Dialogue and Portraits preferences

megumi014

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Hi! While designing my game I encountered a couple of questions regarding dialogues and portraits that I thought could be generally discussed. I'd like to hear if anyone has a preference towards any of them and, if they are inclined to do so, say why they prefer one over the other, since I'm kind of torn between them.

Dialogues and choices:

When the player gets the chance to choose some dialogue options, do you prefer to have the text displayed, or only a pointer/action? (like in Mass Effect)

For example, you knock on a door and someone ask "Who's there?":

1. -[Say your name]
-[Remain silent]
-[Tell a knock knock joke]

2. -"My name is Inigo Montoya"
-"..."
-"Lettuce"

I feel like the first one gives a bit more of a "surprise" factor when the player reads the text that comes out of their [action], but as a downside it makes the character a bit more impersonal.

The second one could be a bit more interesting if you don't include the whole text line, but then the character would have to say the line and the player would have to read it twice. If the text line was complete on the choice box you could omit the character saying it, but there isn't really much of a surprise on the dialogue. The benefit of this option is that the character has more of an inner voice.



Portraits and perspectives:

For a game that is story-driven or with many cutscenes, what style do you prefer?

1. Main character has a bust and it's on the left of the screen for cutscenes, the other character/s on the right side, usually both drawn in three-quarter view. More dynamic conversations but you are constricted to the number of facial bust expressions you have.

2. Main character is invisible in a "first person view" and the other characters are drawn in busts facing you in a front view perspective. You can't see the main character but you can interpret their feelings thorugh text and maybe some effects like small screen shaking or sound effects. It's harder to make 2 non-MC interact with each other with a front view bust.

3. Same as 2nd option but the MC has a small portrait on the left or the right like in the default rpg maker engine (not necessarily that style). It helps to visualize the main character but you still have the handicap of the limited number of expressions of the character + the interaction of the secondary characters interactions.

It doesn't necessarily has to be one of the 3 options (for example making cutscenes Tales of series style with square protraits instead of full drawn busts), but those are the mains one I could come up with.
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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For the choices, I'd go with #1. It just feels better for me.

For the busts, as a player I like #1 especially if the busts show emotion as it enhances the whole experience.. As a developer though, I cant do that right now because I can't draw my own busts and I dont have money to pay for customized busts for my free projects.
 

Lilly

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I like #1 also. Mostly cause I like drawing.
Playing games while seeing the main character's emotion builds excitement for me, when they're feeling sad I might feel the same...
Speaking of art, I'm doing a trade with somebody and they seem to really like my art, I don't really care for money in terms of just helping people.
Art Stuff
My Project
 

Henryetha

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As for dialogue choices, as a player I'd clearly prefer #1, tho I havent used #1 in my games (this is rather, because I haven't thought about that, but might definitely be something, I'd use in the future).

And about busts..
I used option 3.
Usually the facesets give enough expressions, and if not, I try to think of alternatives, using events / visual effects, not always with the typical dialogue window.
I like to include the faces tho, as my game has 2 protagonists, and I prefer that the player sees on first sight, who is talking.
Sure I could just add a name box, but it would just add more to read for the player. I like trying to make my game as interactive as possible.
Also different to your example: I'd still use the busts of the NPCs rather on the right side, to keep the view open on the characters, in case, I'd use visual effects.
 

Ebanyle

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I actually like to stick with both options in the choices. I don't have a problem with the "impersonal" thing because my character is already very personal. Usually I will use the first one for actions and the second for dialogue though.
 

Milennin

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For choices, I'm okay with either. The second option is nice for better dialogue flow, though.

For dialogue, I prefer 3. Busts only really belong in visual novels, in my opinion. In RPG's, they obstruct the map and get in the way of cutscenes. Also, bad/mediocre art hurts busts far more than a dialogue portrait does.
 

miani

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Dialogues and choices:
I prefer the first option, it gives more space for the character own personality, you're just driving he/she.

Portraits and perspectives:
If you're talking about a RPG the 1 option is better, because the player can still see the game map with the characters and understand who is talking. For cutscenes I think you have more freedom, I like Phantasy Star 4 cutscenes, but they demand a lot of original arts.
 

