Dialog Tree

Mass Effect, a dialog tree depicting three choices for the player (image source)

Description

A dialog tree is a tree of possible choices for the player to make in conversation with an NPC. This is an extremely popular method for NPC-player interaction, allowing the player to make choices (or at least the illusion of choices) in the game while progression the conversation in a controlled manner. At each node in the tree, a player is given a choice between one or more lines of dialog. Once a choice is made, the game continues down one a corresponding branch, letting the game respond to your choice, until it reaches the next choice node or end point. Branches of the tree frequently merge with others. When an end point is reached, typically the game will push the player out of the conversation and back into the game world. Occasionally a dialog tree will provide a non-dialog option to the player, such as the option to hang up on the council in Mass Effect.

Variables and Affordances

  • Choice Clarity: how clear is the choice made by the player at a joint of the tree. Some games, such as Dragon Age, show the player exactly the words that the character will state, while others provide a short description of much lengthier in-game dialog.
  • Length: how deep the dialog tree is
  • Breadth: how many different directions the conversation can go
  • Repeatable tree: if the dialog tree is completed, can it be started again with exactly the same results, or can the player no longer interact with that NPC in the same way
  • Repeatable branch: whether a particular branch on the dialog tree is repeatable
  • Forced vs. Unforced: whether the conversation is NPC initiated or player initiated
  • Timed: whether there is a timer on choices in the tree

Examples

  • Dragon Age. Dragon Age dialog trees provide exact choices to the player with no timers. Many NPC conversations can be replayed, unless the particular branch was related to a quest or had a reward associated with it.
  • Alpha Protocol. Alpha Protocol implements timed dialog trees; every choice is timed, and if no choice is made then the worst possible branch is chosen automatically. Descriptions for choices are short, providing a sense of the direction the conversation will go without the exact text.

In Worked Examples

  • Riddle Enemy. Riddles are often answered through dialog trees.

Quest-Level Relationships

  • Choice. Choice directly ties into how rich the particular dialog tree is. Choices can also determine the outcome of a quest.
  • Moxie Action - Personal player knowledge can effect what branches of the conversation a player can take. Also, the player can essentially “play” an NPC to get a desirable result by using knowledge of human psychology to their advantage.
patterns/dialog_tree.txt · Last modified: 2011/06/17 01:25 by Gillian Smith
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