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Message: | composed: 20-05-2021 05:13 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Shucky is offline

I was wondering if the Morrowind conversation engine would allow a conversation such as this:

Avatar: Hail!

Oh, 'tis thee again!

Avatar: What is thy name?

Dost thou not remember? 'Tis Julian!

Avatar: How art thou?

I feel very [angry] at the moment.
It seems that I didst lose mine [wine]. [item]
What I reallly need now is [curing]. [spell]

Avatar: Please allow me to aid thee. [gives or barters or casts spell] [npc atitude improves with specific needed assistance]

I thank thee for thine aid!

Avatar: Hast thou heard any news?

I hath heard
[Nystul] was looking for help with [the mystery puzzle box]. [quest]

Avatar: What dost thou know about [the mystery puzzle box]?

I only know that
[Nystul] was looking for help with [the mystery puzzle box].

Avatar: Where hast thou seen [Nystul] lately? [person]

I recently saw [Nystul] at [the Blue Boar Tavern].

Avatar: Where canst I find [the Blue Boar Tavern]? [place]

Thou verily asketh many questions!
[The Blue Boar Tavern] is to [the southeast], less than [one half] mile.

Avatar: What else is news?

The townsfolk speak about how thou verily vanquished [the rats from the sewers]. I am quite impressed! [monster]
By the by,
Hast thou heard that [Lord British] is seeking someone to [slay the white dragon and rescue Othellia]? Maybe thou couldst be the one! [quest]

Avatar: What is thy job?

I am [a painter]. [job]

Avatar: Could I see thy wares? [barter]

Avatar: What dost thou do for enjoyment?

I like to [hit people who ask questons]. Just jesting, but verily.. [joke]
I like to [gamble at Buccaneer's Den]. [recreation]

Avatar: What else is news?

We talked about [the mystery puzzle box].
We talked about how thou took care of [the rats from the sewers].
We talked about [Lord British] seeks someone to [slay the white dragon and rescue Othellia].
That is all I have heard about lately.

By the by,
If thou art going to Dungeon Despise, bring many torches. [advice]
Lord British seems unusually calm considering the siege. [rumor]

Avatar: Where canst I find [torches]?

[Torches] can often be found in [an outfitter's shop].
[Julia] sells [torches] in [Minoc].

Avatar: What was it thou hast told me about [Lord British]?

I already told thee

Lord British seems unusually calm considering the ongoing seige.
Maybe thou shouldst keep a journal, that I need not repeat myself.
By the by, what dost thou think of this [Staff of Charming]?

Avatar: [I won't be needing that for now, thank thee]

Aye, but if thou changeth thy mind, I couldst let thee borrow it for [3 days], so long as thou promise to return.

Avatar: I should like to return your [Boots of Jumping]. [return]

Yeah, I didst wonder what hath taken thee so long. [npc attitude decreases]

Avatar: Please accept this gift. [gift]

Avatar, dost thou think that Trammel was made from green cheese?

Avatar: [Aye]

Verily, Avatar, thou dost need to visit Nicodemus, perchance he canst offer thee a poton to help thee clear thy mind!

Avatar: What dost thou think about [the disappearance of the gargoyles]? [opinion]

I never cared for them, their appearance can be frightful, yet I fear the towns may fall to the orcs for lack of gargoyle warrior-mage protectors.

Avatar: What dost thou think about [life]?

Life is nasty, brutish, and especially short if thou dost spend so much time asking questions, Avatar!

Avatar: I bid thee fare well!

The same to thee, Avatar!

I haven't played them in a while, but it seems to me that the ultima underworld series had an immersive dialogue. I think the problem with Morrowind is that there was often an overlong list of topis, and most of the information was repetitive, but you wouldnt know unless you checked everything, so it was very tedious.. I think it would be easier to have a set of question types and then sets of subtopics for each one, working down to specific people, places, items, quests, and general topics.. A variety of response phrasing could increase the variety and become less repetitive.

