Making Cutscenes "Personal": What Do?

RachelTheSeeker

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I'm in a rut, and I wanted to ask for some advice for game making for once. I've offered my ideas on game theory insofar as mechanics as of late, and to a degree storytelling. This is probably me hating what I create but like... how emotional is too emotional for dialogue and cutscenes in games? Let me explain.

I've grown to joke with myself about my certain game niche: "LGBT+ furries with emotional issues go on episodic adventures in consistent worlds". The last three games I've made, one of which hasn't been hosted here, play off these vibes. "The Painted Knight" and "A Maned Lioness" can be found in the Completed Games subforum here on RPG Maker Web. A third, "Dates At The Gilded Dallah", was something I whipped together for RM Network's Valentines Day event. I have a fourth game that's a sequel to Maned Lioness, an actual adventure where the MC meets her future significant other for the first time. If it matters, we'll call that one "It Takes A Trickster".

My first completed game sunk, as y'do. For the sequel no one asked for, Painted Knight, I decided to give banter between the three party members throughout the dungeon crawl. The dungeon layout was half-assed outside of the two main cutscene rooms, and the battles were basic. I feel I handled the banter well though. Maned Lioness, because it was made for Pride Month 2019 and the MC is transgender, involved elements of personal identity and having a heart-to-heart with a misunderstood villain. The dialogue, especially during and after the climactic boss fight, was melodramatic and sappy. I wanted to push a theme of positivity but I feel it wasn't well executed.

Then came the recent event game, Gilded Dallah. I think it's a dece first draft, but by no means something I wanna share until I revise the dialogue. It plays like a visual novel. The good ending didn't work out well in my mind, and I regret a kinky joke option available early on. Right now I'm worried about It Takes A Trickster, because a lot of the game right now is dialogue-heavy as the other ones were before.

Here's my qualms. I want to have decent storytelling in my games. I want them to feel like pulp serials, telling ongoing adventures about my characters and worlds and lore that I've obsessed over for years. The last thing I want are throwaway NPCs like so many JRPGs before, especially since my games don't go much longer than a half-hour to play at most. I want players to have a reason to care what happens to not only the NPCs, but also the main characters.

But I also want to write better, and I want my games to feel more like games and less like visual novels. It feels wrong to play the drama and/or pity card in order to write a good story. Banter between party members on an adventure like Painted Knight seems legit. What I've written for games after feels like a dumpster fire by comparison.

So riddle me this. What is a good way to balance this? How do I make the player care about what happens in a narrative-focused game, without manipulating them with drama? What's a good medium? What's worked for you?
 
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FrozenNorseman

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Do you have someone you can go over the dialogue with? A bit of constructive criticism from someone who is not so heavily invested as you yourself are can go a long way to help you - both to improve the overall flow of the dialogue, and to find out if you have enough, too much or too little to make people care.

Another suggestion of mine would be to try and read the dialogue out loud. Maybe record it (even if you hate how you sound on recordings). Errors or things that seem off become much more apparent when spoken out loud.

You are welcome to throw me a PM with examples of dialogue you want a second eye on. I'd be happy to help, and you can take any suggestions to heart or disregard at your leisure.

- FN
 

Andar

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The biggest key is experience - not only in writing your own story, but also in reading other people's stories to learn about their mistakes and what they did good. I suggest free writing websites like royalroad as they not only prevent you from paying too much, but they are also unfiltered. Any printed book in a shop or library usually went through the printing companies editors who sort out the abysmal. On a free website you'll find gems of writing next to the worst stumbles, and you can learn from both. One of the links in my signature gets you to my tries in that area :--)

Second is to design your characters for a game, not for a story. That is one of the bigger differences to prevent that "visual novel" feeling.
Design your characters independent of each other, give them quirks and goals and so on that are NOT centered on the other characters. And then let them react to both environment and player choices in addition to what the other characters are.
For a classical example, have the girl characterized as "likes musculous, snarky men" instead of "loves actor 7", and then describe actor 7 in that way. And then use that description to write her responses to different NPCs the player can go to. The story will probably continue with a lovematch between those two actors (because that is how you design them), but the interactions are usually much more natural compared to cases where the developers forced themselves into predefined grids.

That second point will also go into the third: Write independent sections that are not always required to advance the story.
If everything has to pass every point in an exact order, you have a story but not a game. It is a lot more work to develop a branching game, but that isn't even needed here - the unconnected scenes don't have to lead back to the main story if they are just to describe the actor interaction.
But if you have different actors comment on the environment at different times and in different ways, and based on when the player gets to that environment instead of at a fixed order, then it will also improve the game.
 

gstv87

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How do I make the player care about what happens in a narrative-focused game
who is the center of the narrative?

if the character isn't interesting, nobody will care about their story.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Another suggestion of mine would be to try and read the dialogue out loud. Maybe record it (even if you hate how you sound on recordings). Errors or things that seem off become much more apparent when spoken out loud.
I might have to do this then. Even writing a response to this, I'm reminded my self-talk is already abusive and volatile as ever. I'm tempted to look for proof-readers for my games, but I'm hesitant to offer.

