What are the best tools to create dialog trees, as seen in adventure games?
May 26, 2010 12:16 PM   Subscribe

What are the best tools to create dialog trees, as seen in adventure games?

I will be involved in an upcoming adventure game project, which will feature dialog trees, such as those seen in BioWare games (Neverwinter, Mass Effect) and various adventure games.

Specifically, when the player interacts with a non-player character, they are asked to choose from a list of possible things to say to the NPC, each of which an appropriate response. e.g. if the NPC is a shopkeeper and asks you what you want to buy, you can choose dialog options such as "I want to buy weapons," "I want to buy food," "I need information about X," etc, and the conversation moves appropriately along the dialog tree structure ("Oh, you want to buy food ... well, here's your choices...")

I need a tool for this, for writing the text and visually organizing the tree structure. I've looked at Excel and Visio, but I'm hoping there's an all-in-one wonder tool that will simplify this process.

posted by Cool Papa Bell to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Visio seems like a good bet. I prefer doing things like this in vector graphics drawing software, though I have used personal wikis like Tomboy to do the same. The advantage of drawing software is that you get a less structured approach that allows for whatever you an imagine. The advantage of a wiki is that you get self-updating links, better search (for large amounts of data) and collaboration features.
posted by circular at 12:27 PM on May 26, 2010

The best tool would be one that is capable of exporting in a format that the game engine can read. Unfortunately, that may mean writing your own editor.

Examples: dlgeditor for Knights of the Old Republic (screenshot) and editors for Neverwinter Nights (screenshot). As you can see, a dialog tree can be a lot more than just text and lists of responses; it may include information about the camera, sound clips, character animations, etc. A dedicated dialog tree editor may make it easier to work with all of those other pieces of information.

A wiki could work under a couple of constraints: First, it would need to be very coarse-grained. That is, each page should represent a complete conversation rather than a single node in the tree. Otherwise editors wouldn't be able to see the whole context of the conversation. Second, the wiki would need to have strict formatting rules to support a script that would scrape the wiki and export a dialog tree readable by the game engine.
posted by jedicus at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I design dialog trees for automated phone systems, so there is some similarity. We use a table-based template in Word to write the specs, and Visio to draw up the general callflow. It gets too crammed to include the prompt verbiage in the Visio itself, but your task is a lot simpler since you don't have to build in error correction ("I think you said..., is that correct?" "My mistake, let's try again." "Sorry, I didn't understand", etc etc).

So this is another vote for Visio.
posted by Dragonness at 1:25 PM on May 26, 2010

How about a minmapping tool like freemind ?
posted by motdiem2 at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2010

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