L. Doraline

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Hello, everybody! I would like to know your thoughts about something very important regarding our games with RPG Maker: Dialogue system design!

What I've seen so far:

1) Text box + those square faces on the left side. (standard-like)
2) Busts/Portraits + text box. (well-known. No need for introduction)
3) Bubble dialogue on sprite. (like in Galv's script https://galvs-scripts.com/2016/03/31/mv-message-styles/)
4) Text box + sprites (like in this video. youtu.be/duo3EBEL8Ag?t=79)

What I think is:

- I dislike the 1, it looks like ID cards. xD
- 2 makes the game look more like a visual novel and may be the ideal to a game heavily based on story, I guess?
- 3 is interesting for a game heavily based on gameplay, but can become a little tiresome if there's a little more story to read.
- New concept that looks very good, but perhaps it's for a game with few but long cutscenes?

What you guys think about it? Have you seen other designs? Is there one you completely hate and other that you completely love?
 

Shaz

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The only difference I see between 1 and 4 is that one uses faces, and the other uses sprites. I'm not sure why you'd dislike the first one but think the second one looks very good - only because the first one is the default and you see it everywhere, maybe?

I originally had something like #3 in my game, but it's a pain if it moves around as the "speaking" event moves, especially if it's set to be above or below the character based on their screen position and they move up or down so the dialogue box switches its position.

And #2 requires custom resources - at least faces and sprites can be done by the generator, but busts can't be.

My preference is probably for busts, but I won't use them due to not being able to create them in the generator.
 

ZephyrAM

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I rather like Busts (#2), but to really do it well definitely requires an artist on board. I've always felt the extra view gives a better impression of the characters, and there's more to modify than just a facial expression. It doesn't have to be large though, even from chest up works well and can be squared off to fit in the message box if preferred.

In the end, it's about what you can accomplish, but these days, a bit more graphics can go a long way.
 

L. Doraline

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The only difference I see between 1 and 4 is that one uses faces, and the other uses sprites. I'm not sure why you'd dislike the first one but think the second one looks very good - only because the first one is the default and you see it everywhere, maybe?

The sprites show the entire body and can demonstrate more "physical emotions". I don't know, it seems more dynamic. The faces seem more static.

I originally had something like #3 in my game, but it's a pain if it moves around as the "speaking" event moves, especially if it's set to be above or below the character based on their screen position and they move up or down so the dialogue box switches its position.

I haven't fully tried the plugin. I only tested a few window backgrounds. So I don't know how it would work with walking events, but from what you said, it's hard to read something in movement. xD

Maybe it's a different code, but I loved how #3 looked in this video:

And #2 requires custom resources - at least faces and sprites can be done by the generator, but busts can't be.

Yes! I forgot to mention that.

My preference is probably for busts, but I won't use them due to not being able to create them in the generator.

So #1 for when there's a lack in resources, and #2 for everything else if resources/drawing are not a problem?

EDIT:
Sorry, I only saw your message after posting it. xD

I rather like Busts (#2), but to really do it well definitely requires an artist on board. I've always felt the extra view gives a better impression of the characters, and there's more to modify than just a facial expression. It doesn't have to be large though, even from chest up works well and can be squared off to fit in the message box if preferred.

In the end, it's about what you can accomplish, but these days, a bit more graphics can go a long way.

But don't you think having a bust and a text box open everytime the player buys a potion or delivers a simple quest is annoying somehow? It seems to me that is too much information on screen, you know? xD
 

Shaz

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from what you said, it's hard to read something in movement.
Note, I said I had something like #3. I didn't use that plugin, so I don't know what that plugin does if your event moves. Guess you could always make your event not move while it's speaking, or at least make sure it doesn't move in a way that's going to cause the speech bubble to swap from above to below.

So #1 for when there's a lack in resources, and #2 for everything else if resources/drawing are not a problem?
No, I wouldn't do that - it's inconsistent. #1 or #4 if you don't have a reasonable way to get the missing resources. #2 if you do.
 

L. Doraline

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No, I wouldn't do that - it's inconsistent. #1 or #4 if you don't have a reasonable way to get the missing resources. #2 if you do.

No, I meant if someone can't draw, then the entire project uses #1. If the person can draw or can hire someone to do that, the entire project uses #2. Usually, mixing stuff isn't a good idea. xD
 

Milennin

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1. Is fine, as it's the default and gets the job done. But I'll say it works best when there's a wide range of facial expressions, at least for the main characters.
2. For me, this works best in games with few characters with big focus on story (more towards visual novels). I really dislike this one if it's in a big RPG and it pops up only every 20 minutes and only for the few main characters. Actually, it can also get in the way of games that have a lot of stuff going on on the map during cutscenes, because the busts can take up a lot of space. Of course, it also needs a good artist working on the assets, or it's ugly to look at.
3. I like this one, but I agree it does work in best that are light on dialogue, and the dialogue there is, is written concisely.
4. I don't like this. It looks cheap, and there's just no excuse for it with default faces and a face generator being part of the program. I prefer no graphic at all over the use of sprites in textboxes.
 

