Dialog Puzzles

by Ron Gilbert
Jun 30, 2015

I don't know why we started calling them "dialog puzzles", they aren't really puzzles, they are more "dialog trees", but "dialog trees" just doesn't have the same flair that "dialog puzzles" does, or maybe it's just me, but I'm going to call them "dialog puzzles".

Maniac Mansion didn't have dialog puzzles. I often getting quizzical looks when I say that, followed by "Yes it did!" and I follow with "No it didn't." and they retort with "Are you sure?" and I come back with "Yeah, I think I would have remembered that."

Zak didn't have dialog puzzles either, nor did LOOM™. Dialog puzzles at Lucasfilm first appeared in Last Crusade and I like to think of them as version 1.0.

For readers that aren't sure that I'm talking about, you might want to check your browser's url. If you came here looking for information on the invasive plant called Thimbleweed, you've probably come to the wrong place, but bear with me, this might be interesting...

Dialog puzzles are really nothing more than a list of choices in the form of dialog for the player to say, or more specifically, for the player to make the main character say. You begin a conversation by doing a TALK TO. The main character usually starts off with a line of dialog, then the other character says something, then the player presented with three to five choice of things they can say.

You choose one of them and that takes the conversation in a new and you end up with some more dialog choices. The dialog trees are typically only a few levels deep and often return to a top node. Choices you've already made often disappear (but not always).

Dialog puzzles in the Lucasfilm adventures were invented to break up long cut-scenes. If you have two minutes of information to get across and you break it up with the occasional choices from the player, it can turn a long slog through dialog into a joy.

The dialogs in Indy were 1.0 because we were really just feeling our way around, trying to understand the rules. Noah Falstein wrote most of the dialog in that game and I thought he did a great job of starting to figure all this out.

But it was Monkey Island where the dialog puzzle really started to shine. A lot of that credit goes to Dave and Tim for being such good and funny writers, but also because we were starting to figure out the rules of what made a good dialog based on the experience with Indy.

I always felt that a dialog should make retrospective sense. Meaning, when you got done with the tree, you should be able to print out the dialog, read it and it should feel like a real conversation, which gets me to one of the most controversial issues with dialog puzzles: You are having a conversation.

The choices in the dialog tree should be lines of conversion, you select them and the main character says them and this moves the conversation forward. It is through the act of having that conversation that you make the choices, the choices do not elicit conversation.

"It would be swell if you could loan me some gas for my chainsaw, fine sir?"


Ask about getting gas.

In the first example, you're having a conversation with the goal of getting the gas for your chainsaw. In the second, you're telling the game you want the gas and it builds a conversation around that. I inherently dislike the second. It's boring and it takes away the single greatest thing about dialog puzzles: being able to tell four jokes at once.

Someone can say something to Guybrush and then the player sees four funny responses and they read down them and (hopefully) laugh at each one. They don't need to select it, they just need to read it. You can do a lot more character building that way and tell a lot more jokes.

I could go on and on about dialog puzzles. I have a whole list of rules for structuring them that I'll try and dig up at some point and post, but I know what you're thinking: "What the hell does this have to do with Thimbleweed and how do I get it out of my backyard?"

Patience, Grasshopper

I still haven't decided if we're doing dialog puzzles in Thimbleweed Park. It's not that I don't want to - I really want to - but they are massively time consuming to write and implement. Having them increases the dialog in the game by a factor of ten. You're no longer writing one conversation, you're writing ten of them and that doesn't even include that we have five playable characters.

If we do them, the dialog could end up being somewhat generic, with only special lines here and there for the different characters. It doesn't take much to make them feel special, but it's completely unrealistic to expect that all five characters will have completely different conversations without the dialog trees becoming very thin, which might be OK. It's an odd creative problem.

What I do know is that I don't have the time to write the dialog AND do the system programming. One of those will have to give and that starts to run into budget issues. We don't have the budget to hire an additional writer or a system programmer. Making games is all about trade-offs.

In SCUMM all the dialog puzzles were hand coded and it was a pain. For DeathSpank I came up with a script format called Sassy that helped a great deal, but was just a little too wordy and programmery.

Last year, I went to a great talk at GDC by Jon Ingold about 80 Days and was impressed and inspired by the simplicity of their scripting format.

Last week I played around with our dialog system and spent some time figuring out a format for the scripts and implemented it in the engine.

Here is a sample I crapped out as a test:

!talked_to_sheriff = YES
sheriff:  Howdee. The name's Sheriff Crook, local sheriff of Thimbleweed Park.
    I don't remember calling the feds-a-renos.
    That's what you are? Feds?
    Hard to miss the goverment issue suits.

 Damn straight we're the feds. -> crap [showonce]
 Cut the Mayberry crap, we're taking over this case. -> crap
 How long were you going to let that body rot in the river? -> rot
 I'm agent Ray and this is... uh... my partner. -> hi
 Know any place that serves good pie? -> eat [once]
 Know any place that serves good meatloaf? -> eat [once]
 Know any place that serves good hamburgers? -> eat [once]
 Know any place that serves good hotdogs. -> eat [once]
 Why don't you shut the place down? -> shutdown [once]

sheriff:  You could try the Diner down the street, but no one eats there...
pause 0.5
sheriff:  *whispering* Botalisium. [asked_about_food == 1]
sheriff:  *whispering* E. coli. [asked_about_food == 2]
sheriff:  *whispering* Plague. [asked_about_food == 3]
sheriff:  *whispering* Butylated Hydroxytoluene. [asked_about_food == 4]
-> main

sheriff:  Why would I do that? I get a 5% law enforcement discount.
-> main

sheriff:  The river is so chocked full of chemicals from the old pillow factory...
    ...it's better off there than in a tub of formaldehyde.
sheriff:  {chuckle}
-> next

sheriff:  Whoa... hold your horse-a-renos, no need to get snippy.
-> next

sheriff:  Nice to meet you, agent-a-renos.
-> next

sheriff:  Looks like you heard about our little murder-reno out by the bridge.
reyes:  There nothing 'little' about murder, sir.
pause 0.5
ray:  *sigh*
    Ignore him... he's new.
pause 0.5
sheriff:  No sense in wasting everyone's time-a-reno.
    This cut-scene is starting to get long and it's only going to get longer.
    Let's find the coroner and get you on your way.
    Wrestling starts at eight.
reyes:  I hope he's talking about on TV

I like writing in pure text, I don't like fancy tools or clicking a bunch of UI to add nodes. I like to copy/paste and reflow large chunks of dialog with ease.

