Knights of the Old Republic EP53: Whoops.

By Shamus
on Feb 25, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Whoops, I clicked the wrong dialog option and did the opposite of what I intended to do, thus ruining everything. Better reload the game!

“Are you sure you wish to proceed? You will lose all unsaved progress.”

WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK THIS BEFORE I ACCIDENTALLY STARTED A WAR?

Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to give the user an “are you sure?” popup during a conversation. (Please no.) But this is a serious problem. In these kinds of games, you often have the player in situations like this:

  1. There’s a list of several options with very different outcomes.
  2. The outcomes are so drastically different (someone dies, something important is destroyed, a romance solidifies and becomes part of the story) that making the wrong choice is effectively a game over situation to the player.
  3. The player has just sat through several minutes of heavy exposition. Having the player reload after a botched fight is a minor annoyance, but making them repeat an important conversation can really break the flow and ruin the scene.
  4. There’s probably some reaction dialog after the player makes the big decision. If the player makes a mistake, they have to impatiently skip through this before they can even open a menu to re-load.
  5. The player is going to want to hurry through the conversation a second time, thus increasing the chances they will make more mistakes.

I know I’m always complaining about BioWare’s dialog wheel, but I have to admit this is one of those situations where the wheel helps. If “Rescue Puppy” is on top of the wheel and “Kill Puppy” is on the bottom, then there’s a lot less risk of an accidental mis-click compared to mouse-clicking on things in a straight list.

Sometimes you can give the player an in-universe confirmation by allowing them to say, “Wait! On second thought…”, so they have to make the choice twice. This can help, but it doesn’t work in all cases. In fact, the more important the decision, the more absurd this will look. Also, this costs more, since you need to write a loopback into the conversation.

I suppose auto-saving in the middle of a conversation would fix this, but no game ever does this. I get why that’s inconvenient for the programmers. I’d hate to have to write that, since it would greatly expand the complexity of the save system. On the other hand: Given all the other stupid crap developers throw money at, this seems like a small thing.

Sometimes you could make the choice by doing rather than talking. In Saints Row: The Three, there’s a decision you make by simply deciding where you take your vehicle. I’d say this is the best option by far, but it’s not always feasible and it might even be awkward. Here in KOTOR, the developer needs the choice to happen in dialog because they need to flip the combat flag for your foes, because you can’t initiate combat on non-hostile targets.

I put it to you: How would you solve this in a general sense?

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From the Archives:

  1. IFS says:

    This is my favorite episode of this season, you spend the whole episode talking about how stupid it would be to side with the savages and then do it anyways on accident. Beautiful.

    Also I think my least favorite encounter with this problem is over very minor yes/no questions, often in games like pokemon or the Mario RPGs. For example in Mario Superstar Saga there are a few tutorials where it will ask you if you understood everything after the demonstration, and the default option is set to ‘no’ for some ungodly reason. So if you are replaying the game and mashing the A button to get through the tedious tutorial dialogue faster you may in fact wind up repeating the whole thing. In pokemon its most often happened where by mashing A too quickly to get through the nurse’s dialogue I wind up talking to her again afterwards.

  2. silver Harloe says:

    ” In fact, the more important the decision, the more absurd this will look.”
    I think the opposite? It seems to me like the more important the decision, the more confirmation it needs. There’s a reason people confirm kill orders, and the President needs sign off from other members of government to launch the nukes.
    If you’re thinking cheap loop back, where no one even notices you started down the other path, then, yes, that would seem kinda absurd. But if the dialog were written right, I think this would be a solution to a lot of cases.

    • Grimwear says:

      I think Shamus meant that in the game it would come across as stupid. Example: You decide whether or not you’re going to join the Dark Side at the end of the game which involves killing a bunch of your crew members. You stand across from them tension building as they try to stop what you’re about to do and prepare for a battle to the death. You finally pick the option where you utter the words that seal their fate. You expect a battle to begin that ends with the deaths of many of the people you just spent the entire game with. Who you bonded with. Instead you get “O wait, I suddenly reconsider.” It looks laughable. The entire scene has been ruined by this piece of additional dialogue.