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Message: | composed: 20-05-2021 20:21 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Thread Starter Thread Started by Shucky

Shucky is offline

I am trying to figure out all the things that would be interesting to be able to say, the classes of responses, and the tone of phrasing that can be set for each particular npc. In morrowind, they made responses different depending on the npc's attitude toward you (friendly, neutral , unfriendly). There could be a couple of other factors, such as how intelligent they are (intelligent, average, stupid), their general character (good, neutral, evil), their relative strength level vs you (stronger, similar, weaker), their relative health vs you (healthier, similar, weaker), and their relative running speed vs you (faster, similar, slower). The last three factors combine into one relative power factor (overmatch, even, undermatch). By asking a couple of questions, a player could figure out how to manipulate the npc, with the wild card being that an unfriendly might act more friendly, an evil might pretend to be good, and an intelligent npc might act less intelligent. Obviously, a wise player would make friends with good-natured, intelligent npcs, who would be a goldmine of reliable information.

So the basic four factors would be attitude, intelligence, character, and relative power, and they would determine the decisions the npcs make and the type and tone of responses they make in conversation with you. The trick is to figure out who you could trust, because evil, intelligent npcs could very convincingly act like they are becoming trustworthy, until the opportunity comes to betray or take advantage of your sudden weakness. A neutral npc could also be deceptive, but only defensively, while a good-natured npc would not be deceptive unless their life were at stake, but if they don't like you they just wouldn't help you very much at all..

Every being, location, object, event, task, etc, could have a set of possible qualifiers or other information ranging from general to specific, for the purposes of asking questions. Each region, building and room could have specific hazards such as traps and monsters that might be knowable to more intelligent, evil npcs, who might innocently suggest them as an alternative location for something you ask them about. Here are some examples of qualifiers:

Qualifier: eg, npc, location, object, event, task
Time stamp: eg, birth, creation, completion, occurance
Name (general/specific): eg, spellbook, Lord British's spellbook
Singular or Plural: for grammar purposes
Species: ncps only
Sex: npcs only
Known best by (general/specific): ie, who knows most about it
Owned by (general/specific): objects and structures only
Possessed by: on the person or in the residence of its owner or another
Created by (general/specific): objects and structures only
Specific relation type: eg, parent, spouse, master, friend, enemy
Specific relation name:
General qualities: eg, mostly visual descriptors, weight, hazards, etc
Explanation: reason for a specific quality
Job: npcs only
Work time: npcs only
Work location: npcs only
Relax/meal/play: eg, what an npc does when not working
Relax/meal/play time: npcs only
Relax/meal/play location: npcs only
Rest time: npcs only
Rest location: npcs only
Injury/damage/completion status: for everything except events
Illness status: npcs only eg, type of disease or other abnormal condition
Uses: typically for objects, job types, locations.. eg, resource of material, information, function
interests: eg, general or specific npcs, places, objects, events, tasks
Dislikes: same as for interests
Specific information: eg, details about people, places events and quests
Condition: a specific action you did to something
Response: the reaction that resulted from a specific condition

Obviously, many things would have fewer details, others might have many. The more details, the fewer "I don't know" answers and the deeper conversation. For example, a typical npc could have several objects crossrefernced back to him as owner, might have several relationships, several interests and dislikes, several qualitites and their explanations, and several conditions that elicited their specific response.

Here are some examples of questions:

Who are you?
Who is your [friend]?
Who might tell me more about [the disappearance of the gargoyles]?

What is news? (seraches events and quests)
What is your [job]?
What are you dong here?
What do you need right now? (checks status of self and property)
What do you l[like/dislike]?
What can you tell me about [Castle British]?

When did you get here?
When might I find [Lord British] [relaxing]?
When did [the disappearance of the gargoyles] occur?

