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Let's talk about dialogue.

The primary reason to have dialogue in a game is to tell a story. Video games use a lot more than just dialogue to tell stories. I’m going to talk a little bit about how we present dialogue to the players in order to tell a story.

Dialogue systems in games typically get broken down into two main categories, branching and non-branching dialogue. Non-branching dialogue is typically just a chance to give the player information while branching dialogue gives players some agency as to how the story gets told. In Last Epoch we are presenting dialogue in 3 main ways, barks, dialogue boxes and voice acting. We will quite often combine these methods to craft an environment that will tell the story.

Barks are brief little text blurbs that appear above character’s heads in the world space. They are great ways for secondary characters to have background conversations or to draw the attention of the player to come over and interact with the them. I expect that many characters will have brief barks that lead into full dialogue text boxes for people who are more interested in the story.

Dialogue boxes are the primary way that we will convey information the the player and give the player options. Accepting (or rejecting) quests, getting information you’ll need to advance a quest, or just learning about the characters that inhabit the world will be all done using dialogue boxes. These dialogue box branching conversations will be used when the text that needs to be displayed is more than a couple lines at most.

Voice Acting. We have an awesome group of voice actors that have already delivered some awesome lines for us. We will be voicing all major characters along with all major story dialogue events which need to be conveyed to the player for the story to make sense. Voice acting also gives us a chance to put very specific spins on the dialogue that don’t come through in pure text. We will also be able to use voice acting to present story elements to you while you are hacking, slashing, casting and bartering.

We know that most people don’t actually read all of the dialogue boxes that get popped up on the screen. That’s why we are using all three of these methods in conjunction with each other. Even players who rush and skip through everything will get a good understanding of the story by the time they are through the game.

I think that we have a really awesome story and we will be using all the tools at our disposal to bring that story to life.

Most of these dialogue elements are not implemented in the current public demo as of this posting but keep an eye out for them as we get closer to Kickstarter.

I would really like to hear from people as we are implementing many of the characters in the demo how they feel about different dialogue systems. Do you prefer barks? Do you want everything voice acted? Do you turn off your voice settings right away. Do you want everything to be the standard text box dialogue?

If the game will have a lot of replayability like I think it will (like PoE) then a way to skip text is definitely a good thing. Voice acting is a great bonus for good first impression/first look videos on Youtube, etc. Not a lot of games have voice acting for their text.

Some people say ARPG games don’t need a good story and that story isn’t very important for these type of games. I disagree. Is just that devs prefer to concentrate efforts on gameplay rather than a story, and it’s understandable. I love games with a deep lore (I’m sure I’m not the only one).

Barks are a very good idea to give some life to the city/world (although the font size I saw in the demo is too big imo) and give some info for people who don’t like to read nor take the time to hear the story/NPC’s advices, etc.



Or maybe you don’t care about a story in ARPGs because none of them have a good story or lore because devs don’t focus efforts on it?

Let’s put this way:

For people who like a story in a game = win

For people who don’t care about a story in a game = doesn’t matter, just skip

It’s a win-win.

But you said you think ARPGs as being a mindless grind. And I’m all ok with that. My point is that the genre doesn’t have to be associated with a weak story/lore necessarily. We tend to think like that because most devs don’t focus the efforts on it, they do on the gameplay, and again, it’s understandable.

About the endgame systems, it’s true what you said: endgame is where people spend most of their time. But that happen in the vast majority of MMOs including MMORPGs, where you end doing countless high-level dungeon grinding with near no story.

Of course ARPGs have more replayability when comparing with typical MMORPGs like WoW, so the player will potentialy see the same story many more times. That’s why the game could have a different story for each class, but that means a lot of time and probably devs want to focus more on others things like gameplay.

I have been tossing around the idea of unique dialogue depending on the class that you are playing. One of our guiding design principles is class identity. We want to have small adjustments in the UI, visuals, gameplay and maybe even dialogue that reinforce class identity.

We are definitely making our story a priority. Most Thursdays we have Story Time with Lore Master Kyle in our development meetings. I look forward to it each time. I think that people are going to be pleasantly surprised even with the brief snippet of the story in our demo.

MrFederico, I will make sure to implement a way to quick skip dialogue that you don’t want to read. We will have text speed options and we already have sound options to enable/disable voice acting.