L. Doraline

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1. Is fine, as it's the default and gets the job done. But I'll say it works best when there's a wide range of facial expressions, at least for the main characters.

I think my problem with this one is that it looks too standard. xD


2. For me, this works best in games with few characters with big focus on story (more towards visual novels). I really dislike this one if it's in a big RPG and it pops up only every 20 minutes and only for the few main characters. Actually, it can also get in the way of games that have a lot of stuff going on on the map during cutscenes, because the busts can take up a lot of space. Of course, it also needs a good artist working on the assets, or it's ugly to look at.

That's my thought exactly. I actually had the problem of running out of space on screen because of busts. I wanted to show an image in the middle of the screen during a dialogue since it was a special character. The only solution was changing back the dialogue to #1 during that scene and then to #2 again after it. Not a good thing but it was either that or not having busts at all.

4. I don't like this. It looks cheap, and there's just no excuse for it with default faces and a face generator being part of the program. I prefer no graphic at all over the use of sprites in textboxes.

Funny, I thought it was very creative. xD Maybe because we don't see it much.
 

Kes

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I dislike sprites in the text box. There is no expression, it could be anyone, except maybe for the hair colour and cothing type, and I have to agree with Milennin, it looks cheap. I simply do not see what having a sprite adds to dialogue that a face wouldn't.

I am not particularly keen on busts unless there is very little dialogue. I find them intrusive, block out much of the map and if they come up in a cut scene they either obscure the movements or detract too much from what is happening as they are so demanding of attention.

I have never used that particular plugin. Watching the video, yes it works well - but a large part of that is because each character has several different sprites with different behaviours and poses. Having the text right next to the sprite emphasises what that sprite looks like and is doing. If you are using ordinary sprites, with no custom poses and behaviours, then all you are doing is emphasising how static they are. This would not be advantageous, imo.

If you find the faces option too standard, there is no reason why you can't change it around. For example, I know that scripts exist for Ace that allow you to select whether the face is on the right or the left. In a dialogue you could have one character appearing on the left and the one that answers appearing on the right, making it look more dynamic. Perhaps something like that exists for MV? Don't know.

Given the downsides of options 2, 3 and 4, I'm sticking with one. There are good reasons why most people go for that one, not just that they don't know how to change it.
 

cabfe

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I'm using option 2, with small busts (225 pixels max) so that the game's screen is not hidden behind it.
 

HawkZombie

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1 is classic...and one of my favorite ways to show dialog in the game. I also like it when the game goes a step further and shows the name in some capacity as well.
 

L. Doraline

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I am not particularly keen on busts unless there is very little dialogue. I find them intrusive, block out much of the map and if they come up in a cut scene they either obscure the movements or detract too much from what is happening as they are so demanding of attention.

That's my problem with busts. I think the solution would be using GENE. The dialogue moments will resemble to Fire Emblem series, where we had a background out of the map with some conversation - using speech bubble xD - and then we were sent back to the map.

I have never used that particular plugin. Watching the video, yes it works well - but a large part of that is because each character has several different sprites with different behaviours and poses. Having the text right next to the sprite emphasises what that sprite looks like and is doing. If you are using ordinary sprites, with no custom poses and behaviours, then all you are doing is emphasising how static they are. This would not be advantageous, imo.

But we have the option to draw several sprite poses. It is more work, but those little details give the game a charm, I think.

If you find the faces option too standard, there is no reason why you can't change it around. For example, I know that scripts exist for Ace that allow you to select whether the face is on the right or the left. In a dialogue you could have one character appearing on the left and the one that answers appearing on the right, making it look more dynamic. Perhaps something like that exists for MV? Don't know.

I've seen people complaining that the faces on the right forces them to re-read the dialogue to apply the emotion to the text, while on the left side, they already know with what emotion they should read the text. Of course, if we use emotion facesets.

I used the right and left structure in a game with busts, but they didn't have emotions, so I guess it wasn't a problem.

1 is classic...and one of my favorite ways to show dialog in the game. I also like it when the game goes a step further and shows the name in some capacity as well.

Interesting. I've seen people saying that they either prefer an image or a name, because once they learn a character's name, they don't need to read it every single time it appears on a dialogue.



It's interesting, when I started the thread, I thought it was a matter of design, but it's more like personal taste.
 

jkweath

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3 can work out really well if the character sprites have ways of showing emotion/gestures/etc. The Golden Sun series, IIRC, used a setup like that, but the dialogue boxes still had small face-sprites accompanied with them.

2 is my preferred way to do it if I have the bust art, otherwise I stick with 1. I used a hybrid of 1 and 2 with my last game (busts for big cutscenes, face sprites for minor dialogue), but I'm not sure what I'll be using with my next game yet.
 

Kes

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I thought it was a matter of design, but it's more like personal taste.
Yes, personal taste. I don't think there is a universal 'right' answer. Different games might tilt the balance slightly in favour of one or other, but in the end you go with what you prefer.
 

