A discussion back then~

Part 1 - You are here
Part 2 - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/538/
Part 3 - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/539/
Darken's Awesome NPC Dialogue Article - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/535/


Verisimilitude - it means it should sound real, like real people are saying the lines and not like someone is writing them. But in special instances you can get away with being a little more poetic. If it's a special scene it can make the dialogue better even if it's only 90% believable instead of 100%

And you should always try to minimize exposition as much as possible, like if you have to explain a lot of stuff to the audience through two characters talking, try to disguise the conversation as something else as much as you can, like it is a regular conversation, but the information the audience needs to know is in there somewhere.

A great example will be FF8, it has a good example of people speaking naturally in a game in a modern context.


A good dialog needs to be not much objective... in the sense that characters (either PCs or NPCs) are not information-giving machines. Important information should be mixed with somewhat trivial stuff... this is important to give characters flavour. For example, two characters may be talking about how they're gonna save the world, and one of them interrupts to comment about the other one's hairdo.

I also think dialogs should not be too predictable. For example, if the party encounters a big evil guy who's trying to destroy the world, they're obviously going to talk about it afterwards, but the conversation should involve more that just saying "Oh, he's so evil! / We gotta stop him! / How will we do that? / Let's talk to the elder next village, he'll tell us.". Even if you do want to set players in that obvious direction, you can add a "honestly, I don't feel like saving the world right now" line somewhere in between.

Game makers should be less restrictive when writing dialogs. Sometimes writing whatever comes to mind is a good idea.


What makes good dialogue is a deep understanding of your characters - their history, upbringing, morality, emotions, etc. You have to live and breathe your characters to be able to write meaningful dialogue for them. This is especially important for your main characters and villain(s) in your story. This does require that you have a certain amount of life experience to be able to put yourself in other people's shoes, or base your characters off of people who you intimately know.

You only know yourself so unless you're basing one of your characters off of yourself (I highly recommend it actually), you're going to need to draw from other sources such as personal experiences, books, movies, etc. I'd be careful about drawing too much from fiction as they're not a primary source of characterizations, and it's too easy to fall into the trap of too much imitation. (How many people use other RPGs as a source of character inspiration? Too many!) Use real-life people who you know instead. That confers the advantage that they're real, living breathing people, and secondly that since they're not famous or well-known no one else will accuse you of plagiarizing a character.

I think people have the problem of not knowing how their characters should behave because they set their game in some fantasy setting that they themselves have no experience with, other than other videogames, so those videogames become their major source of inspiration. Before writing any dialogue I'd take each and every important character in your game, isolate them in your mind, and think about what makes them them - what drives them, what do they hate, what do they love? Once you have a deep enough understanding of your character, place them in an imaginary situation in your mind. How will they behave? That should come naturally if you know them well enough. Do the same for every other character. Once you have firmly set them all out, that's when you can start integrating them together and having them interact with one another. If you start at the interaction step before you know how each character will act individually it quickly becomes a real mess. So know them well on their own before you start putting various characters together in conversation.


It is up to you to decide which characters will stand out from the crowd, or maybe you just want some of them to fade in. Most people talk differently - depending on where they live, where they come from, what class they are, what kind of person they are, their education level, if they read a lot, if they have a speech impediment or not, if they are outspoken or not... there's a number of factors that can affect how a person talks. The only advice I can give is listen to when people speak. Listen to their intonations and the way they form their words during speech. A friendly janitor may talk differently from an uptight scholar.

Think about the characteristics of the people in your story. A shy person is going to be more restrained with his dialogue than an outspoken person. An upper class scholar may use bigger words and speak more eloquently than a lower class bum. Does your character come from Boston? It wouldn't hurt to 'shape' the dialogue a bit with the phonetic spelling of some words in the Bostonian accent. Try not to incorporate too much of yourself when you are writing dialogue. Think about your characters instead. You have a little boy whose dog just died - he is not going to talk like how you are going to talk if your dog just died. You have a barfly - he might slur a different way from you. You have a princess - she isn't going to talk the way you do. Think about how a little boy, a barfly and a princess will talk. What will they say if they were real? It's hard, yeah, but you have to spend a lot of time imagining.

If you don't want to just imagine, go out and actually LISTEN to people. Really listen. Even listen to yourself.