Kes

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I'm with @Milennin on busts. I've played a number of games that used them, and the amount of map they covered seemed ridiculous to me, as well as obscuring what was meant to be happening in cut scenes. I suppose they're okay with cut scenes that are most static sprites talking at each other - but that's got obvious problems as well!
 

Aesica

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For dialog:
- "My name is Inigo Montoya"
- "..."
- "Lettuce"
Although the first one is fine, too. I guess I just prefer the second one because it flows better and lets the player feel like they have more choice in what the characters will say.

For portraits, it depends. I'm actually not a huge fan of busts unless everyone is going to have one. I say this because otherwise, it becomes blatantly apparent when talking to people who your next party member or other major character is going to be vs who is just there to say "Welcome to Buttshire, where we like them big and we cannot lie. I'm the town greeter and since I lack a bust or portrait, I have no other use in this world. Please kill me."

That said, in a past game, I used busts for nearly everyone because you only ever encountered major characters. When other characters were talking to each other, the first of those characters to speak would get the left side--otherwise, I think it went to the main character. I can't recall if the main character ever took the right side in any dialog, but I don't think she did.

Making busts for the above-mentioned game was hard work that I actually kind of hated doing, and I don't think they even looked all that great in the end (because again, not an artist). Thus, in my current game, I just use the basic in-house portrait system because it's really good enough. Thanks to the Character Generator tool, I can give everyone a portrait with minimal effort.

I almost feel like "Only Main Characters Get Portraits/Busts" should be a trope of some kind.
 

D.L. Yomegami

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For the choices, I veer towards the second option since that provides some additional characterization for the player character. However, I don't really have a strong opinion on it one way or the other. Ultimately, I think it depends on what you're aiming for with the player character; the first option would probably be better suited for self-inserts for the player while the latter's better suited for actual characters.

As far as busts/portraits go, if I was just limited to the three options I'd go with option 3, as that doesn't obscure the screen and isn't as blatant about who is/isn't a major character, as has been previously mentioned. However, if I were to use busts I'd opt to reserve them for major cutscenes where everyone involved has one, and just use normal dialogue boxes for everything else. You still get the advantages of busts, without making it too obvious who is and isn't a major character outside of major cutscenes.

However, I can't art for beans, so I'm probably not going to make much use of busts unless I'm using a resource pack that includes them.
 
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As a player, I feel like the first dialogue variant is clearer. I would never have figured out what "Lettuce" was supposed to be a lead-in to....

You don't have to stick to purely one or the other type of response. For example, you could have the first two options, but then "[tell a knock knock joke]" as a third.

Some of it depends on whether the MC is supposed to be the player insert, or their own independent character. It can make for a more interesting game if the MC talks back to you a little! At the same time, it makes more sense to write the dialogue choices as vague descriptions.

If you do offer the lines themselves as the choices, show the whole line, and then don't print it again after it's selected. The player will remember what they just said.


re: busts... in an engine like RenPy, showing the characters you're talking to and their body language is a necessity. In RPG Maker, it mostly seems to get in the way. The occasional illustrated image of the characters in a location can be fun, but if it's every dialogue it loses its novelty quickly. Using facesets with a wide range of expressions for each character is plenty for the viewer.
 

CountofArath

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It depends on how much of the character is me. My gut leads me to the second options as I like to know what the character is going to say. The third choice for either option doesn't really suit me as the former doesn't tell me what exactly I'm going to say and the latter doesn't have enough context. I'm also a humourless git some that might explain my issue in part :)
 

HexMozart88

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Choices: I don't normally play a lot of games with choices in them, but perhaps more like the former, because it's easier to tell exactly what I'm going to be doing.
Portraits: I'm not big on faces and the front-facing portraits can get kind of creepy, especially in anime games where their huge eyes are staring into your soul. I'd usually go with the first one as long as they aren't overly massive. Enough to show expression and body language, but I don't need to see 90% of them to get that across.
 

TheoAllen

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Choices:
If it means for the silent protagonist, I prefer the clear text.
If it means for the otherwise, I prefer a bit surprise.

Portrait:
For every single dialogue? Nah, but an occasional moment of a bust portrait is fine. Like during the introduction or important scenes.
 

