Can We Make Talking as Much Fun as Shooting? -

Can We Make Talking as Much Fun as Shooting?

Game Maker’s Toolkit
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Certain RPGs make the tantalising promise that you can skip combat altogether, by talking your way past the bad guys. But how can we turn this into genuinely interesting gameplay?

Warning – This video contains story spoilers for Mass Effect (1) and Life is Strange (Episode 2), and also features content related to suicide.

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Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos Montreal, 2016)
Planescape: Torment (Black Isle Studios, 1999)
Fallout: New Vegas (Obsidian Entertainment, 2010)
Baldur’s Gate (Bioware, 1998)
Mass Effect (Bioware, 2007)
Alpha Protocol (Obsidian Entertainment, 2010)
Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015)
Ladykiller in a Bind (Christine Love, 2016)
Portal (Valve Corporation, 2007)
Rayman Legends (Ubisoft Montpellier, 2013)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal, 2011)
Life is Strange (Dontnod Entertainment, 2015)
LA Noire (Team Bondi, 2011)
Heaven’s Vault (Inkle, 2019)
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 2019)
The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games, 2012)
DOOM (id Software, 2016)
Florence (Mountains, 2018)
Griftlands (Klei Entertainment, 2021)
Detroit: Become Human (Quantic Dream, 2018)
Civilization V (Firaxis Games, 2010)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All (Capcom, 2002)
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter (Frogwares, 2016)
Persona 5 (Atlus, 2017)
Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games, 2017)
Watch Dogs 2 (Ubisoft Montreal, 2016)
Middle-earth: Shadow of War (Monolith Productions, 2017)
Far Cry New Dawn (Ubisoft Montreal, 2019)
The Outer Worlds (Obsidian, 2019)

Music used in this episode

Here’s Where Things Get Interesting – Lee Rosevere ()
Wonder Cycle – Chris Zabriskie ()
Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack – Michael McCann
Life is Strange soundtrack – Jonathan Morali
LA Noire soundtrack – Andrew Hale
Candlepower – Chris Zabriskie ()
Oxygen Garden – Chris Zabriskie ()

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  1. Disco Elysian is a great example of dialogue being used as a fundamental mechanic instead of shooting and skill checks causing damage to health or morale even without physical damage

  2. that "hold up a minute" had me flashbacking to GF Reviews. only me?? okay ill see myself out.

  3. In Fallout 4 Far Harbor DLC you will have the option to eradicate The Children of Atom by blowing up a nuclear submarine that they live in/around but by clicking the button all of them will become hostile to you but there's a way to avoid combat by talking to their leader and convincing them to blew their selves out avoiding combat.

  4. I think that it is wise to say that talking your way out of problems presents an issue that combat doesn't have and it is really hard to dodge. It is the fact that battle can act as loops, a final boss can be faced several times by the player every time they die and wouldn't feel bored, or at least not as much as if they were talking to a person with the same dialogue each time.
    An intelligent solution to this problem might be making the dialogue paths a one-chance option, this mean that once the player has talked to his enemy, there's no way to go back. What happens if they don't defeat it? Well, this can be also prevented by making conversation levels with more than just, win-or-no-win endings.

  5. hUr DuR sOcIaL sKiiLs yeah, and when you are required to shoot what about see the player real skills aiming with a gun instead of a boring weightless mouse. To me this video only means you don't understand what a RPG is.
    When playing an RPG the player can often have a character with skills the player itself don't have, if the character has high social skills is perfectly acceptable that the character is capable of solving everything out in a manner that the player is incapable of understanding, personally, out of LARPs i never seen someone be required to do an actual stunt to the master accept the dexterity check result, same can be done with the charisma check. And as it works on D&D it can work in video games too.

  6. I have autism, but always thought LA Noire wasn't just clear enough. I really couldn't make heads or tails of it, and I really don't know if it is the autism or the game.