So, there are two things I don't know.

1) I don't know if there are going to be dialog puzzles in Thimbleweed Park.
2) I have no idea how to get Thimbleweed out of your backyard.

- Ron

Christopher Rice - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:24
have you played Kentucky Route Zero.
i thought the dialogue in that games was an interesting and different take on adventure game dialogue....

Ron Gilbert - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:26
I did play that, it was very well written, but I often felt that making choices was just pressing an OK button. I never got the sense that I was navigating and exploring a conversion.

Christopher Rice - Jun 30, 2015 at 13:47
yeah, I don't think it was about exploring conversation.... it was more like being an actor in a play...

Mattias Cedervall - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:30
I usually like to take a chainsaw and cut down the dialog trees because I don't like it when you make a selection and maybe miss out on some other possible responses. I don't think it's like that in Monkey Island, but it has been like that in RPG:s I've played.

Ron, maybe Tim Schafer would write dialog trees for free in his spare time?

NylonGamer - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:37
dat first sentence tho... i lol'd hard bro

Thomas Lehr - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:50
For god's sake: Please, please DO dialogue trees / puzzles. For me exploring all options of these dialogue trees (and the funny reactions) were a good proportion of the fun I had with the old Lucasfilm adventures!

Pietz - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:53
Full ACK :-D

sTim - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:09
Fully agree. Dialogue trees are one of my favorite things about the Monkey Island games. Now I loved Maniac/Zak too, but this extra dialogue gave me more of something I wanted far more than more scenery/animations/music would give me (or whatever else that time would go towards instead)

Dan - Jun 30, 2015 at 12:57
What about extending the kickstarter campaign?
If you get the needed budget you implement dialogs, elsewise you have a good reason for leaving it be.

Dan - Jun 30, 2015 at 13:05
Wow! That's a really smart script format!

Natalija - Jun 30, 2015 at 13:59
Awwwww.... :-( but I love dialog puzzles...

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:00
They love you too! ;-)

Brian Ruff - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:00
Important question here: Which Thimbleweed species are we talking about, so we can know where the game actually takes place?

Rudbeckia laciniata (eastern North America)
Anemone cylindrica (north central North America)

I'm assuming the story happens in "north central U.S."? Montana maybe?

LichiMan - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:06
Please, do the dialog puzzles. I really enjoyed them in Monkey Island and the rest of Lucas adventures. It makes me go very deep into the game ("suspension of disbelief"). You know what I'm talking about.
You want to, and "Thimbleweed park" will never be finished without them (some emotional blackmail here).

Barry - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:12
Dialogue Puzzles were also my favourite part of the old Lucasart games. It'd be a real shame if they were missing.

Thom - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:12
For me, dialogue trees are only fun if they're real choices that can result in actual different outcomes within the game.

I hate having to click through every dialog option just to find the one that will cause the NPC to e.g give me an object I need (and because of this mechanic, the same process for every NPC I interact with).

delMar - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:06
I agree, clicking through every dialog option just to get some item (or whatever) is tedious. I also do not like it when I can start over the whole dialog again by just doing TALK TO <Ron Gilbert> again.

But I absolutely loved fighting the sword master in Monkey Island, which was really dialog based for those of you who don't know...
Monkey Island, yes ... Anyone ???

Dr. Sprocket - Jul 01, 2015 at 13:14
I throw my lot in right here.  Dialogue trees don't do much for me.  I won't miss them.  They can add flavour, sure.  But I generally find them tedious.  

If this game was happening in "current time" I'd suggest implementing some kind of texting feature for these tree, eliminating the need for additional voice acting.  But back in the 80's.... Did people carry pagers around then?

Ohh.  Imagine that.  Remember in Earthbound for SNES, you would call the pizza delivery place to make an order.  And then 5 mins later, the pizza guy would find you and drop off your pizza.  Say the dialogue puzzles are limited to a character's pager.  You can text someone 1 short line, and 5 mins later you get a response to which you have 4 options to respond with.  (Instead of breaking up longer cut scenes with dialogue puzzles, you'd be breaking up dialogue puzzles with gameplay.  Ha!)

Love it.  There's your solution.  People who love DTs can still have them.  People who hate them will be able to endure them.

Andy - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:18
There's a typo in the post.

..."but bare with me, this might be interesting..."

should be

... "but bare, with me, this might be... interesting"

(That or "bear.")

AJ - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:20
The dialog puzzles in Monkey Island were one of my favorite aspects of the game! I would love to have dialog puzzles in Thimbleweed Park, but I do understand the tradeoffs. I'm sure it will be a great game either way!

Tbh, I would not mind waiting longer for the final release or giving more money if it meant dialog puzzles.... Regardless, I'm hoping to up my pledge tier when Ron gives us more info on that ;)

Dominik - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:12
I agree! More info on pledge updating is needed here!

Concerning dialog trees:
I think they also have another purpose: They help you identify with the character a bit more if you can choose the "tone" of your answer. In the sample script you can choose to be polite ("good cop") or be pretty a**holian about being a Fed ("bad cop"). I like it when a game gives me the illusion that I have some degree of influence.

Like in Monkey Island where I would - of course - select: "I am Guybrush Threepwood - You are all going to die!"

I would love it if Thimbleweed Park had at least some dialog options.

Christian - Jun 30, 2015 at 14:26
If you do them then I would prefer them to be so that nothing get losts. It should be possible to explore every option and read every bit of dialogue and not require multiple playthroughs to read it all. In Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit it was the worst: They gave you a few seconds to choose and removed all other options and the info about the plot was lost.
But that's just my personal preference.

Nor Treblig - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:22
Eww, this sounds awful!

Edwin - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:08
Ron, dialog 'puzzels' are important. It is what made Monkey Island so great. The humor was strongest in those  trees. 3 or 4 jokes in one go. And its why Monkey Island has much stronger and memorable characters that Maniac Mansion for example. It is why i backed this game, and buy all your games. Not because of the great gameplay (sorry), but the jokes/humor and great characters you set up with them.

Christopher Griffin - Jul 01, 2015 at 14:39
I just want to point out that if "dialog puzzles" were not offered in the Kickstarter, it should not be assumed that they would make an appearance.  It's just not cool to throw out a passive-aggressive claim stating that you backed the game because of something that was not offered.

