A discussion back then~

Part 1 - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/537/
Part 2 - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/538/
Part 3 - You are here
Darken's Awesome NPC Dialogue Article - http://rpgmaker.net/articles/535/


In my case, I have found that there are at least six principles to take into consideration.

1) A wide variety of knowledge and experiences are important to a writer. The things you know define what you can write.
2) Repetition weakens writing. Excessive swearing, going over subjects that the reader already knows about are routes to weakening your intent.
3) Practice makes perfect, but only if you take a good honest look at your work. Compare with your favorite stories, and see how it holds up to other standards.
4) When crafting something based on something else, comparison for accuracy is crucial, so that when you do make something different from the canon, the reader notices*.
5) Breaking up dialogue is important, usually done with actions or observations on the part of the storyteller - this can fill in blanks, or to be used to flavor the writing.
6) Chapters exist for a reason - people need checkpoints in their reading material, for keeping track of things or for transitional purposes**.

I recommend writing fanfiction as a good starting point for learning how to do dialogue. This is because people who understand what they are writing about can judge the work when compared to writing of a similar nature...say, other fanfictions. Mechanically, a fanfiction gives the writer a premade setting, characters, and concepts from which the writer extrapolates original ideas. The more original your work is without butchering the source material, the odds would be that you can write something completely original that can interest people. Concepts do not come from a void, since they evolve from other ideas, so your goal is cultivate your ability to perform increasingly original writing over time. Eventually, you would be able to make something that can stand on it's own merits.

*One such example would be writing about real life or creating fanfiction. People who have experience with a subject WILL notice differences from whatever you based your story on. A story that is deeply inaccurate about the subject matter will lack impact when you use something different, because your pool of mistakes will cover up your intentional differences. This results in a "meh" with readers. This is closely linked to the second principle. Take for example Naruto fanfiction writers. They often commit three extremely common mistakes. One of those is going over the Wave Arc, which is a source of repetition, not to mention often done better by the real thing. Mistake #2 is the characterization of figures from the canon. A poorly written character is often one that goes away from the source material, which is especially worse when there are other characters that can do the same job better, which already exists.

An "dark" Naruto that swears extremely often with godlike powers is going to be a boring caricature of the real thing, no matter what way you slice it. The real job of a writer is managing what 'duties' a character carries throughout a story, and does so by what traits that character possesses. The third mistake is the failure to exploit the canon for completely new scenarios. The Naruto fanfiction is particularly strong in one sense, since there is an canonical "mission" system in place where the writer can create scenarios that are detached from the main storyline. There are often blanks areas of time or unexplained things in all kinds of settings, which is the niche that a writer is supposed to occupy.

**This goes for games and movies as well. For example, the XenoSaga games are renowned for their extremely lengthy videos. Unfortunately, people play games for the gameplay, so something like a 30-minute movie just doesn't work right. Dialogue is the same, so try to keep things relatively short and self-contained. Savepoints for important and unskippable dialogue is a good idea. Chapters are containers that are supposed to cover a topic and encapsulate it into a readable spoonful, which is why they are great for transitions.

Wow, lots of good discussion going on here, good of you to bring this up, Nessiah. Mateui and Strangeluv, I really agree with what you guys said, especially about the difficulties of writing unfamiliar personalities and "purple prose."

I don't really have the authority to contribute, so I just wanted to ask, what are some games (commercial or otherwise) that you guys think exemplify the points you're talking about? This is really weird, but for me personally, in a typical classic RPG (where 99.5% of the time you're reading text), the dialogue and characterization can either make it the best game everrr or just meh... I'm such a huge sucker for good dialogue and well-done localization. So personally I would say that games like Lunar:SSSC and EB (and most things done by the late Working Designs) are good games to check out if you're looking for examples of great dialogue. The characters are somewhat stereotypical, yet their unique personalities really stood out because of the writing. There are even examples of well-done accented dialogue, in the town of "Meryod" where everyone is an inbred hick (which it wasn't at all in the Japanese version, WD just did it for fun, and it turned out pretty well) and talk like stereotypical deep south (USA) folk.

A Question by King of Games:

How do you guys feel about the length of dialogues? Where is the line btwn useful info thats well written and walls of text tldr? How to pace and how to not stuff the whole game's history into a bloody conversation?


Integrate it into the plot. Dialogue shouldn't be too long if it's a stupid history lesson. We're not liable to remember it all if it's just reading it as part as dialogue and not seeing it integrated into the plot or having a proper effect on the characters. Only include what is necessary. For the unnecessary, you can always have a library with tomes filled with the useless junk that people can read.


People shouldn't know your entire history off the bat, that ruins everyything.

What I did in my game was put the history in books and give people the option of reading it or not. It was more than just speech boxes, though, there were pictures, and you could select parts of the book to read, not just get forcefed the whole thing.


OR you can make things unknown on purpose, I mean try to never show any scenario beyond what the protagonist experiences. Keep em' geussing kinda thing.

