Emil Talks More About Fallout 3 Dialogue


Emil dropped me a note to let me know he posted in the forums today to clarify his comments a bit further as to dialogue, and what it does (or doesn’t) influence in terms of gameplay. Here’s an excerpt from his post:

I was specifically answering the question about whether or not dialogue affects the endgame. It doesn’t — not directly. The endgame itself doesn’t change based upon things you may or may not have said in dialogue. The endgame is affected by your actions. So that’s what I meant by, “We went back and forth with the impact of dialogue on the character, and ultimately decided we didn’t want to penalize or reward the player for carrying on a conversation.” And yeah, that was a pretty bad choice of words, because it seems like the things you say in dialogue don’t matter — and nothing could be further from the truth.

Believe me or not, but here’s the reality of dialogue in Fallout 3: it does matter. It matters more than dialogue in one of our games has ever mattered. I feel really comfortable saying that, because one of my responsibilities is editing and directing all the dialogue that gets written, and one of my personal crusades is pushing the NPC interactions to be more meaningful. We approached that level in Oblivion — now I really feel like we’ve truly reached it.

You can find his full post here.

Reader Comments

  1. Ahahahahhaha, you approached that level in Oblivion?!?!? Ahahahah! XD Where!?! Tell me WHERE!? If that’s the kind of “approach” you are glad of, then Fallout 3 has surely got to be the best game ever. No way out of that.

  2. He did the right thing clarifying the quote, it was becoming the main source of confusion and contention not only on the forum but in many other places, and to many people, even staunch supporters of the game.

    He did well, this time.

  3. Actually, I like the way he talks. He’s pretty much straightforward most of the times. Looks very nice to me, specially comparing with Pete. No offense really, it’s just that Pete is very evasive… to say the least, I mean, it’s his work, I know, but sometimes I prefer to hear the man in charge that really isn’t used to speak to the press rather than to hear PR guys… As for evasiveness… comes with the territory, I believe.

  4. Thank you for clearing this issue up. Not only that but you gave us a peak at NPC interactions and value of dialogue in egeneral, within the new game. It really came at the right time since questions about it and what will affect dialogue in the game were left out of the comunity FAQ somehow. I already begun to think we wont get any explanation on that for a long time and you jumped in and saved the day(s).

    Also im very impressed with a calm manner you aproached this.
    I thought all that useless empty negativity on the boards is starting to get to you all.
    Im rarely pleasantly surprised these days and you just managed to do that.

    Very valuable, positive and interesting info. Thanks.

  5. What’s with the “empty negativity on the boards”, kaos? Is it THAT bad? I mean, I don’t know, since I’m not an usual reader anymore… The way I see it, it’s not really “empty” negativity… Care do elaborate?

  6. So, the dialogue trees are apparently important for other game choices, and will affect how people react to you.

    One of the bugbears of dialog tree design is one-way gating: if the player selects an option, then other options disappear, and the player is then in the uncomfortable, unrealistic, and immersion-destroying situation of being unable to select the other option if they don’t like the NPC’s reaction.

    A trivial example of this in Oblivion might be where someone asks “For your quest reward, would you like the sword or the staff?” – in real life, you’d say “Well… I’m not sure, what are they like? I’d like a sword, my companion would like a staff, or maybe we’ll sell it if it’s not as good as our own weaponry.”

    In Oblivion, that specific choice turns out to be between a 2000gp staff and a 6000gp sword, but you’re only going to find that out by reloading, which smashes immersion bigtime.

    In situations where you have two conversation options, “Your wife begged for her life when I slew her” and “What do you know about disarming nukes?” – it’s possibly reasonable to assume that the former will result in the guy going nuts and attacking you.

    But with the options “Your wife” and “Nukes”, people may select the former without knowing what they’re getting into, get attacked, and never learn how to disarm nukes, and that is just silly.

    That risk is why dialog tree designers generally avoid making conversation “important”, and avoid having parts of the conversation tree get blocked off by choosing others – conversation, in the minds of most players, is there to impart information and trigger events: not to create inescapable consequences.

    People don’t tend to quicksave before conversations. Making it so that they have to, might not be a good move.

    But when it comes to conversation, what I’d really, really, dearly love in RPGs is the ability to *talk with the people you’re fighting*. So you have the choice not just to kill or run away, but to taunt, or to stop fighting and talk out your differences, to offer them gold if they stop attacking. And have NPCs beaten near death beg for their lives, rather than just keep fighting to the death. And have beating someone unconscious mean something, too: that you have beaten them, disarmed them, and they know it. NPCs shouldn’t willingly attack someone who can clearly wipe the floor with them, unless they are defending something more important to them than their own life.

    That’d make the decision to kill in combat so much more immersive & meaningful. Oblivion’s yield was just the first step on this road, and I applauded it – but I really hope that it’s taken further in future.