Eurgh

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I use a mix of both of the dialogue types. It helps set out along the lines of what the character will say. Cus you don't want a Mass Effect problem of selecting [Tell the Truth] and your character says "Yes, I admit it. I was the one who stole the cookie.... NOW I MUST KILL YOU AND EVERY ONE OF MY COMPANIONS."
 

Tai_MT

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Choices
I'm probably in the minority on this... But, I prefer to have a brief description of what my choice actually is. Namely, If the game is going to give me vague options like, "tell a knock knock joke", I want to have the example of that with the choice. I find that the "surprise" presented is often... Not really good. I've played several games where I'd selected something... only to have my character take it in a completely different way or express a sentiment I didn't want to express.

Given the option, I prefer a brief description of what I'm telling my character to do.

Something like:
[Tell My Name]
This person is likely to recognize your name.
[Remain Silent]
Arouses some suspicion.
[Tell a Knock Knock Joke]
"Interrupting Cow..."

Portraits and Perspectives
What I personally enjoyed about RPG Maker 2000 was the ability to place the portraits anywhere. I prefer a simple face box and the text next to it. For the one initiating the conversation, I usually slap their image on the left. The person who is responding is on the right hand side. This gives the subtle impression of a conversation actually taking place, with two people looking at each other and talking (since one cannot read the text AND watch a cutscene at the same time. At least... not in an RPG maker game where the text boxes are a bit intrusive and demand 100% of your attention). In general, I don't like "large busts" in an RPG game as they take up too much real estate for a cutscene. Likewise, they deliver the feel of a "Visual Novel" and not a... well... actual game.

Personally, I prefer all the "interacting" take place with the sprites and any effects you have... and the busts be minimalistic with their text boxes to show what's going.

Sometimes, I prefer to also have the busts show emotion... But... in games like Stardew Valley where they can show this, I find that I don't really care what their face says as I'm only reading the text and then hitting "enter" once I'm done. I tend to use the "balloons" above their heads as better indicators of how they might be feeling. It's weird and anime-esque… But, for gameplay purposes, it does a pretty good job.
 

mathmaster74

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I think both dialogue options should be used as appropriate. Example: [Be long-winded] is better than writing out dribble no one has time for, but giving an exact quote places the player straight into the conversation, so my tendency is to prefer that. Also, "..." isn't as good as [give them a dirty look] or [stare blankly at them] or even [remain silent] since those better convey what the "..." means. In other words, I'd say use quotes for appropriate length speech options, and action choices when being speechless (e.g. using body language as a response) or overly wordy. The one other good use for action options in dialogue is when you don't reveal exactly what is to be said, but you do let the player know how it will be delivered and received. Example: The Bard's Tale used [Snarky] as a frequent response type. It was always fun to find out what the comment would be, and you knew given the situation leading up to that just how bad (and/or funny) things could get with said "mystery" option.

With regard to the bust options, I prefer not to have a bust for the main player character because having one makes the dialogue more about the character than the player trying to role-play said character. I think busts should be talking to the player as though they are the character. I guess that means I'm in the bust option #2 camp. It also allows 2 busts to talk to each other as the player "listens in", or conversations between the player with 2 other characters simultaneously without constant bust swapping. Nightmares! :o I do like the idea of still using a main character face (in message box) for conveying thoughts and reactions the main character is having to the player as asides, which aligns a bit with option #3 as well. The ultimate decision for me, though, is in the story-telling. If it adds something, I put it in. If it detracts or distracts, I take it out. Example: I'm making an otome dating sim RPG. I made it with default chibis and the game was cute and colorful and I really liked it because to me it was more kid-friendly and the characters were...well...characters! Other people said, "Where are the hunky busts to drool over?" Now I've found the best "hunky busts" I can figure out how to use, added them, and even replaced the chibi sprites and anime faces with sprites and faces that match style with the busts. Does it add something for me? Not really. Do other people like it better this way? That remains to be seen. I'm guessing they will like it better though, since dating sims are visual novel slants favoring the busts. It's my work, but it's not about me. At the end of the day, I have to give the players what they want. Um...yeah...end of example with tangent. Lol! :blush:
 

Kes

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I don't know how this one many not to catch my eye before now.
Portraits and busts are not a mechanic as such.

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