore. In such a
win-on-the-first-attempt game ask/tell might also be interesting if giving
out information would change the story. Like say a game where Darth Vader is
torturing you trying to make you tell you where the rebel base is. If you
use "tell darth about base" it would change the story line. So a player
could not simply go through all the topics one by one, he had to think about
what to say. Maybe when using tell there could be a menu popping up where
you could choose what information you wanted to say, and the opinion not to
say anything. (For instance: 1. The base is on Alderan. 2. The base is
really nice, so you should not destroy it. 3. Say nothing.) There could also
be a "lie about topic" command, with a menu that pops up with possible lies
to say about the topic. (For instance: 1. The base in on Tantoni. 2. The
base is so powerful, you would not be able to destroy it. 3. Say nothing.)

Giving orders in the format "man, jump" could possible make for interesting
game play, thought no examples of such games springs to mind. I think the
NPC would have to respond to a lot of commands for this to be good, and that
is a lot of work for the programmer.

I think one should try to leave out elements of games that make for boring
game-play, as long as it works within the context of the story, and don't
confuse the player. (And leaving out conversation is not likely to confuse
the player.) Don't use ask/tell or menus if there is no moment in the story
when the player must talk to someone. And if there are only a few moments
like that, maybe try to think of another solution. (For instance say you are
making a huge game about exploring a space ship. The only time it is
necessary to talk to someone is when you have to tell the captain that an
alien is hiding in the ship. The solution could be for instance that as soon
as one enters the room of the captain, after seeing the alien, one
automatically tells the captain.) Possible, if it is realistic, don't let
your player talk at all. For instance he can be mute, or only speak a
foreign language or the player can get the message "You don't feel like
talking with someone today.". If a game never uses the "NPC, do this"
orders, and a player tries to give an order I think the player should be
told something like "In this game it is not possible to give orders" rather
than get something like "The man has better things to do.". Then the player
will not waste a lot of time trying to give orders.

In many (most?) games that uses ask/tell, ask and tell is synonymous. That
means is never matters if one "ask NPC about topic" instead of "tell NPC
about topic". If ask/tell is synonymous I think one should leave out of one
of them. (Or replace both with "talk to NPC about topic") Otherwise a
player may first ask an NPC about everything then tell the NPC about
everything. (I don't think a lot of players will bother to do this, but
nonetheless I think it will be a small improvement. One should not pretend
that the parser is smarter that it is, that is can distinguish between two
different commands when it can't. (And "ask" and "tell" clearly does mean
different things, as opposed to for instance "attack" and "hit", which can
mean the same.) ). Similarly, some games uses "show" and "give" as synonyms,
and I think these games should not include "show". When one don't includes a
verb, the player should always get explained that this verb has deliberately
been left out and what verb one should use instead, either when the player
tries to use the verb, or at the beginning of the game. Otherwise the game
seems like it only have a few verbs.

I have seen one type of conversation system that has not been mentioned. It'
s like a menu-system, but instead of getting options about what you can say,
you get options about whether you want to say an insult, a compliment, a lie
or a question. (I think that was the options. Anyway, replace them with
whatever fits.). You would not know what the PC would say before you choose
an option. If you choose to lie for instance, the PC might try a smart lie,
or a really stupid lie, and there was no way for you to know beforehand. I
don't think this was a particularly good conversation system.


samwyse

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Jun 26, 2004, 9:35:11 AM6/26/04
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I was about to type a lengthy reply, but Eric beat me to it.

On or about 6/26/2004 3:48 AM, Eric Eve did proclaim:


> SHOW STRANGER CONTENTS OF POCKETS
>
> You walk up to the stranger and say, "Excuse me."
>
> She stops, and turns to look at you with a puzzled frown, "Yes?"
>
> "I have something to show you." you announce, producing a dirty
> handkerchief, three bronze coins, and a gold sovereign.
>
> Her eyes light up, "Where on earth did you get that?" she asks,
> snatching the sovereign from your palm.

