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Guidelines for dialogue length?


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While I'm writing my dialogues I've noticed that one or the other has gotten rather long - longer than most I've seen in my estimation, though I'm not in the habit of counting steps while playing, and so don't know for sure. I'm confident my dialogues are interesting enough, but I'm wondering if there is a borderline beyond which players would want to see the end regardless of how interesting it is.


Are there any insights into this?

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If I got your question right (my apologies if I didn't): I usually include "Thank you, that's enough talking for now" answer responses in nearly every dialogue state, so the player can choose whether he wants to go on talking or not. If there is a part of the dialogue where it wouldn't make sense to end the conversation, e.g. because the NPC tells something important that is needed for the later plot, a dialogue flow of one or two dialogue lines without a choice to end the converstaion is fine.

As for length in general: Depressingly, even what upon writing seemed to be the longest dialogue you have ever seen, in game players will usually find the way through in two clicks. I wouldn't worry about "too long", espaecially not if there are possibilities to end the talk for the player. I tent to write rather long love talks for Ajantis in BG1NPC, but I so far didn't hear any complaints about it.. But as a recommendation: If the dialogue changes the subject, split it into two dialogues. It not only increases the number of dialogues (that's an important NPC mod quality measure! No joke!), but also lets the dialogues flow more naturally.

Minimum length would be at least one click- response, with two or three NPC lines, but it really depends on the situation (scenery remark or confession love talk, to name two extreems.)

Hope that helped.

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What she said.


There are just some things you can't say quickly.


Sometimes, like Jastey says, it's a good idea to include an escape hatch for the dialogue, although it's reasonable that if the dialogue is critical to the relationship, ending it early will have negative consequences, up to and including ending the relationship. I'd save that for when it's really critical that the PC hear the whole story, which won't happen all that often. Most of the time, there will be some way to cut it short without killing the relationship.


Example 1: Gavin's confession, lovetalk 12, is long, and there are escapes, but this lovetalk is absolutely critical to the relationship, so ending the conversation early ends the romance.


Example 2: Gavin rambles on about his family. It's long, and gets into a little bit of speculation about the responsible use of one's abilities, but it isn't critical to the relationship. The player can cut it short with no penalty (as long as she isn't rude).


Minimum length:

She says

He says

She says


Maximum length:

You should be able to read through the dialogue in 5-10 minutes real time.

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I usually go for "three red screens"(that is, in each love/friend talk there should be three times where PC chooses a reply). Two, if it's enough to get the point across, or if it is a player-initiated dialogue. Sometimes, rarely, one. Sometimes, if the dialogue demands it, four. Rude options and "not now" options, too, yes, but not everywhere.


Sometimes it looks artificial, though, so 'write just as you would like to play it' might be the best guideline.

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Thanks, everyone.


The main reason I asked is that I've been writing a dialogue about a complex matter, and after paring down the options to a manageable number the thing still looks long. It is not itself part of the romance, but using one of the early escape options, thereby cutting off the debate, would, if I take my character seriously, also prevent the NPC from developing any romantic interest. And since most probably the romance won't be active at this point yet, it would make no sense for the NPC to issue any warning.


Still, I don't want the player to be taken by surprise, so now I'm thinking of establishing some ground rules in an early dialogue, such as the NPC telling the player "don't ever do X with me", so that later, if the player selects any option amounting to X, the consequences are foreseeable.


Regarding the number of dialogues as a quality measure, that's not surprising at all. In a game where all who are still playing it have the original content coming out of their ears, the amount of new content and the frequency of it appearing is *the* quality measure for everything but tweak mods... So I *am* trying to write short dialogues, and more of them, instead of fewer and longer ones. But sometimes it's not possible...


BTW, Kulyok, I like your very simple and reasonable guideline... :)

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