(Note: This is a bit of an interruption to my four part series on how my game is structured.)
Lately I've been polishing Texas in the hopes of submitting to PAX10 on June 15. This means I've stopped (for now) adding more content and am polishing up what's there (which is actually quite a bit.)
One of the things I've been polishing is the NPC dialogue. In a game like Texas, NPCs have a really important role in directing the gameplay flow. In particular:
- The player will understand the world and their goals mainly through interacting with NPCs.
- Story scenes (cutscenes) are used to push the story forward.
- Lots of fun is going to be based around interacting in interesting ways with the NPCs.
One of the problems I was encountering to gameplay flow is that the dialog was oversaturated.
I'm not saying that players won't read but that wordy writing is sometimes bad writing. Added to this, I've been mulling over the "less talk, more rock" manifesto by Capybara over at BoingBoing.
After some reflection I've come to an interesting conclusion:
- In a novel, the author needs to go to a lot of effort to convince the reader that what she is describing is real.
- For instance, if there are dragons, an author will often go to great lengths to "fill in" details about these dragons.
- For example, she may describe harnessing, breeding, etc., perhaps borrowing from real world equine practice.
- Without this detail, fantasy elements in a novel might feel a bit flippant; this detail is crucial in that it justifies the fantasy.
- In a game, you are immersing your player directly in your world.
- The player will swallow whatever you give them, as long as they can interact with it.
- In this way, the game defines it's own reality. It does not need literary justification; the justification is through interactivity.
- For instance, given a blue portal to another world, it is enough that the player can walk through it. The player will not need additional justification that it exists because the game has presented it as a real object. They might *wonder* about it, but this is different.
So, in fact I was killing the game with too much dialogue because NPCs were wasting their time explaining everything. It's just not necessary!
What I've done is reworked most of the "flow" oriented dialogue with this in mind. Rather than explain everything, I just have the characters give a little bit of information that makes sense in the context of the game world, but does not waste time spelling things out. The flow feels much, much tighter.
It's important for the creator to have a coherent vision of the world. However, I don't think it's really necessary to communicate that in gross detail to the player.
Let the player form her own understanding of the game world through observation and all interactions; letters are just one tool in your belt!