Where did the [event] occur?
Where might I find you at [12 PM]?
Where might I fnd [Lord British] right now?
Where might I find [Lord British] at [9 PM]?
Where does [Lord British] keep his [spellbook]?

How are you?
How may [name] be useful to me? (uses)

Why is the [sky] so [blue]?
Why did you [insult me]?

I realize that none of this qualifier system would fit with the morrowind engine, so an easier alternative would be to at least classify the topics as people, places, things, events and quests. Then you might be able to narrow the conversation down to the topics of interest, rather than havings to scroll through increasingly long lists. Perhaps it could even be made to ask oneself the same way, so that you can consult your own memory like a very powerful serach engine.

For example, the player arrives on the scene. He consults his memory to find that he only knows basic uses of common objects, basic information about creatures and terrain, and that he knows of a Lord British. He stops to talk to a guard, and his memory bank expands to include whatever information the guard was willing to share. As the game progresse, his memory becomes a virtual encyclopedia, but one which is still very easily sifted through to recall where to find someone at a specific time, or where a specific object was located, etc. It could function as the journal, but more detailed and better organized, to included the interrelationship of people, places, objects, events and quests. And you could add entries with keywords so you could tel where you last left an item, for example.

In the underworld series, you were able to make your own notes on the map, but a searchable memory would be even better.

This post has been edited 1 time(s), it was last edited by Shucky: 20-05-2021 20:37.


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Message: | composed: 21-05-2021 02:37 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
-Direhaggis- -Direhaggis- is a male

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Member since: 17-09-2021
Posts: 1,031
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Favourite Ultima: Ultima 7 Black Gate

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That is an impressively detailed conversation engine. I can see something like it being useful for large-scale cities with many generic/general NPC's. I think it could help make such places more immersive while still having specific NPC's with hand-tailored dialogue.

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Message: | composed: 21-05-2021 05:07 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Thread Starter Thread Started by Shucky

Shucky is offline

I liked morrowind anyway, and I know that any ultima using morrowind will be even better, even if there is no way to improve on its conversation engine. I once sent an email to Bethesda describing some basic ideas, but they never even replied. So long as they can make a good profit, they will continue to do what they feel is selling.

But it's great to know that some other people not only look forward to some of the same features, but believe as I do that it can happen today if they only backed off the graphics some. Oblivion looks beautiful but it feels so lonely because the npcs still seem so robotic, because their conversation is stil way too scripted and robotic.

I think sometimes they make what they think will impress the attendees at the conventions rather than what gamers would really find immersive.

I don't expect it to get to the point where you type your dialog and the computer responds to it. I still think it can be a point and click interface, just with more variety of conversaton options. Even with morrowind, it would have been more convincing if instead of just choosing the keyword and getting the response, it would have made a statment or question out of it, with some variety in the phrasing. And when you insulted or threatened someone, that they actually show a random insult or threat.

I hadn't thought of it before today, and I really like the idea of having npc decisions and tone based on those four factors i mentioned (attitude, intelligence, character and relative power) rather than just attitude, because those are the factors typically used by game masters in lilve role-playing sessions to determine the words and actions of npcs, though it happens based on our real life experience.

Creatures, places, objects, events and quests already have tags in these games, I was just thinking they could be extended a bit, and incorporated into a more free form conversatiion engine. At the end of the day it would still be the illusion of intelliigence, just a more convincing, enjoyable one.

One of the things I showed in the first post that I would lvoe to see would be for an npc to follow up an answer with a comment or question of their own. That already happened in morrowind, I dont think they made use of it enough.

Anyway, I just think that players should have more options in conversation. To engage in small talk, gossip, philosophy. To ask what they know of just about everything, including abstract things. To flatter, theaten, beg, insult in more specific ways. To exchange money, goods, knowledge, training and tasks. To try to influence each other's opinions and actions. To get each other to join as a leader, a follower or a hireling. And for npcs to more frequently engage the player in conversation, for small talk, about some need, to offer advice, to discuss plans, etc, especially when they are joined with you. And that you could give them various kinds of orders such as fetching, dellivering, crafting, and various combat tactics.