This is my prefered system as well, not that I've used it much, but I
hadn't even thought of implementing a "show all to creature" type of action.

I think that part of the problem is a disconnect between levels of
detail. During physical actions, the game forces the player to adopt a
tactical approach rather than stragegic, i.e. players rarely if ever are
allowed to just say "enter my hotel room", instead they have to "take
brass key from pocket. unlock door with key. open door. go west. close
door. lock door. put key in pocket."

Eric's exchange above does the opposite. The player specifies a
strategic goal (SHOW STRANGER CONTENTS OF POCKETS) and the game explains
all of the tactical actions needed to accomplish it.

I'm thinking that one solution is to adapt some NPC goal seeking to the
player character, so that "enter my hotel room" produces:
(a) "You step up to the door and try each of the keys in your pocket.
None of them fit the lock."
(b) "You step up to the door and feel in your pocket for the brass key
given you by the desk clerk. It isn't there."
(c) "You step up to the door and take the brass key from your pocket.
You unlock the door and enter the room, shutting and re-locking the door
behind you. You return the key to your pocket and look around."

This would at least make all of the interactions with the game of a
similar nature. It would also make coding the mechanical actions as,
hmmm, "interesting" as coding conversations are now. Problems include
the fact that most NPC goal seekers assume an omniscient NPC, while
applying them to a player requires that the game keep track of what the
player knows in-game. (Some games do keep track of this already.)

Still, I think that combining a goal-seeker with a conversational system
is a field worth further study. I've been thinking about, after my
current WIP gets done, doing a type of "My Dinner With Andre" game.
Only one room, 'go' and the compass completely removed, just you, an
NPC, and (maybe) a table full of knick-knacks to talk about.

I should have it done in time for the 2020 IF Comp.

Adam Thornton

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Jun 26, 2004, 11:52:36 AM6/26/04
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In article <40dd6016$1...@news.broadpark.no>,

Jan Thorsby <no_jthor...@broadpark.no> wrote:
(For instance: 1. The base is on Alderan. 2. The base is
>really nice, so you should not destroy it. 3. Say nothing.) There could also
>be a "lie about topic" command, with a menu that pops up with possible lies
>to say about the topic. (For instance: 1. The base in on Tantoni. 2. The
>base is so powerful, you would not be able to destroy it. 3. Say nothing.)

One thing I tried in "Chicken and Egg," and that was done somewhat less
trivially in _Knights of the Old Republic_, was a conversation menu in
which you had the *same* text, but its meaning was different depending
on whether you were telling the truth or lying. For instance.

"1. Release Space Moose to me for transfer to the Detention Ward. I would
*never* just take him behind the dumpster for a quickie and then shoot
him in the head."
2. (LIE) Release Space Moose to me for transfer to the Detention Ward.
I would *never* just take him behind the dumpster for a quickie and
then shoot him in the head."

(from the not-forthcoming *Stiffy Makane, Sith Lord*)

Adam

Stephen Granade

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Jun 26, 2004, 9:43:06 PM6/26/04
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ad...@fsf.net (Adam Thornton) writes:

Another game which implemented this is Planescape: Torment.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
ste...@granades.com

Joe Mason

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Jun 27, 2004, 12:57:48 AM6/27/04
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...whose authors are making KOTOR 2. I can't wait.

SPOILERS: Knights of the Old Republic

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

"I have a message for you. It's about the Dark Lord of the Sith."

1. Who?

2. [Lie] I *am* the Dark Lord of the Sith.

3. [Truth] I *am* the Dark Lord of the Sith.


Ok, it didn't actually go like that, but it should have.

Joe

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jun 27, 2004, 1:21:24 PM6/27/04
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Gravecat <grayw...@btinternet.com> wrote in message news:<Xns95144B549C9B...@217.32.252.50>...

IIRC, "Earth and Sky" and its sequel "Another Earth, Another Sky" do
allow you to pick a conversation system of your choice.

