Now the "best way" to do this is entirely subjective, but I usually:
1) Write a single script from beginning to end.
2) Break that single script up into "segments."
At this point I usually have a single, linear conversation script. I break
it into branches by:
3) Looking at each segment alone and asking myself what other possible
responses are likely. Generally, with a little thought, an additional
conversation branch will form from there. (Much like a newsgroup thread.)
This is, of course, just my method. I sure others have additional thoughts
on the subject.
Jim (AT) OnyxRing (DOT) com
Visit "An Inform Developer's Guide" or browse the
"ORLibrary" extensions to the standard library at
Some days you eat the code; some days the code eats you.
I'll try to answer this with respect to conversation in particular. If
you want information about larger-scale game flow, you might want to have
a look at the articles in early issues of XYZZYNews, which contain
extensive discussions of how to make puzzle charts and figure out the
narrative structure of your game.
Now, to business.
Generally speaking, I do one of two things:
1) Just sit down and write a scene as though it were conventional linear
fiction, and worry about implementing the pieces. This means I include
things like physical clues, what's going on around the speakers, and so
on. For instance (dug up from my notes for Best of Three):
~So I know I know you from Miss Littenberg's class,~ he says. ~Were we in
anything else together?~
~Biology.~ Two hours a week in lab, but it's not surprising he doesn't
remember you there: you were always slung against the wall in misery,
nauseated by the formaldehyde fumes, while Fred sliced and diced your
~I was Fred Ardrahan's lab partner.~
~Ah. Fred.~ He turns his cappuccino cup around and around in its saucer,
letting silence stand for speech.
<etc., for many paragraphs>
Then, I go through and break this up into statements that the NPC will
make and items that will appear on the conversation menu for the player.
This type of drafting has the advantage that it tends to encourage a
natural flow of exchange, and it reminds you to include physical cues, the
player character's thoughts, and so on, if you want to be including
those. It has the disadvantage, conversely, that it may be difficult to
go back and make the conversation branch properly, leaving the player with
a scene completely on rails.
2) Sit down and write what amounts to an outline of nested exchange
possibilities, like so (from my notes for a game that now isn't going to
happen, at least not in this form):
He smiles a half-smile. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
>"No, not at all."
"Good," he says. "That will make things easier..."
>"Well, you are. Buzz off."
He smiles a little more, and his expression seems calculated to be
placating, but it fails. He extends his hand, and you look in spite of
yourself. He's holding a small round object like a cheap compass, and the
needle dodges and wavers, pointing towards you. Startled, you move to one
side; but the needle follows you.
>What the hell is that?
"It's a sort of device that is attracted to strong dreamers."
>And you have that why?
"Because I'm looking for dreamers. Obviously." He tucks the item
back into his pocket. "Have you had any strange dreams recently?"
"Are you sure?"
"Dreams of places you've never been, or haunted by the sense
of some kind of supernatural presence?"
>Why do you ask?
"Because I have been having them."
>And who the hell are you?
He hands you a card...
>Okay, what's going on? --> you have that why?
"Because I'm looking for people..."
You will note that this is incomplete and trails off after a couple of
nestings; it's not clear where everything will go. When I'm using this
technique, I tend to write an outline like this, then implement it, then
find the nodes that need further expansion, and expand *them* in this
fashion, and so on. This is time-consuming and can feel like really slow
going, especially if you have a specific narrative goal in mind for that
scene or part of a scene. It also discourages the kind of prose-like
development above. On the other hand, it may offer the player more
flexibility in the long run.
Dunno if that helps.
innkeeper: "Ah, the orc raids. The orcs of Paldar are made up of
fifty ranks, comprised of eighteen militia, fourteen nobernacks and
ten linesmen. On every third day of the week, they board a ferry and
travel fifty two miles to the edge of Wilbaran. Then they march in
from the east and form marauding formations. Tlkva Okmar, the Head of
Arms for the Orcs is said to have a treasure somewhere in his castle.
Actually it's on level four behind a throne. You have to use a
combination to access the lock, it's 13-25-389.
I would make your conversations very brief with strangers, and then
make outlandish scripts for major NPCs. See, I believe their is such
a thing as decorative NPCs that can talk, but ...that's about it. You
would write your script in a linear fashion corresponding to major
NPC. Then all you have to do is draw up a map, and randomly place
your major NPCs, like putting chess pieces on a board, and now your
game is unlinear, the best type.
Ask Innkeeper about orc raids.
innkeeper: "Not sure. But hey, where can I get some fresh fish?"