    • Shamus says:

      “I love you, Ashley.”

      “Wow really?”

      “Actually, hang on. Let me think about this.”

      • Matt Downie says:

        “I mean, I love you as a friend in a totally platonic way. Sorry, I should have probably led with that.”

      • Felblood says:

        “That came out wrong. What I meant was that I love puppies and I would never eat one alive in front of all these school children.”

        “–or at all. — for reals.”

      • Trent B says:

        I think the trick is to make the first line less strong, and then like a stronger confirmation line.

        1 (mid conversation): “I have some pretty strong feelings for you, Ash”

        A: “Wow, really? Like… are you… Like you love me?”

        2 (i): “Yes, …”

        2 (ii): “I’m not sure…”

        2 (iii): “Like a friend, Ash, yeah”

        2 (iv): “Haha, no. You’re a racist and I’m deliberately hurting your feelings. Go arm that nuke.”

        Or like:

        1 (prompt says like, “You’ll die for what you did!”): “I can’t let you live, Lord Mechadon. Any last words?”

        Mechadon: “A shame. You’re blind, like the rest of them”

        2 (i): (Begin shooting Mechadon)

        2 (ii): “Wait, what do you mean? The rest of who?”

        2 (iii): “It’s you who is blind! Think of the families you blah blah”

  3. The Walrus says:

    One possible solution might be to require the player to hold down the selector button for a few seconds when making an important decision. There could even be a subtle music sting or a dramatic camera zoom as the button is held. Of course, this would get annoying on replays, but I guess you could have a secondary skip button which activates an option immediately.

    • Falterfire says:

      I really like the button-hold idea, especially if it’s used sparingly and only pulled out when the choice is a big one.

      I don’t think it would be that disruptive – a dozen three second button presses over a twenty hour game are unlikely to add up to a substantial enough burden to bother adding a workaround for repeat players.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Dont be silly.Everyone knows that holding the button down should only be used for mundane things like opening a door or picking up loot.

      • Mephane says:

        I was under the impression that the idea behind this is to simulate the fact that in reality you can’t just sprint past a dead body on the ground and collect all their belongings in a split second. You have to stop, kneel down, search their bags, grab anything of interest etc.

        Of course it depends. Opening a locked door makes sense as a “hold E to pick lock” option, whereas a door that is not locked could be “press E to open”. It would even make sense for a door to not tell you that it is locked until you try. So you press E to open and get feedback (let’s say a sound effect) that the door is locked. You can then proceed to hold E while your character does a lockpicking animation, or do something else (e.g. hacking away at the door with your axe).

        Edit: I just thought of several cases where you have to hold a button and it makes sense:

        – In Garden Warfare, in order to help up a downed team mate, you have to hold a button. It takes a few seconds but you can cancel it at any time by releasing the button, it’s quite seamless and allows you to react to sudden danger quickly. In Garden Warfare 2 they do it the same, and also for a few other special things like picking up collectible snow globes and garden gnomes, and it never felt annoying or superflous, but quickly I found it quite natural to stop for a moment to collect it.

        – In Eternal Crusade, enemies don’t drop ammo. You replenish yourself at large, stationary ammo crates, with extra ammo packs, or at a troop transport vehicle, which also functions as a mobile ammo crate. Regardless of the method, rearming yourself requires you to hold the button, so that you don’t just jog past a Rhino and be instantly replenished, you have to stop a few seconds and thus check that you are safe before you begin, and be prepared to react quickly if you are ambushed. It adds a nice tactical element to it.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It makes sense for situations where there is tension,yes.But most of the time,it happens when no one is around.You clear the room of everyone,then you walk to the chest and instead of just popping it open with a single press,you have to hold the button down,or worse,mash it,because…um,maybe you change your mind?

