Importance of internal dialogues in CoG games


#1

Hi everyone :grin:

After searching on Internet for books to improve my writing, I found one which is about internal dialogs.

I was wondering, if you want the reader/player identify themselves with the MC, what do you use?

Fake choices, internal dialogs, or a use of both?

Would the internals dialogs rather be used for the MC’s own thoughts and observations?

I’m not clear at all, but I mean, in short: how far can we go, in assuming the MC’s feelings, without the player feeling that their own choices and feelings are not respected?

I’d like to hear what you have to say about it, thank you for reading :wink:


#2

I think a good (if labour-intensive) method of creating a more in-depth character is to have them make small emotional choices that influence not the events but the tone of the character’s reaction to them.

For example say something exciting happens in front of you, and you’re given a choice of how to respond.

I would say that if you’re scared, it kind of establishes your character as a bit of a 'fraidy cat and later events will have their dialogue or descriptions very mildly altered with a focus on the character’s fear.

Likewise if they’re sarcastic, adding a few more jokes and pithy retorts to otherwise unchanged dialogue helps add to the characterization.

I might be too involved though, some think a lighter touch is better.

People tend to think about their character’s personality as they play anyway, so they’re already making internal soliloquies as they play. The rules for games are so different from the rules of books, so we’re all breaking new ground, however accidentally.


#3

One method is to take a scene and have the character act within it but narrate it through internal monologue. Take for example a cliche scene where the MC is a superior officer receiving a commendation for the unit after a bloody battle. The MC’s unit was instrumental at achieving victory but the unit took horrible casualties while doing so. The MC salutes, keeps a stoic face as is the custom at formal military events and then poses for a photograph. The choice comes when the MC gazes at the unit commendation. Does the MC think of the men that died on the battlefield? Is the MC’s mind riven by grief? Is the MC proud of his men, believing that they died with honor? Is the unit commendation nothing more than a reflection of the MC’s skill at command and an ornament for the MC’s ego? Is it a shot at the fame and fortune the MC always craved? Does the MC feel numb, that the loss of so many troops has made the MC emotionally drained? All of these are possible responses but they establish quickly how the MC views the burdens of command and the kind of personality the MC has.

As @Moreau noted, these should be expressed through small gestures. A proud MC might go to the graves of the troops and personally lay a medal on each tomb? Does the MC stare at the medal and try to recall the faces of the troops that fell? Or just take that thousand yard stare because part of the MC never left that battlefield? Pose for pictures with the medals? Ingratiate himself/herself with the dignitaries that have come for the ceremony? None of this is likely to have further effects in the game but can serve for character development.


#4

I think the idea of leaving the “choice” to the player on how to answer a good idea, but mainly in specific scenes, like romances, or friendship, for instance.

Otherwise, I fear that this isn’t a game that we’re playing, but more like a story, and I don’t think it helps the player to identify with their MC.

Giving too choice would be 1. A lot of work to code and modify (for me, ayway :wink: ) and 2. It won’t be interesting, and slightly annoying, to choose our tone every single time. What do you think?

I then thought that maybe internal dialogs, if well done, could avoid an overuse of fake choices.


#5

I’m trying to take the middle road with CCH Part 2.

I have some motivation bars that track the first few choices, and then there’s a check (based on the highest of the motivation bars) that tosses a few lines of motivation-related narrative.

For example, if the player has been making choices that lean towards retribution/revenge against the bad guys, once in a while I’ll have a check that inserts some internal dialogue to the effect of “those jerks will pay dearly!” (worded more artfully) In contract, a player who’s been making choices more related to saving the innocent citizens of the city might get some dialogue like, “no one will die, not on my watch!”

I’m trying to insert just two or three such checks per issue, so not a huge amount, but just a little color flavor. And obviously if a player starts making different choices, bumping a different motivation to the top, then the color language would change at that point.

It won’t hide any choices or prevent players from acting as they wish, but it might (in the second half of the story) bring to the player’s attention, “Hey you’ve been hellbent on revenge this whole time and now you’re just worried about saving your friends?”

And some internal dialogue is really really overpowering. I’m reading Versus at the moment, which I’m quite enjoying, but I admit that the MC’s detailed and prolonged internal dialogues do make me feel disconnected from the MC.


#6

Thanks for your helpful post :wink:
The motivation bars are hidden variables?

So, instead of fake choices, that would allow the MC to be angry in one scene, and totally calm in the other, which would be inconsistent; this method “forces” (the word is too strong for what I mean) the mood/personality of the MC is carried through the game? (or a part of it)


#7

I think a fitting word here is “consistency”. The MC, and for many players my MC thinks and acts in certain ways. If the scene goes on and the player thinks “yes my MC would do something like that” then you have succeeded. :smile: If the player has a strong hand in crafting the underlying beliefs of the MC then they would feel a connection even if they might not have acted or spoken in exactly the same way because it would have been something they could believe that their personal MC would have done.


#8

No, not forced. I think too many people would dislike such a strong handed approach. You could code a story to “lock the MC into” a motivation or something, say at the mid-way point, and yes it would create a consistent character, but I think readers value freedom over pretty much anything else, including consistency. If they want a consistent character, they’ll keep making consistent choices anyway. No need to force them.

My approach just tracks tracks tracks and then inserts some flavor text. Repeat Repeat And then as I said, it might remind you later in the story about changing your motivations, but people DO change their motivations mid-stream sometimes in real life.


#9

As @Gary said, consistency was the word I was looking for.

