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How long do you think is too long? I'm making a conversation between main character and the King but I don't know how long would be considered too long.

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Making dialogue is a delectable, delicate process of cramming as much exposition, character development, and relationship building into the fewest message boxes you can manage without leaving your players befuddled.

 

Some people make the mistake of typing out things in long droves, basically repeating points they've already made in conversation and adding in very unnecessary details. Others tend to add way too much 'filler' dialogue, deviating from the purpose of the scene in an attempt to add more humour or force character development into an inappropriate moment. Even still, others have a tendency to explain EVERYTHING, even if the concept is very basic. Others try to explain everything about their characters, kingdom/location, magic powers, abilities, profession, and HISTORY--oh lord, is a character's background ever commonly guilty of causing unwanted, long speels of dialogue. The key is to remember that exposition works best if incorporated slowly. It's easier to go in blind and introduce different concepts/ideas/background information over the course of the entire game.

 

Others write their dialogue as though they're trying to speak directly to the player, forgetting that these characters' knowledge, time and energy is limited, and only certain personality types have a tendency to ramble.

 

So many reasons that dialogue can go on 'too long'. Go into a scene with a handful of objectives. God knows I've rewritten the dialogue in my game 5 times to reduce its wordiness and stick to the point.

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Correct grammar and spelling in your video game dialogue is essential as well.

 

Small mistakes suggest laziness from the developer - if the developer is not bothered, why should the player be?

 

The length of dialogue really depends upon the scenario - is it a flashback, has the party gone tbrough big event or are they simply responding to a request.

 

Also if your game was a visual novel I would expect a lot more dialogue then say an action battle system as the focus is obviously more on combat and exploration.

Edited by AlliedG

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When you consider the nature of dialogue, you have to ask yourself what exactly you want them to talk about anyways. Try making a list of points you want to address during the course of the conversation between your two characters - it's much easier to plan the shortest route to a destination if you have a map in front of you, and making "efficient" dialogue really isn't too different.

 

Also, if you don't mind returning to your dialogue later, just cover the most basic exchanges between your characters, and then add in the extra humor or information when you feel it's appropriate; chances are that your first draft of the dialogue is the one you like the most though.

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And include an option to fast-forward or skip dialogue.

 

And make sure not to include any unnecessary or redundant information.

 

And never make such exaggerated arguments that you're basically turning characters into strawmen (Like, say, someone who you think hasn't been portrayed as evil enough and says something on the lines of "Hey, you know what, it looks like a good day to kill a litter of newborn puppies in front of their mother, yeah, I think I'll go and do just that. Man, how I wish that someone from beyond the fourth wall could hear me and marvel at all my evilness!")

Edited by Gallade

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Any dialogue that lasts more than six text bubbles at a time becomes tedious to me if there is no action going on at the same time. I prefer to watch an evented scene if I have to read a bunch. Even if the scene is evented really well, I still don't like to read more than a dozen text bubbles at a time. I would suggest to break dialogue up between things the player can do. Info-dumping is boring and running back-and-forth between a few NPC's just to collect info is also boring. Be clever and devise ways to keep the player entertained while still sharing the info the player needs to progress in the story.

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I suggest keeping the main quest dialogue stick to the story of the game.

If you want to fully flesh out your world and game you can do so with optional side quests.

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I'm okie with lengthy cutscene dialogue...as long as there's something going on on-screen that keeps my eyes busy. I don't want two sprites just standing there in an open field with alternating text bubbles appearing.  :mellow:

 

Great ways to spice up "cutscene" dialogue:

  • Have faces/portraits with emotions--you have NO idea how much this adds to immersion! (or maybe you do!)
  • Utilise timing in text--make pauses with text effects and stuff. (ex \.) or add colors when a character is emphasizing a word, etc.
  • Have the sprites on-screen move or even better, have small sprite animations!
  • If you have the resources, have some custom scene art!

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How long you can get away with depends on how interested the player is, which ultimately boils down to your skill as a writer. Simply put, is the dialogue entertaining? That doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be funny - although that can help - but it should be interesting and believable. Of course, no matter how invested the player is, any cutscene can eventually go on for too long. Here are some tips to help prevent that:

 

The old "show, don't tell" law can go a long way with cutting down on unnecessary dialogue. In a video game, you can do this literally by relying on visual cues to communicate information about your characters and your world. For example, let's say that you have a town where many of the residents are fishermen. Rather than an NPC telling the player this, you could show a bunch of fishermen hard at work by the docks. But "show, don't tell" isn't only a visual thing - instead of a diseased character telling the player all of their symptoms, you could show them occasionally stopping in the middle of a sentence to cough.

 

When details are extraneous but you still want to fit them in because you think they're interesting, allow the player to choose for themselves whether or not they want to know about it. For example, in the Dragon Age series, there's a ton of extra information about the world of Thedas placed in the Codex, which players can read if they want to, but they don't have to. Nobody wants to sit there and read through cutscene after cutscene where another character explains, in minute detail, exactly how the magic system works (looking directly at you, Tales of the Abyss). Unless it's important to the plot, make the information accessible to the player, but don't force them to read it.

