Project: Bounty Squads

Dialogue System

Dev Blog 2023-09

Greetings everyone,

Ali here, with another dev blog post from Bounty Squads! This time, it's about one of my favourite features - the Dialogue System!

This system is one I hold close to my heart, and has gone through many (many!) changes. I'm also thrilled to announce working on it together with Game Designer William Dahlberg! Together, we have been able to make it into a quick and easy system for expressing narrative through dialogue.

Please view his portfolio here to see more of his work!

NOTE: This was iteration 2.

  1. Single speaker monologue:
    • The NPC speaks, and tells the player what to do.
    • Similar to the old Final Fantasy games, sans the dialogue choices.
  2. Paired speakers dialogues:
    • The NPC speaks once, the player responds once with a scripted response.
    • Still similar to old RPG's.
  3. Paired speakers, extended branching dialogues:
    • The NPC speaks, the player responds with a selected choice, and the NPC responds, all mostly instantly.
    • Inspired by Skyrim's dialogue system.
  4. Paired speakers, timed, and extended branching dialogues:
    • The NPC speaks and animates, and the camera focuses them.
    • The player responds and animates, and the camera focuses them.
    • Inspired by Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
  5. Switched from Data Tables to a Graphic Branching Interface.

Below are screenshots outlining a linear conversation between the player and an NPC from iteration 4.

Ongoing Iterations!

I personally love games with strong a narrative and different narrative systems. Many games have inspired me in making this system, and as such, it has undergone five major iterations:

Dialogue System step 1
Dialogue System step 1
Interact with NPC.
Dialogue System step 2
Dialogue System step 2
The NPC begins the Dialogue.
Dialogue System step 3
Dialogue System step 3
After a set amount of time, a response appears.
Dialogue System step 4
Dialogue System step 4
Once the response has been selected, the camera focuses the player.
Dialogue System step 5
Dialogue System step 5
After a set amount of time, the camera refocuses on the NPC.
Dialogue System step 6
Dialogue System step 6
The next Dialogue choice appears. This continues until the dialogue is finished.

The next step was to make sure the system could cover the dynamics of an evolving world, with the use of branching dialogues.

Branching Dialogues

Next up was making the system scaleable, and enable branching dialogue that could change in response to different in-game events.

This started by containing the dialogue in Data Tables, but was discarded due to it getting unruly when making longer dialogues.

The most recent iteration uses a graph editor, with braching nodes. All of the dialogue, camera actions, quest, animations, and NPC behaviours are adjustable inside this system - making it super slick and easy to work with.

Dialogue System, Dialogue Tree

Here's an early outtake of a branching Dialogue Tree involving a quest giver.

Finally - here's the latest version in action:

While it's far from done, I'm super pleased with how this system has progressed, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to remake it so many times with the help and insights of other designers.

I'm also incredibly thankful that I'm lucky enough to get to collaborate with so many great people on this project.

Hope you've enjoyed this dev blog! I'm looking forward to showing you more. Thanks for reading!