The biggest key is experience - not only in writing your own story, but also in reading other people's stories to learn about their mistakes and what they did good. [...]

Second is to design your characters for a game, not for a story. That is one of the bigger differences to prevent that "visual novel" feeling. [...]

That second point will also go into the third: Write independent sections that are not always required to advance the story. [...]
1) I... probably should read and play other people's stuff. I feel I already know what I like among what I've already seen. Trouble is, unless it's a preteen's first fanfic with atrocious everything, I have a tough time disagreeing with others' works. Not that I haven't formed negative opinions about works before. I know for a fact I don't give a damn about, say, Digimon World 3 despite beating that hot mess grindfest in my teens.

2) I feel like I have quirks and goals for the characters to begin with, at least the playable ones. But I don't have the time to cover all of them in each game. I'm by no means an expert writer, likely not an amateur but like... I've worked on this stuff for years before ever truly trying to make a game out of it.

3) I already do this too. In both Maned Lioness and eventually It Takes A Trickster, there's optional interactions with NPCs that don't add to the gameplay, but to the narrative. In the former, nothing's stopping you from beelining to the game's dungeon crawl after you get the prompt to do so. Same will happen in ITAT.

who is the center of the narrative?

if the character isn't interesting, nobody will care about their story.
Maybe I need to make my MCs more interesting. But I feel like they already are. Trouble is, I also don't want to obsess over the center of narrative. I want to make my worlds feel lived in, and to make the cast vibrant, not just kiss my protagonist's ass.
 

Dickjutsu

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I adore banter in games, myself. If an RPG had the characters bantering about stuff for hours on end I could actually still play them because otherwise I get a few hours into the grind and just decide I don't have enough time left in my life to go on with grinding.

That being said - worldbuilding and character building are my 'go to' to create interesting things. You can start with either one, but I sometimes feel that complex world building is the easier start. With a well fleshed out world you can look at it and figure out what kind of people would develop from said world and from that vantage point create characters from that pool of people who belong in said world.
With a fully developed world, as well, you've got more to draw on for banter.
I am firmly entrenched in the camp of 'not every word in a game has to advance the central plot'. If two characters are talking about something it gives way to character development. If the overarching plotline is that the Big Bad is going to blow up the moon because the tides destroyed their sandcastle as a child - I don't mind two of my sidekicks talking about their favorite food while we're just traipsing about doing random battles to level up. It has nothing to do with the story, sure, but yet it does - the characters are integral to the story (or should be, if they're not then you need to rethink your characters/story) and so developing character personalities is developing the story.

If you'd like I can give you some more personalized suggestions or tips in private, if you don't want to make your stuff too public right now. Just PM me.
 

woootbm

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This is probably me hating what I create but like... how emotional is too emotional for dialogue and cutscenes in games? Let me explain.
I don't think there's a limit, but there certainly is added difficulty in getting this stuff right. Especially in an RPG Maker game, I think most people will go into these games with little to no investment. So pulling the audience in is almost like a fight.

I generally hear writers boiling things down to the simplest philosophy: the reader needs to care about the characters. Once they do, you can do whatever you need to do. But I would add on three things to keep in mind: tone, pacing, and expectations.

Tone needs to be consistent (or be good at shifting gears). If your game is mostly silly jokes and slide whistle sound effects and goofy crap, it can be really difficult to hit the audience with sad notes.

Pacing is obvious. Like I said, the audience needs to care about a character. They need time to build investment, but not too much or too little. And banter is nice, but if your characters are faffing about too much and nothing is happening that's relevant to plot points or character development, you will lose your hold on the reader's attention.

And expectations is the one I think most people don't think about. Basically, your store page (or however you present the game) needs to do a lot of subtle work. It's not enough to hook people in and get their downloads/buys. You have to somehow give them the correct prediction of what their experience will be, and then match it in the game. I feel like a lot of games (not just RPG Maker ones) will give players these little false ideas that topple the whole thing for them. Take Arkham Knight, for example. What they sold was a Batmobile you can drive around town, what players got was tank gameplay that feels like half the game. No one thinks "tank gameplay" when they think "Batman". As a result, a lot of people hated the game even though it's overall a freaking great game (there were some other issues with the game, but that one fits what I'm talking about). So your store page could be too colorful, or the title of the game could make them think it's more combat-oriented, things like that. It all seems obvious, but I really think people underestimate how wrong surface level impressions of a game can go.