          And no matter how nonsensical holding the button is,mashing it is even worse.Especially in games where you cannot exit the animation once you start it.

          • Mephane says:

            I believe there is no situation whatsoever for button mashing that couldn’t at least be improved by letting the player hold the button instead.

            • Richard says:

              The torture scenes in Metal Gear games come to mind. You need to mash the button quickly to resist the torture. Becomes difficult and tiring after a while, and would definitely lose that factor if you could simply hold the button down.

            • IFS says:

              Almost every Platinum action game (Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, Wonderful 101) has a sequence where you mash a button to punch very quickly, I feel like those wouldn’t be as satisfying if you were just holding a button.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Yup,button mashing has its uses.As does button holding.All the qtes in fact have their uses.But its when you stick them in a mundane activity,like opening a door,looting a body,or any place where there is no danger,no urgency,that they stick out like a sore thumb.

          • Groboclown says:

            I thought that the Long Dark handled this well – you press a button to start a thing, which takes a little bit of time (say, 3 seconds), during which you can cancel the action with a different button. Yes, it takes some time, so that you can’t just search frozen bodies while a wolf is chasing you down, but it does allow for a “whoops, I didn’t mean to harvest my sleeping bag” cancellation. That, and you don’t have to hold a button down for it.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              But that makes sense because its a game about survival,where time is constantly ticking away.Without that constant pressure,that bit of time is just boring and pointless.

    • Felblood says:

      One thing that worked really well was the Draw Weapon feature, in Way of the Samurai 3. It is the direct ancestor to the Mass Effect “Interrupt.”

      You could attack almost any major NPC, at any time, even in the middle of a cutscene or speech, by pulling the right trigger. Because you normally select dialogue choices with the face buttons, and becasue the game trains the player not to draw their weapon unless they actually mean it, it was very rare for anyone to draw their sword by accident, at a critical cutscene.

      There was also button for “Make a gesture of formal apology, and kneel with your face on the ground,” which had similar features attached. It doesn’t make as good of an example though, becasue so few other controller based games have a button mapped to that.

    • Aspeon says:

      I don’t think the input was any different, but Life Is Strange did do the music swell and visual effect for important decisions. Example (not majorly spoilery, it’s the very first one): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sgFFkhewDI&t=12m25s

      Granted, LiS didn’t have the issue of making the wrong choice accidentally because you could time travel to undo them.

  4. I’m curious from where it’s taken the idea the final planet in The Force Awakens is the Rakata homeworld. One thing in common is the superweapon feeding off the star. I’m not inclined to think it was a reference to this.

    Even in the film where looking up on the videogames would have made the most sense it wasn’t done. I’m speaking of the prequels, where the Republic don’t have Z-95 Headhunters, which in X-Wing are said to have been the Republic’s main fighter, rendered obsolete by the X-Wing IIRC.

    Perhaps, to solve those accidents, in these important decisions, I’d make the chosen option to gradually grow in text size for a few seconds, in which if a certain given button is pressed then the choice is cancelled and it returns to show the choices.

    • Tuskin38 says:

      Rakata Prime showed up on a map from a recent source book, which is considered canon.

      I’m not sure how that related to the planet at the end of EP7.

    • modus0 says:

      I think it might have been a combination of “mostly water-covered planet with a few tropical-like islands” and “a part of space no one visits/knows muchabout/thought a Jedi Master would hide in” due to the system having once been quarantined.

  5. Rick says:

    Both the Black Rakata and the Elder tribe have historians/storytellers who will tell you their version of Rakatan history. I don’t think it gets as detailed as the Sand People’s history, but it’s fairly interesting, especially contrasting the two.

  6. Christopher says:

    Having the intended consequence in parantheses works for me in most cases with a dialogue wheel. Inquisition has a lot of little icons I appreciate, as well as a clear “This will end relationship/you will enter a relationship” markings. Don’t really think that what happened to Josh here was the developers’ fault, though. You can’t misunderstand what it says there, he just clicked on the wrong thing.

