“Taking an Axe to Dialogue Trees”, more from GDC Online 2010, this time with Gambit’s Marleigh Norton

Marleigh Norton

“High-tech solutions, when they work,” Gambit Game Lab interaction designer Marleigh Norton said at Game Developers Conference Online 2010, “are often trading one set of problems for another.”…

The first idea was small talk. The rule of thumb when meeting people is to stick to small talk; stay away from sex, politics, and religion with people you don’t know well, as it can lead you into trouble quickly. Turning that into a game mechanic, Norton looked for a way for gamers to consider the eloquence with which they have to discuss a topic to avoid having it blow up in their faces. She pointed to PaRappa the Rapper as an interesting way to handle the issue, with a beat-matching game determining how effectively the player is communicating.
As an example, she brought up a conversation with a barista at a coffee shop who happens to be wearing a T-shirt featuring the Flying Spaghetti Monster (an atheist answer to creationism). Asking for another napkin would represent a low-risk interaction, and the beat matching would similarly be simple with just a few face buttons on a standard controller. However, a line like, “A fellow Pastafarian! All hail his noodle-y appendage!” would require a more complex series of button pushes and directions to reflect the riskiness of such an interaction with a complete stranger. The player’s performance on a risky line could lead to a subsequent dialogue tree that gives players the opportunity to come out ahead or dig themselves in even deeper.

“Taking an axe to dialogue trees”—Gamespot.com

Andrew Whitacre

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.


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