Dialog and Inventory System – Game Design

Our game is a detective game, we want the player to think while playing, and be able to solve the mysteries themselves instead of being presented the solution at the end of the game. We want investigative dialog and freedom of choice in what they want to ask.

How does the dialog work?

Instead of a set of dialog options for every character, we decided that you should be able to talk to every character about anything that might be relevant. So for example you could talk to a character about another character you met, or maybe about where to get alcohol to fill a bottle of booze. We drew some inspiration from Ace Attorney here where, in similar fashion, you can present an item to the court in order to highlight a discrepancy of a witness’s testimony.

Ace Attorney Objection!
Ace Attorney Objection!

In the beginning we thought about how to limit the amount of things you can talk about. In Ace Attorney, you can highlight any part of a witness’s testimony and try to find a mistake in it. However we knew that we couldn’t allow the player to talk about absolutely everything, because that would require us to write ridiculous amounts of dialog!

We were all agreed on an Items Category, which would contain the different physical objects the player may have with them. We also knew that we had to include persons and locations. For a while I also tried to bring in a sort of “abstract” category, which would contain ideas like money or alcohol or power, and phrases like “the don said I would get a free refill”.

Categories draft
First draft of how the categories could look

However in the end we found out that we could make that much more intuitive by combining items, like “empty booze bottle” + “the Don” + “Barkeep” to tell the character about getting a refill from the barkeep.

So after 2 meetings and lots of discussion about abstracts and physicals and topics, we came up with three final categories of InventoryItems:

Items, physical objects the player has, like an empty booze bottle.
Persons, the characters you can talk to, like the Don.
Locations, the unique places of the noir world like the bar.

How does the inventory work?

The inventory is closely related to the dialog, so you’ll already have an idea of it, but we still had to find a way to design it visually!

What was important to us was, like the environment, make it feel good in VR. We liked how the interaction with the environment felt, so we wanted to see how we could do that for the inventory too. The solution was to make the inventory behave pretty much the same like the interactable objects in the world. The InventoryItems would spawn when you opened the Inventory, and you could grab them and move them around and -to be implemented- have them float around you in zero gravity. To give the Item/s to an NPC in oder to talk about them, we would need some kind of container to collect them in, and then give the container to the NPC.

Inventory Visual Draft
First visual draft for the inventory

For the first draft we came up with a ring around the player that displayed the different items. It looked very sci-fi so we moved on from that soon. As of writing this (June 21st) we are still not 100% set on the visual look of the inventory, as we got some negative feedback from the intermediate presentation, but intend to make it fit the noir style!

Edit: You can see the final dialog system in action in the gameplay video at 68 seconds.

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