Anyway, I'd also be curious to see some dialogue. And I'm not bothered by furry or LGBT+ stuff, so you can go with any snippet you feel like.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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What I enjoy in character dialogue, at least in the RM type games, are when there are movements, thought bubbles, animations, etc. going on in addition to the dialogue. Just reading text, at least for me, gets a bit boring. I enjoy well written dialogue, but even that can feel bland when it's just text boxes on a screen. I try to do the same thing in what I'm working on as well. Also, changes in the BGM can make a big difference when done well. It's hard to take a dramatic scene seriously when there's no change in BGM from the light-hearted map theme when characters begin talking about there loss or grief.
 

xDRAGOONx

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@Andar Your second and third points are great.

Give the characters a life before the game, incorporate their part in the story to a life that already exists. If every character is just written to fill a spot in the game, the game story becomes so tight and restricting for the writer that everything tends to becomes predictable.

Also, it might help to go over some of the main character archetypes, here and here.

Once you fully understand your characters strengths, weaknesses and motivations you can begin to create more engaging characters.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Despite my moodiness when creating this thread originally, I do appreciate the advice given since then! All good points to be made, and some I hadn't considered before.
 

Larry Jones

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Another thing would be ... humour. No matter how emotional the topic humour can always be found / created somewhere. In bleak situations black humour is actually pretty common. If the characters are in touch with even a degree of humour that’s really gonna help make it more enjoyable imo.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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I agree, a bit of humor goes a long way. Anything that takes itself too serious comes across as pretentious usually. Humor exists IRL on so many levels and in so many ways. You don't have to be a professional joke writer to insert some comedy here and there.
 

kairi_key

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I think playing with situations is also good.

And I think another strong point is also presenting them with choices.

And opening up with a strong characterization could do the trick. You make them care about the MC by making them curious about his/her strong opening line.
 

Tai_MT

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In advance:

I haven't read any post except the original. I'm responding to that.

The problem you seem to be having is that you're trying to write a book (you say as much, in saying you want to create a serial). Video games, by and large, aren't really able to be "serialized". The closest thing to what a video game is, from a writing sense, is probably a "Stage Play". If you write more as if you're presenting to an audience at a theater, you'll find your dialogue becomes appropriately concise and packed with necessary information/characterization.

With that out of the way... I'll give some advice that I've found helpful as an unpublished amateur writer who does it mostly for fun.
---
Writing Dialogue
Dialogue in most mediums doesn't seem natural. This is for a few reasons. The first is usually "inexperience of the writer". The second is that most writers don't actually study people and how they speak. You will learn a lot from someone just by analyzing their word choice and sentence structure.

For example, while I tend to write fairly "eloquently" in forums... I basically talk as lazily as possible. My words are basically a Southern Drawl and I'm not even from the South. I also don't speak all that much like I'm beyond "baseline" intelligence (depending on my writing mood, I can sometimes pass for exceptionally intelligent in writing). I don't pick my words carefully in real life. Whatever I'm thinking just tends to spill out of my mouth... to the point that I often combine two words together in the middle of a sentence because I'd constructed what I was saying 2 or 3 different ways in my head before it left my lips.

This says a lot about me as a person. It says I often "look before I leap". It says I'm mostly lazy. It says I don't care if people can understand me. It says I'm probably uneducated with my use of smaller words. It says that my mouth gets ahead of my brain quite often. It might also even say that I don't socialize all that much, nor put much stock in socializing.

Your dialogue should be able to be analyzed like that if it's anything close to "realistic" or "natural".

What I've found helps a lot is just listening to other people talk. Reading how other people write. Trying to get to know them as people to see if my assumptions about them match up with reality. Watch movies, listen to the way people talk. What sounds the most natural?

If you want to write good banter and put it into appropriate places, you need to know where that would naturally occur. Pretend the scenario is reality and that there is no audience. There is nobody to play to. You just have one character interacting with another.

Speaking of character interaction, let me give you a fun secret most writers don't share:

People act differently depending on who is around. How you act with your best friend is different than how you act with your significant other. How you act when both your best friend and significant other are in the same room is also different. A character's personality will change slightly depending on who is around and who isn't. This is very important to know, because it also helps you build subtlety.

For example, with my best friend, we would discuss practically anything. With his wife in the room, the topics narrow considerably and we tend to walk a little bit more on eggshells. Likewise, if he's being a piece of crap, I tell him. But, if his wife is being a piece of crap... we don't tell her, 'cause she'll get upset and that will make it worse.

