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Article - 'Making an Impact, Part 2' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 1, 1970

Blurb

The second part of a multi-part article. This time, instead of looking at the sad moments in role-playing, KaosTenshi takes a look at dialogue and the communication of storyline.

Body

Any Role-Playing Game without dialogue isn’t really a Role-Playing Game. It’s easy to just make a little heart pop up by a character’s head, or have a man dressed entirely in black doing evil things… sure, you get the idea that the hero is in love, and that the man in black is the villain. But do you understand why the hero fell in love with the girl? Or why the villain does what he does? Or do you even know what exactly the villain hopes to accomplish? None of these things can be communicated without good dialogue.


-And you can quote me on that!
Quotations have a power all their own, be they from the strategic minds of great generals, or from the quills of great poets and playwrights. Who can forget the words of Joseph Stalin as he said, “Man is the root of all problems; no man, no problem.” Or what about O.J. Simpson’s post-trial quite saying, “Let’s say I committed this crime… Even if I did do this, it would have been because I loved her very much, right?”
But the thing is, great quotes don’t just pop into your mind. They’re something that you have to go searching for. There are plenty of great sites on the Internet with quote databases, and many versions of Microsoft Office Bookshelf come with a quote dictionary organized by topic or by the speaker. Just remember that if you decide to change a quote to fit the story better, be sure to change it enough to keep it from being too noticeable and people recognizing a ‘butchered quote’ more than thinking about the dialogue itself.


It just hits you!
Sometimes, wonderful quotes just hit you. Or sometimes you overhear them, or think of something that leads to a great quote. But whenever it does hit you, it usually hits like a mac truck. Write them down! You can’t always trust yourself to remember great quotes, so as soon as you hear one, be sure to write it down on a napkin, on a notepad, on your arm, whatever it takes. I have several .txt files full of good quotes!


You walk the three-frame animation walk, but do you talk the talk?
Defining the way a character speaks can breathe so much more life into your characters. If everyone talks the same way, they all sound the same way to the player, and thus all seem very lifeless and dull no matter how good the lines are that they speak. Allow me to use several of my own characters for examples.
Aurelia Saverence from the game ‘Serenus Angelos’ chooses her words very carefully. She speaks very eloquently and seriously, rarely using contractions unless it would sound very out of place to not use them. It gives her the airs of a very refined woman.
Saito Hotaru from Arata Shojo Kakumei Mirai very rarely speaks at all. When she does speak, she speaks only in one-word ‘sentences’, and they are always single-syllable words. Yet still, her emotions are very clear with the choice of these words; when in fear for Mirai’s live she simply tells her ‘run’. When Mirai asks what’s wrong with her and why she can’t approach a certain someone, Hotaru only tells her, ‘love’. Hotaru expresses her hatred for Mamoru by muttering only, “…die.”
Then there’s the good ol’ southern gal who’s heard to say, “How ya doin, shugah?”
Or the Russian rushing people out of his home, yelling, “You pleased be leavink now!”
Not everyone has to have unique ways of speaking because it then doesn’t seem so special, but used sparingly it gives dialogue much more color and life. The best method of writing accents is to think of certain words spoken phonetically with such accents. Don’t worry if they don’t always come out right the first time you start to write them, they can be very difficult to get the hang of!


Witty Repartee
The best dialogue without a doubt comes in conversations between characters. Talking to one’s self through an entire game can come out very dull. “Why didn’t you kill him?” Nimbus asked. Aurelia glanced over and replied, “Because I don’t mix business with pleasure.”
Movies, television, books, and comic books are great sources for this kind of dialogue but always think about ‘comebacks’ when you hear words being spoken. What would be a funny response? What would be dramatic? What would come back as a very cutting remark?


There’s no such thing as too much dialogue in an RPG! If anything, many RPGs suffer from a lack of dialogue and thus are unable to fully communicate their storylines. You can have great storylines but if the player doesn’t realize them, then you’ve pretty much failed as an RPG creator.