Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
7.5 System Responses: Non-linear Interactive Dialogue
Non-linear interactive dialogue, or unit speech, which some may call “barks,” is
the substance of multidimensional arrays. The unit speech scripts (see Figure 7.6 )
are long lists of lines that refer to the state of the NPC, vehicle, or unit on the
battlefield. For each unit, there is a separate script. Depending on the expected use
of that unit during gameplay, it receives its own line count. The speech here acts
as a multidimensional array navigated by the user based on actions and unit states.
How will a player know the voice of NPC X versus NPC Y? Well-cast voice actors
help, but a good writer should maximize the potency of his writing by working to
create character continuity through literary voice. The lines as written can be played
in any order, hence creating affinity or contrast in literary voice. This is essential
to maintaining character continuity and differentiation. It helps inform the player
whom they are listening to or hearing from.
Unit speech line counts can add up quickly. For Opposing Fronts ,wehadover
50,000 lines of speech. Think of it as a larger palette of speech that is navigated by
the player based on his actions in-game. The production and audio departments can
decide how much record time is needed or allotted, in which case editing for the best
lines prior to the recording session never hurts. Also be aware that lines often come
back from record with unexpected reads, unless the writer has the good fortune to
be on-site for the record. Everything needs to be in the script. The format seen in
Figure 7.6 is a barebones version of a typical non-linear unit response script. Here,
“character” refers to a particular unit on the map, be it a tank or a soldier.
7.6 Putting It All Together
An RTS writer's final deliverables are the campaign screenplay, individual single-
player mission scripts, and system speech scripts. The campaign screenplay is a read-
able version of the campaign, with gameplay segments written in brief. The mission
script resembles the unit speech script, in that it contains a list of events (see Fig-
ure 7.6 ) . The events in mission scripts are linear. The event blocks contain trigger
descriptions that indicate how and where a line, or set of lines, is to be played. Here
it is necessary for the writer to work hand-in-hand with the individual mission de-
signers to ensure the palette of audio provided satisfies the needs of their design.
They key to integrating non-interactive sequences with gameplay lies in well-
executed audio and visual transitional elements. Non-interactive sequences must be
used in fluid balance with interactive sequences. Some people may call for the death
of non-interactive sequences as if we could just throw them out due to their non-
interactive nature. The argument is to be had that they are outdated, but in RTS
games, exposition has always been a key player in indoctrinating the player to the
universe as authored. The writer needs to work closely with the lead designer to
make sure the video game screenplay integrates tightly with the vision of the game
as played. Good writing can make these narrative transitions even more fluid and
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