People act differently depending on who is in the room and who they are talking to.

Writing Emotionally
Free tip... If your own writing doesn't make you cry, it's probably not emotional. Even better tip? If you can't pinpoint why your own writing is making you cry... you just can't write all that emotionally.

As an example from my real life, I've never cried from a video game. Not once. I get invested in characters, but not emotionally. It is difficult for me to relate to fictional people with fictional outlandish problems that upset them for no really logical or properly emotional reason.

However, there are a myriad of movies that have made me cry. A myriad of animes that have left me bawling.

Put simply... video game characters aren't all that believable. Whereas, characters written as if they were real people tend to hit me every single time.

I will always cry at Second-Hand Lions. Always at the scene of "She was a real Africa Lion, wasn't she?". I will because the entire movie sets up that line. Measured with events transpiring that nearly everyone can relate to... I find it difficult to stay dry-eyed.

But, get that emotional during a game? How can I? I find myself often annoyed with how characters are written. They're full of too many contrivances. The emotional parts of their lives are often "in the Lore" and you never get to experience it. I find myself annoyed at the silly leaps in logic characters take in feeling whatever way they're feeling. "My daughter was shot in my arms by a soldier while we were fleeing a zombie apocalypse". Well, okay. Ignoring the fact that the scene is 3000% contrived to begin with... Then there's that the main character wasn't shot... then there's the super "over the top" way he keeps trying to revive her or talk to her. Plus, I don't have a daughter, and I've never lost a child... So... how am I meant to feel emotional here? It's 3000% contrivance.

Video games set up so much "emotion" as just contrivance. It doesn't feel real. It doesn't feel natural. It feels very artificial and designed to tug at heart strings. A character dies in order to set up the plot. A character dies in order to set up how bad the evil person is. A character dies as the means to get the player to feel something. A character dies to set up the backstory of some tragic hero.

Video games tend to use emotions as a tool rather than as a piece of the story.

In a video game of Second Hand Lions, that emotional scene would be used to set up some tragic backstory and give the main character something to overcome. It wouldn't exist as an affirmation of a way of life and a way of thinking. It wouldn't exist as a heroic tragedy that you wouldn't want to avert because of what it would mean to avert it. In the video game, it would be a tool. A means to an end.

That's sort of the difference in writing there. It's why writing for a video game is more like writing as if you're putting together a Stage Play. Because, by and large, video game writing is a means to get the player to do X, Y, and Z. The writing in a video game doesn't really exist to tell a story. It exists to motivate a player, primarily. To spur the audience to action. It doesn't exist for its own sake like a book or a movie (want to know why people hate preachy movies? Because those movies are trying to spur someone to action rather than just entertain... see the difference in mediums?).
--
Anyway, that's my two cents. Study more characters. Try to write more natural dialogue. Try to remember that you're essentially writing a Stage Play and not a book. You are writing to spur players to action. You are not writing to psychologically satisfy or amuse an audience.
 

woootbm

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Dialogue in most mediums doesn't seem natural. This is for a few reasons. The first is usually "inexperience of the writer". The second is that most writers don't actually study people and how they speak. You will learn a lot from someone just by analyzing their word choice and sentence structure.
The third, and most prominent, is stylistic choice. Truly natural dialogue isn't always interesting. Real people aren't witty, or at least are not so off-the-cuff. And I don't think coming up with natural dialogue is the end-all, be-all for OP's issue, especially since OP said...

I want them to feel like pulp serials, telling ongoing adventures about my characters and worlds and lore that I've obsessed over for years.
... the style of which is often bombastic, ridiculous, or melodramatic; trashy, guilty pleasures. They're fun, and not terribly realistic.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Well. Damn. Those last two posts were really hard to take. Can't help but feel I've been going at this the wrong way, and not sure what to do with it now.
 

Tai_MT

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The third, and most prominent, is stylistic choice. Truly natural dialogue isn't always interesting. Real people aren't witty, or at least are not so off-the-cuff. And I don't think coming up with natural dialogue is the end-all, be-all for OP's issue, especially since OP said...



... the style of which is often bombastic, ridiculous, or melodramatic; trashy, guilty pleasures. They're fun, and not terribly realistic.
While both are true, you also must remember that we're writing for a Video Game here. We aren't writing a series of books that is a Serial. Or a series of shows that are a Serial. The "Serial" format doesn't really work that well for video games, because nearly all your dialogue in a video game needs to motivate the player to take action, rather than entertain them.

We can write the best dialogue ever created, but if you put it into a video game... players are going to say, "tl;dr" and mash "skip" as much as possible.

This is why you write for Video Games as if you were writing a Stage Play. Your primary goals are to inspire the player to action and to keep dialogue as brief as it has to be in order to get the point and goals across.

