[Idea] Association Dialog System

I was playing … a game with a typical dialog system.
I noticed some things that feel … strange. Later while thinking about it I thought about a more “communication feel” system.

But lets start with the dialog system I saw:

The NPC says something, you (the player) gets multiple choices as text to react. The choices depend on the knowledge and skills of the virtual character. It feels a bit strange that the NPC patiently waits until the player made his choice.

I know this is to comfort the user, but in real live no dialog partner would wait until eternity for a response.

First idea - reaction time:

The user gets a limited time to made his choice. It surely can be longer as in real live (some sort of slow motion :wink: ). This can even be a skill of the virtual character. The npc will made up his mind dependent on the reaction time (e.g. going to become angry) or continue with the dialog e.g. aborting the dialog or continuing with a “long-reaction” or “no-reaction” response.
This way you get different dialog paths not just dependent on the choices but on the reaction time too.

Second idea - Associated choices:

Usually when someone talks to you, you immediately start to made some thoughts what could be meant and how to react. In the traditional dialog system, it does not matter as you get predefined choices and you have any time of the world to think about what to choose. Nevertheless the choices partly depends on the “virtual character’s” skills and knowledge.
How about that: we use the “virtual brain” of the character to create choices on the fly. This means
A) the “input” statement from the dialog partner should come in slowly (like talking)
B) choices appear right from the beginning dependent on what associations the virtual character could do.

NPC: “Where …”
Choices: “Here”, “I do not know.”

NPC:“Where is …”
Choices: “Here”, “I do not know.”

NPC:“Where is Carey …”
Choices: “Which Carey?”, “I do not which Carey.”, “I saw Carey Dow on the street”, “I do not know where he is.”

NPC:"Where is Carey Mahoney … "
Choices: “I saw him some hours ago.”

NPC:“Where is Carey Mahoney now?”
Choices: “well” (speech disfluency - adds some extra time for the response), “Who is Carey Mahoney?”, “I do not know where he is now, but I saw him some hours ago.”

This way it is a sort of “reaction game” to the player. The amount and details of choices depend on the virtual character’s skills, knowledge and state (mood, morale etc). Responses can fade away when they do not fit anymore.

I think this would provide the feeling that the player has some sort of connection to the virtual character. The character creates the choices, but the player suggests which one to continue with. Some sort of suggesting. The character is more a person rather than a mechanical puppet.

I know such a system would be pretty complicated. But would it allow a new level of game play?

The Walking Dead adventure game has reaction-time dialog, it’s pretty nice.
Typed dialog was very popular in the late Eighties (Larry, King’s Quest), but it went heavily out of favor

Ah, this is annoying.

I went to the indiegame design conference in Amsterdam earlier this year, and there was one guy talking about “fuzzy logic”, so things that happen in the game that aren’t being kept track of by the main game. And he was telling the audience about this game he was working on, where the dialogue just played, but the player was able to control the facial expressions of his character. This didn’t result in the dialogue changing, but the other character would react back with her own expressions, and that results in a different experience of the conversation for everyone who plays.

I think, initially his talk “the illusion of the grandfather clock” was about how games tend to give story as a reward for completing gameplay, rather than just letting both happen.

Edit: the annoying part is that I don’t recall the guys name or his game’s.

thanks for the feadback.

I want to explain I do not mean a typed system. This would be really slow. I meant the choices changes while the NPC is “talking”, the same choice can have different results dependent if it is given early or late and no reaction is an choice as well ;).

I do not know how this guy connected fuzzy logic with expressions (it seems unrelated at the first sight). Fuzzy logic might be an option to calculate valid choices. This way there is less “authoring” in a dialog.

There could be a pattern to the choices. Each choice (1., 2., 3., etc…) would always have the same “type” of choice, so the player could choose to react in a certain way fast in a situation. Even if the player doesn’t wait to read the choices, he or she would know prehand which “kind” of a choice to take fast.

It would even lead to interesting results while playing.

I see a potential problem with this system:
The NPC reaction! The complexity of a response part will require the same level on the counterpart. This will imply a more complex AI reaction, to the output. You mentioned how the NPC would react if one of the elements (reaction time) were mis/used what happens when the player takes one of the choices?
Or is it still a traditional conversation system, only the NPC, doesn’t wait for the player’s reply, or if it takes too long, it decides the player is not interested, aborts conversation, takes one decision,etc; otherwise, the response would make the NPC react “normally”?

I think behind the scenes can be a traditional (authored) dialog system.

A traditional system is very fast. The NPC usually respond immediately and the choices are presented the same way. So it is the player who slows down the conversation.
On the other hand, it takes time to read the texts and in some games the text comes with voice which naturally is slower. So there is a natural slow down as in real conversations.

In a real conversation it would be hard to give a valid response before the necessary facts are presented. This is what this associate system can simulate.

When the conversation text comes word by word possible responses of the virtual character can appear.
These responses change with each new word as long as it adds new facts.

You can see this effect in some game shows. The players has to answer as fast as possible. So they try to get the answer before the question is complete to get a time bonus. This can easily lead to incorrect answers but it increases the chance to win.

In a conversation, an NPC could see early answers as impolite (dependent on the counterpart’s character). While waiting a long time for an answer is impolite too. There can be rhetoric ways to add extra time to be accepted by the NPC.

The NPC reaction time is not really a problem. The NPC gets the response and the response time as input values.
So the NPC result can be different with the same text but different response times (early, fast, normal, slow, no-response).

But this seems a bit complicated. I guess it could be a good way to train rhetoric phrases (sort of repartee).

I can see this as annoying the crap out of several gamers I know, they can’t stand waiting if they know or think they know what they want to say (patience is a rare thing now a days~). I like the idea but also feel it might annoy me, particularly if it’s for dialog I can guess at. I think it may be one of those things that seems like a cool idea until you try it, but we won’t know for sure until someone does include it in a game.