Edwin - Jul 03, 2015 at 03:07
Passive aggressive? What? If you think my post is that, well that says more about you then about me.. I back anything Ron Gilbert makes. But i CAN tell the man that i really do hope he finds a way to include a few dialog puzzles in the game. Because, you know, i am a fan and i like those and would like to express that. Thats what this blog and comment section is for. But then there are always people who THINK they are moderators or think that they should talk for other people.

Zombocast - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:14
Do them, but at places you already have puzzles at. This way if you get stuck making puzzles you can replace it with a dialog puzzle. The dialogs also dont have to be charactor specific if you treat it like a puzzle too.
Ps: Dialog puzzles sound amazing in the thimblecon convention possibly relating to whos the best super hero or comics!

hippy dave - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:18

Juan - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:29
I really LOVE dialogue puzzles. I remember when I was a kid and played Monkey Island for the first time, it was the dialogues that made me fall in love with the game. To me, adventure games that lack dialogue trees feel a bit "cold". I don't know how to explain it but, as others pointed out, dialogue puzzles really immerse you in the game. They are the difference between playing the game and being in the game.

I think dialogue puzzles are great for immersion and for providing subtle hints to solve certain puzzles. What I don't like about dialogue puzzles is when, instead of a hint, they ARE the solution to the puzzle. That feels cheap to me. Even though I loved Broken Age, I think that game had way too many puzzles which where solved just by talking.

Brian Ruff - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:32
It seems like not doing dialogs is going to produce better quality writing, right?

Michael Stum - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:45
Since this is about Federal Agents, Dialog Puzzles are your chance to turn Insult Swordfighting into Insult Gunfighting.

Sean - Jun 30, 2015 at 15:53
Put me in the camp for more dialogue. I think they immeasurably add to the character of the game.

Sebastian - Jun 30, 2015 at 16:07
You HAVE TO include dialogue puzzles! Dialogue puzzles are one of the key elements of a "classic" adventure game! Also I LOVE, as you describe, to read through the various options! So much opportunity for great jokes!

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jun 30, 2015 at 16:16
I think, on the contrary, you should NOT implement a dialogue system, because:
- Maniac Mansion didn't have one (TP is more likely in the 1987 than 1990)
- It has sense if you are playing with one character (Guybrush, Indy), not with more than one.

But of course, you can think of different sentences to be said by different characters.
I remeber that if Zak gave the bottle of rum to the guard at Stonehenge, nothing happened. But if Annie gave it, something different (and very important!) happened.
THAT'S what I would see in Thimbleweed Park.

Nor Treblig - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:19
I agree with you. Although I like dialog trees it also works without them. For example there is this one game called Sack MacCraken (or so), which is still great.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:10
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!! My favourite game of all time mispelled so cruelly!!! :-)

Nor Treblig - Jul 01, 2015 at 00:54
I put really effort into it :-)

Iron Curtain - Jun 30, 2015 at 22:11
Thimbleweed Park may be more 1987 than 1990, but Ron Gilbert is going to be implementing his rules of adventure game design that he first used in the Secret of Monkey Island. in Thimbleweed Park.

That being said, I'd advise against Dialog Trees because even though I love them (especially the insults and the puzzle to get the necklace from the head of the navigator), you don't have the budget for them.

Estranged2 - Jul 01, 2015 at 07:49
I agree. They're a fun gimmick that gives the illusion of choice, but they're not worth the trouble.

Tomimt - Jun 30, 2015 at 16:21
The way I see it not every discussion needs to be a dialogue puzzle. I'd use them more as a salt in the conversations, not trying to cram them everywhere.

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:02
That's some good thinking from you.

jfrisby - Jun 30, 2015 at 16:36
NPC's getting brain-wiped constantly bothers me a little, as much as I love dialog trees..  Not that realistic -- the AI won't know how to convert that stuff into a holodeck program for us.

Simon Goodway - Jun 30, 2015 at 16:57
You could get me to write it.

- I have extensive writing experience, especially comedy
- I have extensive puzzle writing experience
- I have a LOT of free time and would do it for free, for the love of it

I'm serious, and can provide evidence of my abilities. Please consider it!

Yehuda - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:08
s/Mansion\ Mansion/Maniac\ Mansion/g

Jammet - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:22
If you're actually looking for player input on this, here are a few points I want to make.

Maniac Mansion came first. It had no dialogs trees. Then, later came Monkey Island. It had dialog trees. Thimbleweed Park is a mixed blend between both of these. The story is completely unique, and this is why the decision to having dialog trees should be made in the light of ....

Does the dialog flesh out the story?
How much of the core story can you support with additional dialog?
Do I want to make another game like this, after this one? Or even a third? Make this one more like Mansion, and the second more like Monkey Island?

If you are not going to make another game like this after Thimbleweed Park? I'd say .. include some dialog.
If you think you might be making more? Don't do the dialog thing. Unless it helps carry a lot of the weight of the story.

Jammet - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:25
PS: The thing is -- I love dialog trees and dialog puzzles. If you make them, they will NOT go to waste. But. Maniac Mansion has beauty in how the story is simple, and is carried mostly though interaction.
I like both styles and this choice is a dilemma. Hence why I ask if there is going to be more. Because next time around, I'd do the other thing.

Kai - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:25
I always liked the dialog puzzles. They made the whole atmosphere seem less sterile, less artificial.

The one thing I did not like was that you could always just try out all possible combinations and that would pretty much solve the puzzle (and unlike puzzles where you had to combine inventory items, there was no running around through different rooms and it pretty much boiled down to going through three or four choices a number of times). I think the only situations where your choices in a dialog puzzle made any difference were in Indy IV, where you could choose one of three different "second acts", and the ingenious sword fighting puzzles in MI, where at first I did not even realize that I was solving a puzzle until after I had collected 4 or 5 witty comebacks.

It would be great if you did dialog puzzles in TP, but make them so that choosing the wrong answers would permanently block some (easy) ways to solve a puzzle and only leave you with the hard, longer, more sophisticated and funnier way.

So yeah. Nobody said it would be easy.

Yak - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:47
Indeed, as has been pointed out, they aren't really 'puzzles' - more 'info, clues and cues' - but there is one more aspect to mention which I felt helped with the sense of immersion: when some of the dialogue options were dependent on different states, for instance having picked up a piece of inventory, having been told something important by another character och having visited/seen something. In those cases, being able to say "hmm, perhaps I should go talk to the sheriff about this?" somehow gives more depth to the experience.

