How to make lots of dialogue feel less overbearing?

Spooks

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I have a lot I want to put out into my game but it's so hard balancing exposition and adventure. I don't want the player to be caught up in 5 minute dialogue scenes every two seconds but it feels like that's the only way to explain all the complex ideas in the story that I have. And I feel even worse about it since I've got no skill in combat programming so it'll just feel like "Oh great, more dialogue then a pointless and uninteresting battle." Any tips on how to reduce medieval talk and make things feel not as boring without throwing in a skip dialogue option?
 

Andar

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you don't have to explain everything.
and there are other ways to give background information than dialogue

for example, you can have your main town include a library, and that library can have events that pretend to be history books. when the player triggers the event he is given the book title and is asked if he wants to read it. if yes the background info is given, if no then the event is aborted.
 

Spooks

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you don't have to explain everything.
and there are other ways to give background information than dialogue

for example, you can have your main town include a library, and that library can have events that pretend to be history books. when the player triggers the event he is given the book title and is asked if he wants to read it. if yes the background info is given, if no then the event is aborted.
I've put all the political/basic world knowledge into books, that just made sense. The problem is when it comes down to hero specific stuff like powers that only he/the person who gave the powers to him would understand.
 

Tamina

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I have a lot I want to put out into my game but it's so hard balancing exposition and adventure. I don't want the player to be caught up in 5 minute dialogue scenes every two seconds but it feels like that's the only way to explain all the complex ideas in the story that I have. And I feel even worse about it since I've got no skill in combat programming so it'll just feel like "Oh great, more dialogue then a pointless and uninteresting battle." Any tips on how to reduce medieval talk and make things feel not as boring without throwing in a skip dialogue option?

You'll have to be more specific about what you want to accomplish, it will be easier to offer a solution for your goal. Maybe it's possible to create an interesting scene to demonstrate hero's power for example.
 

Spooks

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You'll have to be more specific about what you want to accomplish, it will be easier to offer a solution for your goal. Maybe it's possible to create an interesting scene to demonstrate hero's
Sorry. I hit enter on accident. I don't know to program scenes, this is my first game.
 

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You're lore should be revealed in increments throughout the game. Only tell the player what they need to know when they need to know it. Start by giving just enough info to understand the player's place in the world and throughout the game, pepper in bits and pieces of the larger world as they become relevant.

Take the Hunger Games as an example. At the start, all we know is that Catniss is a young, rebellious teen who is stuck in poverty in a far, out the way place that no one cares about. We don't know anything about the Hunger Games, the capitol or the other 12 districts or most of the cast of characters. We start to get hints about these important elements as they become relevant to the story but until then, they're just passively mentioned in conversations as hints of things we haven't seen or experienced yet. As the story progresses, all of these elements come into play one at a time as she's thrust into a much larger and expanding world. That's how you tell a traditionally compelling story.

So all that lore you have for your world is great. You just need to break it up and reveal it while the characters are on their journey.
 

ATT_Turan

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I have a lot I want to put out into my game but it's so hard balancing exposition and adventure. I don't want the player to be caught up in 5 minute dialogue scenes every two seconds but it feels like that's the only way to explain all the complex ideas in the story that I have.
There are a number of points here.
1) As already mentioned to you, you don't have to explain all of your complex ideas. There's a concept in writing, called the Iceberg Theory. The idea is that only a small portion of the "iceberg" that is your world/story concept will actually be above water, visible to your audience. All the rest of it is the foundation that you are using internally to drive the reactions and logic of the world. It is a very common mistake of beginning writers to try to give all of that stuff that they came up with to their audience - but it's unnecessary and what often causes negative reviews.

2) You absolutely should not have 5-minute dialogue scenes. Have you played other JRPGs? I would strongly recommend playing some more games in the genre with an analytical eye, so you're thinking about "Okay, that's how they do this..."
And I feel even worse about it since I've got no skill in combat programming so it'll just feel like "Oh great, more dialogue then a pointless and uninteresting battle."

I don't know to program scenes, this is my first game.
So these two things talk about how you can't do things that are basic to this kind of game (have a combat system and program cutscenes). To that, I would suggest:
1) Make sure this is the kind of game you want to make. Battles are typically what a player spends most of their time doing in a JRPG, which is what RPG Maker is designed to make. Now you absolutely can make a pure story game in the engine, but you should decide whether you want to have combat or not - there's no point in including it if you think it sucks. There are Visual Novel Makers and other programs if you want a purely story-driven game with no combat that will be better at producing that kind of content.

