What is your preference when playing an RPG when it comes to dialogue choices - tick all that apply!


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Iron_Brew

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Knight Shift has a ton of dialogue options in lieu of having the main character say anything outside the player's control, but this got me to thinking: Is this something people actually like?

1659398055213.png

For example, a lot of games will have the "Player Character" say lines to define a character for them, but then give the player choices at key moments. A lot of games have no choices whatsoever and have you play a predetermined narrative. I guess I wanted to ask the question:
  • What is your preference when playing an RPG when it comes to dialogue choices
An additional consideration is how important do you want those choices to be - do you want the whole plot to change or diverge depending on what you've said, visual novel style - or do you want it to be pure character flavour, or party relationship affecting.

I've done a "choose all that apply" poll style so that people can combine their thoughts, for example you might want to have a fully vocal character, but to be able to choose "funny" options without affecting the plot, so a limited scope dialogue system works for you but also have those options affect how the party feels about each other.

Either way, it's an interesting topic, I reckon - so let's get to discussin'!
 
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I actually really like reading what the choices say, regardless of significance! The way BotW does it with characterizing Link is my favorite in particular.

Although, regarding choices that change the game in a significant way, like to get a different ending or something...I see this more often in visual novels than RPGs. But then again, that's just based on my perspective and what I've personally played or seen.

Although um...looking at the poll, can there be a "no preference" one? It's a little more close to how I feel; I don't have a particular preference with this, as I feel it depends on the game and the dev's intentions.
 

ATT_Turan

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I'm not a fan of the classic JRPG silent protagonist - often the rest of the script suffers somewhat from having to talk around your character. Plus, it makes it less immersive as an RPG.

That being said, choices should only be there if they actually do something. If they don't change anything, or only change, like, one line of dialogue, then again that's not increasing any sense of this character is representing me.

So my minimum preference is to have a protagonist with an actual personality who speaks. But my full preference is Bioware style, where they speak and then choices that you make have actual effects on the rest of the conversation, outcome of the quest, how other characters perceive and react to you.
 

Iron_Brew

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I actually really like reading what the choices say, regardless of significance! The way BotW does it with characterizing Link is my favorite in particular.

Although, regarding choices that change the game in a significant way, like to get a different ending or something...I see this more often in visual novels than RPGs. But then again, that's just based on my perspective and what I've personally played or seen.

Although um...looking at the poll, can there be a "no preference" one? It's a little more close to how I feel; I don't have a particular preference with this, as I feel it depends on the game and the dev's intentions.
This is a great point; I try to usually have 4 or so dialogue options any time I give options to ensure that players can play the character they want the player character to be. That's kind of the way I handle "player character dialogue", by giving characterised dialogue during the choices.
 

SoftCloud

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My view on it changes depending on the type of game or situation. Certain events warrant dynamic changes in the game world or between characters, but having flavor choices can be nice too. I see the merit in having a silent protagonist for the player to inhabit as well as a protagonist with a defined persona. I would sit in the "no preference" camp since I enjoy a variety of these options.
 

HexMozart88

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The "But Thou Must" thing is so annoying. If you're going to disable one option, straight up only put one option. Don't give me the illusion of choice. I like when your choices can dramatically change the course of dialogue, but at the same time, I know that's tough to do. VNs can be very stressful for me as well because I don't know if a choice I'm making is going to land me in a bad ending, which brings me to my next point: do not make it where one single choice is the pivotal one that decides between a good or bad ending. Just don't. And if you have choices that determine the ending of the game, make it clear in the word choice that this is not a favourable option. Like, if the choice is to be nice or to be mean, you have to make sure it's coming across which one is the mean one.
 