Granted, something similar could probably be done without a writing a fully-fledged dialogue-tree...

Giulio - Jun 30, 2015 at 17:40
Please implement dialog puzzles, they truly were one of the things which contributed the most to both fun and atmosphere in Monkey Island and other adventure games. I understand it's hard because it's expensive and time consuming, but please only give up if there is no possible way out. I'm sure you will try your best, as you always do.

Arto - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:02
I think the game should have some dialog puzzles, but not many. I think it would be best, if there was no 'Talk to' option, and any conversation would start when character would use something on something, e.g.:

You are standing in front of a house. A man is leaning to the wall smoking a cigarette.
The door is locked.
You take out chainsaw and start it.
The leaning man runs towards you.
MAN: "Whoa, whoa, whoa... what are you doing?"
opt1-1 "I was going to commit a breaking and entering, do you mind?"
opt1-2 "I just wanted to check if my chainsaw was still working. Seems to be."
opt1-3 "Stand back or you might be the next in the chain of chainsaw massacre victims"
(which ever you choose -> ) MAN: "Look, I have a key alright"
YOU: "Great! Can you open the door for me?"
MAN: "I could, but why should I?"
opt2-1 "I'm a federal agent, and I'm conducting an investigation"
opt2-2 "I was here earlier, and forgot my... um... partner in there"
opt2-3 "I think there could be a note with a president's face on it for you inside..."
(if you chose opt2-1 -> ) MAN: "Oh, you are with the feds... Ok, no problem. Here you go."
(if you chose opt2-2 -> ) MAN: "What? If there's someone inside, she can open the door herself."
(if you chose opt3-1 -> ) MAN: "Sounds fishy, no dice. You can't bribe me."

So, I would say, keep the opportunities for conversations to minimum, keep the conversations themselves lean, and I think there should be some sort of action after successful dialog.

Allen - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:03
Dialogue puzzles are awesome - I agree with others that they draw you into the story more because you get to choose how your character behaves (in a limited way). It was especially awesome seeing how the writers got you out of the sticky mess you tried to talk your character into. Some of the hardest dialogue puzzles were the ones where you had to annoy NPCs so much that they would walk away because I didn't like annoying people (even digital people apparently).

I hope that you find time in the budget for scripting a variety of conversations for each character - as you say, the opportunity for humour is greatly increased when you have a range of responses to read through, including self-deferential or fourth-wall-breaking lines.

I also hope that we might see the triumphant return of Insult <Activity>TM. Perhaps there's room for Insult Darts? Or Insult Tree-cutting? Or Insult Lock Picking, where all the doors have a range of silly knock-knock jokes you need to find the correct response to...

Marco Lizza - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:16
I seriously judge the dialogue puzzles to be unnecessary in Thimbleweed Park.

I really like them, especially in Indy 3, but I always found that the lack of "talkative" interaction in Maniac Mansion to be part of the "magic" that rendered it the classic it is.

You can interact with the NPCs by giving them stuff and performing action, and in reply you occasionally get some phrase. But you cannot stop and talk to them. You need to perform actions, not to find the correct route in a dialogue tree to trigger the result you need.

Also, this contributes in making the NPCs more elliptic (and that was a plus in Maniac Mansion).

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 04:02
Exactly. Maniac Mansion is beautiful in how it is seemingly a graphics adventure that is purely about interaction. That's a form of art that's just rare.

I'd even go so far as to say, ditch the "Talk to" verb entirely, if you decide not to have dialog trees anyway - and trigger the dialogs when your characters do something specific. Trigger conversations as small scenes, maybe entirely non-interactive then.

I'd prefer this much more than taking the dense dialog trees from Monkey Island and toning them down. It's either one or the other. Both have the magic, it's just a different kind of magic.

♫ It's a kind of maaagic ....
It's a kind of maagiiiiic ... ♫

Marco Lizza - Jul 01, 2015 at 08:13
> I'd even go so far as to say, ditch the "Talk to" verb entirely, if you decide not to have dialog trees anyway - and trigger the dialogs when your characters do something specific

That is exactly what I was thinking.

Moreover, as someone said, some games did suffered from the abuse of dialogues. I'm glad to find out I'm not the only one that found displeasant going in a new location and thinking "gosh, another room full of people to talk to... I'm not gonna make it". Over time this become frustrating and repetitive. In the case of Indy3/Indy4 and MI/MI2 this was quite balanced... but, still, I favour the absence of dialogue trees.

Interaction comes from doing things, not from annoying and talking with NPCs to death. :)

Alan - Jul 01, 2015 at 13:53
Where's the "Like" button?  I demand a "Like" button!

Diduz - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:41
I used to like dialogs in adventure games, but now I just think straight dialogue "puzzles"/"trees" simply bog the genre. As someone else said in this thread, actively interacting with the characters to get a response, giving something to them to understand their personalities, is far better and funnier. I've recently experienced that with Broken Age: Tim has conceived a lot of specific answers when you try to use an object on the characters. They feel more alive in those moments than in their canonical dialog trees. I think this happens because the interaction is hidden and isn't that obvious: on the other hand, dialogue trees stop the game flow and give away too much. As for heroes' personalities, the "examine" verb is more than enough to avoid Zak's or Dave's silence in those old games. Of course, you may want to come up with some kind of interface to accomodate the agents' investigation: they are supposed to question the suspects, after all.

Derrick Reisdorf - Jun 30, 2015 at 18:51
I kind of like dialog trees, but only if my choices have defined consequences that alter some aspect of the game.  Sometimes I think I would moreso prefer a cutscene instead of having to exhaust the gamut of dialog.

I think dialog trees/puzzles should only exist if you cannot traverse the entire tree.  Not only that, but what you decide to say should make a puzzle easier or harder (but never making anything impossible nor the result being the omission of vital clues or info; the clues or info would just be less/more cryptic).

All that being said, I would hope Ron would be able to raise some more money to budget for some good dialog puzzles or find some chump/s with the ability who could volunteer their time.

treemandan - Jun 30, 2015 at 22:01
I think I would be more excited for the game if there wasn't any dialogue puzzles in it at all! Maniac mansion was magic in that it didn't have any, but every characters personality was fully realised. Where I do see the reasons for putting them in games that are more story driven, I have a much more enjoyable time figuring out what's going on through what's happening in the game rather than having to make a decision on what to say and then being spoon fed the games dialogue. This would also add to the replay value!