  7. You mean you can actually read those things they call faces?

  8. Spoiler, we did not get that return to The Outer Worlds

  9. Me during the early minutes of the video: "He should really mention Griftlands as a game that has an interesting for social encounters"

    The video, minutes later: literally uses Griftlands as an example

    I know this is kinda the point of your whole channel but your wide knowledge and references of games continues to impress me

  10. I talked my way out of every optional conflict in The Walking Dead. All I had to do was not be a complete idiot. On the one hand, if the correct choice is always "just act like a normal person", why do the other options even exist? What are they for? I do enjoy feeling like I talked my way out of a problem, but if all that requires is not being dysfunctional for no reason, I feel like I'm being rewarded just for being myself, for following what I view as the path of least resistance, rather than for using my head or being observant. On the other hand, I also feel like simply avoiding conflict isn't much of a reward. Conflict may not be what I want, but it's certainly more exciting. I think the "normal person" options shouldn't be the ones that lead to the best outcomes. They shouldn't be a bad option, but they shouldn't be the best option either; and they shouldn't be unrewarding, but they should be less rewarding than being clever.

  11. luckily facerigs and captures exist, so should be easy now, but nope still get nightmare fuels sometimes 🙂

  12. Id actually like to add an additional part to this by discussing how dnd 5e runs its social encounters. On one hand, yeah you can just make generic rolls to see the effect, but there is an alternative system you can also use that brings social encounters into a multilevel system. Essentially through a combination of previous knowledge and assumptions, you can use role play to try to have your target change standings with you (there are 3 standings, friendly neutral and hostile), and depending on the standing the actual effect your roll (along with what you’re exactly rolling as well, as dnd has 3 skills to determine social encounters (4 actually, but performance is more so how well you can captivate people with your, well, performance, be it musical, theatrical, and so on)) has on the game. For example, if you role play in a way where a neutral npc becomes friendly, a roll of, say, 15 will be far more impactful than if you role play in a way to make a neutral npc hostile.

    Social encounters in gaming could use multiple levels like this to combine ideas seen here into a more dynamic mechanic than what we see a lot of the time in the current gaming sphere, having your options in one segment alter the results in another in a way that makes speaking to people less of a task of “hitting one button”

  13. Did you check out Out Worlds for their Talk mechanism as you said in this video?

  14. I LOVE Life is Strange for the simple fact you have to search for the answers and care enough to remember key info about Kate in order to talk her down. I love that.

  15. It makes my teeth grind every time he says inVENtry instead of invenTORy

  16. Can We Make Talking as Much Fun as Shooting?
    …yes its called undetale and wandersong

  17. 3:53 and 10:49 aka a autistic persons hell i can say that because i have Autism

  18. The problem with Life is Strange is that even if you save Kate shes gone for the entirety as if shes dead anyway. 0 gameplay impact. Illusion of choice. Same shit as Walking Dead where you choose to save the nerd or the news reporter they both die later on anyway whoever u save.

  19. Song of Ice and Fire RPG (table top) has a "social combat" system that is very similar to the normal combat, witch is better than most RPGs.

  20. Renowned Explorers has an interesting mechanic similar to the Griftlands example – all conflict takes place in the same "stage", where you can make people demoralized or placated enough to give up as much as beating them bloody. While it is rough around the edges in places, it's a very cool system. Speech options affect allies as well – but all your choices have a chance of changing the moods of your targets and even the entire battlefield (should you, for example, spend time being nice and then suddenly attack someone without warning). These kinds of shifts have both upsides and downsides, so choosing and leveling your team and picking your approach is very important to a fight. Many enemies (and eventually your characters) can had weaknesses and strengths as well – there's a ghost enemy who is immune to physical damage, for example, and another boss who's strong against particular types of positive actions.

  21. this is the 2nd GMTK video that ends with "i'll have a video about X game later" in a row I've watched where immediately I search GMTK "game name" (in this case GMTK outer worlds) and there are zero results

  22. I think he fails to understand, that fighting (and shooting) is fun, BECAUSE it was made abstract.
    In a real fight one wound can and will kill. Unless you have health and by that you have some range of tollerance to player mistakes. You can jump higher and run faster because no one wants the real thing. Simulated talking is at the same time very unnatural due to the dialogue tree and stat checks and tries to be natural with uncorrectable consequences. And in like Ace Attorney you may have some sort of lives, only to follow a very specific game plan. Seen from this angle Griftlands may be a good way to disregard the real thing and lean into experimentation.
    Ps: Maybe other topics of gaming may be too close to the real world as well, say fishing, and should try an abstract approach.