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Busts tend to be my favorite system in general, although there are situations where other methods might be smarter choices - such as a very fast-paced RPG that has a lot of characters (and NPCs) but doesn't put a large emphasis on dialogue; for a game like that, simple bubble dialogue that doesn't stop the action could be a really good design choice.

Some games wisely combine two or more different dialogue systems, too. For example, I believe Chantelise used non-intrusive Text Bubbles when interacting with characters in town (as well as for hints, etc., while battling in dungeons), but used full Bust + Text Box dialogue during story scenes.

The single best dialogue system I've ever seen in a game is Oxenfree, which kind of bucks all of the normal dialogue techniques and goes for something far more natural:

Here are my thoughts on each system you mentioned:

1) Text box + those square faces on the left side. (standard-like)

I'm not crazy about this in general, but it's a good start for designers who are very tight on funds and/or have a large ensemble cast of characters, since faces tend to be a lot cheaper/quicker to make than full busts (and can be done in RPG Maker using the Face Generator). It also has the advantage of taking up less screen space than the busts, which is nice if you have a lot of onscreen choreography happening behind the dialogue.

It's best when multiple faces can be shown for different emotions/tones (although most of RPG Maker's generator mouths are terribly ugly).

2) Busts/Portraits + text box. (well-known. No need for introduction)

Generally my favorite; busts tend to not only be expressive, but really give a sense of who the character is (based on their clothing and posture). I like busts a lot. The downsides (besides the time/money to make them) include the large amount of screen real estate they take up, and the amount of time they take for the player to visually take in.

This means they're best for scenes where the dialogue is the main thing happening (rather than complex choreography or player-driven action). But even for regular text in the middle of, say, town/dungeon exploration, they are not that bad.

3) Bubble dialogue on sprite. (like in Galv's script https://galvs-scripts.com/2016/03/31/mv-message-styles/)

Bubble dialogue definitely has its niches. Where it doesn't require player input to move the dialogue forward, it becomes a much more effective system than any kind of text box, making it the perfect text technique for games where you can talk to characters in the middle of dungeons, or where there are a lot of NPCs around town without too much important to say.

Additionally, because bubble dialogue takes up very little screen space and can easily and identifiably attach itself to a character onscreen, bubble dialogue is the way to go if you often have multiple characters saying different things at different times, or regularly interrupting each other - or even if you just have a lot of choreography onscreen that's happening during story scenes and you don't want to pause the action for several seconds for the player to read three text boxes before continuing.

The downside of bubbles is that (unless you also include the character's face in the bubble, which reduces some of the advantages) you are relying on sprites to convey the character's actual look, tone, and expression - and sprites tend to be poor at conveying all of these. If you can design detailed and expressive sprites, that move in realistic ways and show off emotion with either facial expressions or body language, then you can get around this and create something truly brilliant. That's hard to do though - consider To the Moon, which had a truly beautiful story but was let down just a bit by its reliance on sprites and text bubbles.

4) Text box + sprites (like in this video)

I don't like this method at all. It's interrupting gameplay (and perhaps choreography) in order to display text boxes alongside dinky little sprites. Even if the sprites are well-made and expressive, it's nearly impossible for them to match the kind of tonality and expression that either faces or busts can provide. I really don't see a single advantage to this technique, aside from not bothering to create any form of face or bust - might be good in extremely low-budget indie games made outside RPG Maker (where Faces are already available) and very little emphasis on dialogue.
 

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I actually like 1-3 equally, each for different reasons:

1) It's really a good idea to use this if you're a plugin minimalist, since RM comes with an easy-to-use face generator. Although the simplest option, it adds a lot of depth to the dialog and gives the player a good feel for who's actually talking compared to nothing at all. Bonus points if you end up using different facial expressions for characters to convey emotions. One thing I really like about this solution is you can feasibly give every NPC a custom portrait and thus, avoid the issue of "oh this guy has a portrait, he must be a future party member!"

2) Basically the same as 1, but on artistic steroids. If you've got a pocket artist (or are one) this looks quite a bit nicer, but is also more demanding in terms of resources, especially if you want to avoid the future-party-member spoiling I mentioned above in #1.

3) This one's also good, and I briefly considered using it over #1. Still might. It's a great option for conveying who's talking to players, especially since it lets you avoid dealing with making portraits for anyone other than the most important characters.

4) WTF I don't even... No, I wouldn't use this. I haven't seen any game use this, and if it did, I'd probably raise an eyebrow.
 

Finnuval

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I personally think 1 & 2 are the best options to use but pik one and stick with it, don't mix and match those up.
4 I personally don't like as it doesnt really ad anything for me, any custom Sprite animations can also be used on screen with 1 and Im missing the emotional expression.
3 I tend to use with 1 for chatter and/or bantering that is non essential to the game but makes A town feel more alive.
Ofcourse this is all subjective
 

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