Jorge - Jun 30, 2015 at 22:50
Dialog puzzles, yes or no? There's no right answer. Both have great features.
* No dialogs: I like The Cave and it doesn't have dialogs. Only a narrator telling the story. I remember the TV series "The Wonder Years" where you could hear the thoughts of the protagonist. Maybe this could be like what was thinking Mulder and Scully when they investigate? But this doesn't mean that you understand what to do next.
* Full dialogs: I like Monkey Island. It was my entrance to adventure games. But too much dialogs can be repetitive. Of course, it's fun the first time, great jokes, but after that you need to continue playing and if the dialogs doesn't guide you, you're completely lost (that happens to me, not in MI). Then, you're reading the same dialog forever...
* Fixed styles: Discworld (from Psygnosis) solved the dialogs using icons for each kind of conversation: generic, joke, question and insult. But it's like then gas example. The same thing in Sam & Max.

Jorge - Jun 30, 2015 at 22:52
I see the "No dialogs" in bold. That wasn't my intention. I mean, that's not necessarily the option I choose.

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 04:09
I wonder what it would be like if the main cast would keep talking to themselves. No long monologue, just .. a lot more often than it happens, when Guybrush adds his social biting commentary to his hilarious situations. :)

Paulup - Jun 30, 2015 at 23:19
I'm divided on dialog puzzles...

They can be awesome, like in Monkey Island 1 and 2, where they really add to the humor and the characterization...

BUT, dialog puzzles also have the potential to be very tedious.
I remember in Curse of Monkey Island coming across new characters and sighing, because I knew I was going to have to sit through a very long dialog tree, clicking over and over to make sure I'd exhausted all the paths to get all the potential character and plot info.

It was like a huge interactive exposition dump that slowed down the game, when I just wanted to get back to solving the puzzles, exploring the settings, and finding the humor in the "look at" descriptions and combing objects and things like that.
I also found that was the case for parts of Grim Fandango too, mainly in the beginning... dialog puzzles can sometimes feel like it really is just a "tree" where you have to go through and exhaust every possibility and it can end up being a bit of a chore.

So I'd say if you do them, please make sure it's just a few paths of top notch stuff for each conversation, rather than loads and loads of "just ok" dialog..

Ben Henson - Jul 01, 2015 at 00:15
Can I second this notion?

I think you have hit on exactly where dialog puzzles in some games go wrong. Many adventure games in particular ruin the fun of reaching new locations by also having a bunch of new characters, each with long dialog puzzles. Trying every branch in the every dialog tree becomes work, but you know you have to do it because who knows which branch might contain a piece of information or item you need or whatever.

In games like that I lump the dialog puzzles in with cutscenes, in that they are actually taking the player out of playing the game. With that in mind I think that dialog puzzles (like cutscenes) add to a game only if they are concise and to the point. And there needs to be  some reason for each ones existance (humor being a good enough reason).

The example you posted here Ron is about the perfect length for a dialog puzzle IMHO. Also hopefully if they are short like that we can still enjoy the fun of dialog puzzles without trading off much else in the game.

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 04:17
Well ... up until now I was more or less on the fence. Wanted it either like Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island -- I didn't really think in shades of grey about it, or thought that this might be a bad thing. That might have been a mistake.

I mean, look at the step up in Indy 3. Zak already had quite a bit more triggered dialog than Maniac Mansion, I think,  but Indy 3 really got it going. But I remember how disappointed I was in Indy 3, as you could only talk to a select few of all characters. With many characters, the "Talk to" very just ... did nothing. It behaved like "What is", when you hover the cursor on something cool, only to find out it's just decoration.
I was fine with "What is" not registering stuff, it still feels like a big, fully functional world to me regardless, but not being able to talk to this or that person felt like someone was needlessly putting a stop to my sense of curiousness.

But if it's not just "toned down" but really done well, that'd be a bit like having the dialogs of Indy 3, but this time there is no invisible barrier there, designed to stop you from running face first against the wall of the matrix, so to say. Characters could all respond in some way, now.

Paulup - Jul 01, 2015 at 10:31
Also, just to add to what I said before, I think that the problem often occurs when there is a cutscene AND a dialog tree...

That happened in Curse of MI, where each new major location was introduced with a pretty long animated cutscene, followed by even more plot info with dialog puzzles with every character.
Maybe it's fine if it's one or the other, just to get the plot rolling and some characters explained, but not both, right after each other...

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 09:14
I agree.

Kris Bleakley - Jun 30, 2015 at 23:48
You can't really compare Maniac Mansion with Thimbleweed Park. While both fit into the category of adventure games, Maniac Mansion is basically a rescue mission, while Thimbleweed Park is a who dunnit. When there are questions to be asked there should be dialog trees.
You need to look at each character individually and decide whether or not that character is likely to enter into dialog. Whether or not the game is likely to have existed in 1987 is irrelevant.

How do I become a pirate? Who is LeChuck? What is the Secret of Monkey Island? Guybrush needs answers people!!

Anyway, how often do you strike up a conversation with a bunch of lunatics, or a talking tentacle?

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 09:16
What you are saying makes sense!

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:33
Indeed he does. I also like to think that people look at dialog not only in the way that we figure out what characters respond to the main cast. Look at each character as if *they* were the main character and then the dialogs will feel a lot more interesting.

Matthew - Jul 01, 2015 at 00:18
I feel like you'd need a simple validator/analyzer to make sure that all your conversations have a way to get to exit, that all nodes are reachable, and that you don't hit any infinite loops (basic graph algorithms). With enough nodes, especially if everything is in the same scope, it likely becomes non-trivial to prove that all cases do the right thing. Otherwise you'll drive yourself insane modifying the dialog graph, especially since you're allowed to modify global vars with the '!' operator. This is a neat format but it looks super dangerous to me.

Just for entertainment, I coded up a toy that can handle the above dialog puzzles with a few minor modifications: I changed "exit" to "-> exit", I don't handle "!talked_to_sheriff = YES", no stage directions, and I require a 'greeting' block since I don't have a game that can ask for any conversation node.


Ron Gilbert - Jul 01, 2015 at 01:35
That's awesome!

Mario - Jul 01, 2015 at 06:39
do we have a new TP Coder here? ;-)
Seems Ron can simplify his dialog work a bit.

Geoff Paulsen - Jul 01, 2015 at 13:17
/clap /clap.