-- Emily

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jun 27, 2004, 1:44:22 PM6/27/04
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samwyse <deja...@email.com> wrote in message news:<jYeDc.4018$wj7....@newssvr23.news.prodigy.com>...

> I was about to type a lengthy reply, but Eric beat me to it.
>
> On or about 6/26/2004 3:48 AM, Eric Eve did proclaim:
> > SHOW STRANGER CONTENTS OF POCKETS
> >
> > You walk up to the stranger and say, "Excuse me."
> >
> > She stops, and turns to look at you with a puzzled frown, "Yes?"
> >
> > "I have something to show you." you announce, producing a dirty
> > handkerchief, three bronze coins, and a gold sovereign.
> >
> > Her eyes light up, "Where on earth did you get that?" she asks,
> > snatching the sovereign from your palm.
>
> This is my prefered system as well, not that I've used it much, but I
> hadn't even thought of implementing a "show all to creature" type of action.

That is an interesting suggestion, though I imagine it could get kind
of quirky if you had multiple objects on hand that the NPC wanted to
respond to. But this could be worked out.

> I think that part of the problem is a disconnect between levels of
> detail. During physical actions, the game forces the player to adopt a
> tactical approach rather than stragegic, i.e. players rarely if ever are
> allowed to just say "enter my hotel room", instead they have to "take
> brass key from pocket. unlock door with key. open door. go west. close
> door. lock door. put key in pocket."

Well, yes and no. There is a certain amount of movement away from
this kind of thing -- many more recent games are polite enough to try
to unlock a locked door for you if you try to go through it, and some
are sophisticated enough to check through your entire key ring.
Similarly, the convention is to avoid making the player do too much
inventory management in games where there are a lot of objects and a
sack for carrying them in -- Inform at least is equipped to do the
juggling automatically.

Certain recent games go further and automate more kinds of activity:
as I mentioned in my review, "Return to Ditch Day" (either through the
advantages of T3 or through special modifications of its own) does a
lot of this kind of thing for you. If you start a conversation with
someone, it handles the greeting automatically; if you try to walk out
of a room with something you shouldn't have, it puts the object away;
etc. So essentially I think I agree with what you're saying here: it
would be nice to continue to allow the player low-level commands like
"UNLOCK DOOR WITH BRASS KEY", but also to automate certain
higher-level activities so that they work properly and do not require
too much fiddling. How to do this consistently and cleanly is not
always so obvious, but I've been thinking vaguely about what would
happen if you combined the goal-seeking abilities of RAP with a
slightly enhanced parser that would be able to take higher-level
commands like "look for the key" or whatever.

To get back to the business with the NPCs, a sufficiently clever
system might allow the player to give high-level instructions
("INTERROGATE NPC") but also take more granular commands when the
player wanted to be more specific ("ASK NPC ABOUT DIAMONDS"). But I
don't think there's any one ideal implementation that will suit every
game; too much depends on what the point of the game interaction is
and what the player is supposed to accomplish.

-- Emily

Cirk R. Bejnar

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Jun 27, 2004, 6:42:23 PM6/27/04
to
Gravecat wrote:
>
> So as a general concensus, what is your preferred method of in-game
> communication with NPC's? I'm leaning heavily towards the third type at
> the moment, but I don't want to impliment something like that and then
> find out everybody despises this system.

I tend to prefer ask/tell to menus since that retains the freedom of
the IF interface. Guess the noun is no more inevitable than guess the
verb. I.e. both are common but both can be averted by good writing.
My favorite system is the one devised and used by Emily Short where
the user is offered menu of options for each topic that one can come
up with using commands such as

>topic cheese

It combines ask/tell and menus with all the advantages (freedom to
type whatever I want at the interface; realistically complex
coversation options) and none of the disadvantages that are important
to me.