 

Also: subtext. Your audience is smarter than you think they are. This is very easy to forget, so repeat it to yourself over and over if you have to. We worry that our audience won't notice all the little details that we put into our work, so we become tempted to point them out. But trust me, people will pick up on things, so it's not necessary to make everything obvious or to explain it outright. Sometimes, implications can be more than enough.

 

The best way to figure out if you have too much dialogue, though? Ask for feedback! Have a few friends read through your cutscene and ask them if they think it drags on for too long. Getting an outside opinion or two is a great idea no matter what you're writing.

Edited by Whiona

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Whiona makes some great points. Forced dialogue should be kept to a minimum and should convey the main points that the player needs to progress in the game. All the extra fluff information should be optional. If you write well and are good at telling a story then the player will go the extra mile and seek out all the extra information you make available. One of the worst things you can do is bog down forced dialogue with unnecessary banter between characters.

 

I skim most dialogue quickly and rarely read everything I see in a game, even games that have exceptionally well written. As others have mentioned, it really helps to add different colors, and even icons, to key words. Just be sure to keep it consistent. Stick with one color for locations, one color for special items, one color for quest titles, etc.

 

One way I like to test my own writing is to view it in-game. Seeing it from the player's perspective helps me with assessing whether it's too long or full of useless banter. This is also a great way to pick up any spelling or grammar errors I've made.

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Do you know how when you enter text how them arrows show how long one line of text can be? One is with pic and other is without pic. Sometimes my text still seems to cut off by a lot even though I haven't passed the arrow. Is this normal?

Edited by Vectra

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The arrow is probably an approximate for where the cut off is in your text box. However, depending on the font, word length (as determined by each character, not the number of characters) will always be a factor, so because some letters are simply longer than others, you're never going to be exactly within that arrow, which is why you always have to check/preview your text.

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The arrows work really well for japanese charactors where each char is the same length, not so much for english.  If you go over seems to be a matter of how many "W"s vs "i"s you have. 

As for cutscene length, read it aloud, or at least at slow speaking speed in your head.  If you get bored/tired reading it, it's too long.

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Maybe you could ask for someone to read it for you and tell you if/when he gets bored...

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The "margins" for when the text gets cut off are terrible. I feel your pain. There is actually a script that helps with that. Just search "word wrap" in completed scripts, and you'll find it. You'll still have fix any wrapping errors in your current text boxes, but it helps to avoid future ones.

 

As for your question, there are lots of factors that come into play. They've already been touched on by others so I won't list them. It can be difficult, trying to find a balance between them all. Personally, I rarely plan how my conversations go. I know what the objective of the conversation is. of course. Mainly to begin a quest, end a quest, or develop some backstory/characters. How the hell I get there I usually don't know until I start typing. I just type whatever feels natural to me so a lot of it depends on my mood at the time. There is some method to my madness. . .  I think. My first priority is achieving the goal of the conversation.

This next bit may seem a bit off topic, but bear with me.  I'd need to know what your conversation entails to elaborate properly on it. For now All I can offer is an example, and hope it gets my point across.

 

I begin to shape it based off the involved characters' personalities. I'm don't just mean the main characters or the playable ones. The NPC needs to have a personality, too.

Your King should be pretty easy to do that with. Is the a stern, but understanding King? Is he confrontational? Open-minded? Closed Minded? If your main character is trying to convince the King of -or to do something, and the King is bullheaded, there's going to be some arguing back and forth. That type of conversation will likely run longer than normal, but it will still be entertaining and organic.

 

If the King is providing exposition, the conversation will be very one-sided. If that's the case, don't feel like you have to tell the entire history in great detail. That can get very boring very fast. The King would probably be more to the point anyway. He's a busy man after all. You can always use other NPC's or books or something to flesh out all the fine details. Okay, that was two examples.

 

The point is, don't worry about the conversation being too long as your writing it. If it flows naturally, and the character's speak realistically, the issue of length usually solves itself. With longer conversations, I always play test it right away, too. That's more to check for typos, grammar, and that goddamn text wrapping, but I can also see how much time the conversation will take. If you feel it's too short, add a little extra detail. Too long? Make some points more concise and/or cut down on any extra dialogue.

By extra, I mean having other characters provide input or inter-party bickering or off-topic tangents. 

 

It also always helps to look at it again with fresh eyes. Take a break or work on something else and go back to it later. Having someone else see it and give you input is helpful, too.

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What information needs to be presented and how can you make it as concise as possible while not deliberately shorthanding the writing while shortchanging the emotions of the story? If you find yourself writing a lot of mundane dialogue that's not very interesting, you can probably trim that or spice it up. If it's a necessary conversation between two characters, then it's necessary, but there are more than likely things you can chop out of it.

 

It's possible to have a long running conversation that's spiced up, for example, by having the character walk with the king through the castle while people are scurrying about and he unintentionally shows off the castle and its crew all in the same fell swoop while having what would otherwise be a standard, if not boring conversation.

 

There are always ways to impart critical information in a clever, interesting style, but it does take practice.

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