Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Dialogue Tool

(If you’re not familiar with how our dialogue system works, this post should fill in some details about what we mean when talking about “criteria”.)

This past week, I’ve been doing a variety of dialogue fixes, which aren’t particularly interesting on their own. However, the (self-built) tool I’m working in is pretty cool, so I thought I’d talk about that.

There's a bunch of extra stuff in it now, but the basic functionality is being able to add a dialogue line (green) and modify the dialogue line and the details it sets (red) and criteria (blue) that control when it plays.

By itself, these pieces are enough to implement our dialogue system, but in practice, manually setting all the fields to create conversations ended up being too labor intensive and error prone.

To that end, most of the other buttons don't actually add new functionality, they're just ways of automatically filling in fields in ways that were useful. A key example is the "Add Reply" button, which creates a new dialogue line and automatically sets criteria and details to have it continue from a previous line.

Another good one is "Clone Line", which exactly copies a previous line. A user then just needs to modify the text and add an extra criterion and whala!—she just added a custom line in the middle of a conversation.

My favorite feature, though, is the conversation converter. To take a step back, we do a lot of our writing in Google docs first, because it gives Siobhan and me a good place to share ideas and comment on each other's work (as well as sharing it with others to proofread). The conversation converter gives us a way to automatically convert this “normal” writing into lines in the dialogue tool.

Every line of dialogue in the conversation is inserted, with speakers and conversation details automatically set up for us. This only works for branchless conversations, but using the functionality above, it's usually not that much work to go back and add branches. (At least mechanically. The actual writing a coherent story filled with all these branches is still really hard.)

Hope you've enjoyed this look into how the Dialogue Tool works. If you’re curious for a more in-depth explanation on anything, let me know in comments and I’ll either explain there or in a future blog post.

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