Cirk R. Bejnar

M.D. Dollahite

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Jun 27, 2004, 9:35:18 PM6/27/04
to
>From: "Jan Thorsby"

>Possible
>one-attempt-menu-system-conversations might be interesting if the player is
>told at the start of the game that the goal of the game is to win on the
>first attempt without using undo and restore.

I've seen this sort of suggestion, of telling the player about a rule that game
itself cannot enforce, in a number of contexts since I joined this group. My
own opinion on the matter is that most people would see this as an indication
of an amatuer author who didn't know how to make a proper game; only a few
artistically-oriented players would see it as an interesting experiment and
actually follow such a rule.

>Maybe when using tell there could be a menu popping up where

The thing about menus is that they just don't look right in a text game. In
graphical games the entire interface is essentially made of of menus of one
sort or another, so conversation menus aren't any different from the rest of
the game. But text games are not normally menu-based, so conversation menus
force the player to switch back and forth between two completely different
modes of interacting with the program. The menu interrupts the transcript, and
entering a selection interrupts normal command input.

>you could choose what information you wanted to say, and the opinion not to
>say anything. (For instance: 1. The base is on Alderan. 2. The base is
>really nice, so you should not destroy it. 3. Say nothing.)
>There could also
>be a "lie about topic" command, with a menu that pops up with possible lies
>to say about the topic.

TADS 3 can do this, and does it without using menus. A transcript might look
like this:
--------------------------
"Where is the hidden rebel base?" rasps Darth Vader as he towers over you.

(You could tell the truth, lie, plead, or say nothing.)

> plead
"The rebel base is really nice, you shouldn't destroy it," you reply nervously.

"I do not care how nice it is. Tell me its location!" the Dark Lord orders.

(You could tell the truth, lie, plead, or say nothing.)

> lie
"The base is on Tantoni," you lie, trying to look frightened and defeated.
--------------------------------
And so on. As you can see, the options are listed as suggestions from the
narrator rather than an unsightly menu, the same sort of listing can be
provided for regular ask/tell topics as well as these special contextual
commands. It's non-modal as well, meaning you can do other things beside
choosing something from the menu, though the NPC can be programmed to keep
returning to the same question until it receives a satisfactory answer. It's
also trivial to make the options give different responses if selected more than
once.

Personally, I like not knowing exactly what the PC is going to say, as long as
the effect on the overall direction of the conversation is what you would
predict from what you did type. Having the exact wording of every option laid
out in a menu is like being told the punchline before the joke, IMO.

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 27, 2004, 11:06:47 PM6/27/04
to
On Sun, 27 Jun 2004 04:57:48 GMT, Joe Mason <j...@notcharles.ca> wrote:
> This Space Intentionally Left Blank
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>"I have a message for you. It's about the Dark Lord of the Sith."
>
>1. Who?
>
>2. [Lie] I *am* the Dark Lord of the Sith.
>
>3. [Truth] I *am* the Dark Lord of the Sith.
>
>
>Ok, it didn't actually go like that, but it should have.
>
>Joe

1. [Truth] These aren't the droids you're looking for.

2. [Lie] These aren't the droids you're looking for.

3. [Magic Handwavy Lie] These aren't the droids you're looking for.

4. These aren't the fucking droids you're looking for.

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 28, 2004, 8:16:41 AM6/28/04
to
In article <20040627213518...@mb-m11.aol.com>,

M.D. Dollahite <ryu...@aol.com.NOSPAM> wrote:
>>From: "Jan Thorsby"
>
>>Possible
>>one-attempt-menu-system-conversations might be interesting if the player is
>>told at the start of the game that the goal of the game is to win on the
>>first attempt without using undo and restore.
>
>I've seen this sort of suggestion, of telling the player about a rule that game
>itself cannot enforce, in a number of contexts since I joined this group. My
>own opinion on the matter is that most people would see this as an indication
>of an amatuer author who didn't know how to make a proper game;

Or at least an indication of an author whose ideas of a good gaming
experiencea great deal from those of most players.

Authorial intentions and/or experience aside, I think the important
point is that most players wouldn't be interested in playing the
game in that way.

