Idea - a game without text

Naridar

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Hi everyone! I've been thinking recently about how a game, or any story can feel primal and slightly different to each individual, like a grand origin tale. And I've arrived upon an idea: what if the game contained no dialogue at all? Everything in the plot happened through action, almost every standard gameplay element of an RPG displayed via pictograms (maybe except for numbers), and the only text in the game was a verse for each of the five playable characters that's in cryptic, nonsensical symbols at the beginning, and serves as level progression: as the characters turn into regular letters writing out a significant, yet cryptic description about that character's place in the world's lore, the character grows stronger. The only lines in the game would be spoken by the setting's deity, everything else is played out with gestures and movement.

Would you give a chance to a game like this or would the unorthodox idea throw you off? Any pitfalls you foresee one had to avoid when making the game?
 
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fish

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Not too sure about doing this in an RPG, but there're certainly games out there that contain zero dialogue. You'll need extensive animations to pull this off, and you have to be sure that the player can understand the meaning suggested by the gestures. 

Since you said there'll be no text at all aside from those spoken by deity, you'd have to make sure that the player knows what he/she is supposed to do next.

To compensate for that, the game might need to be made into a linear experience to ensure the player knows what to do next.

I think this is an idea that can work in a more action-oriented game (or any game where story isn't the focus).

The biggest problem I foresee with this approach, from the perspective of an RPG with freedom of exploration, is that the player might be left confused, not knowing where to go next or what to do next to proceed. Besides, there'll be limitations with story-telling, so if you intend to make an RPG with rich lore, this might not be the best approach. If you do simplify gameplay mechanisms to compensate for this, then you might run the risk of making the game too simple (mechanism wise) and thus unappealing. 

I guess it'll mostly depend on what kind of experience you're aiming to achieve.
 
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Sausage_Boi

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There is a game I have seen around a few sites on a number of occasions in the last couple of days. It's called Wanda. I don't know how much text is in the game, but it seems to be picking up some steam (no pun intended).

I was thinking the same thing as fish, though that as far as RPGs go, a game with a focus on story is incredibly difficult without a LOT of animations and then getting the player to understand the gestures. I myself can be very oblivious to subtle cues and body language. I have been learning in recent years, but it is still something that is for the most part lost on me. It sucks. I used to never understand poetry, and secretly wonder if everyone else was faking, like the Emperor's New Clothes. Lol.

I feel like it can be done, I won't go so far to say that it couldn't be well done, but it will be difficult and might be a niche game. However, good luck. I love non-traditional games.
 
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A lot of times the most creative work comes out of creative restrictions like this.

I could see this working really well as a mystery game.  The first thing that comes to mind is the old Myst and Riven franchise however many years back. These games gave you very little in the way of story or direction, but they left all the clues on the field to be found.  

You mention pictograms as a means of getting the message across, but another method would be the music and sounds. I know it's a lot harder to make custom music and sounds, but if you have the ability (or know someone who does) this could add a lot to this type of game. If you every Watched the old Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Hush, it was an episode that was made in response to people saying that Joss Whedon relied to much on his dialogue to carry his shows, so he made an episode with almost no dialogue. He used mainly visuals and music to drive the story; it would be worth watching at least for ideas.
 

Kes

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The potential problems mainly hinge around player info and story.

I think you can basically forget story. Character progrssion and interaction can only be minimal at best. Comparisons with tv shows don't work imo, because human actors are capable of a range of expressions and emotions and body language that sprites cannot achieve. In that Buffy example, most viewers will already know the characters from previous episodes. In a game you are starting from zero.

Player info includes the points already made about what to do next. I'm also wondering about battle tutorials and any other game mechanic where you cannot presume the player will already know what to do. There are some brilliant platformer games which do the whole thing via showing, but I'm not sure that it will work with combat. If you can't have a rich story, then players will want interesting combat. If that cannot be explained, then you are left with minimal story and simple combat. A lot of people who play rpgs won't find that very appealing.
 
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I brought up Buffy mainly as an example of audio cues complimenting visual cues, probably not the best example for a video game, but I can't think of any video games that have done it. Probably it's done more with horror games, but I haven't played to many horror games. But you're right, most of the things that made that episode work wouldn't apply here.

I can't really think of any ways to accomplish any battle system, unless you either had a really simplistic action battle system, or you did without and did straight horror or adventure puzzle. Which honestly I think would be the best options if you were going to try and do without dialogue.
 

Brillenpinguin

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I remember seeing an old Gamejam project around that uses little to no text. If you want to take a look at it I can try to find it for you when I get home.
 

Iavra

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The first RM game i can remember to don't use any text at all was 3 Monkeys for Rm2k. I won't post a link, since the game was likely done with the pirated version of the maker.
 

Amuseum

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this is quite an intresting challenge. i have an idea that could be adapted for this challenge. character progression included and makes sense.* it's an action RPG about monsters fighting and eating monsters.

* Once again SaGa 2 comes through with the inspiration.

cf. Zelda games dont have much text. even numbers can be left out. eg the amount of hearts is your HP. items are distinguished by unique icons and mostly intuitive how they work.

likewise skills would have unique icons. their properties are also signified with symbols, which many games already do. eg symbols signify how many targets, distance, cost, element, cooldown, etc.

agree that sound can have a more prominent role. different monsters have different voices, timbres, and patterns. in cutscenes they can in talk in animal voices. primitive humans can grunt (we assume that's how they talk).
 

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