Game Development Reference
some wrong conclusions about the situation—but there is a lot more that can be
19.6 Conversation Styles
There are two approaches to character conversation in IF games, usually described as
“ASK/TELL” versus “menu-based” dialogue. ASK/TELL is called that because those
are the verbs you use to carry out interaction with NPCs—you either ask them about
topics you're interested it, or more rarely, you tell them about topics in order to get
their reactions. Sometimes this is augmented with the ability to show items to NPCs,
as a gestural form of asking them to comment on whatever object is at hand. The
vast majority of the time, ASK is all you need to do:
Fred is here, whistling as he cleans the countertops with a
You greet Fred.
''Hey there,'' says Fred.
''Tell me about yourself, Fred.''
''Well, shoot, what's there to say?'' Fred says,
scratching the back of his neck. ''I'm mainly here to make
''What kind of sandwiches are there?'' you ask.
''Glad you asked! Today's special is a hot meatball sub, for
$4.99. Or if you're really on a budget you can get the cold
cut combo on rye. That's only 99 cents.''
''Do you know who I am?'' you ask.
Fred looks at you, a little puzzled. ''I'm not sure what to
say,'' says Fred. ''You're a good customer and all, but I don't
know a lot about you.''
''Fred, this is going to sound strange,'' you say. ''But I'm
actually a time traveler from the amazing future year 9 hundred
billion. I've come to deliver a warning to all humanity that
it must change its course.''
Fred fidgets with his cloth rag. ''Are you sure you
don't just want a sandwich?'' he says.
''What do you think about me?'' you ask.
''Um,'' says Fred. ''To be honest you seem a little more loopy
than I first figured.''