Really, a lot of these features can be found in some game or other, but not yet all in the same game. But everything I've read so far about redemption sounds like something I look forward to it more than I did to ascension, and ascencion was one of only a few ultimas I actually finished (the others were serpent isle, the underworlds, and pagan).

But getting back to your comment, that was the exact idea. A typical common npc might know a little bit about a lot of things, and be able to direct you to people who might know more, even saying roughly where to find them and when. Each npc could have his own catch phrases, jokes, and other colorful uniqueness. They could seek your help, offer you help, barter, banter, and chit chat until you've had enough. And the next time you see them they sound like they recognize you, and talk about you, and even seem to have missed you or having been expecting you. In theory you ought to able to build a bond with most npcs, and they could join you in recreation as well as adventure, according to their interests. Games of skill or luck, camping, hunting, swimming, drinking, dancing.. a world of fun!

This post has been edited 5 time(s), it was last edited by Shucky: 21-05-2021 10:54.


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Message: | composed: 21-05-2021 12:21 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Thread Starter Thread Started by Shucky

Shucky is offline

I just realized I forgot to mention how an npc might be able to tell you a general or specific piece of information about something. Their intelligence level would increase their probability of 'knowing' something, for one. The other issue is one of familiarity. People know well their relations (spouse, friends, boss, etc), to a leser extent others in their town, leaders and people of their profession in other towns, and the rest maybe not at all. Being able to know a certain type of information would be limitted to the degree of familiarity. The more you know someone, you might go from knowing just their name and hometown or appearance, to their profession and activity locations, to their friends, to their likes/dislikes, to the location of their items. A more intelligent npc moderately familiar with someone might be able to deduce the approxiimate location of one of their items, for example.

The same thing can be done with everything else. People would be most familiar with their hometown, then the surrounding area or other places they've lived, then places they've visitted, then places they've heard about. Then with items, which ones are related to their profession. Wiith events, which ones happened to them or their circle of relations, or in their hometown or to someone in their hometown, though some events might also be very widely known. With quests, they may only know the basic idea or who has a quest, to knowing who wants what done, to knowing the exact details.

Then most characters would know the basics of the world around them, about people and creatures in general, about terrain and buildings, the nature and uses of items, some basic history, etc. Facts could be catagoried from more general to more specialized, and familiarity and general intelligence would be the main determining factors. Masters in their profession would know the most intimate details, but highly intelligent npcs of other professions might have fair to high competence in others. Also, some professions have different difficulty, eg farming vs clockmaking.

Questions can be an annoyance to some, and an ego boost to others, regardless of their intelligence level or attitude towards you. Those more easily annoyed would expect small favors or information in return. Some npcs could be inquisitive in return, as in some morrowind quests, but other times more randomly. Perhaps each npc could have a curiosity factor to determine the odds they follow up an given answer with a question of their own, or even the chance they will approach you and ask you things.

Each time you get a hostile response such as 'mind your own business', the npc attitude to you should drop a bit, though there should be a limit to how far it drops based solely on being annoying. You may be told to 'get lost' and have to wait a day before even being able to talk to them again.

Some npcs could also get bored and change the subject, or even try to end the conversaton to get back to work, play, eating or sleeping. Their current 'activity' could factor in to determine how long it would be before they start showing signs of increasing impatience and annoyance.

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Message: | composed: 25-05-2021 11:49 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Thread Starter Thread Started by Shucky

Shucky is offline

I was trying to come up with a short list of conversaton options:

Comment (people, places, things, events, quests, concepts)

Question (who, what, when, where, how, why, report)

Trade (gift/exchange/request/demand; information/tasks/property)

Special (report, joke, flatter, insult, threaten)

Body language (nod, smile, frown, glare, smirk, shake head, sexy eyes)

Join or leave (request someone to join or leave your group)

Group (propose activity, request feedback/suggestions, group orders)

No small talk (toggle off most companion-initiated conversation)

No conversation (toggle off all companion-initiated conversation)

Say nothing

End conversaton

Have I left off any other significant option?

