NARRATIVE THEORY

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The Podcast topic got me thinking about some input I'd like to hear on other narrative techniques.

The use (or lack) of pauses has already been well-discussed. The gist of the consensus was that pauses are fine when used appropriately, which is not often. Fast readers hate artificial pauses, and overuse of ellipses make your game read like a Dragonball manga (apparently Toriyama purchased all of his periods in Sam's Club value-paks, and didn't realize they could be used individually).

The next topic I'd like to hear discussed: written emotes. I'm not talking about bubble icons above characters' heads, that is a narrative style all its own, and sets its own mood which one may or may not which to achieve (to me, a game narrative sacrifices depth for the sake of conveying circumstantial and superficial emotions when using "emoticons"). No, I literally mean written emotes; anything from *snicker*, *scoff*, or *sigh* to even spelling out onomatopoeic words, like "hah ha!" or "ugh," "pfft," or "grr."

I've seen very few games use the above style of narration. Is it because it is a style less appreciated? Do you think seeing emotes displayed this way adds to or detracts from narrative depth? Or are you indifferent to it? I guess it depends on how you feel 2D video game storytelling fits in between literature and cinema storytelling. 2D games possess a little of both, but not necessarily enough of either. Do you feel graphical representation of emotion is stronger than trying to represent the same feelings by adding some non-dialogued words to text boxes? Perhaps the real thing I am trying to determine is whether or not there would be an acceptable way to cop out of doing tons of sub-par sprite edits, without resorting to emoticons.

I'm also open to hear other ideas of tools available to game creators to create more compelling narratives.

Edit: After posting, some people in IRC had talked about specific uses of this style. Feel free to list games that you remember using it, for good effect of for ill.
Oh, I don't know. I've always used emotes like this when I don't use visual emotes. Things like *giggle* and *sigh* as well as "Gah!", "W-What?" and "heeheehee~" help show a little extra emotion that can't be shown most other ways. I mean, sure you could have a character sprite that laughs, but it doesn't come across so well if it's a sarcastic laugh does it? Or just a chuckle.

In RealmS I use these emotes a lot of the time instead of sprite edits, mainly because there's only so much editing you can do to 8-bit sprites to show emotion. If a character is sad and crying then I'd put in a sprite of it, but if they heave a dry sob, what kind of sprite can show that? And if there's more text in the box at the same time? Other emotions? Instead a *sob* works to show that said character has, indeed, sobbed.

Of course, if I can show an emotion via sprite editing I will try to do so. But when I can't or don't feel that it'd be worth it/work well I'll just add a textual emote.

Another thing you have to consider on this subject is that games usually won't be able to use textual emotion the way a book can. A book can straight-out say "At that, Melissa couldn't help but to cry." Most text in games is dialogue and it just sounds dicky to read/say "I'm crying now." or "I'm so angry." all the time.
Sprite editing > emoticons > written emotes > smileys.

Although, if a serious game actually used smileys, I would have to at least give them respect for taking the art of half-assing emotions to its natural conclusion.
Onomatopoeic words are useful. I find it more natural putting in "haha!" rather than *laughs*. I generally stay away from those written emotes, although I am guilty of using them once in awhile. However, it's best to incorporate the feeling or action you want into the text itself-- make the player infer that the character is joking or really angry through tone, don't just state it.
kentona
One of RMN's Top 10 Admins of all-time
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I use things like *cough* *sigh* *gurgle* *Fu fu fu fu* ugh grrr ARGH! and MUA HAHAHAHAHA! all the time! I think they're great. I also sometimes use "accents" in my writing (especially for pirate-types).



When you are trying to get a personality across, and you can't really use facial expressions or other non-verbal cues, you have to resort to spicing up the dialog.
I think these kinds of things are fine provided the source is entirely driven by dialogue. If I have a character named Sasha and I want her to giggle, there's really no way to get that across using RM except to make her say something like "Tee hee!" or "*giggle*". In prose, of course, I'd rather just see the phrase "Sasha giggled."
I know ABL used written emotes to a degree, and as the fanboy I am, I firmly believe that this is a fine way to convey emotions in RM.

However, the last time I made something, I used animated bubbles, but then again, I'm not really satisfied with the writing on anything I have accomplished ever.
I personally try to avoid written emotes that I find just sound stupid, like *giggle*. If I wanted to do giggling or laughing, id either type heehee or haha. Generally when I have the resources I use animations to get things across, and change the way the character is speaking. However if I don't have the resources to do so I will use written emotes.
fufufu > *evil crackling*

It has far more personality and character than writing the action.
i use emotes like *cough* or *hack*. sigh is just..........sigh lol.

i also use grr, argh and pfft in my game.

in my opinion, i think emotes add more feeling to what the character is saying. surely, they cant just say something without them having feeling. i really recommend to all who make games to use those emotes so their characters will have more personality (like someone who says grr alot may make the player think that the character gets mad easily, or something like that).
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
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I have been known to sprinkle this occasionally throughout my writing. I feel that the thing that has kept me from using this heavily is...well, okay, there are three things:

1) For reasons unknown even to me, I have always felt that people SECRETLY DESPISE this and I avoided doing it in fear of drawing their ire. Now clearly that is not the case and I'm not sure quite why I thought that.

2) Consistency. I mean, I feel if one were to use this, they would need to be absolutely consistent in terms of the code for it. I mean, the use of *asterisks* or <angle brackets> or ::double colons::. Whenever I think about adding this kind of verbal emote, I think..."Hmmm, the last time I did this in this game, what kind of bracketing did I use?" and in the time it would take me to find all my uses of emotes, I just rewrite the dialogue to not require one about half the time. So often I use one or two of these a game but not more.

3) A different kind of consistency has kept me from using this for anything that could be conveyed through sprite motion, written dialogue, or sound effects instead.

Most text in games is dialogue and it just sounds dicky to read/say "I'm crying now." or "I'm so angry." all the time.

Ah, but the other character can point this out rather more naturally. "You gonna cry now, little baby?" or .... "Hey, come on, don't cry!" after a pause can convey that the OTHER character is sobbing. An alternative to using *sob* and whatnot. The trick in all writing is to show without telling.
I think this kind of thing is fine, as long as the words used are fairly onomatopoeic. Otherwise it just comes off as rather silly.
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