    (The real way to solve it forever is to have it be Life is Strange freeze frames with the choices being written out on the screen in huge fonts and mapped to your buttons, and then have each button have a little button cover you have to flip open in order to press it. It would be a custom controller entirely for Bioware and Telltale games.)

    • Taellosse says:

      That’s basically what the InFamous games do when you’re presented with a significant choice – the two options are presented each with a different button, and you not only have to press one or the other, but hold it down for around a full second.

      Of course, that works fine in an action game where there’s about 3 significant choices in the entire game. It’d be problematic in a Bioware-style RPG, where there’s at least ostensibly a dozen major decisions or more.

  7. tzeneth says:

    One good thing about Fallout 4 is that you can actually save anytime in the middle of a dialogue list. I used to do quicksave, listen to the sarcastic to see if it was one of the funny ones, and then reload to choose an actual serious answer.

    • Content Consumer says:

      Seriously? I’ve never done that. I guess I’ve been conditioned by other games not to try to save mid-conversation.

    • Zekiel says:

      Yeah one thing that would slightly mitigate the problem Shamus decides is if you could bring up the menu (to reload) AT ANY TIME – e.g. in the middle of dialogue. Why is this complicated? I can’t think of a single game that does it. Fine, stop me from saving mid-dialogue cos that’s complicated to program, but why can’t I reload?

      Also: for goodness sake let me pause cutscenes.

      Thanks, developers. That’s all (for now)

  8. Gruhunchously says:

    Wow..this game is pretty.

    Also- “Hey, you can understand this precursor race’s language? Of course…it must be because of that thing that makes you so special!” I feel like I’ve heard this conversation in another Bioware game somewhere…

  9. Content Consumer says:

    I don’t think I understand why allowing a save mid-conversation is a bad thing. Can’t you just add a structure to the saved game detailing what point in the conversation has been reached? So as you go through the conversation, something like an integer variable is updated at each point when you’re offered a dialogue choice, and if you save the game that’s the point where you reload?

    There must be some other problem I’m not seeing, what is it?

    EDIT: Fallout and Fallout 2 had the “empathy” perk which colored the text depending on what the outcome would be – blue for positive, green for neutral, red for negative. Of course, this only applies to how the NPC responds to the line, not the actual outcome of any decision making. But something similar, sort of like the [Sacrastic] from Fo4 could be used, indicating the outcome.
    Of course, this doesn’t help you if you just mis-clicked.

    • Shamus says:

      Conversations are also cutscenes. A character may be alive or dead. If they’re alive, they need to enter and say a line of dialog. Someone walks in and changes some scenery, like opening a door or moving an object. Characters may walk a few steps and assume a new stance, but where they stand depends on some other dialog triggers. If I ask about X, then the two characters walk over to the window and look out at X, and the camera positions itself behind them, so the audience can also see X.

      Now when you load a game, it has to restore the scene. You can’t just jump to line X of a dialog. The scenery, camera placement, animations, and actors have to all be put in the right spots depending on a bunch of triggers and what path you originally took through the dialog. Otherwise you’ll have strange things like restoring a game will make it so Ashley vanishes, or dialog cues no longer make sense (like someone saying, “Look at these guns!” while actually looking at something else) or a dozen other oddities.

      • Content Consumer says:

        I should mention that pretty much the entirety of my modern game experience comes from Bethesda games, at least those dealing with PC-NPC dialogue interaction (not counting things like XCOM here).
        I suppose I’m still stuck in a pre-Skyrim mindset. Things like camera placement, animations, etc. are already saved in the savegame, but before Skyrim the entire game would freeze during a conversation, so it just seemed trivial to me to simply add an extra variable to the save.
        Thank you for the explanation.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But isnt saving the correct placement of a cutscene,where the camera is fixed as well as the people involved in it,easier than saving it free form,where everything can have widely different positions and facing?