This post has been edited 1 time(s), it was last edited by Shucky: 25-05-2021 11:49.


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Message: | composed: 27-05-2021 21:24 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen

Member since: 29-07-2021
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I agree that NPC AI should be the next big step in the computer entertainment industry. Right now we are still in the middle of the physics upgrade phase (I am really looking forward to see what Lucas Arts does with that in their next Star Wars game btw.).

Anyway, this is far more complex part of a game than graphics or even physics because to make it feel advanced it has to feel random but still logical - it shouldn't feel like it's all following certain rules whereas physics only feel right because they follow certain rules.

I dont know if you looked into the Morrowind system but all they did was having various possible sentences for certain regions/occasions and then let the NPC "say" randomly say one of them. That is for general topics but not for immediate story relevant ones.

While I liked that approach for a while it also bored me soon to "hear" similar answers over and over after a while. I rather have less but induvidually scripted answers than those random ones that actually do not make the NPC feel more alive but random himself.

What I am trying to say with that is that I prefer a very well written dialogue for each single NPC over random dialogue because, like I wrote above, it makes the NPC seem random and therefor heartless. In a story driven game as an RPG this is the last thing that I want. I liek books in which characters are worked out really well and I expect the same form a good RPG. That is exactly why I actually love Ultima so much. Even with the quite limited dialogue in Ultima 7 they managed to create pixels you really cared for.

So does that mean I think your ideas are bad? No, not at all. I liek them alot, but I think they should be either programmed to their fullest extend or not at all because the more you tone them down the higher are the chances you create dull characters where palyers start to fear to click on any of the dialogue options beside the ones they know are relevant fo rthe main storyline.. in fear they will be bored.

With Morrowind there is no chance at all, not even with the wicked scripting skills in our team, to create anything like that. That's why we rely on very well writen dialogue for every single NPC. Does it mean more work to create a NPC who actually has a lot (interesting things) to say this way? Of course. It's way more work than the random answers Bethesda chose to use. But I think this way we actually come closer to "life like" NPCs than Bethesda did in Morrowind although the approach with random answers itself might be more (technically) advanced. Like I said: All or nothing.

Another thing is that you have to get the balance right. People want to enjoy a game and don't want to miss out on things. That's why it's very difficult to find the right balance in dialogue and I also think that will be a big challenge for all developers once they created something that actually allows complex AI/dialogue like your idea above ... finding the balance between creating something realistic and something fun. Well actually the challenge will be finding the right "doese" of realism to make the game even more fun. but that's another topic I guess.

Thanks for your input. We will try to answer, but it's not always possible right away. You can be sure though that we read what you write.

listening to:
Smashing Pumpkins
Silversun Pickups


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Message: | composed: 28-05-2021 15:31 Go to the top of this page Zum Ende der Seite springen
Shucky Shucky is a male

Member since: 05-10-2021
Posts: 45
Location: Houston
Favourite Ultima: Ultima Underworld 2

Thread Starter Thread Started by Shucky

Shucky is offline

I agree that good scripted dialogue can make one forget all the options you don't have. Though, I think it might still be helpful to have a couple of levels of knowledge about various topics, and a given npc might be somewhat familiar or very familiar with a topic, or not at all. They should be at least somewhat familiar with the people and places in their hometown and its surroundings, and very familiar with those close to them, their profession and interests. Perhaps they may be able to offer a favorable or unfavorable opinion as a supplement or alternative to just facts.

If there were a way to seperate the custom dialogue from the more global topics, people could choose how much global dialogue they want. I think some global dialogue may be necessary if only to help track down the people you need to learn specifics from.

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