Gameplay Design Patterns for Game Dialogues

By Jenny Brusk, Staffan Bjork.

I love the idea of eventually having single player experiences with more deep interactions with dialogue and actions available to them. Inspired me just by thinking “Why on earth do we have turn based narrative when it doesn’t work like that in real life?” – will have to investigate.


The main aim of the research is to explore how novel gameplay can be created in games through the use of dialogues. We have a variety of dialogue systems – finite state-based (least complex), form-based, plan-based then agent-based (most complex). Can be commercial uses or in games.

You can say whenever you interact with a game it is dialogue because you are exchanging information. Can direct the player character this way. Or can have dialogue such as sport caster NPC’s commenting on the game. The one investigated here are player to NPC, where it is the more common interaction with NPC’s.

Analysed ELIZA, Zork, Grim Fandango, Morrowind, Oblivion, Façade, Mass Effect (in date order, can search if you don’t know what they are).

Finite state-based is like Grim Fandango, Mass Effect, Oblivion – dialogue trees, basically. Very common.

Form-based are reasonably state based, but can have more then one piece of information inputted at once. Zork and other text adventures have form-based – they might not have several actions in one game, but can understand different types of input. No time where you are forced to navigate, or forced to do an action.

Both have canned text responses, one set of actions you can get (context dependent), are single-initiative and are usually trees of options.

Plan-based, like Façade, are smaller scale agent-based systems – basically agent sets up a goal, and plan to get there.

Free Text (or Speech) Communication – Eliza, Zork, Façade, player can type of say “anything” – note, not *everything*. Needs to parse and understand it, it isn’t perfect (yet).

Turn-talking is used in games (barging in is another issue). In real life we fail to take turns. Press something, you get an immediate response. Comparable to turn based games.

Canned text responses are common – pre-written dialogue. Might have recorded voices to help with this.

Initiative – usually player has to initiate dialogue – but Façade is a bit different since anyone can start dialogue.

Barge-in – as noted above – can happen in some games but to no effect – such as Grim Fandango.

Relationship specific dialogues – not much of this in games based on how people are related and know each other.

Diegetic game hints – dialogue gives game hints to the player.

Dialogue-based game construction – the dialogue usually stops everything else. Not many games don’t do this. Façade and Eliza does, since it is so integrated with the story and the dialogue is the game.

Gameplay Integrated Conversations add tension, more believable, story is more strongly tied to the gameplay and communicative actions are on par with other game actions. Need to synchronise speech and gestures too – gestures can be used for feedback too.

Not saying this should be in all games, but if you do you can consider how it is processed incrementally. Interruptions, allow free-text communication. Most are done in chunks though, such as on the DS.

We alsohave social awareness – emotions and personality can be expressed through dialogue – a bit in Mass Effect and Façade. Casual communications and small talk are a social norm – totally not natural at the moment.

Most dialogues at the moment are pretty informational. Can still have pratical dialogues, but could explore new areas like socially competent NPC’s and other things.


Q – Have you or will you look at the dialogue between player dialogues in multiplayer to find the things players want?

It could be interesting – to look at the emotes, and the quick dialogue such as “there is a position there”. It is also controlled by the game also. Not very interested however, for one particular reason – they are fiction, so should I look at ordinary dialogues? no, want to have dialogues designed for the game, with elements that are not boring. Looking instead at dialogues from screenplays and sitcoms. Having ordinary dialogues is boring.

Q – Natural language processing is hard right?

Yes it is, also suggesting lots of little things in a paper.

Q – The complexity of establishing the certain personality recorded from dialogue to respond differently, can be complex in AI or boolean triggers.

Yep. No real interest in natural language since it is so difficult. Hope that there will be social games created to affect each other and things that can do it socially and not just shooting each other. Would like to go there, and we could have fantastic games if we go and create that. Maybe have other solutions – but it will be the same models for dialogue. Don’t need to have every phrase – Façade is limited in fact. But there are ways out of there.

Q – How about Scripts from the AI people from the 70’s – Shank?

The Restaurant game is using that, and some work in Germany on it. It is coming, at least within some games.

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