Great job Mathew.  Now I'm dreaming of features to add to this dialog puzzle scripting system.

It'd be neat if particular nodes in the trees could select an element from an array of character lines, so that most of the tree would be the same, but at certain nodes, each character could have a specific reaction to a particular turn of phrase.

I love the idea of auto parsing these to ensure some basic correctness, and aid with debugging.

Also, as this parser is parsing this input file, you could have it generate a language specific file, and actually just insert references to the language file into the resulting code.  That way you'd have one English file that someone could translate into other languages, and it should just fall into place.  There are of course lots of issues with translations, but this would at least separate out the script markup from the language to be translated.

And don't forget you might want some minimal amount of markup for the text, such as bolt, italics, super script, (TM) symbols, etc. :)

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 16:52
I wish I could become a ninja programmer like you, Matthew! I'm not competent enough to understand your solution, but it still seems good. I took a beginner's course in Ada back in 2009, but I suspect I'm bad at abstract thinking because it was hard to understand. I suck at math, but it wasn't much math in that stage. I'm a computer technician so I know how to use a computer. I wish you a nice day! ;-)

Mathias - Jul 01, 2015 at 02:01
The name is Crook, Sheriff Crook.

Derrick Reisdorf - Jul 01, 2015 at 02:13
I do want to echo an earlier post by saying I think a game of this nature- one that involves detective work- absolutely requires the necessity of dialog puzzles/trees... Ask a character the wrong question or say the wrong thing, and you might not get the whole story- requiring you to acquire more clues or solve a puzzle or two to get the info you need.

barnacleboy - Jul 01, 2015 at 02:46
Nice and readable script, but how do you localize the dialogs?

Santiago - Aug 09, 2015 at 21:41
Maybe different files. If all the dialog is already finished is just copy paste and edit for the new language.

Alien426 - Jul 01, 2015 at 05:46
I totally agree on the "pure text" sentiment. I rather manually edit my data as JSON in a text editor than having it in a database and doing the [add] - [OK] - [edit] - [OK] click-a-reno.

Jaume - Jul 01, 2015 at 06:50
Hi everybody, about the caracthers Maniac Mansion style colliding with the new backgrounds Mark Ferrari style, have you thought about redoing the characters in DOTT style?

Please see this image: The Maniac Mansion characters in DOTT style!!! --> http://www.bonzenmann.de/villa.png

Ron Gilbert - Jul 01, 2015 at 10:17
Doing the characters in DotT style would mean doing the backgrounds as well. I know this is going to rile up some people, but I never liked the DotT art style. It was too goofy and cartoony for me. It was a product of it's time. Artists (not just at Lucasfilm) were rebelling against the constraints and exploring new art style and doing as wacky as you could was very appealing. Lucasfilm wasn't the only company to do the Chuck Jones style as it seemed as far as possible from what had been done. It's a trend that didn't last as everyone figured out they can do interesting art style and not crazy for the sack of crazy. I think it dates DotT a little. I know a lot of people will disagree with me and that's fine.

Arto - Jul 01, 2015 at 10:51
I agree. I didn't like DoTT style even when it was published. It just felt too... made. Same with Sam & Max Hit The Road, although it wasn't that bad. I actually complained about this in my bachelor's thesis (yes, it was about Lucasfilm Games / LucasArts).

Paulup - Jul 01, 2015 at 10:57
I liked it for just that one game, but I wouldn't want to see multiple games in that style, as that art was a unique quirk that made that game its own thing...
I liked how different LucasArts games had those different styles -- they all had great pixel art, but different flavors within the same overall format.

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:00
I have a question: If you compare the Art Style of Maniac Mansion, Zak Mckracken, Monkey Island 1, LOOM, Monkey Island 2, Last Crusade and Fate of Atlantis -> which Art Style do you like most? What do you think of the Art Style of The Dig ???

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:46
Wow that is a big question.

The Dig is the most beautiful, stunning, serene, jaw to the floor thing I have ever seen in a graphics adventure. I don't care what reviewers were rambling about Super VGA at the time. Very few games made the absolute most out of VGA, and The Dig was one of them. I look at these beautiful screens, the scenery and I just tear up. It grips me. It is just so ... soooo *unbelievably beautiful!*

The thing when you compare all these styles is, like with much other pieces of Art... you don't want to pick one. You want them all.

It is not just Nostalgia, I think the C64 graphics/style of Maniac Mansion is unforgettable. The PC and Amiga/Atari ST screens are higher res and ... they have the look we're getting in Thimbleweed Park, but when I actually play the game, for some reason I return to the C64 version more often than not.

If I absolutely HAVE to tell you what styles I prefer, top 10-like ... then here goes.

1. Monkey Island 1 Amiga/PC Vga
2.The Dig
3.Indiana Jones 4 PC
4.Maniac Mansion Amiga/PC EGA
5.Maniac Mansion C64 / PC EGA v1
6.Zak Mc Kracken C64
7.Zak Mc Kracken PC EGA v2
8. Full Throttle
9. Monkey Island 2
10. Indiana Jones and the last Crusade EGA

I never liked LOOM, even though I adore the looks of it as much as Monkey Island .. the game somehow ... without the verbs and all ... it just ... made me sit in front of the screen and keep wishing it had verbs. Rinse repeat. I haven't finished it even until today, despite numerous attempts. I try again .. and immediately realise why it ... bores the hell out of me :(.

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:50
PS: I realise The Dig and Full Throttle didn't have verbs either, but they had a lot more interaction that appealed to me. The melodical magic is a nice idea, but just not for me. It was clunky and just plain not fun.

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 15:18
What I think is super interesting: Both "Loom" and "The Dig" are projects by Brian Moriarty ("The Dig" was finished by Sean Clark, but a big part was done by Brian Moriarty, after a story by Steven Spielberg). The general atmosphere between "The Dig" and "Loom" is similar: In "The Dig" you have to find different combinations of diamonds and in "Loom" you have to make music. I love also the work of Brian Moriarty, but the problem is: 1) No good Scumm System; 2) no humour. In general, the Moriarty Games have a strong atmosphere, but less comedy. Exactly the opposite with DOTT...