As such, you want to stick to naturalistic dialogue that is "to the point". I don't disagree with making characters more "likeable" by not making all the dialogue as realistic as possible... But, one should probably do that in moderation to an extent. If you have a hero constantly making joke after joke after joke... It gets cringy fairly quickly because nobody acts like that in real life. Now if "the funny hero" has a joke to crack in most situations, so long as comedy wouldn't ruin the scene, it makes sense.

As a person, I often crack jokes in most situations in my life. But, I know better than to crack jokes when people are a certain degree of angry... or sad... or it's not socially the right time to do so.

Time and Place are very important when you're writing dialogue. This is often part of the "natural" dialogue writing.

But, to that end, if you are going to include jokes or bombastic things, you also need to consider whether or not a real person might actually say it at some point. Is it believable? Would a person actually crack a joke at this exact point in the story in this exact situation?

"Natural Dialogue" isn't necessarily the exact wording someone uses to say something. More often than not, it is "time, place, situation, relation" specific. It's a lot of little things. It isn't "nobody would say spazzwalls, this is unrealistic!". It is "Her father just died, and this guy is cracking jokes about the guys who killed him. Inappropriate, out of place, and nonsensical."

By and large, you want to be writing situations that at least seem like they would be realistic. If not in the real world, at least in the world you've constructed to tell your story.

It is incredibly jarring to continually remind your video game player that everything is a contrivance to get you to go to point A to do task B and get reward C so you can better stop the Big Bad Evil Guy.
---
My game is very story focused, as such, I've tried to remove any reference or hint to "playing a game" as possible. My quests are small pocket stories that can stand alone, but also affect the world at large. The player is complicit in every choice made in the game, so must invest a certain degree of themselves into the game in order to play it ("This is the choice I would make, it seems the best one..."). The stories are propelled by player action, interaction, and reaction. The dialogue is something that happens as a result of player action, interaction, and reaction. It isn't that "organic", but most of the dialogue flows in a very natural way, especially for the "nearly everyone is fairly well educated" background of the story. I delve into philosophy in simplistic terms by just having the characters talk about their own personal beliefs and experiences in the same simple ways your friends might. "This is what I think, this is why I think it" and it doesn't turn into a monologue.

But, ultimately, every piece of dialogue serves a purpose in motivating the player. This dialogue is meant to get a player invested in this character so that they spend more time with them in order to learn more about them. This dialogue is meant to urge the player forward and offer a possible solution to the main story. This dialogue is meant to push the player into specific quest types in order to get them to power up their skills. This dialogue is meant to provide some backstory that will propel players into spending more time talking to NPC's and their own characters to get more of that backstory and provide context to situations that aren't the main story. Etcetera.

Dialogue for a Video Game is written very differently than that written for a book or a movie or a Serial. It has to be. Your audience for a Video Game is there to play the game. They aren't there to relax and do nothing and have a story told to them. Very different audiences. Very different requirements.

EDIT:

@RachelTheSeeker

Writing something the wrong way isn't an issue. Most of writing is about learning what does and does not work. My first few attempts at writing for a Video Game ended up with me just writing a novel.

The advice I got for that was, "Dude, just write a novel."

Made sense. I wanted to make Video Games, yes, but I had no idea how to write for them. Likewise, the way I wanted to write a story was not compatible with how you write for Video Games. I was simply doing it wrong.

As writers, we are going to write a great many things wrong. That's just a fact of life. It isn't about feeling bad you did it wrong. It's about trying to understand what you did wrong, why it was wrong, and how you can fix it for next time.

My advice might not even be the best advice for how to handle your own game. What I'm offering is very difficult to explain to most people who haven't spent a lot of time reading and writing and trying to do it for different mediums.

Basically, when I was trying to write for Video Games, I was a complete hack. Terrible at it. Didn't know what I was doing. Nothing was compelling. Players skipped a ton of my dialogue.

I got better because I wanted to play D&D. Yeah, I wanted to play it. It always looked so cool and like such a great time. Alas, nobody wanted to be DM, so I got elected to do it. I didn't think it was a problem at the time, since I enjoyed creating games and I'd get to essentially tell my own stories. Right?

Wrong!

D&D and all my failures as a DM taught me how to write for a Video Game. Instant feedback of seeing players get bored with my characters monologuing... Instant feedback of players derailing my campaign because I had made what we were doing insanely boring and wasn't allowing them to get out of the story I was telling. Instant feedback of players dropping out of games and never to return becuase they were bored and didn't get to actually "play" all that much beyond combat.