        • Shamus says:

          I don’t know if it’s EASIER, just totally different. It’s like you have to write your save / load system twice, once for gameplay and once for cutscene.

          Also, I think the days of “save anywhere” are dead. Can’t remember the last time a game allowed me to save during combat. It’s all checkpoints now. :(

          • Mephane says:

            It may be a stereotype, but in this case I think it is safe to say that this is largely due to the influence of consoles. Nearly any game with pure checkpoint-based saving is a port from console or has been co-developed right from the start for PC and console. Games that are PC first usually have mostly save-anywhere with only some small exceptions like not during cutscenes or dialogs.

          • Taellosse says:

            It’s not unusual for a game to prevent saving during combat or a conversation, but there’s still a fair number of games that let you “save anywhere” with those two exceptions, not just at designated checkpoints (or automatically at invisible checkpoints). A lot of times what ends up happening is certain things are not retained (you start at the entrance to an area when loading the save, rather than the exact spot you were, respawnable enemies that you killed might also return, that sort of thing), but it still lets you save when and where you like, for the most part. It’s even becoming more common with console games, since the presence of a hard drive is now generally assumed.

      • Cilvre says:

        Actually, witcher 3 allows you to save mid conversation, this way you can come back if you made a grave mistake

      • Phobian says:

        It’d be kind of cool to see a reload system that does the Life Is Strange rewind thing, but fast forwarding from the start of the conversation to the save point, with the bonus of recapping the rough outline of the conversation so far

  10. Jonathan Scinto says:

    Games don’t survive Spoiler Warning.

    I’ve been thinking about how you guys have become so jaded about KOTOR, and I really think it’s the format. What game is going to remain interesting when you aren’t immersed in it? When your someone playing KOTOR solo and immersed in the game, all the little problems will tend to fade into the background. Its not perfect, and if the writers aren’t capable of grabbing hold of the player, all the glaring flaws will become obvious. However, I think the way Spoiler Warning places games under the microscope of a detached and long form analysis, nothing is going to look good.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      The games that survive Spoiler Warning are either strong, tightly focused narrative experiences, or offer enough freedom for screwing around and breaking the story in hilarious ways. KOTOR sits in an uncomfortable middle ground, being narratively driven but diffuse enough that it’s difficult to stay focused on it’s narrative strengths (or lack thereof). Simply put, there’s too much combat and aimless running from place to place, which isn’t a problem if you’re properly immersed in the world, but really difficult to get good commentary out of.

      Also, it doesn’t help that the only person who seems to have any real knowledge of the Star Wars EU is Josh, so cross discussion about the world the game inhabits tends to be one-sided. And Chris barely remembers anything about the game, so his commentary is somewhat limited.

      • ehlijen says:

        I think Jonathan has a good point. Having conversations with other people while playing the game is inherently immersion inhibiting. It’s worse than just watching and not playing, you’re actively being distracted from forming immersion.

        The games that survive spoiler warning are primarily short. The less time for the crew to get detached in, the better for a spoiler warning treatment.

        And I agree on the star wars knowledge point. Only one person being interested in the EU (who doesn’t remember this game well) and two others actively mocking it (however well deserved, and I say that as a SW EU fan), are not factors that are going to give this game a fair chance.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        The problem isnt really in the strength of the narrative,but in how it is delivered.When all the text is a tiny blurb at the bottom of the screen,its next to impossible to read it on a crappy stream.So you have to know it intimately,meaning you either have to have played it quite recently(like they did with walking dead),or went through it a brazillion times before(like they did with half life).

  11. Viktor says:

    It wasn’t just one decision in SR3 that was made by doing. They had no dialogue wheels, every single decision was *go to car/disarm bomb* or *drive car off island/off cliff*. It wasn’t impossible to make the wrong decision there, but it was a lot harder*. I’m actually surprised more games don’t do this. I mean, sure, keep the dialogue wheels for a lot of things, but let me decide who to back in a confrontation by opening fire, not by telling them so they can open fire on me.