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 15:31
If I would invent a system from 1 (very bad) to 10 (very good) my results would look like this:

Monkey Island 1 / 10
Fate of Atlantis / 10
DOTT / 9
Zak McKracken / 8
Indiana Jones and the last Crusade / 8
Maniac Mansion / 7
Monkey Island 2 / 6
Grim Fandango / 6
Curse of Monkey Island / 6
LOOM / 5
Sam & Max / 5
Full Throttle / 4
Escape from Monkey Island / 2

Jammet - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:29
I'll admit it, too. While I loved the gameplay, the one thing I wasn't so happy with in DOTT, was that it looked too goofy. Maniac Mansion to me, was about friendship, the boys and girls, rescuing their friend The Goonies style. And then it somehow looked like Dexters Lab in the sequel. I loved the more serious humor and undertones, and the story and time travel was just soo fantastic! The ending had me tear up because it was so nice, and the music was so strong...

I tried again and again to play Sam and Max. I finished the LucasArts game but ... I have all three seasons of the Telltale games and it .. just .. is ... too ... goofy ... for me. I can't help it.

Glad TP is not going to look that way.

Dan - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:41
I must admit that I have always liked both DotT and it's art style. It was a well-balanced exceptional game overall.
However it would have worked as well with a more serious art style.
Other adventure games (just like Larry 7) imitated this style but didn't convince me at all.

My personal favourite in this matter is the Monkey 1 style, followed by Monkey 2.

Dan - Jul 01, 2015 at 12:02
Okay, Monkey 2 was a bit too rough. Moreover the characters weren't enough silhouetted against the backgrounds.

Dan - Jul 01, 2015 at 12:07

Natalija - Jul 01, 2015 at 15:39
Sam & Max were in dott style,right?

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:32
I bought the game recently, but I haven't played it yet. I took a look at some gameplay video now and I see that the graphics are more or less the same except for the big exception that the lines are straight in Sam & Max. The lines were very curved in Day of the Tentacle. :-( I prefer straight lines! I mean the doors for example. It's harder to see/find things when the lines are so damn curved like in Day of the Tentacle. I hope/guess you know what I mean.

Natalija - Jul 02, 2015 at 01:45
Yes ,that's right. I played sam and max two years ago when I was fourteen... I liked the game... play it

Derrick Reisdorf - Jul 02, 2015 at 15:36
As far as art design goes?  DotT's art was inspired by Chuck Jones; Sam & Max was very much based on Steve Purcell's comic book work.

Natalija - Jul 01, 2015 at 16:15
Sam & Max were in dott, right?

Dan - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:35
Only Max the rabbit appeared in DotT. But in Monkey Island 1 both appeared.

I love cameos! Chuck the plant has also been a great idea! By the way: What about inventing a successor for Chuck the plant, since Disney should have the rights for Chuck? Maybe a cactus... or a man eating plant like the one in Maniac Mansion... or an evidence eating plant?

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 16:58
Ron, I'm not too fond of the DotT style either because it's goofy as you say and I think it's hard to see/find things because the graphics is so warped.

Mathias Berglund - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:26
I'm compleatly the opposite. The distinct style is what makes DotT age very well. It's for the same reasons why World of Warcraft has held up as well as it has for the last 10 years - a very distinctive artstyle. This being said as long as the style lends itself to the world portrayed. DotT's style wouldn't have worked very well in the universe of The Dig. Both games are in my book gorgeous to this day.

dada - Jul 02, 2015 at 17:44
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Ron, that’s not fine.. please say that crazy art style is alright for its own sake! You’re braking my heart!

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:36
It's a very interesting picture, but I still prefer the old graphics style. Thank you for the link!

Peter Campbell - Jul 01, 2015 at 10:18
Why not just have dialogue trees very sparingly throughout the game only when they would really be appropriate and interesting/amusing?  It doesn't have to be all or nothing, just a handful of times that they occur would be fine with me as long as they serve a purpose and fit in with the game.

Arto - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:09
I feel the same way. As our characters are investigators, they should be able to question people. So, there should (despite my latest note) be a 'Talk to' selection, but I think it should invoke only 'I have no questions to him about the case', when there is nothing to ask about the case. When clues suggest a person might have information, then there could be a dialog.

Peter Campbell - Jul 01, 2015 at 15:59
Yeah, I feel the same way that if the game does have dialogue trees, it should really be the two detectives who trigger them the most.  Dialogue trees shouldn't be completely limited to just the two detectives, the other playable characters should somewhat occasionally have the opportunity for dialogue trees to occur as well, it's just that the two detectives are exactly that - detectives, and it's natural for them to be asking lots of questions.  "Just the facts, ma'am".

Geoff Paulsen - Jul 01, 2015 at 12:56

I LOVE Dialog.  I play the adventure games mostly for the dialog.  Please make the dialog rock!

Josejulio Martínez - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:19
About your problem with your budget, have you ever though on outsourcing?

I own a company in México that does software development, we have made some small entertainment apps for the iOS and software for other companies, currently we are working for a USA startup that does money transfer (we are configuring their server to be PCI compliance, developing their backend and mobile apps), they are actually already on production, but improving their software. The benefits of working with a Mexican company is that we are close (almost have the same time zone) and your currency is worth more here than there, thus a good salary in México is really a fraction of a good salary in the USA.

If you are interested to talk more about this, please drop me a mail, as i'm serious about it.

Josejulio Martínez - Jul 01, 2015 at 11:24
Forgot to mention, I'm not crawling the blogs and forums spamming and offering our services, I'm actually a fan that found his way to this awesome project of Ron and just though on lending a hand.

Catherine - Jul 01, 2015 at 13:41
My love for Monkey Island was largely for the conversations - Dialogue puzzles, as you say. Darn hard choice to make around leaving them in or removing. Though the workload sounds immense.

Sushi - Jul 01, 2015 at 15:44
I agree with a lot of the remarks above.
The stress of entering a room filled with NCP you can/ have to talk to. That's usually the time to save and quit and go to sleep. Yeah, being a goldfish I don't remember too well what was said when I stop playing halfway through a conversation. :D
I especially dislike when the dialogue trees are so large that the programmers do not control them properly and you get inconsistent dialogue. E.g. When your main character uses the name of the NCP before he has heard it, just because you decide not to prune the tree in order. (Had that a few times in Tales of MI). Typically I try to choose the goofy lines first, guessing on the right lines to continue the story afterwards.
Another thought: you can drop the generic talk to verb ( in one of the first posts you needed some space for the switch to verb, right?) and instead trigger dialogue (in fixed or tree form) by using items. This can also help to limit the length of each dialogue. E.g use FBI badge on shopkeeper will get you a different dialogue than use chainsaw on said shopkeeper.
In the first you will ask the obvious investigation question, in the second you ask for the cash in the register.
I also hate when you select a line of dialogue and the main character says something different... Unless it is on purpose for comic effect (5 bad-ass comebacks and then Guybrush going "yes, Dad")

Marco Lizza - Jul 01, 2015 at 18:13
As I (almost cryptically) wrote early, in the case dialogue puzzle/trees are to be present in the game, to have them as a consequence of some kind of action and *not* due to the (ab)use of the almighty "Talk To" verb.