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I do remember when I played FE Three Houses and saw how the choices you make during a cutscene can either have you gain support with the unit involved or lose it. It made me feel sooooo awkward; it was very similar to how I tend to feel when interacting with people irl, that nagging sorta feeling where it's like they're judging me internally for expressing myself, y'know

What made it worse was that you basically gained supports by saying what they wanted to hear, more often than not...so uh, I'm good as long as in-game it doesn't mimic TOO closely what it's like to socialize XD
 

Cymaiden

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I'm strongly in favor of pre-defined characters with a set personality to speak of, but Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne sold me on the idea of dialogue options that meaningfully change the course of the story, so I like the idea of an RPG having both of those things.
 

eomereolsson

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I want to bring up another point which is kind of an extension of the "but thou must". The screenshot in the OP reminds me of this. I call it the "technically you got a choice" and it is like this:
NPC: Do you want to accept this quest? Yes/No
Yes, even if it is a truly optional sidequest and I actually get the choice wether I do it or not, it kind of feels like the NPC is asking:
NPC: Do you want to experience the gameplay/story for which you decided to install this game and start it and gain the ingame rewards like XP and loot associated with it or ... just not?
In a similar vein are obvious pivotal singular "pick option a for good end, option b for bad end choices". Maybe I will safe to see both ends, but take a wild guess which choice I will make if I didn't safe beforehand.

Instead give me options in how to complete a quest. The actual consequences don't need to be much. Just some different dialogue would be enough for me (because I do know that it is practically impossible to have every little quest meaningfully afffect the entire game's story).

Give me story choices in the vein of "you want both these things, but because of [constraint] you can only pick one".
 

Milennin

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I want my character to be silent, save for the choices I make
If there's going to be choices, at least make them somewhat impactful, because having just NPC's react to the choice I pick isn't that entertaining to me. I find games with silent protagonists work better in choices I make regarding to gameplay (such as which Pokémon I choose to bring in my party, in a Pokémon game), rather than text box choices.

I want my character to be defined and speak, but also to make choices
This is totally fine, as long as the choices are within what the character would realistically do. Otherwise, it's weird seeing a character saying or doing something I couldn't see them normally doing but are only doing because the option I picked made them do it.

Choices don't interest me, give me the story you want to tell
Perfectly fine in a story that knows exactly where it wants to go. But I guess kind of bland in a game without a strong story.

I want my choices to meaningfully change the narrative of the game
Unless the game is advertised as such, I don't expect choices to make that much of a difference because of the effort required to make that happen. But it's nice when they do. I find it's better to undersell the impact of your choices than to oversell it. Don't tell players to expect choices to make meaningful differences, when they really don't in the eyes of the average player.

I want my choices to be purely flavour which affects only the scope of the immediate dialogue
Works for me, if the dialogues and choices are at least entertaining or interesting. It gets me more involved in the dialogues if I have some direction in where they're going, even if it's nothing more than a change in the immediate dialogue. I only have issues with this if the choices are made to appear more important than they really are.

I want my choices to affect relationships between party characters
Since the party, in most RPG's, is always travelling and fighting together, I expect everyone to be on relatively friendly terms anyway. I don't really see much use for this, outside of some dating sim? Probably kind of indifferent to this.
 

Iron_Brew

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I want to bring up another point which is kind of an extension of the "but thou must". The screenshot in the OP reminds me of this. I call it the "technically you got a choice" and it is like this:

Yes, even if it is a truly optional sidequest and I actually get the choice wether I do it or not, it kind of feels like the NPC is asking:
To be completely clear, you are right about the choice in the OP, this choice is absolutely railroaded by the party as it's on the main story path and is purely cosmetic/for flavour/to affect one variable very slightly.

If you choose to say "no thanks I don't want to do that", you get this dialogue which gives you a bit of a reminder of your main goal, is faintly humorous, and it adjusts Denzel's opinion of you accordingly:

1659441205345.png

I guess what I'm pointing out with this is that there's ways around "BUT THOU MUST" dialogue options if you do want to offer a purely cosmetic choice without frustrating the player.

You can use it to create tension in the party if the consensus is that you need to do a thing, you can use it for humour, or exposition, you can use it for all sorts, but it's important to note that the player made the choice and have the game react accordingly.

If a choice does nothing, I totally agree, just don't have the choice :D
 

NamEtag

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I don't want to replay the same content just to pick a different dialogue option.