I agree with you, freedom is too important for it to be sacrificed over consistency, even more so if a plot turn change the MC’s view of the story since the beginning until this point.


#10

In my approach in Freak:ANL

I’ve opted to let the player choose personality types and quirks that layer together to form a personality. None of these intrude upon ones actions but rather alter how the scene is colored. From how the MC moves to their reaction both physical and via communication with others. One may be a brat but they can still be optimistic sarcastic or even broody.

The overall affect being each playthrough can feel totally different even if one chooses to go the same route as before.
Guess I’m big on replayability.


#11

Unless it well crafted I dislike personality tracking as I often may disagree with some choices I face. There are times I may make a consistent choice then something may strick my fancy but I now cannot choose outside of the set path. I plan on leaving choices open in my game.


#12

Instead of having distinct personalities, you could have varying degrees of each, maybe from a smaller pool of them since in real life, personalities aren’t a strict “have, or do not have”, people show them at different levels.

In the emotion anger, it probably starts with annoyance, then changes into anger, then fury and wrath and the likes.(admittedly, that was not the best example, blame my bad vocab XD) Having subtle but noticeable changes/results/consequences helps.

Also, internal dialogue probably isn’t the best option. Even a grunt or a smile can affect the paragraph/situation greatly.


#13

I am not as a strong writer as others (or programmer) so with that said here is how I am approaching it in my WiP:

Every choice made is going to have an impact on the story; as such the MC will have a set of personal attributes that will affect the game story as it is told. My attributes are more general and more categories because I’m not as talented as @Snoe and others in my writing ability.

To provide the reader/gamer with enough information to make an educated choice, I use internal dialogue and narration - this is not as elegant or as precise as @Snoe 's work but it will be enough to inform the reader/gamer the perceived consequences of their choices made.

I am currently working on this very thing which is why I am able to delineate the differences between myself and more able writers.


#14

Personally I think anyone’s best bet is to avoid telling the player how they feel that seems to be the most common off point: when the other starts in one deeper thoughts.

Actions on the other hand should be mostly up for description. Otherwise how does the reader know what they are doing lol


#15

I have a pretty involved way of doing it in Fallen Hero. I keep tracking choices players make and use them later to track how the text appears in other scenes. In a way I guess I am trying to predict what character people are playing and try to make their reading experience as seamless as possible? But then again, so much of my game is about headgames, and it sometimes involves a lot of writing most people will never see. Still, that is what I find fun about writing a game like this-

Whether it will be successful or not I don’t know. People seem to like it so far, but sometimes I feel a little bad about the amount of work that people might never see. On the other hand, that’s replay value I guess.

Maybe it is because I come from the book/comic writing world, but I like it a lot when games tells me what to feel, as long as they do it consistently well. It is so easy to slip into that ‘wtf?’ territory if you break character. I just have a very hard time getting into the more ‘neutral’ games, they just never capture my interest. I’m here for interactive stories!


#16

Your writing is very successful; very inspirational. You share the ability with @Snoe to write a lot for multiple replay value scenes.

I do disagree with you telling your audience - as in dictate. Guide your audience and providing a touchstone so they know you and them are on the same page of understanding but as in directing and dictating; that is when the internal dialogue no longer fits this game making but strays into novel or short story telling.


#17

Thank you, and yeah, you’re right. Maybe that’s what it is when I mean they go into ‘wtf’ territory, when I am yanked out of character. Sometimes talking about how stories are constructed are more difficult than actually constructing them for me, I lack the language for it. Also, I am going to check out @snoe now…


#18

I don’t like it when games tell me how to feel and that is not how my character feels. Story games with awful MCs are unplayable even if the plot and other characters are great (which is why some otomes are unplayable).

I also don’t like it when the game treats your MC as one dimensional or bases the MC’s entire personality off of one choice. Most people aren’t completely morally black or white; they are shades of grey. One WIP I played based the MC’s personality on a choice made after a plane fell on MC. Why couldn’t MC be upset that a plane fell on them, but normal when a plane is not falling on them?

All general thoughts, feelings, and internal dialogue should be neutral.Choices should be given that allow the MC to express their personality. Guenevere by Jeantown is great at making MCs with distinct and in depth personalities. After many consistent choices, the text can change to reflect the MC’s personality, but major decisions should still have a choice.


#19

I love this idea. I have an awful lot of stats in my current WiP, and I wasn’t sure quite how to integrate automatic MC reactions into the text. The few times I’ve tried, I had people comment that it was too subtle and their character should be MORE angry-chipper-whichever.

Checking for a highest stat (which I have done, a few times) is bothersome for this game, and often not very meaningful. Checking how far along the MC is on an ‘angry’ stat, though, would work really well! So I think I’ll try integrating MC-tweaks into my writing this way. Thank you for the inspiration!


#20

Always fall back to the old warhorse “show, don’t tell”.

If you write “You feel scared.” the reader’s response invariably will be “No I don’t.”

If you let the reader open an envelope to find a torn spiral notebook page with the words “you’re next” scrawled in red ink, you don’t have to tell them how to feel. Their own brain processes will interpret the goings-on and organically decide what to feel–or more specifically what the character feels. The more that you can let the reader participate in the situation rather than spoon-feeding them direction, the more involved they will become.

And with CS specifically, you can even use the fake choices to quiz them how they decide to feel and vary the resulting text a bit. That ends up becoming a bit telling since you have to write the range of emotions the reader can choose from, but IMHO that slight artificiality is inherent to CoG style writing and I think most fans expect it. The co-creation of the narrative is part of the magic of interactive fiction.

My 2 cents.