2) Learn how to use the software you've purchased. What's the difference between a novel and a video game? The, y'know, game part. The point of RPG Maker is not to just display a screen for you to pour forth text dialogue, but to make a game that people play. So I'd suggest before you worry about getting into the game you really want to make, you should do tutorials to learn how to event cutscenes, how to install and configure plugins to make your combat more interesting. Make some short games using these techniques that you don't care are good or not. Then, when you have an idea what you're doing, create your dream.

Right now it sounds a little like you're saying "I suck at doing all these things that are integral to creating a game, how do I make the rest suck less?" So learn!

There are many tutorials on YouTube and the forums here if you do some simple searching.




 

coucassi

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In addition to what Frogboys said about feeding those informations to your players bit by bit, I'd suggest said you rarely ever explain things, if they are not essential for gameplay.

Instead you need to add them through conflict. Let people argue about topics like politics and let your players learn these things while the protagonist watches or even participates in those fights.
Let your party discuss how to approach a certain situation, while considering the circumstances of the country they are in ... stuff like that.
Let things happen while adding lore.
 

Milennin

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You'd want to avoid having lengthy dialogues, unless that's going to be your game's selling point. Because a game's meant to be played, not read (visual novels are the only exception).

But basically, you only want to convey information through dialogue that's important to the player at the moment it's being given.
And to make dialogues not suck, I try to follow these guidelines:
-Spell check every dialogue box and make sure your grammar is correct.
-Avoid walls of text. Keep stuff concise and to the point.
-Avoid overusing "big" words. Make text easy to read at a glance.
-Have stuff happen during cutscenes. Sprite movement, animations etc.
-Also, less is more. The more text you use, the more likely players will skip or miss or forget stuff.
 

Spooks

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There are a number of points here.
1) As already mentioned to you, you don't have to explain all of your complex ideas. There's a concept in writing, called the Iceberg Theory. The idea is that only a small portion of the "iceberg" that is your world/story concept will actually be above water, visible to your audience. All the rest of it is the foundation that you are using internally to drive the reactions and logic of the world. It is a very common mistake of beginning writers to try to give all of that stuff that they came up with to their audience - but it's unnecessary and what often causes negative reviews.

2) You absolutely should not have 5-minute dialogue scenes. Have you played other JRPGs? I would strongly recommend playing some more games in the genre with an analytical eye, so you're thinking about "Okay, that's how they do this..."



So these two things talk about how you can't do things that are basic to this kind of game (have a combat system and program cutscenes). To that, I would suggest:
1) Make sure this is the kind of game you want to make. Battles are typically what a player spends most of their time doing in a JRPG, which is what RPG Maker is designed to make. Now you absolutely can make a pure story game in the engine, but you should decide whether you want to have combat or not - there's no point in including it if you think it sucks. There are Visual Novel Makers and other programs if you want a purely story-driven game with no combat that will be better at producing that kind of content.

2) Learn how to use the software you've purchased. What's the difference between a novel and a video game? The, y'know, game part. The point of RPG Maker is not to just display a screen for you to pour forth text dialogue, but to make a game that people play. So I'd suggest before you worry about getting into the game you really want to make, you should do tutorials to learn how to event cutscenes, how to install and configure plugins to make your combat more interesting. Make some short games using these techniques that you don't care are good or not. Then, when you have an idea what you're doing, create your dream.

Right now it sounds a little like you're saying "I suck at doing all these things that are integral to creating a game, how do I make the rest suck less?" So learn!

There are many tutorials on YouTube and the forums here if you do some simple searching.




I come from xenoblade chronicles and final fantasy so yeah I've played other JRPG's but I'm trying to avoid their mistakes.

It's just hard trying to make each class feel individual and interesting to play, especially with transformations being introduced and not knowing what's too strong or weak before play testing. Math never was my specialty after all.

In addition to what Frogboys said about feeding those informations to your players bit by bit, I'd suggest said you rarely ever explain things, if they are not essential for gameplay.

Instead you need to add them through conflict. Let people argue about topics like politics and let your players learn these things while the protagonist watches or even participates in those fights.
Let your party discuss how to approach a certain situation, while considering the circumstances of the country they are in ... stuff like that.
Let things happen while adding lore.
I want to but this is a small time project. I know it won't get any attention so I don't want to pour more months into story only for it to be cast aside because of the other things I failed at.