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 16:02
@DavidFox: What can I do, when Annie has no money anymore in Zak Mckracken? (near the end of the game)

Marco Lizza - Jul 01, 2015 at 18:17
I don't want to replace David, but in my personal experience Zak can buy tickets and whatever for Annie (and in the case Zak run out of money something can be sold for quite some cash, like the bent butter knife, or you can get the help of lotto-o-dictor).

Are you sure you are really stuck without money? Can you give some more details?

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 18:23
A good solution would be to give something to Annie, to sell. But I already gave the guitar to the Aliens, for returning to earth. I want to fly with Annie to London, but the flight is 800 $... I could win the lottery a lot of times, but it is not possible to transfer money to Annies Cashcard...

Peter - Jul 01, 2015 at 18:25
PS: The butterknife is only 100 $... Maybe I could do this eight times... But I need more, that Annie can go back to Los Angeles....

RCM - Jul 01, 2015 at 19:33
If you bend the butter knife first (like on the loose floorboards in Zak's bedroom) you can sell it as a 'sculpture' for $1500.

Even though the airport tickets are non-transferable, Zak can buy an expensive refundable ticket and give it to Annie, who can use the ticket on the terminal and get a full refund.

Marco Lizza - Jul 02, 2015 at 03:43
The *bent* butter knife is by far the most useful item for this job, although refunding a ticket is also a valid alternative.

In my experience I never found myself in big trouble in having Annie with low cash. It happened just a few times and solved by buying the tickets she needed with Zak.

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 01, 2015 at 17:13
Ron, what if you talk to a NPC and he/she starts to communicate with sign language or speak some other language like Klingon at ThimbleCon for example?

DZ-Jay - Jul 02, 2015 at 06:39
I know how to get Thimbleweed out of my backyard:

Step 1:  Buy chemical compounds to make herbicide
Step 2:  Carefully mix herbicide chemicals.  (Try not to breath fumes too much)
Step 3:  Spray herbicide over backyard. (Try to aim at the Thimbleweed)
Step 4:  Rake, rake, rake
Step 5:  Pick up dead Thimbleweed and throw it in large garbage bags
Step 6:  Repeat Step 1 until all Thimbleweed is gone
Step 7:  Hire landscaper to fix your backyard
Step 8:  Enjoy cool summer drink

I usually jump straight for Step 7 and be done with it. :)

Christian - Jul 02, 2015 at 17:23
Will extensive dialogue trees not also cost a lot of budget with the voice actors?

When I saw Thimbleweed Park my dream was: If they use simple backgrounds and not too much animation, then they can maybe easily go nuts on the scope of the puzzles and rooms. That would be fun and such a great world to explore: Imagine an adventure game so big that you have Maniac and Zak and Indy3 inside! And complicated elevators, walking Eds, obscure alternate solutions and bus drivers.

I think it would be best to use dialogue trees only at places where you have some really good jokes or problems with a puzzle. Don't use them everywhere. Then you can stay in budget and you have more freedom with the scope

mr. T - Jul 03, 2015 at 10:42
I would definitely vote for reduced set of dialog puzzles with limited budget.

It's easy to be silent when you are in a haunted house style adventure and basically trying to escape from the scary things. When the game is about detectives, who mainly are about interacting and exploring, it would be weird to not have discussions where the player would be the one who's pulling the strings. And that being said no one is saying that the game has to be filled with these puzzles all around and bore everyone to death, just use them (very) sparingly and when the story calls it to do so.

Even the language of cinema uses long bouts of silence to add some extra impact when the expected event occurs. Same goes for movie dialog, it is not necessary to constantly blabber on to make a deep impression. Of course, nowadays it has to be constant explosions and constant jammering or the kids leave the theater. But I don't think those kinds of kids will play Thimbleweed Park anyhow. Less material, less work, but much bang for the buck. But of course, that material has to be really good or that equation won't work. Plus you would eliminate discussion fatique that I too have been encountered sometimes (or actually turn it to discussion anticipation).  

Also, I could imagine the dialog customization for each character wouldn't have to be that agressive. For example, a discussion with a bus driver or a store clerk could be the same with all characters, easily.  

I don't of course know the story, the amount of characters in it or the business of writing/managing/funding a voice cast for a video game and many other things but those things came to my mind.

Matthias B - Jul 05, 2015 at 05:18
Please give us at least one really funny interrogation, maybe even with dialog lines to be selected for both agents so you could go good cop bad cop.

longuist - Jul 05, 2015 at 09:05
Almost everything i think about it has already been written. Do them, BUT short and sparsely.
When you have very much dialog, everything has to be translated and voiced. I read fast, so i tend to skip the voice anyway. (apart from cutscenes)
So maybe some dialog could be "voiceless", not without reason though. This could be monologues, dreams, talking with deaf people (combined with refined stanesque handwaving), talking to a fish underwater,... ok no more valid ideas atm, but this list could be much longer.

sven - Jul 06, 2015 at 07:17
Oh my god do the dialog trees! Cut out half of the charakters, make a text adventure fire yourself, murder your wife - do everything to get the dialogue trees in! They are the best thing about adventures! They are the reason i backed! Please i beg you, i dare you, man i wish i could force you to. (I would still like you but i would be very disappointed if not)

Fernando - Jul 09, 2015 at 04:01
Include dialogue puzzles,  pretty please with sugar, nuts, a cherry and chocolate sprinkles! If you do it I'll be your best friend forever and ever.

drluv - Jul 09, 2015 at 09:45
Well, you could easily just place a little "$" Icon next to the TALK-TO Button. This way you could get in-Thimbleweed-Purchases going. "You want to know what whacky answer the sheriff has to offer? For just $9,99 you'll get the "Insanely genuine answer Package" Call 1-800-MORE-CONTENT for more information."

(patent pending)

Aubrey Alexander - Mar 21, 2017 at 19:18
Did this format change when you added lip-syncing?   How does it interface with the audio recordings?