So if it's going to change the narrative or go down a different route, it better not do it 4 hours after the choice itself.
 

smallgamedev

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My 2 cents:

- If theres a set story direction, just stick to that direction. FF14, for example, has a lot of nonsense do nothing choices and its pretty clear that they have a specific type of person in mind for their MC, which makes cutscenes feel a bit frustrating for an RPG as you don't really have the opportunity to express your character as you intend. Don't like a specific character thats asking you for help? Well, you can complain about them, or reply snarkily, but you'll be forced into doing what they want anyways, even if the choices give you the false impression otherwise.

- Dialogue choices should be meaningful in some way when given. My general expectation is that if you're going to give me dialogue choices, those choices should matter. Fallout New Vegas is an example of what I mean - the **** you say to other characters matters. If I say "**** you, I'm not doing that", the game isn't going to make me do it anyway, its going to have that npc start shooting at me for being an ******* to them.

- "Flavour-only" choices are tolerable in small doses and if their meaninglessness is made clear. Even a Deltarune, a game which has an entire theme of "your choices don't matter" uses joke choices super sparingly and still gives you meaningful dialogue choices that change the games events.

- If you're going to ask the player "Do you want to do X, yes or no?" and the answer can only be yes or only be no, why even bother asking them? What is the point of giving them input if there isn't actually any input that matters?

Ultimately if the game is just constantly overriding player agency without that even being a theme it just gets really grating. Yes, very funny, I said no and you made me do it anyway for the 20th time. Thank you game, very cool.
 

TheoAllen

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- "Flavour-only" choices are tolerable in small doses and if their meaninglessness is made clear. Even a Deltarune, a game which has an entire theme of "your choices don't matter" uses joke choices super sparingly and still gives you meaningful dialogue choices that change the games events.
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----------
To answer the OP's question

Can I make my own character?
Y: More dialogue choice is preferred.
N: Less dialogue choice is preferred.

I care about dialogue choices when I could make my own character because I usually have personality in mind about them. When it isn't my custom character, I don't care about choices (i.e, no preference).
 

twosnakes

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Dialogue is turning out the be the hardest part of my project. Having a concise and standardized framework across all dialogue with NPCs is key.
Ideally I'd like to have strong player agency and impactful choices... but as an indie developer working with with what little free time I have has made me go back to the drawing board.

A simple side quest with 2 or 3 branching dialogue choices is alot of work. The choices have to make sense and they have to reward or punish the player in a fair or at least predictable way.

I spent a whole day making a detailed side quest with long impactful choices. I'm not convinced it was worth the effort. Spending hours working on "potenial content" that some players won't will never experience left a sour taste in my mouth lol.
 

eomereolsson

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Spending hours working on "potenial content" that some players won't will never experience left a sour taste in my mouth lol
I had that taste in my mouth for a long while as well. Not only with gamedev, but also when dming in TTRPGs.
However I realized the only way to ensure the players won't miss any content is to take any agency from them. And then I realized that the resulting game would be one I personally do not enjoy.
In the definition of Mark Rosewater (the head designer of Magic the Gathering) the ability to make meaningfull choices even is one of the core characteristics that make a game ... well a game at all.

And another point is said specifically for gamedev: Sure, no one particular player will see all the content you created. But for any piece of content you design at least some of your players will experience it.
 

RianQuenlin

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Tai_MT

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Eh, my two cents:

Every game I've ever played with "choices" has just taught me that... nobody who designs games thinks like I do. Because, most often than not, my character's choices would've solved the problem at "Step One" and no choice would've need to be made.

As such, I loathe games that engage in "the player decides who the character is and then needs to make choices based on that". It's utterly silly in most cases. Game limitations often do not let anyone with even 2/3rds of a brain even humor this type of design. Even in Tabletops.

Well, unless your DM is a master at improv... and most aren't. Heck, from what I've even watched of Matt Mercer, that dude is not that great at improv either.