> only a few
>artistically-oriented players would see it as an interesting experiment and
>actually follow such a rule.

Maybe. Or there would be more gaming-oriented players who'd see it as
a challenge to test their gaming skills ("I'm so good at playing
adventure games that I don't need to resort to save games").


But to get back to Jan's point: all games that have some sort of
multiple choice element to them invite, to a smaller or greater
extent, brute-force optimization - going back and trying all possible
combinations to find the optimal one. Or in the case where there's
no obviously optimal path, at least to see all possible outcomes
of one's actions.

There's of course always a point of diminishing return here, when the
cost to the player exceeds the gains (in terms of getting more XP, or
reading more of the author's breathless prose, or whatever).

In some games, there's a large cost in time and effort: "OK, I
could go back and see what happens if I date the redhead instead of
the brunette, but then I'd have to navigate the 500-Room Amorphous
Maze of Indistinguishable Dark Rooms (tm) again. It's not worth it."

Or it could be that the reward isn't that great: "I suppose I could go
back and dat the redhead, or the blonde, or the green-haired elf
maiden, or the mermaid, or the Venusian Fire Woman, but the only
difference would be some slightly different dinner conversation
between the Vogons demolish the restaurant along with the rest of the
Earth".

But what I prefer is when the story is so engaging that I'd rather
continue and see what happens next than backtrack and see if I could
have done something better earlier on. And this should work even on
the micro-level: in a conversation, I shouldn't feel that I have to
back up the conversation tree to get the branch where I need to be.


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
PGP Public Key available at http://www.df.lth.se/~mol

Joe Mason

unread,
Jun 28, 2004, 2:05:16 PM6/28/04
to
On 2004-06-28, L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:
> On Sun, 27 Jun 2004 04:57:48 GMT, Joe Mason <j...@notcharles.ca> wrote:
>> This Space Intentionally Left Blank
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
> 1. [Truth] These aren't the droids you're looking for.
>
> 2. [Lie] These aren't the droids you're looking for.
>
> 3. [Magic Handwavy Lie] These aren't the droids you're looking for.
>
> 4. These aren't the fucking droids you're looking for.

It's actually "[Force Pursuade] These aren't the droids you're looking
for," but yes. (There are times when you get both [Pursuade] and [Force
Pursuade] versions of "I deserve more money.")

Joe

Gravecat

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Jun 28, 2004, 8:31:20 PM6/28/04
to
That's just ODD. I know I replied to this a few days ago, but it never went
through. I'll repost:

"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in
news:WO5Dc.64742$sj4....@news-server.bigpond.net.au:

> I've been investigating AIML lately. See www.alicebot.org. It's a bit


> more than keyword spotting (not much though).

I was playing with that a while back, but the problem is that it'd require

a parser to be built pretty much from the ground up around it -- I can't
really see something like that being plausibly built into Inform or TADS.

The idea could work though. I remember an old text adventure on the Acorn,
which I think was called "Gorm", that had a pretty advanced parser.
Ironically, it was a lot easier to have conversations with the (rather
condascending) game than to actually get around and *do* things.

Gravecat

unread,
Jun 28, 2004, 9:15:00 PM6/28/04
to
This particular post has been discussed rather a lot while I've been
away, so I won't bother re-making the points that everyone has already
beaten me to. Instead, I'll go off on a slight tangent: While you've got
some good points there, it mainly seems to hinge around the idea of
'winning', or having one correct solution in a conversation or other ways
to screw up.

Some systems, like the first couple of Monkey Island games (I never got
around to playing any of the newer ones) simply had one main path through
each conversation, and some amusing yet pointless ways to sidetrack it.
But in the end, it was all just one point in the end, you simply reached
it in a different way.

And admittedly, some systems -- particularly those in IF -- have one
'correct' solution to interacting with NPC's. But I was thinking of it in
a somewhat different way.

