FluidText


Sometimes I have an idea for an improvement to a game but know I won't implement it even though it's good. Sometimes, you've just gotta go with what's easy.

Anyhow, the idea has to do with conversations. In Texas, conversations are based around a keyword system. When you meet an NPC, you start out with a few keywords: "Name", "Job", "Bye". When you ask them their Name for instance, they will give you a bit more information for example that they love to play the "Flute". Then you get this added to your keyword collection and can click it to find out more. In this way the conversation sort of flowers out.

It would be nice to have synonyms, however. One can imagine that, with enough keyword synonyms and enough keywords, conversation could be very fluid.

You often organize the conversation into long chains. For instance, if an NPC has a lot to say about a specific even or character, you don't want to put it all in one long text and have the player click [More] over and over. Instead, you want to deliver the text in shorter bursts and use keywords to link them, making the conversation more interesting.

With "global" synonyms, you could get into trouble since it's easy to for the player accidentally interject herself halfway into one of these chains, i.e., in the course of conversation the NPC mentions "lost" about his favorite pair of panythose, which leads to a quest to recover said article. However, "missing" might be part of another conversation chain, about a missing friend. So by typing "lost" you end up in a whole other conversational sphere.

So my idea is basically to organize text blocks according to topic. I don't know exactly what this would look like, but generally speaking the NPC would be in the mental space of one topic or another, and would move only gradually (or deliberately) between them. So the NPC would somehow know that it was talking about the "pantyhose" and all the synonyms would try to refer to something relating to pantyhose. To change to talk about a missing person, you'd have to mention their name.

One can imagine a vocabulary or topic tree that you navigate by clicking from word to word; I've seen some neato java applets that do this. Or simpler, just blocks of conversational topics that you into and out of.

Nice idea but I'll stick with what I've got for now, at least I've journaled this so maybe I'll stumble upon it later!

2008-09-09


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