    *And there were occasions where you COULDN’T make the right decision. Such as throwing Josh off a building. Which I physically tried to do for so long one time that the military just left.

  12. Hitch says:

    1:27 into the video and I have to pause to express my disappointment at the lack of a “Manaan à Trois” comment. It might come later, but that’s too late.

    Edit: I’ve finished the episode now. I have to say, Regina’s turn to the Dark Side was still a more compelling story than Anakin’s.

    • Will says:

      Given that being strong in the force makes you very likely to get picked up by either a celibate band of monks or a cartoonish villain clown squad that will almost certainly kill you before you get a chance to reproduce, I would say that it’s profoundly disadvantageous from a reproductive perspective.

      • Midichlorians are a monocelular species that got trapped within pluricelular creatures. Hence they feel prisoners and resent them. To break free two sects arise: one says drive them mad so they destroy every other pluricelular living being so we get free and nothing remains that could recapture us and the other says we just need to end the lives of those in which we are, so just push them into celibacy so they never reproduce and we get free upon their deaths.

  13. Alex says:

    “Sometimes you could make the choice by doing rather than talking. In Saints Row: The Three, there’s a decision you make by simply deciding where you take your vehicle. I’d say this is the best option by far, but it’s not always feasible and it might even be awkward. Here in KOTOR, the developer needs the choice to happen in dialog because they need to flip the combat flag for your foes, because you can’t initiate combat on non-hostile targets.”

    In Saints Row you would still choose that option the same way: by pointing your gun at someone and pressing the “Kill things” button. If they don’t want to turn hostile after that, that’s their funeral.

  14. noahpocalypse says:

    “Saints Row the Three”

    If this was intentional, I apologize for grammar nazi-ing, but I feel obligated to point out the mistake. (Three -> Third)

  15. Steve C says:

    mouse-clicking on things in a straight list.

    You know you can press the numbers directly too. 1-2-3-4 all correspond to what you expect. It is the UI I used when I played.

    It also was/will be very annoying any time there are options 5-6-7. Stupid scrolling. They really couldn’t have spared an extra couple of lines of space for that large black box? Really? Really Bioware?

    • Supah Ewok says:

      Yeah, I greatly improved my RPG quality of life by getting used to using the Numpad for dialogue choices. That’s kind of a genre convention that nobody ever tries to teach people, though. It’s never mentioned, in any RPG I can recall, that in a list you can usually use the numbers instead of clicking to make selection, so unless you have a stroke of luck or intuition, why wouldn’t you keep using the mouse? Since it’s your primary method of interacting with the game otherwise.

      Those are the kinds of little details that would make RPG’s a great deal more accessible for so little effort, but devs never seem to think about them, instead chopping out complexity and depth.

  16. How would I solve this? I wouldn’t let the player click on dialog options, I’d use WASD the way you do for movement and put the options on the cardinal points of the screen. I’d be willing to bet people would find it almost impossible to hit the wrong option when they have to look at the side of the screen–it’d be a powerful prompt to hit the corresponding directional button.

    To make up for the annoyance of not having all the dialog options right in the middle where they’re easy to see, I’d put all the options of a given “type” (good guy, bad guy, neutral guy, moar informations) in the same place every time.

    • Viktor says:

      Why spread everything over the screen? Dialogue wheel in the usual spot, WASD to select from 4 options(Doormat, wishy-washy, nutcase, more info), you hit Space(or whatever the Use key is) when you’ve selected the correct option. I mean, that’s already almost how the dialogue wheel works on consoles, we’ve just made it so that it doesn’t default to anything so you don’t accidentally skip the decision when you’re impatiently skipping the slow line-reading.

      • Yeah, I was going to say – that sounds like pretty much exactly the model used for picking dialog options in Mas- er- That Space Game Series Some People Liked, I Can’t For The Life Of Me Remember What It Was Called. You know the one, with the – er – space frogs and the other space frogs and the squid head ladies. That one.

