Archive: March 6th, 2009

Conversation Minigame

[Research] (03.06.09, 5:22 pm)

Right now I am working on a prototype of a conversation game. Basically, since my adaptation project is focused on a literary world where there is so much dialogue, it is important to look at possible dialogue mechanics right away. I have some ideas as to how the mechanics should work, and the point of this exercise is to test it and see if 1) it makes sense, and 2) if it is fun to play.

The system as it stands allows characters to perform “discourse actions” which are simple spoken acts. Discourse actions have parameters as well, so a discourse action is essentially what one says, and the parameters are how one says it. Discourse actions can leave expectations, so the speaker makes an inquiry, then the listener is expected to respond and give some sort of answer. Expectations can be satisfied in a variety of ways, some ways are more conventional than others. The key differentiation in how they are satisfied is the level of awkwardness. So, disagreement is always a little awkward, but pausing or gossiping in attempt to change the topic of conversation is much more awkward, and usually considered rude.

This is what I have now, the next steps are going to be figuring out how to encode the conversation state, and how the different discourse actions and their parameters affect it. Then it will be a matter of figuring out how to execute goals and create conflicting goals in characters.

However, over the course of working on this, I discovered something interesting. Most conversation has a straightforward pattern and expectations are largely followed through. Most of the characters will do this, but not always. Occasionally characters will instead repeatedly not say what is expected of them, or rearrange or divert or misdirect the conversation. This is particularly noticable in the case of the in-dance conversation that Elizabeth and Darcy have in the Netherfield ball scene in Pride and Prejudice. There seems to the the root of a general game mechanic in this. There are two types of conversation, mundane conversation and intelligent conversation. Mundane is a “safe bet” but is unlikely to get one very far. Intelligent conversation is much more potentially rewarding, but is much more risky. A character can be good or bad (at least in terms of producing their desired effects) through the different kinds of conversation. Well executed intelligent conversation raises one’s status (which becomes a currency), but failures lead to embarrassment and status loss.

  • Elizabeth and Darcy both use intelligent conversation and are good at it.
  • Bingley, Jane, the Gardeniers, and others tend to be mundane, and are good at it.
  • Mr. Collins is mundane and bad at it.
  • Caroline Bingley uses intelligent conversation, but is bad at it (or at least, is not as good as others).