A Conversation Simulator

Post demo and beta versions of your game here for testing.
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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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