If your characters are too bland, try and make a character completely alien to the other characters. Like say a black guy in a very, very racist hick town where even the protagonist is just as racist. Since it's quite obvious everyone is extremely prejudice, even hateful toward this one black person you'll have to come up with scenarios that portray this, thus adding depth to the other characters. This also works if you have very interesting character(s), and have the character(s)'s depth creep into other characters by thinking up interesting scenarios to interact with the unique character(s) and the bland characters.

Also it helps to highlight the important information that you want to make clear in all the stuff you made up about things, and leave the rest hanging on the sidelines for future dialogue topics and ideas.

Some people don't know how too long is though, which is why you need testers. But no game is interesting enough to have a Xenosaga length cutscene. A general rule I try to follow is to have the player be in control within the first 5 minutes of a game. You should also give the player just enough information in the story to continue onward, and eventually have a big event come up that will answer some of the previous questions but bring about new ones at the same time.

It's really necessary to test these things. You might think your cutscene isn't too long, but others will. Having others try it out and getting their opinion on it is almost always necessary.



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(Socrates would certainly not contadict me!)
Wow, this is some serious article. Thanks.
Great article. One thing I do not agree upon, however, is starting off with writing fan fiction. That's a jagged line and usually, most people dig themselves to deep into that hole to recover.

To quote Mateui
"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. "

If you're new, try writing something short, like a child's book or short story/novelette. Gradually expand as you become more comfortable.
That's my opinion. Take it easy!

Damn this would had been incredibly useful for me to write my book, Such a shame that I am going to finish it in some days (only 4 chapters more) :'). I guess i would try many of this suggestion for the second draft. Well, something I would like to share its something that I read in a book, Its the Hollywood Formula (Don't remeber to good but I would write it as I remember
Movies start and everything seems to being good when suddenly, Oh shit, A huge problem emerge, the movie continues and the characters try to fix it but the, Oh My God, something worst happen. And then the movie goes on and on and during the film you can see a lot of Oh Shit and Oh My God moments but even more chaotics than before, and in the end they put how they fix everything and the classic everybody is happy. (Of course they are exception, but there are many movies that use this formula and that are recognize like classics) Want I want to express is how conflicts are the one that make something interesting, The reaction of someone in front an obstacule make you feel sympathy for him (or the opposite) so you want to see what happen with that character.
Criticizing more, making less...
It seems quite spot on, with good points made. :)

Except this maybe:
2) Repetition weakens writing. Excessive swearing, going over subjects that the reader already knows about are routes to weakening your intent.

We're in games, not books. Players have a lot of stuff to do between dialogues, or even in dialogs, and might easily forget some important infos while abusing chicken or doing hookers for 3 hours.
Repetition is a good thing if it's spread over several dialogues, as long they're all different in execution. That's why we should always set a NPC somewhere which will repeat basically the same important infos to the player, just in case he's lost. Or use an efficient quest log... :p
Even long dialogs need repetition at the end, like "so, this is what we we'll do blablabla".

Another thing I would like to add to the pyramid of a good dialogue : Dialogues should be your last resort to convey information.
The best way to keep them short and meaningful is to use every other way to convey them.
For example, a throne room.
Usual stuff? Yes, but what about those settings:
- Small room with the king and some commoners
- Big room with the king alone
- Big room with guards on a packed front line and the king on a unreachable balcony
- Big room with guards close to the player and king up on some stairs with guards around him
Just by setting the NPCs differently in the available space, we convey different informations.
No need to say "the King is all and almighty" or "the king fears for his life" or "the king is close to his people". The player will feel that, just by entering the map.

Oh, and someone said a good dialog should either advance the story or develop the character. If your dialog doesn't do neither of those, there might be a problem to look into.
There are some wonderful things in this article, but a great many I have to disagree with, notably the topic of drawing from fanfiction. While I hold to the belief that all writing is practice and if some people are more comfortable with beginning in fanfiction then that is where they should start, but I believe they are better off not in drawing from a community of derivative works, but rather that they should pay attention to ANY dialogue that is believable and well-written, and while it's highly plausible there are some good things to come from certain fanfiction communities, I myself am inexperienced in that medium as it is not, how shall we say, my cup of tea, I do believe people are better off reading actual books.

Some of my personal favorite dialogue writing actually comes from the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Most of his work is meaty, dense, and very difficult reading to wade through, but I recommend at least picking up the Brothers Karamazov for dialogue reference, as he was a master at pulling so much conflict out of every word written and capturing the individual voices of each character, a very difficult task for any writer.

In essence, the same basic rules that apply to good writing can also be applied to writing characters for any other medium, even a videogame. That being said, it would behoove all to research and study literature of their preference, as well as to practice the art of writing well, in order to better glean methods of style, substance, and characterization.

This is truly a wonderful article, but I would just like to recommend that one broadens their horizons. If fanfiction and other games are more your pace and forte, then by all means go for it, but really, if that's all you look for, it's like being at a salad bar buffet and only eating those yummy little garlic croutons. It's nice and all, but it's good to have some lettuce and tomatoes as well. A good sprinkling of everything is much better in the long-run.
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