  23. I remember saving Kate by quoting the bible and it was glorious

  24. Genius, honestly if configured effectively, it could completely change how social gaming is done between NPCs. The videos was creative, original, organized, and very helpful.

  25. Yeah, but there is virtue in concentrating on what you do well. What you are describing, can be and arguably is, a genre in itself the text heavy story driven dialogue tree puzzler (Yeah it needs a better name and it describes a very diverse set of games, but you know what I mean). Now those kind of games will always be the ones to push the envelope in this category and your run of the mill action game is only going to pilfer some of their ideas for the odd game mechanic, the one dialogue heavy mission, the one pivotal scene etc. While it is great to dream about a game that does everything well, from a designers perspective it pays to stick to what you know. All these things cost money to develop and the people who are in it for the story might find the action too difficult or repetitive or whatever and those that love the action part might yearn for a button to skip the cutscenes. If you have the talent in house to make both kinds of games, it makes more sense to publish 2 seperate titles that fans of the respective genres will enjoy (and those who enjoy both can just buy both titles) than to try and find some unattainable perfect balance between 2 different playstyles. I know we all appreciate when even the secondary aspects like dialogue trees in an action game are done well, it is called attention to deatil or just polish, but at some point there are diminishing returns or you are starting to make a different game alltogether. Also, I can think of more things to do with these mechanics than just play them against each other, for example a game where you have to talk people into fighting you, because youre a rookie prize fighter who needs to pay the bills or some such, so the mechanics work in tandem, instead of the old talk with people about their feelings or shoot them in the face simulator. If you just want to make a good action game, make the story linear, well written, with maybe a few twists that the player can affect in some way and thats it. And if you want to waste your investors money, let all your talent do whatever they wish, call the game open world and avoid making any design choices whatsoever. The genre of purely story driven games will evolve more quickly than games that have a story but also need to optimize their engine and balance their factions and economy etc. Chessboxing will simply apeal to less people than either chess or boxing and there is no reason why you can't pursue both hobbies independently. Rant over.

  26. Talk our way out of fights. Yes please. While these diplomatic options are more and more present in games today, they are still sporadic and not always logical. For myself I believe we should always have another possibility beyond, killing or mass destruction. The different methods existing are many, as shown by this video, provided the game developer can invest money and time in those aspects. Another game which can be included here (now) would be Disco Elysian.

  27. "Can we make talking as much fun as shooting?"
    Disco Elysium: Instructions unclear, we made talking more fun than shooting.

  28. 11:58 "Reading social cues" These Dontnod graphics really aren't the appropriate footage here

  29. I am never pronouncing "s-words" any other way.

  30. This video was the inspiration for the game we made for our recent school game jam! The topic was Tarot, and I wondered if you could make a game about cold reading your customer. The team liked the idea and I think it turned out quite unique! (For those who are interested, its on my Itch page also called Ayior, called "Fate and other Shenanigans", bear with us though, it IS a game 4 day jam game after all, by students)

  31. As interesting as it is to learn how the teams of certain games employ different levels of persuasion I'd be as interested to learn about the kind of morality most games attempt to persuade you with. Please correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like most people don't talk about the kind of moral messages certain game narratives lead you to consider.

  32. To me, talking in traditional or action roleplay games always has the same issue. I could invest in my speaking abilities and maybe solve some situations differently or get a certain item that i might not get otherwise. But in all those games my ability to fight is more important than my ability to talk. I am guaranteed to fight enemies, but i can only persuade at certain points in the game. And in many cases, when the persuasion fails, I am still forced to fight, so leveling my talking abilities instead of my fighting abilities puts me in a disadvantage when approaching an unknown situation. On top of that, many games reward you with loot and experience if you defeat enemies and resolving a conflict through dialogue usually leeds to less killing and looting, so I fear I'm missing out on some cool gear.

    However, this only happens because the games are designed in a way that fighting is indeed your main way of playing. If your game puts a focus on different aspects of the game instead of fighting, players tend to use this aspect more. Disco Elysium is a game that puts dialogue first, but also offers some opportunities to fight. In that game, i focussed on the talking part and didn't level my fighting skills at all. In Deus Ex, I mostly used stealth to progress and again, did not use overt combat.