D&D taught me how to build a game world. All those failures taught me that all I had to offer my players was a world to play in. I didn't put together one quest and force everyone to run it, with the storyline I wanted. I put together a world and spent a month building it, filling it with people and places and quests and rumors and magic and crazy stuff... And then just gave my players the "set up". "This island exists, and it's essentially a "gold rush". Everyone is going for a variety of reasons. Here's a bunch of the reasons most people go. Here's the basic set-up of the island and a basic history. All I need from you player is a reason you're going to the island. Why do you want to go?"

My players then picked the reasons they wanted to play. Provided their own investment. Their own sets of goals. And what did I do in return? Nothing. They disembarked the boat, finished the "guided tour" portion of the campaign that was hand-holding, and then I said nothing.

From that point on, it was just about providing feedback to my players on what they were doing. I was telling the story that they wanted to experience. Why? Because it was their story. I didn't railroad my players into my idea of fun. I didn't railroad my characters with my NPC's and tell them where to go and what to do. I just gave them reasons to do the things I wanted them to do. They enjoyed an NPC, so I attached realistic quests to that NPC so that they could interact with them more and feel like they were being kind and useful and heroic. They wanted to put a shady guy out of business, so I attached more importance to him as a character and loaded up "possible quests" for him, depending on what my players did.

That's it. That's all I did. I just gave my players motivation to do things. Usually through dialogue. It wasn't even, "if you don't do this, this person close to you will die!". No, it was, "oh, I came home the other day and my home was broken into and my door was smashed up". My players spent time cleaning up the house, buying a new door, making it fancy, and spending time with the NPC before deciding to launch their own investigation into who had done this to their friend.

Same outcome of chasing down the badguy, but different ways of getting the players there. Players will find their own reason to enjoy a character and do quests if you just make the writing more about propelling players instead of telling players.
---
The fun parts of writing are making all the mistakes. Learning the craft. Figuring out new ways to do things. Figuring out why things work the way they do and how we can breathe actual life into our worlds.

It's easy to just create a world. Anyone can do it. But, to make that world actually alive... There is no greater joy as a writer than doing so. After you manage it, it's just about finding a way of presenting that world to an audience to get them to experience that same joy of a living world without the effort of having to create it.
 
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woootbm

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Well. Damn. Those last two posts were really hard to take. Can't help but feel I've been going at this the wrong way, and not sure what to do with it now.
Oh no, don't worry like that! I haven't got that sense from your posts. I just get the sense that you're trying to do something that is much more difficult than you give credit, and maybe you're feeling the strain is more than it should be and you feel bad about that. But I think the difficulty is perfectly normal, and you're tackling it as best anyone can. It's a tough topic to do and you're doing it in a tough medium. It's not impossible, you just have to find your way.

It's good that you're challenging yourself. You just have to soldier on. You'll get there eventually. Besides, you can always redraft if you need to :hhappy:

While both are true, you also must remember that we're writing for a Video Game here. We aren't writing a series of books that is a Serial. Or a series of shows that are a Serial. The "Serial" format doesn't really work that well for video games, because nearly all your dialogue in a video game needs to motivate the player to take action, rather than entertain them.
But, ultimately, every piece of dialogue serves a purpose in motivating the player.
This sounds like screenwriting 101. Movies are different. They're fully, stubbornly locked down when it comes to formatting and structure because they're only got ~2 hours to tell a story and the most successful way to do that is in the 3 act structure. And Hollywood is superstitious, too. They have rules like "no punctuation in the title" because it's "bad luck" (IE Who Framed Roger Rabbit... no question mark!).

Some of their rules for writing are good, but there's no reason to be as fanatical about them as they are. If you want to break into Hollywood, then yeah. Because people won't work with you if you don't do it the "right way". As an indie developer you don't have to necessarily follow the rules. This is art, rules are meant to be broken.

We can write the best dialogue ever created, but if you put it into a video game... players are going to say, "tl;dr" and mash "skip" as much as possible.
Some people are like this. But people looking for a story-heavy game are not. This is a very cynical view you have if you belive this applies to everyone.

"Natural Dialogue" isn't necessarily the exact wording someone uses to say something. More often than not, it is "time, place, situation, relation" specific.
Oh, I see now. You're saying natural to describe something else. That sounds like "Essential" or "Fluid" to me.

Dialogue for a Video Game is written very differently than that written for a book or a movie or a Serial. It has to be. Your audience for a Video Game is there to play the game. They aren't there to relax and do nothing and have a story told to them. Very different audiences. Very different requirements.
If that's how you feel then I think RPG Maker is the wrong tool for you. However, I will say there is some merit to this. And that's to keep pacing in mind. It's good to not overwhelm the player with text. Gameplay needs to show up or you will lose your audience (unless you're selling a Visual Novel to VN players).
 