But you should also remember at the same time, what happens in fiction shouldn't always mimic what happens in real life. Anything goes in real life but in in fiction, deliberate arrangement of these events to evoke dramatic, thematic and emotional effect. Same goes for dialogue.

Dialogue is a thing to look out for when comparing its characteristics in the real world versus story world. In the real world, dialogue can be mundane and pointless. Small talk and strange lingo. Hello. Goodbye. Good afternoon. You don't want much of this in your dialogue unless it's serving a real purpose. Your dialogue must mean something in your story. Every line of dialogue should mean something and not just random small talk (unless this random small talk is comic relief or building character or setting). Just as a story is a series of events, dialogue is a series of speeches. You have to mould, shape and edit these to fit into your story for some kind of significance, just as you edit plot into your story, in a plausible way.

While it does not have to be real, it has to be plausible. Nessiah mentioned verisimilitude. Your story has to have verisimilitude, which is the sense that what one reads is "real" (even if it's been given some poetic license) or at least realistic and believable. If this is broken, it removes interest from what is actually going on or just becomes plain distracting. Look up the definition for purple prose to understand. So to accompany verisimilitude, you gotta have plausibility. While the dialogue may not be believable in our real world, the dialogue must be believable or "plausible" or genuine in the context of the world your story takes place in.


Practice. You have to practice...a lot. When writing dialogue in game, I will constantly read it over and over again to see if it fits right with the actual character and their current situation. You can get better by yourself by doing this, but it's almost always better to get someone else to play your game and have their own take on your dialogue. Have a friend practice with you, you can play as one main character and they can act out the other (as long as they they have played your game and know the character). Somebody else may come up with a better idea on how to improve your character during development, so don't rely solely on yourself.


Purple Prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.


It can be also Looking at feelings and sensations such as visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, tactile. (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.)

This is a way of capturing a reader’s attention. Most of us relate and respond to what we see,
hear, smell, taste and touch. We carry our own mental pictures based on past experiences. Always present in our memory, they contribute to our imagination. However, the same warning applies as in the previous section: Be careful when you choose words and phrases. It is easy to make your written expression too colorful. This is called “purple prose”.


In short, purple prose is writing or dialogue written so extravagant that it attracts attention to its extravagance and whoever is reading loses its true meaning. Stay away from that! Especially in games.

Keep your writing as simple and accessible as you can to relate important points. Another point: purple prose also relates to people dropping lingo they made up like crazy. Don't name-drop a thousand "made-up words" or slang without properly ensuring the audience knows what the heck you're talking about, e.g.:

"The Urdu Dragon sleeps in Damascus Cave under the Midas Power caused by the Ophelian curse of the Pampas in the Qatarian wastelands."
Don't do this. Nobody knows what you mean, or cares, except people who enjoyed LOTR. Keep it accessible, keep terms simple and grounded. This alleviates confusion and connects the audience better to what is going on.

A tip for NPC's is to not make them spout meaningless dialogue:

"Ah! Fine day we're having! Monsters roam the lands, though."

But work on their dialogue to build a certain atmosphere or mood of where they are located. This is difficult and requires some thinking, but it helps a lot! It helps establish your "world" through the eyes of multiple characters and pays off well.

Another point:

OVERWHELMING MELANCHOLY: Stay away from this! It NEVER translates well across text in games! Don't have a character bouncing all over the place bawling out, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! DON'T DIE!" unless it's for comedic purposes. It comes across as overdone and hilarious. Keep the tone restrained. Restrain emotion and this helps build even more emotion. Let it all out and it parodies itself.


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(Socrates would certainly not contadict me!)
Great reading, excellent advice, if not always simple to follow. Listening to others speak, and acting out with friends a dialogue stuck out as quite accessible. Great articles made by obviously really serious game makers. Thanks! (Part 2, now!)
I find the part where you said "Use real-life people who you know instead." funny.... Does all of my co-workers count? Lol I was originally writing a book where the characters names and personalities were based off my co-workers my three best friends and my bf.. turns out it worked for a game too. So extremely good advice. It always works for me so I'm sure it'll work for others ^.^ Everything else mentioned is also extremely helpful, I usually write books. But I find these tactics work for games too.
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