So, from my perspective, offering choices as if it's the PLAYER making choices and TREATING THE GAME like it's the PLAYER who gets to decide... tends to feel quite hollow. It is what directly leads into the "But thou must!" nonsense.

I, personally, prefer games that allow me to make choices within the boundry of the characters I'm playing as. Probably why I've enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV and it's "pseudo-choices" so much. I am playing within the bounds of "The Warrior of Light" and all the backstory and personality that entails. I am not playing as "an extension of myself". I am playing as an already established character with its own identity and personality and the choices are limited to who that character is within the confines of the story. Which is part of why those choices can "feel powerful". Because if you've been in the head of that character for a while (months or years), then the choices you are allowed to make now mirror your own. Because, believe me... if FFXIV let me make my own choices... Tataru would've gone missing 4 expansions ago and never returned as I sold her into slavery... or punctured her vitals under a bridge somewhere. There is a stark difference between what a player would do and what the character of "The Warrior of Light" would do.

So, when a game presents me with a choice, it needs to DO SOMETHING.

I am not a fan of games that "pretend" to do things with their choices. The "but thou must!" nonsense. If the choice holds no purpose or meaning, then it is worthless to offer it.

The choice doesn't even have to change the gameplay or the story. But, it should do SOMETHING. If you look at the Tell-Tale games... this is the classic example of "Your choices do absolutely nothing". It is the entire reason I resent games trying to make me THINK a choice matters when it doesn't... and the choice serves no purpose to the storyline or even the characters involved.

So, I want choices to matter. I want them to affect the story being told. Either directly or indirectly. If that affect is nothing more than making me connect to the character I'm playing as better... then it's a good choice and I approve.

The options of "your companions will like you better if you make that choice" also ring hollow to me. They feel very meta... probably because when you make choices like that, I've got a guide over to the side and looking up which ones are "the right ones" to make. The Dragon Age series is ridiculously bad with this problem. Do I want my companions in the game to hate me and turn on me? Maybe. But, if I do want them to do so, then why is recruiting them ever forced on me to begin with? Why couldn't I have made the choice the moment they appeared to stab them in the face rather than have to anger them to get them to turn against me so I could stab them in the face and get rid of them? It's all so... silly. Very meta. Very dumb.

The choices should matter. In cases like "it affects your relationship", the choice really doesn't matter. Because, if I want a specific outcome, I'll have a guide. Most players are going to want specific outcomes for their relationships, so almost all of them are going to be using guides. Why? Because it doesn't matter what YOU want to say to the characters... it only matters WHAT SORT OF PERSON THEY DEMAND YOU BE for them to like you. No middle ground for realism here. Which... is dumb in my opinion.

So, I prefer choices that affect the story to some degree. Ones that affect my perception of the story, ones that affect my investment, ones that maybe even change key points of the story as well.

If you're going to give me the agency to make a choice, then it should do something.

It's the same concept as Tabletops:

Don't have your players roll the dice if it won't affect the outcome.
 

kirbwarrior

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I do think a poll is an example of dialogue options, yes.

If the game is going to give me a choice, I want the choice to mean something and I want the consequences to be as obvious as they can be. If the choice is a lore one to help give voice to my character, then the choices do have to have character to them for that to work. And that only really works when the protagonist is someone you are shaping instead of one that the story is telling you about.

If the choices affect relationship, then any indication of that is welcome (Final Fantasy 7 is nonsense about this, Fire Emblem Three Houses is great). If the choice has an actual game mechanical effect to it, there should be some weight to it, some clear indication that this choice does matter. For instance, I've been playing Starcraft 2 and the choices literally determine which battle you will do and what rewards you will get, but it's also the characters giving you a situation where you have to pick one or the other because these are the two choices the protagonist would pick from.

Any "But Thou Must!" just isn't really worth it unless there's a real story moment there; I played a game that had it and the character went from "serene and peaceful" to "There's a 5% chance they are the real villain" in what they said when I selected "No". It wasn't the game giving me a false choice, it was the character. And, of course, illusion of choice is generally pretty terrible.
 

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