Tai_MT

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This sounds like screenwriting 101. Movies are different. They're fully, stubbornly locked down when it comes to formatting and structure because they're only got ~2 hours to tell a story and the most successful way to do that is in the 3 act structure. And Hollywood is superstitious, too. They have rules like "no punctuation in the title" because it's "bad luck" (IE Who Framed Roger Rabbit... no question mark!).

Some of their rules for writing are good, but there's no reason to be as fanatical about them as they are. If you want to break into Hollywood, then yeah. Because people won't work with you if you don't do it the "right way". As an indie developer you don't have to necessarily follow the rules. This is art, rules are meant to be broken.
Movies are different in that your audience is passive. Video games are active. That means, you can't interrupt your gameplay that much or all that often. You can't write dialogue meant to "talk at the player" like movies do.

This is why I said it most similarly resembles a Stage Play. Writing for a video game is fairly close to the same. In most good Stage Plays, you're looking for audience action/reaction. Laughter. Singing along. Possibly even interacting with the cast (if the play you're seeing has anything like that, and some do).

Writing for a movie is far easier since you can cut corners nearly everywhere possible just to tell your story.

Writing for a video game is far harder since you must get audience participation.

Some people are like this. But people looking for a story-heavy game are not. This is a very cynical view you have if you belive this applies to everyone.
I enjoy story heavy games (hence why I'm writing one). The problem you seem to have is "Well, you'll tolerate a lot for a good story". No, your audience will not. I can get a great story from a book. There is no need to get that from a Video Game. The primary reason to seek story from a Video Game is the interactivity with the medium. In short, giving the player as much agency as possible and as much motivation as possible to interact with the game and complete the game.

Let me put it to you in realistic and practical terms:

The intro to my game is about 20 minutes before the player gets to do anything. Twenty minutes. All dialogue is concise and important.

Cue a large amount of players telling me to cut it down. It drags on. It's tedious. Couldn't it be delivered any other way?

No, it can't. Not if I'm trying to tell a good story. It just can't. The choice I had to make was to abandon the vast majority of people who might've played and enjoyed my game and hope the rest that are here primarily for "story" and not for "gameplay" enjoy what's left of the story.

That's a HUGE risk to take.

People play video games to play them. Even me, a guy who wants to play story heavy games and plays RPG's and other games primarily for the story... I want to play the game. Otherwise, I'll just read a book. Books don't cost $60 and are often far more compelling in terms of "telling a story" than a Video Game is.

If you're writing for a Video Game, you need to consider the uniqueness of the medium as well as the primary audience of that medium.

It's all well and good for a writer to turn into a snob and say, "I'll just write off anyone who isn't going to tolerate my nonsense as 'not my audience'", but it's unrealistic. It is also very egotistical. After all, you are essentially declaring to your audience, "If you don't like it, it's your fault!".

This is an insanely bad position to be in as a creative.

But, I'll put it in far more realistic terms.

A video game is usually less than 10% dialogue and cutscenes. More often than not, you're lucky if it reaches 5%. So, if you have a 20 hour game... you're looking at 1 hour of dialogue/cutscene to get across what you need to, to your audience. If you have a 100 hour game, you're looking at about 5 hours of dialogue and cutscenes. At most, you might have 10 hours of dialogue and cutscenes in a 100 hour game.

This is the normal way of doing things.

Then, you have games where 90% of the game is dialogue and cutscenes. A 20 hour game is about 1 or 2 hours of actual gameplay. The rest is navigating menus and choices and managing which characters like you and which don't. While these games can be popular... their audience is often very small.

Why?

Because you are asking for a very significant investment from your audience at that point. VERY significant.

I'll use two games I've actually played like that.

Mass Effect 1.
Dragon Age Origins.

Mass Effect 1 grabbed me immediately. Or... close to immediately. I got immersed in the world, the characters, the lore, everything. I logged 40 hours on my first run and the vast majority of that was navigating dialogue, listening to the codex, reading codex entries, and trying to get my squad to like me. The rest of that time was shooting things and navigating planets.

It's a game that engrossed me.

Dragon Age Origins did not grip me at all. In fact, I was bored most of the way through the game. I grew tired of navigating menus to talk to my companions. I got bored of trying to make everyone like me. I didn't really care about the fates of all the people I interacted with. I was playing, primarily, to min/max my character and to hunt achievements. I didn't read the codex. I didn't interact with anyone more than I had to. In fact, partially through my first run of the game, I reset 'cause I found out there was a "reach max level quickly" glitch and I wanted to exploit that in order to make the game go much faster than it had been. I completed the game and a good chunk of the achievements in the first run that took about 18 hours. 4 of which were spent reaching level 30 (max level) and getting a ton of Gold so I'd never need to worry about buying anything ever again.