A good example would be the already-mentioned KotOR. There isn't one
correct path through the game, you're given the option in each
conversation of how to deal with people, which affects your (to put it
simply) good/evil alignment, and affects future conversations and events.
Thus, it's not simply a way to 'solve' a conversation as if it's a
puzzle, but works instead to shape the way things happen. There's no
'correct' path, it all depends on how the player wants to take it.

That was more along the lines of what I was thinking of, which is why I
wanted to lean away from the ask/show/tell style system, which treats
NPC's like puzzles (and annoying puzzles they can be, if not done right).
A menu-based system would seem to be far more suitable, in my opinion,
for a system where there is no "correct" route through a conversation --
but all choices affect future events and outcomes in one way or another.

I guess, in the end, it all depends on what style of game it is, and good
old-fashioned personal preference.

ems...@mindspring.com

unread,
Jun 29, 2004, 7:42:22 PM6/29/04
to
Gravecat <grayw...@btinternet.com> wrote in message news:<Xns951716E40A9C...@217.32.252.50>...

> There isn't one
> correct path through the game, you're given the option in each
> conversation of how to deal with people, which affects your (to put it
> simply) good/evil alignment, and affects future conversations and events.
> Thus, it's not simply a way to 'solve' a conversation as if it's a
> puzzle, but works instead to shape the way things happen. There's no
> 'correct' path, it all depends on how the player wants to take it.
>
> That was more along the lines of what I was thinking of, which is why I
> wanted to lean away from the ask/show/tell style system, which treats
> NPC's like puzzles (and annoying puzzles they can be, if not done right).
> A menu-based system would seem to be far more suitable, in my opinion,
> for a system where there is no "correct" route through a conversation --
> but all choices affect future events and outcomes in one way or another.

There are some IF games that allow you to take different approaches to
NPCs. If you're curious about what's been done already, I've listed
some of the most interesting here:

http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/literacy.htm#NPC

and (if I haven't included them) any other games included under the
"conversational" genre on www.ifratings.com:
http://www.carouselchain.com/if/statistics.php?genre=29&type=genre&limit=10

-- Emily

Gravecat

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Jun 29, 2004, 10:19:57 PM6/29/04
to
ems...@mindspring.com (ems...@mindspring.com) wrote in
news:a69830de.04062...@posting.google.com:

> There are some IF games that allow you to take different approaches to
> NPCs. If you're curious about what's been done already, I've listed
> some of the most interesting here:
>
> http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/literacy.htm#NPC

Thanks for showing me that, I'll have to take a longer look at that list
when I've got some more time to kill. I'd been trying to find a decent list
of notable games for a while now, that fits the bill quite nicely. :)

M.D. Dollahite

unread,
Jul 1, 2004, 2:34:20 AM7/1/04
to
>That was more along the lines of what I was thinking of, which is why I
>wanted to lean away from the ask/show/tell style system, which treats
>NPC's like puzzles (and annoying puzzles they can be, if not done right).
>A menu-based system would seem to be far more suitable, in my opinion,
>for a system where there is no "correct" route through a conversation --
>but all choices affect future events and outcomes in one way or another.

I don't think the type of conversation system really determines whether or not
the NPC is treated like a puzzle, it's the way the author uses conversations
that determines that.

As a matter of fact, in my experience ask/tell is usually less of a puzzle than
menus. Most of the games I've played with menued conversation forced you to
guess your way through a "menu-maze" to find the one correct sequence of
selections that completed the conversation successfully. Oftimes a single
wrong selection resulted in instant death, an unwinnable situation, or reduced
options (in nonlinear games). Games like Monkey Island and KOTOR are the
exceptions in my experience.

By contrast, in most games I've played with ask/tell, if there was a puzzle
element to conversations at all it was a single query that was immediately
obvious once you reached the correct point in the game. Everything else just
provided background information, extra hints, or characterization.

But as I said, any conversation system can be used in any way; fitting the
system to the rest of the UI is a much more important consideration, IMO.

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