A Conversation Simulator

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Moonpearl
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A Conversation Simulator

#1 Post by Moonpearl » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:54 pm

This is not exactly a project, or more precisely, it's a demonstration of a script I could use in a future project of mine (as well as me tinkering to see how far I can get with RenPy).

This is a conversation simulator. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like you get to type in what you want to say and the computer answers. But, rather than choosing between a few dialogue options (which is how it's classically done), you get to choose what topic you wish to discuss, among a number of them (20 in this demo). Nothing groundbreaking so far.

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It turns interesting when the computer answers. You see, the conversation is two-way, and the person you talk with will also pick a topic in turn. Of course, the computer doesn't pick at random (which would be pointless). Actually, the NPC is anxious to discuss a topic in particular, and the idea is that you score points if you manage to get the conversation to that topic. But since the NPC doesn't want to make a harsh transition, they will always try to come up with a topic which is relatively close to the one you picked, and yet drives the conversation toward the desired topic. And it's the only clue you're gonna get.

In short, it takes conversations in role-playing games to a new level. It's not about choosing between a few predetermined lines, which are always obvious by the way, to get what you want - but rather, it's some sort of mind game where you have to read between the lines, and use everything you know about the NPC to understand what they're trying to tell you.

I hope you'll enjoy the concept in its current form, though I have quite a few ideas to make it even better. For now you just have to exhaust all topics to find the right one, but in a real game situation, you would have a limited number of tries before the NPC gets tired and walks away. Also, you would start off with a limited number of topics, and unlock them one by one, as you get to know people/places and events occur. So the first conversations would be easy to handle, while you could very well end up with dozens of topics, and have to tread carefully when you're in a critical event with just 3 tries. Also, what you can't for now because there's just one NPC to talk to, is that she has a personality. That is, she has her own favorite topics, and the one she'd rather avoid. A different NPC would make different picks in the exact same situation.

I've prepared 2 situations, with the exact same scripted dialogue. The difference is that in one, the girl wishes to discuss a predetermined topic which is always the same, so once you've found it you can try different approaches and see how she tries to draw closer to it. In the second, though, the desired topic is chosen at random, so you can put your guessing abilities to the test!

Anyways, here's the download link. Don't hesitate to let me know if you like the idea and how you'd like to see a full game based on this system. :) Cheers!

Download PC version: http://www.mediafire.com/file/xc41cfcma ... 1.0-pc.zip
Download Mac version: http://www.mediafire.com/file/48mzab68m ... .0-mac.zip

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#2 Post by Kinjo » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:25 am

This is very interesting.
I decided to try "random" first and actually got it right on my first try. I wonder if it's because I asked about Kiyomi herself, which probably makes it easier for just about every possible topic? Since it's only natural that every topic she wants to talk about would be related to her.
I played around with it a few more times after that. Usually it only took me a few changes in topic to get to the correct one, so I take it this is just a very early prototype. I'd probably like to see a more complicated relation between topics. For instance, instead of just trying to find one topic, you have to find multiple in sequence -- steer the conversation toward something that maybe the person is actively trying to hide. Or instead of just a binary goal ("you found it" vs. "you didn't find it") there are a number of hidden topics that change the story in various ways if they're found or not. Or to go even further, do all of this with multiple characters in the same game.

Either way, despite the short length it's really cool that you've taken the time to make something like this. I think a lot of interesting games could come from more complicated systems like these if people just took the time to make them. If you've got something more specific in mind, I think you could make a really fun game out of it.

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#3 Post by Moonpearl » Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:05 pm

Kinjo wrote:This is very interesting.
Thank you! :)
Kinjo wrote:
I decided to try "random" first and actually got it right on my first try. I wonder if it's because I asked about Kiyomi herself, which probably makes it easier for just about every possible topic? Since it's only natural that every topic she wants to talk about would be related to her.
Not quite. Actually, in the Random condition, the topic is chosen completely at random, so it's quite possible it happens to be something the character wouldn't even want to discuss in a real scenario. Seems like it was sheer luck on your part. :)
Kinjo wrote:I played around with it a few more times after that. Usually it only took me a few changes in topic to get to the correct one, so I take it this is just a very early prototype. I'd probably like to see a more complicated relation between topics. For instance, instead of just trying to find one topic, you have to find multiple in sequence -- steer the conversation toward something that maybe the person is actively trying to hide. Or instead of just a binary goal ("you found it" vs. "you didn't find it") there are a number of hidden topics that change the story in various ways if they're found or not. Or to go even further, do all of this with multiple characters in the same game.
I merely wanted to implement the decision making process and write a small game situation for players to see how it could work out. The point wasn't to make a challenge out of this demo. I know for a fact that new concepts tend to scare people off, so I didn't want to make it sound impossible too. So I'm glad you're telling me you want more. :)

The problem is that the decision making process is pretty efficient, and no matter where you start, it does find a quick way to reach its goal. I believe the number of available topics is a key factor (with the current 20 being obviously too small). The more there are, the more likely the model is to make "stops" at a transition topic, while at the same time there's even more options for the player, which makes it more difficult to "find his way". I definitely intend to make a complete game out of this, and I anticipate there would be about 40~50 topics in total. I'm confident the concept would get more interesting in such conditions.

That said, all of your suggestions are perfectly viable solutions and I will consider them. :) The direction I was headed a priori was to write some sort of dating sim, with different girls you can pursue. But, instead of merely spending lots of time with a girl and always flattering her, you would be required to go through complex conversation situations like this, where you have to figure out where the girl wants to take you in order to score points (which could possibly change with each situation, according to recent events that have happened in her life).