You'd want to avoid having lengthy dialogues, unless that's going to be your game's selling point. Because a game's meant to be played, not read (visual novels are the only exception).

But basically, you only want to convey information through dialogue that's important to the player at the moment it's being given.
And to make dialogues not suck, I try to follow these guidelines:
-Spell check every dialogue box and make sure your grammar is correct.
-Avoid walls of text. Keep stuff concise and to the point.
-Avoid overusing "big" words. Make text easy to read at a glance.
-Have stuff happen during cutscenes. Sprite movement, animations etc.
-Also, less is more. The more text you use, the more likely players will skip or miss or forget stuff.
That's my struggle. Medieval dialogue is almost exclusively big words so making it smaller is almost impossible.

As for slowly feeding the player information, it's hard when you need one thing to explain another thing and that also needs more explaining and it becomes an entire book by the time you're done. Sprinkling it out just seems like it'd be frustrating to the player as you never have a full grasp on the situation.
 
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As with stage and screen, "blocking" (movement-related) and image generation can help keep immersion during a long dialogue.

Also, try to stay aware of what the characters want at any given point during the conversation, so that the writing flows naturally instead of being forced exposition.
 

coucassi

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I don't want to pour more months into story only for it to be cast aside because of the other things I failed at.
Surely there is something you want to put effort in though?
To say that you don't want to improve an aspect of your game, because other aspects are also bad ... if you think like this you won't improve anything in the end.

What do you want to put effort in if it's neither the story nor the gameplay?

If most of these suggestions won't work for you, you should consider changing either the games length to make all your lore fit in our just cutting the lore. I assume most players won't be happy if they need more time getting familiar with your world than they actually spend there.
 

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I agree with people much everything that's been said. I also don't know if I can speak much given how absurdly verbose I am with all of my text and dialogue. :guffaw: In addition to everyone else, I'll just say that if you do include a bunch of text, make it interesting and fun to read. Yes players will have an issue with long long paragraphs of text, but they will be much more okay with it if the dialogue/text is fun/interesting/witty/etc.

If you just read sentence of a black textbox telling you in plain boring text how to do something it will get boring fast and people will lose interest. Compare that to the same text but it's between characters engaged in witty banter. It's the exact same point getting across, and the latter can even be longer, and most likely people will accept it more because it's more engaging than just a faceless box.
 

Spooks

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Surely there is something you want to put effort in though?
To say that you don't want to improve an aspect of your game, because other aspects are also bad ... if you think like this you won't improve anything in the end.

What do you want to put effort in if it's neither the story nor the gameplay?

If most of these suggestions won't work for you, you should consider changing either the games length to make all your lore fit in our just cutting the lore. I assume most players won't be happy if they need more time getting familiar with your world than they actually spend there.
I think like that but I don't act like that. I'll always continue to put effort into it because I think I really have something here which is typical of a lot of creators.

My main goal is to have the gameplay compliment the story without it over relying on it, much like the older Final Fantasy games. I want people to be able to experience both a rich story and the ability to just have someone point in a direction and say go. But to do that I need to learn how to make genuinely proper combat systems that aren't just the same old same old.

I can see the end goal, there are just so many blank spots that I have yet to figure out how to fill in by myself.

I agree with people much everything that's been said. I also don't know if I can speak much given how absurdly verbose I am with all of my text and dialogue. :guffaw: In addition to everyone else, I'll just say that if you do include a bunch of text, make it interesting and fun to read. Yes players will have an issue with long long paragraphs of text, but they will be much more okay with it if the dialogue/text is fun/interesting/witty/etc.

If you just read sentence of a black textbox telling you in plain boring text how to do something it will get boring fast and people will lose interest. Compare that to the same text but it's between characters engaged in witty banter. It's the exact same point getting across, and the latter can even be longer, and most likely people will accept it more because it's more engaging than just a faceless box.
That's what I tend to aim for, I want the dialogue to come in and be exciting for the player rather than a burden. It's just hard as a first time game designer to balance what I want, what I think others will want, and what I can actually manage to do.

I'm just looking for the right push in direction when it comes to expanding the story in some places and making it smaller in others, then translating that to gameplay.
 

ATT_Turan

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It's just hard trying to make each class feel individual and interesting to play, especially with transformations being introduced and not knowing what's too strong or weak before play testing. Math never was my specialty after all.
I presume this is talking about interesting combat, not story-telling. You don't have to have math as a specialty - on the top bar of RPG Maker is a Playtest button. Inside each troop of enemies you make is a Battle Test button. There's no reason to know everything perfectly before playtesting.

