Putting the RP in RPG

Those of you following our updates closely may have wondered just how much story and actual role-playing will we have in Spy DNA. Well, wonder no more.

We just purchased a dialog/script tool that will allow us to both visualize the existing dialog branches and stories, and to integrate them with the game. The tool is called Articy:draft, and so far, we’ve been quite impressed with what it can do.

Aside from offering a handy way to keep track of all the characters, locations, and dialog lines, the tool integrates with our existing source control (big plus!) and with Unreal Engine. Once we’ve got that configured, we’ll be able to assign dialog directly to the characters, wherever they pop up in the game.

As is the Shy Snake tradition, we’re already planning some custom work in order to have the dialog have effect on NPC disposition and story line, and vice versa, have character skills and attributes as well as prior actions result in more (or fewer) dialog options when talking to NPCs.

Right now, I’m busy migrating the existing script from the ODS file into the Articy tool, and what I’m discovering is that the visualization makes it very clear where more dialog options can be added. Conversations without any branches or with only very few ones become immediately apparent once you lay them out like a flow chart.

So once all the dialog is in, I’ll be taking a second pass over it, adding more branches and optional outcomes, to make the role-playing aspect of the game match the combat in complexity and richness. How will I do it?

NPC disposition
Depending on where your behavior falls on the scary to nice spectrum, the NPCs you’re interacting with will like you more or less. The more they like you, the more information they will share, and the more readily will they comply with your requests. Not to say that you always have to be Miss Manners, because some NPCs may need scaring before they become cooperative, such as the baddies you take prisoner.

Skills and attributes
When you are talking with NPCs, you’ll find that your attributes and skills influence your dialog options as well as how convincing your character will be saying those lines. Going with your character’s strengths will mean having more successful conversations.

Going against your character’s “nature” may result in humorously bad outcomes. Not every character will be a natural at diplomacy and negotiation, so you can imagine that some conversations may not go as planned.

Things that your character already knows or places they’ve been will influence what dialog options they’ll have when talking to NPCs. Same goes for previous actions and acquired items.

All in all, my goal is to write enough dialog branches that you will not be able to explore them all in one play-through. You’ll have to create different characters and play a couple times to discover all the dialog options.

What do you like (or dislike) about dialog and story in games? When you play, do you try to exhaust every dialog branch or do you just click through the bare minimum so you can get back to fighting? Tell us below in the comments!