Now my primary concern is that I'm not your typical gamer, as you could probably tell, and I'm not sure how complex/difficult/challenging I should make a game like this in order to reach a decent audience. That's why I'm looking for some feedback before going serious with this. :) But if it was just me, yeah, I would definitely have it a lot more complex.
Kinjo wrote:I think a lot of interesting games could come from more complicated systems like these if people just took the time to make them.
My thinking exactly. :) That's why I'm exploring those possibilities in the first place. ;)

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#4 Post by Moonpearl » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:30 am

Following Kinjo's comment, I devised a new condition, which is actually the exact opposite.

Instead of trying to reach a specific topic in the best way she can think of, Kiyomi will now try to avoid it at all costs. But, following as previously, she will still try her best to pick a smooth transition from the topic you brought up. So she will do her best to come up with the best compromise between a topic that is close to yours, and one that is as far as possible from the target topic.

In termes of gameplay, it makes for a greater challenge, since unlike the previous version, Kiyomi will never ever bring up the target topic on her own. So you have to try and narrow down the "area" she seems to be steering away from to guess what the target topic might be. Once you know what the target topic is in the fixed condition, you can play around by trying out topics you know to be very close to it, and see how smoothly Kiyomi tries to steer the conversation away.

The links were updated, enjoy. :)

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#5 Post by kylemercury » Sun Jul 23, 2017 3:47 pm

I don't have much to add, but I like the Idea. It's quite interesting, keep it up.

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#6 Post by Moonpearl » Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:05 pm

Thanks! I'm on a different project at the moment but I'll definitely make use of that accept again in the future. :)

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#7 Post by Moonpearl » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:32 am

Necroposting myself. :p

I really wanted to make a dating sim out of that conversation system, and now that I've found an artist to work with me, that's just what I'm doing. :) It's still a bit too early to make a proper project thread, but here's a first screen of what we have at the moment.

Image
  1. Whenever it's your turn to submit a conversation topic, you may choose any of them among those you have previously unlocked (as long as your conversation partner has something new to say about it).
  2. You are also required to choose the tone you want to use for that segment of the conversation, among 8 possible tones (for instance, "Teasing" in orange is a combination of "Hostile" in red, and "Casual" in yellow). This will influence what your character will say, and in turn, how your conversation partner may respond.
  3. The objective gauge depends on the conversation situation, but the general idea is that you have to reach an objective before it fills up. In this case, you have to follow the trail of topics that the girl is giving you, in order to reach a particular topic that's not on your list yet. Each time you choose a topic, the Annoyance bar will fill according to how far you're straying from the path she has in mind. So, by cross-checking what the girl chooses to talk about, and how annoyed your own choices make her, you should get a pretty good idea of where she wants the conversation to go! (well, at least that's what the game will be expecting from you :p)
More info on my blog

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#8 Post by AntiquedFae » Sat May 05, 2018 3:39 pm

As someone who has a socializing disorder, the idea of this game is very appealing to me. I've honestly wanted a game like this for...a loooong time. It would be cool if you could develop much more complex relationships than the typical dating sim, with a lot of different options for the type of relationship and the closeness of it. I'd love to see friendship, respect and rivalry as options some day too, so it really can take full advantage of your genius system.

Also, I need to say how beautiful the background art in the screenshot is. I love the birch! And I really like that you went with a cute gothic style for the girl. She looks great. :)

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Re: A Conversation Simulator

#9 Post by Moonpearl » Sat May 12, 2018 5:57 am

AntiquedFae wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 3:39 pm
As someone who has a socializing disorder, the idea of this game is very appealing to me. I've honestly wanted a game like this for...a loooong time. It would be cool if you could develop much more complex relationships than the typical dating sim, with a lot of different options for the type of relationship and the closeness of it. I'd love to see friendship, respect and rivalry as options some day too, so it really can take full advantage of your genius system.

Also, I need to say how beautiful the background art in the screenshot is. I love the birch! And I really like that you went with a cute gothic style for the girl. She looks great. :)
Thanks for your appreciative feedback. :) From the start, my/our aim is to offer a brand new approach to the visual novel/dating sim genre gameplay-wise. What I like in video games, as opposed to board games, is that you can interact with a very complex machinery since you don't have to make the calculus by yourself--so I find it so sad that dating sims often limit themselves to a few obvious choices that merely branch the story, which is like basic 80's gameplay. We're in 2018, for god's sake, and there are so many ways of playing to be explored.

Also, we don't want a classical, harem-like story where you're some sort of living god and all girls come chasing after you like you're the only thing they have in life. For the most part, what each girl thinks of you will be determined by how well you handle the conversations with them, so if you consistently read a girl's mood wrong, it's very possible she ends up hating you and making fun of you in front of the others. We're even considering having a secondary male character who'll also be able to date one of the girls, and thus possibly get in your way.

The thing to keep in mind is that the game's system is non-deterministic, which means that no bad decision condemns you to be friendzoned or despised, it just weighs more or less heavily on your relationship, but it's always possible to make a comeback--and conversely, no decisive action can ensure you'll end up in a romantic relationship. You will likely have ups and downs with each girl, you'll be making mistakes, you'll be apologizing and trying harder afterwards. But in the end, there will be no "perfect" route you could have taken. Bumps on the road are part of the game, and they're not necessarily a bad thing either.

I'll be making a post on my blog very soon to explain how the relationship system works, so stay tuned if you want to know more. :)

I also love my partner's art. :) It's absolutely not definitive, especially since she's working on animating sprites with Live2D, but you get the idea. :) We've done our best to design 6 very different girls, each of them with a complex background and a distinctive flavor. The one you saw in that early screen is girl D, she's my personal favorite. :) But you should be seeing girl B in our first demo (to be released... some time in the future :p ).

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