If you Google it, there are Web calculators to show you how much damage this attack does with this damage calculation, to help you refine stats without even playing out test battles.
That's my struggle. Medieval dialogue is almost exclusively big words so making it smaller is almost impossible.
Why do you think that? If you're looking at scholarly text from Christian scribes, you'll get a lot of baroque, ornate sentences, but the way they talk to each other as people wouldn't be innately more complex than how we speak.
As for slowly feeding the player information, it's hard when you need one thing to explain another thing and that also needs more explaining and it becomes an entire book by the time you're done. Sprinkling it out just seems like it'd be frustrating to the player as you never have a full grasp on the situation.
It's an extremely common writing technique to sprinkle in terminology or references to people and places that, in fact, do not get explicitly defined until later (or, sometimes, ever - your understanding of them as a reader is entirely from context). Again, my best advice is to read some things and play some games and pay attention to how this is presented to you.

Some books, off the top of my head, that do this include Mistborn, Furies of Calderon, and The Library at Mount Char.
I might suggest you try Deryni Rising - it throws terms into context without beleaguering you with excessive definition, and it has a historically medieval context, so you can get an idea of dialogue that absolutely does not rely on big words.
I can see the end goal, there are just so many blank spots that I have yet to figure out how to fill in by myself...It's just hard as a first time game designer to balance what I want, what I think others will want, and what I can actually manage to do.
As I said before...if you want to produce something resembling your goal, you must accept that you need to learn, first. Learn how to use RPG Maker. Choose a combat system you like from another game and learn how to recreate it. Read books and game dialogue and think about how the writer is presenting information.
I'm just looking for the right push in direction when it comes to expanding the story in some places and making it smaller in others, then translating that to gameplay.
I think you've been given many pushes. But go back through this thread and look at how many times you're given a suggestion is "But..." or "I can't..."

I maintain that something as specific as scenes of dialogue are way farther along in the process than you should be worrying about right now. You will benefit from learning how to use RPG Maker, make an outline of your story, break that into the chunks that will have different maps/dungeons/areas, continue working your way down until you finally get to dialogue.
 

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In essence of drip-feeding lore, use of things such as notes, newspaper prints or otherwise can add to the world without making the player bogged down. There are other ways to include lore contexts too, such as if the main character were an elf, when entering shops a shop-keep or patron may have a variable chance to comment on them being an elf, such as "Don't go casting spells here." or "Don't get sticky fingers." or positive things too. It makes the lore feel more natural to have NPCs react to things around them.
 

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I might suggest you try Deryni Rising - it throws terms into context without beleaguering you with excessive definition, and it has a historically medieval context, so you can get an idea of dialogue that absolutely does not rely on big words.
I should have prefaced the problem by mentioning the fact that I need to make a character feel a lot more grandeur without them being seen. That's the way I need him to be written to fit his part. I'm taking inspiration from novels that depict gods and that's usually how they're written.
I think you've been given many pushes. But go back through this thread and look at how many times you're given a suggestion is "But..." or "I can't..."

I maintain that something as specific as scenes of dialogue are way farther along in the process than you should be worrying about right now. You will benefit from learning how to use RPG Maker, make an outline of your story, break that into the chunks that will have different maps/dungeons/areas, continue working your way down until you finally get to dialogue.
To explain what I do and don't know how to do I have to use words like "But..." or "I can't..." because that's the only way you'll know what advice to give me. I'm not blind to the fact, why would I come here if not for help.

I understand your reasoning behind the idea of working on some aspects sooner but I'm better at writing a beginning and end, then filling in each step of the way there. That's just how I was taught so it's all I know. I think this has given me enough ideas on how to progress forwards without having to commission someone to help me, and that's all I needed. Thank you for your time.
 

ATT_Turan

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To explain what I do and don't know how to do I have to use words like "But..." or "I can't..." because that's the only way you'll know what advice to give me.
Not really. Your first post said you don't have the skills to make an interesting combat system, so you wanted help to compensate; it would make sense to ask for help in the areas where you know you're deficient, then act on that.
I'm better at writing a beginning and end, then filling in each step of the way there.
...that's exactly what I suggested you do...

Good luck with your game.
 

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Show, don't tell. You don't need to abide by that rule 100% of the time but it can craft a wonderful setting when you display the impact of some event rather than making it a piece of dialogue.
 

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It seems impossible for me.
 

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