  33. great video! i definitely agree with your grievances on fallout new vegas' speech checks. i appreciate that the devs implemented more ways to use your skills in dialogue outside of speech and SPECIAL stats, but when they're highlighted it either ends up giving me the obvious "pick to win" option or having me reload a save to grind my stats higher. i appreciate what dead money tried to do with it, by having your skill checks against dean domino ruin your chances of dealing with him later on in a non-violent way (assuming you were going to anyways after hearing his tape.) i actually downloaded a mod recently that removes the markers showing you which dialogue options are skill checks, so i'm hoping it'll make things more interesting going forward

  34. Thank you so much for listing/crediting the music you use in your episodes. I don't think I would have ever found Blue Wednesday or the others if not for the credits.

  35. 5:44 lol I thought that's how you nerotypicals see things jk lol would certainly be useful for autistic people playing the game 10:43 welp I'd suck at this game 11:11 there we go

  36. Honestly, I think an interesting way to do this is how the Shadowrun CRPGs do it, though there are certainly some of the flaws you mentioned.

    In the game, you have things called Etiquettes, which are basically modes of speech/knowledge about customs in various circles, like Academic or Gang or Security. You get more of these the higher your Charisma is, but everyone gets at least one. If you have the proper Etiquette, it unlocks new dialogue for you to use. Of course, this sometimes is used (especially in some of the worse-designed missions) to be what you said– a way to skip combat via having the right Etiquette at character creation.

    I think it's interesting, though, because a lot of times in the Shadowrun CRPGs (especially Hong Kong), it's not quite presented as "avoid this combat", so much as "take this avenue down the level, based on how you've built your character." And it doesn't just extend to social situations, either. Decking (Shadowrun's hacking), Strength, Willpower, Spellcasting, they all can be used in various ways throughout a level to unlock new possibilities.

    This especially applies in missions that aren't centrally about combat (or which are slow, non-combat infiltrations until the big explosive combat at the end), because it becomes a matter of not "do I have the right Etiquette or Decking skill or Strength score", but instead "Where do I go to best make use of my abilities?" And encourages you explore the level to find a place to jack in and Deck, or a place to bust down a door, or someone to schmooze up with your Socialite etiquette.

  37. Personally, my only nitpick with Griftland's negotiation mechanics is that I'd prefer if both fighting and negotiation were handled in a single battle style. This way, you'd have to decide whether it would be more advantageous to fight them, negotiate, or if you even have a choice between them. You'd also get the advantage of being able to convince someone to stand down if you inflicted them with negotiation debuffs or get a free hit in while they're distracted by a point you made. Ultimately, I wish combat and reasoning were a bit more intertwined in most games to be honest.

  38. I had an interesting idea to your point about combat and talking feeling pretty samey if both are represented by a similar turn based system.

    I thought of the first Witcher game, where you buy books to learn what different monsters are vulnerable to. Why not add a system like that for both combat and social interactions?

    Imagine you have to make a witch remove her curses from the villagers. You can spend time, effort, money, whatever researching what potion will protect you from her spells, or what material you should coar your sword in against witches, or you could learn about her backstory, and why she is doing what she is doing.

    Then even tho the combat and the argument are mechanically basically the same, the preparation for them is completely different, so the whole experience of social vs combat is much different. You just have to make it difficult enough, that not knowing the weaknesses will make both arguments and combat really hard.

  39. I think a great step for dialogue systems in game would be to realize the benefits of talking *manipulatively*, not necessarily truthfully. Pathologic does this incredibly well by not letting you return to any previous dialogue— if you want the full details of somebody's intentions, you have to be manipulative. Calling someone an idiot, even if they are an idiot, is a great way to not learn what that idiot is going to do. This is also how I handled being in ARK territory in Mankind Divided. No matter what I thought, I was going to appeal to and appease anyone I talked to in that front. If my goal is to minimize casualties, I'm not going to provoke hostilities even if somebody says something I (through the lens of Jensen) deeply disagree with.
    And if you've never played Human Revolution or Mankind Divided, DO NOT PICK THE CASIE AUGMENT. It ruins the game's dialogue system.

  40. I have hardly any real life social skills so I'll happily take any hints or even the option to resort to force when the game asks me to talk my way out.

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