  17. Hermocrates says:

    I think Pillars of Eternity has a good system for dialogue here. There is an option that will reveal how your reputation will change for given dialogue choices, though it defaults to off and is unavailable in Expert mode. For something like KotOR, extending this to briefly outline the result (start combat, gain dark side points, etc.) would be feasible. But I would definitely want it to be optional, because it’s also fun to try to pick your natural responses and just see how things go from there instead of always seeking the “ideal” result.

  18. Endymion says:

    On the subject of the good guys leaving, I’m not confident enough to say it was when you first left the ship, but my memory seems to lean that way. I had actually kept mission in my party through the entire game basically up until that point, it was sad to lose her. But the choice you get when she leaves does produce one of the darkest dark side moments in the game.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Is…Is that weird eyed guy at 19 minute mark saying the chee ku blabla donga line?

  20. ehlijen says:

    On the ME dialogue wheel protecting the player from accidental selections:
    That would be true if the ‘skip line’ button and the ‘select next line’ button weren’t the same!

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I put it to you: How would you solve this in a general sense?

    In this case,I wouldnt.Because I have never ever,not even once messed up a dialogue in games where dialogue is written out fully like this.But with a wheel,Ive messed up countless times.

    The thing about these dialogues is that Ive not even once used the mouse,since they are all numbered,so you can use keyboard instead.Either by using the corresponding number key,or by using the arrows to scroll through them.And with no necessity to keep my hand on the mouse,I move it away.

  22. livingandcorporeal says:

    I think I’ve seen an implementation of dialog–in a visual novel type game–where, during the conversation, you could just go back a step (scrolling up or something) and thereby choose a different option.

    It’s a bit gamey, but I like it.

  23. Regarding the Super 8 trailer in “Portal 2,” it put me in mind of the old days when trailers for stuff came on CD-ROMs with games. I remember having a copy of “Die By The Sword” (a game that might make a good 20 min Spoiler Warning review, since you can lose limbs and still fight, which can be hysterical).

    Anyway, the trailer I watched over and over from that game was for the Interplay game, “The Secret of Vulcan Fury.” I wish they’d release the files from that in some form or other. The story was by DC Fontana, and all the cast members did voice work.

  24. Da Mage says:

    Please tell me that “And yet there I was…” at 16:50 by Rutskarn was a Morrowind reference.

  25. Mephane says:

    I put it to you: How would you solve this in a general sense?

    0. Do not have any misleading dialog options in the first place. If you select the option “I disagree”, don’t have the player character say “What you said is stupid and you are a moron”. Design all your dialogs and dialog options so that there are no annoying gotcha moments and unwelcome surprises (satisfying surprises are fine, of course). Provide sufficient hints that a certain choice will cause the death of a beloved companion. Some games do that, by adding a small note in brackets behind the dialog option; this is the brute-force approach, I would prefer a subtler one where you can deduce from the context and wording of your line that this would happen, but anything is better than turning a benign phrase into (random, made-up example) “Surprise – Tali dies”. And when you insist on railroading the user towards a certain inevitable outcome, communicate clearly that no matter their choice, they could not have prevented it. Do not give them the false illusion they can prevent it when this is not the case.

    1. Allow the load and quickload (and exit game) functions during dialogs. Don’t make the user sit through the rest when they have already decided to begin anew.

    2. Make an auto-save any time you initiate a dialog. Loading that auto-save would not put you directly into the dialog, but basically the very moment you initiated it (with the option to not do so again). For dialogs that are imposed upon you (i.e. by a trigger in the environment), make an auto-save before approaching the trigger instead. Might need a special auto-save-before-trigger trigger.

    3. These auto-saves are distinct from other auto-saves, so you basically always have two of them – the regular ones and the one from right before the last conversation. They are technically implemented the same, but don’t overwrite each other, only their own kind.