Both games were made by the same company with very similar styles and characters and gameplay. Yet, I was enthralled by one and bored to death of the other.

But, that's the risk you take when 90% of your game is dialogue and cutscenes. If your story doesn't land, your game flops and there's no reason for an audience to stick around. I played 7 full runs of Mass Effect 1. I played Dragon Age Origins exactly once.

And if you'd like further references... I played Mass Effect 2 exactly twice, just to get the achievements (because that game bored me like Dragon Age 1 had). I played Mass Effect 3 exactly once (I didn't even want to get the achievements, that game was so boring). I finished Mass Effect Andromeda exactly once just for the achievements and to say I'd finished it (I was bored after the first 3 hours of gameplay). I didn't even finish Dragon Age 2 (didn't even get out of the first Act of the game, it's so freakin' BORING) or Dragon Age Inquisition (I got more than halfway through before a glitched achievement and boring as crap gameplay with a nonsensical meandering story just put me off of ever completing it).

So, for me, a guy looking for a story heavy gaming experience... one out of 6 of those experiences actually "landed" with me. The other 5? Boring snorefests I finished for achievements and not because I was having fun... or I had so little fun that I didn't even bother finishing.

You need to primarily have gameplay in a video game. Story enhances the gameplay or makes up for gameplay shortcomings. Likewise, great gameplay can save a crap story.

But, you have to know how to write for the audience you are playing to.

If you just want to write a story. Just write a story. There's no need to make it a video game. But, if you want to write a video game, then you learn how and why things are done so that you can do it well.

Oh, I see now. You're saying natural to describe something else. That sounds like "Essential" or "Fluid" to me.
Nope, just natural dialogue. People saying the correct things in the correct situations with the correct tone of doing so. You don't throw pies in the middle of a somber funeral dirge. You don't make lewd comments to every person of the opposite sex you meet and have "playful beating up of the character" for it when it is never appropriate.

If that's how you feel then I think RPG Maker is the wrong tool for you. However, I will say there is some merit to this. And that's to keep pacing in mind. It's good to not overwhelm the player with text. Gameplay needs to show up or you will lose your audience (unless you're selling a Visual Novel to VN players).
Writing for any medium is different than any other medium. This is fact. When I was young and inexperienced, I believed as you did. Before I learned the hows and whys of the way things are written. Writing a book is different than writing a screenplay. Writing a screenplay is different than writing a Stage Play. Writing a Stage Play is different than writing a Video Game. Writing a Visual Novel is different than writing a Light Novel. Writing a novel is different than writing a Short Story.

You need to know who you are writing to and why certain things are done the way they are.

I live to innovate and shake up the formula. The problem with wanting to that (as you so obviously do), is you also need to know why the formula exists the way it does and why it works. You need to understand the purpose it serves as well as the audience it is serving.

This also applies to bucking Video Game conventions (which I am currently doing).

You do not change things just for the sake of changing them and trying to "be different". You do this for specific purposes and to specific ends. You do this to achieve something very specific.

You do not remove random encounters without knowing why they exist, what purpose they serve, and the positives to having them. You do not add a crafting system without knowing the reason it should exist as well as all the flaws in it you will need to mitigate.

It is impossible to innovate until you know something inside and out. Mechanically.
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As for the "Vidya Gams R Art!" argument... it's not something I agree with.

Yes, I love Video Games. Yes, I would love if they were taken more seriously. The vast majority of video games, however, are not art. Some try really pretentiously to be art, but are not. They convey nothing. They spark little philosophical debate. They are rarely, if ever, left up to interpretation. They rarely, if ever, make an audience feel anything. Well, unless we're counting anger and frustration as "feeling something".

Can games be art? Sure? I guess? Are they art? No. A very small thin margin not worth mentioning are probably "art". But the vast majority? Nope.

I mean, not unless you want to count the board game of "Sorry!" as "art" as well. Or maybe "Risk!" or "Battleship". Video games are art in the same way Poker is. Or tag. Or little kids running around the yard with sticks shaped like guns yelling "bang!" at each other.

Video games can HAVE art... But, no, I don't believe they are art, and my personal belief is that people who see video games as art are often just trying to justify their pastime as "more than it actually is". Don't know about you... but I sort of hate that sort of pretentious video game player.

It's a video game. Have fun. Enjoy the story. Enjoy the graphics and aesthetics. But, there's no need to try to claim it is something more than it is just so that we can make what we do "above reproach" and "can't be measured objectively".

Art can't be measured by objective standards, because "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Video games can be measured by objective standards, because a poorly designed game is garbage.
 

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