Sarno, I’m glad you liked this first “blog” entry. We are going to try and make Friday be developer blog day. I’ve never really done it before and didn’t even have a topic until I started typing. I think Michael or Mitchel will be doing next week’s blog entry.

That’s really great to hear. A unique dialog for each class is an awesome idea, simple but effective. Adjustments in the UI and visuals for each class is a very smart idea.

That’s great, I wish to read more of the dev’s thoughts about many aspects of the game. Please do it.

I really miss all the barks in Ultima VII. It was fascinating to watch all the NPCs go about their business throughout the day, listening to their pseudo-random barks or behaviours that added flavour and ‘life’ to the game. You could talk to each and every NPC, and they didn’t only have one line. They often had multiple branching conversations, some directly related to the quest line, some related to optional/ancillary quests, and some just to create more lore and backstory. These are all things that are often missing in modern ARPGs, due to the increased emphasis on ‘bite-sized’ gaming sessions and focus on action and activity to keep the attention of the ADHD generation.

If I can get engaged with the lore and there is a compelling storyline that ties intricately to the quests and possibly affect story outcomes, the game is a keeper in my book. Strangely, while both PoE and D3 have linear progression of their storyline, I found PoE’s more engaging. I found D3’s lore to be both forced and transparent. I don’t want to be coddled and fed like a baby. Lore should be tied intimately with quest progression, but it should leave questions for the player to freely dive into through branching dialogue and queries with non-quest NPCs. One thing I love about PoE is the environmental lore. One particularly outstanding example is the Etchings on Wood located throughout Crossroads in Act II. The text contains absolutely nothing that directly drives the main storyline, nor is there anything particularly enlightening about the story contained within. However, the voice delivery and harrowing details make the traumatic experience heartfelt and engaging. Suddenly the unique skeleton Bravalo’s battle and death has meaning and is poignant, despite having zero consequence/impact to the main quest/story.

A good, engaging storyline is like the glue that binds the spine of a book together. My favourite games have compelling stories that weave otherwise independent actions/events into a cohesive vision that compels the player to want to continue to play so they can uncover what happens in the end.

Good NPC banter, random barks, and branching dialogue serve to make the world feel alive. Note that a good storyline doesn’t necessitate this, nor does a game require a strong storyline to feel like a living world. Having an ‘open world’ is one thing. But having an environment that you can engage in and affect to create emergent gameplay is something on another level…

Couple months late to the topic :slight_smile:


As far as “Barks” go the way I’ve seen most games handle this is by having the text displayed in the chatbox. This is not as visually obvious as speech bubbles might be, but it does keep the information present, so that it’s not as easy to miss if you happen to be turned away for a second. It’d be nice to see if barks are used that they are simultaneously included as part of the chat box.



Thanks for the feedback, GeoGalvanic.

I’m concerned about duplicating the text, but it might make sense as an interface option.

It strongly depends on the direction you want to take the game. ARPG’s needs less VA and dialogue than a game like say Dragon Age, where character choice and development is more important than gameplay.

In my opinion, Grim Dawn struck a good balance, and Diablo 2 and 3 also have a good limit. It needs to be skippable and not too bothersome for replayability.

I’ve always been a big fan of VA dialogue that you can listen to while progressing with game play. Having things scattered around the world that trigger a piece of VA lore to give context/backstory/insight into the world or into NPC characters you interact with help to deepen the world immersion. Bonus points if there are achievements for finding all pieces in a lore series.

The key for me though is being able to listen to that while I continue with game play. Being forced to stop and listen without a relevant cut-scene impacts my immersion rather than adds to it.

For me, dialogues must be rather unintrusive in an ARPG. If I get locked in a dialogue out of town, it just disrupts the flow of the game. That’s why I like another option to tell story and lore: Lore notes (like in Grim Dawn), which you can pick up and add to a journal and read whenever you want. It’s especially nice that I don’t have to read it the moment I find it and instead keep it for later, like when I’m in town selling stuff the next time.

Please please please VA everything. It’s 2019 and I think it should be expected in a modern video game. Some of the names that pop up in text are near impossible to pronounce and hearing it instead of trying to read it would be huge.
Ala Diablo 3, making it skip-able is a bonus for an arpg which is designed to be played repeatedly hundreds if not thousands of times. On that note, bounty modes and being able to skip the story entirely if you want was one of the best things D3 ever did.