    4. Dedicated hotkey or main menu option “Restart conversation” which immediately cancels the conversation loads the aforementioned pre-conversation auto-save.

    5. Make it so your save/load system is able to go back to the before-dialog-autosave without loading all the assets again. Don’t make the user sit through a full 30-60 second loading screen, heck, not even 10 seconds, when they want to restart a dialog.

  26. General Karthos says:

    I have to say, this was hilarious. I think the way I’d solve it would be LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE CLICKING ON BEFORE YOU CLICK ON IT.

    Incidentally, this could solve LOTS of problems. Like I work in cellular service customer service, and for all of you out there, everyone: READ YOUR GOD DAMN CONTRACT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT!

    This would cut down on calls by close to 50%. And even if you don’t, there’s a clause in there that states that you agree to everything in the contract whether or not you read it. That’s not technically necessary, but it’s in there anyway.

    My point is that my solution is to read what your options are, and then make your choice. This one is a lot less difficult than a timed dialogue wheel that gives you a general idea of what you are saying that may or may not match what you actually wind up saying. When it’s a situation like this, take five seconds to look at your answer and see whether it’s “I will help you” or “I am the Dark Lord reborn, bow before me.”

    • Falterfire says:

      Ah yes, the good ol’ “Everybody should always be perfect all the time. The only people who ever make mistakes are those who deserve to make them” approach to design, favored by misanthropes everywhere.

      Good design is recognizing areas where human nature will lead people towards common mistakes and then changing things to prevent that, not ridiculing anybody who makes a mistake.

    • Atarlost says:

      So Josh should spend an extra five seconds on every single dialog choice in the entire game? The peanut gallery is already verging on mutiny.

  27. Duoae says:

    One of the things I think we lack is internal dialogues/monologues in current game conversations. I think it would be a good way to reason out to the player just what they are about to do and would mimic what actually happens in humans’ brains in real life (well, I don’t know about anyone else but I do it). They it a lot in the arkham series so that batman doesn’t look stupid! Eg.

    -Hey what do you think about this topic, player character?
    *Player chooses “dislike”*
    -(aside) I could day I dislike that topic but then this character will tell these other characters that I said this and they like that topic so much that they will hate me from now on.
    *Player chooses again from the same choices*

    Us you spend more on writing and acting vo but it’s better for those really important decisions in the game I’M.

    • Zekiel says:

      Life Is Strange sort of does this – every time you make a significant dialogue choice, your protagonist muses to herself on what the effects are (or are likely to be), encouraging you to rewind time and see what the effects of the alternate choice is. (It gets a bit annoying when it happens too frequently but its generally not bad – ymmv.)

  28. lurkey says:

    Bioware has implemented this kind of warning in romance dialogues of their MMOs, SWTOR and Inquisition. There’s apparently some point of no return in them, so Charname hits on their paramour of choice and and out comes a pop-up — “Last warning: are you ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY POSITIVELY sure you want to commit to this person? Because you won’t be able to do anyone else. Yes/No”. Now when truly important matters are covered, mayhap one day they’ll fix trivialities like war starters as well.

  29. meyerkev248 says:

    This was the one place where I hated, hated, hated playing Renegade in ME1. They had something screwy with the timing, and both

    “No, I do not want your quest” and “Renegade for Life” were on the same click.

    If you were going Paragon, you could just sit on the upper right and get through the whole game.

    /Then they seemed to fix it in ME3 for certain. Possibly 2.

  30. Jack V says:

    Have an “undo” button that works until you choose the next line of dialog?

    Embrace the “cut scenes are annoying”, and build in a way of fast-forwarding/rewinding through conversations seeing the key points or recapping the key points without starting from the beginning? That would be a bunch more work, but would also allow dialogues to be more interactive without as much frustration.

  31. Atarlost says:

    Did anyone else notice that these guys seem to be reading from the same script as the twileks with different syllable stress patterns and a foreign accent?

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