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FMs that use scripted dialogues / sequences?


SeriousToni
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Dear fellow TDM members, as I recently came back to catch up with some TDM playing the question came to my mind: Why are so few missions using narrative elements like NPC dialogues or let the player's character expressing his thoughts by speaking to himself? In the original Thief games, NPCs talking to each other and Garrett commenting what happens added much to the story a mission would pursue. In most TDM missions, the narrative comes only from readables and NPCs just walk their routes up and down mumbling to themselves.

Please note, that this is not meant to be as critique to those FMs and their authors! It's just my personal experience, that leads me to two things to discuss:

  • Why are scripted dialogues / sequences used so sparingly in FMs?
  • Which FMs do you know, that make use of these elements?

I would like to hear your persnoal thoughts on this. Thank you! :)

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"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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It's probably because all the points mentioned mean recording voiceovers, so finding, directing, and editing audio recordings by people who can and will want to do that for you. Pretty difficult and time-consuming, if we're talking about decent quality :)

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Indeed, I think it's mostly practical reasons. First you need to recruit enough voice actors (1 for the player/briefing, at least 2 for a dialogue between NPCs), and ideally they should sound similar to one of the existing vocal sets. Usually you get multiple takes, among which you need to pick the best for each line (or ask for more takes if none of them hit the mark) and then edit & split up the recording into individual files for each line. Then each file needs to be setup as a sound shader, and each sound shader needs to be referenced by name in the conversation editor. And of course you need an idea for what should be said in the first place. A lot of steps/hurdles on top of all the other mapping work, but I agree that it does add much to the immersion and storytelling.

Missions which have voiced lines, off the top of my head:

  • The Painter's Wife, aka the Bikerdude/Shadowhide city FM, which has re-entered beta a couple days ago, has been upgraded with a lot of voiceovers and a voiced briefing recently.
  • Basically all Goldwell missions, no doubt aided by the fact he's a talented voice actor himself with good contacts in the Thief FM voice acting scene.
  • Volta missions
  • I used several scripted dialogues in Down by the Riverside. I didn't use them in One Step Too Far, my first FM, because I had enough on my hands with learning the editor, nor in Perilous Refuge, my third FM, because that was intended as a less labour-intensive release while I continue working on other more ambitious projects.
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Yeah. I understand the reasons, but, I also hope for some more scripted dialogues in FM's. Although it shouldn't be too excessive. Won't name names, but, in some FM's, I was tempted to move on, because the dialogues were just too long (and not very well written either). Also, I'd advocate against too much babble from the protagonist. Less is more.

The way it was in the original Thief's is perfect really.

Edited by chakkman
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Lots and lots of work setting up conversations, which is why they're not used more often.

As for my missions:

Somewhere Above the City - opening monologue from drunk guard + epilogue conversation

Mother Rose - none

Sir Taffsalot's Sword - none

Braeden Church - opening conversation

Seeking Lady Leicester - none (yet)

The Black Mage - none (yet)

WS1 - none

WS2 - recorded messages on cylinder machines

WS3 - conversation after entering compound + Sewell's constant pestering of the guards

WS4 - opening monologue from Watch officer + whore's constant pestering of the Watch + Deacon's singing

WS5 - opening monologue from drunk

WS6 - recorded messages on cylinder machines + antagonists' conversation + guard conversation

WS7 - antagonist monologue + epilogue conversation

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Sotha's TP0: Mandrasola has a pretty memorable and funny conversation, all of Goldwells missions as well (monologue at the start of Accountant 2 I think it is, that's definitely a favorite!). A few of Springheel's missions have conversations, A New Job, A Score to Settle and A Reputation to Uphold come to mind.

As for myself, I have some pretty mediocre one-liners in Pearls & Swine, and my GF did a pretty good job in Langhorne Lodge. The main hindrance in my mind is that you have to contract help from other people to be able to effectively add custom conversations so that adds a lot of complexity and workload, but also requires that I reach out which is not my strong side. Bit of a lone wolf when it comes to mapping, but I guess things could change in future.

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My Fan Missions:

   Series:                                                                           Standalone:

Chronicles of Skulduggery 1: Pearls and Swine                     The Night of Reluctant Benefaction

Chronicles of Skulduggery 2: A Precarious Position              Langhorne Lodge

Chronicles of Skulduggery 3: Sacricide

 

 

 

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Ah thank you fpr so much input on FMs that use scripted sequences and on the creation process. I remember doing some main character voice sets when I was building my FM, but those didn't evolve NPCs, so I only had to record it (actually a helpful member of the forums did it - thank you @betpet) and write a shader. I read through the wiki and saw that there is a convenient tool for creating NPC dialogues, that at least from the looks of it doesn't really seem to be that much work considering the huge benefits those conversations are able to give to an FM's atmosphere and story telling.

However somehow I never noticed some FMs you were mentioning. The Accountant is a very nice example of how you can use NPC dialogues or even to give new objectives ingame without text boxes or books. I will make sure to check the other FMs as well. Thank you for all your suggestions!

What is your opinion on making "pre-defined" conversations? Would it make sense to have some audio files available for mappers to setup custom conversations? I remember in the game Half-Life NPCs had some kind of stock material for random chatter in the way of "Question from NPC 1 -> Answer from NPC 2". For TDM there could be audio material for each of the current voice sets and mappers could set up small conversations apart from the automatic monologues we currently have for NPCs. So a big chuck for generating dialogues would be erased (recording and normalizing speeches and creating their shaders). To try to keep them non-repetive for multiple FMs these pre-recorded lines could be like in Half-Life where each chunk of a dialogue can be interchangeable with the question -> answer setting. I think this would make it easier for mappers to create a little variety with NPCs and make them more lifelike without a big hassle. What do you guys think?

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"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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Quote

What is your opinion on making "pre-defined" conversations? Would it make sense to have some audio files available for mappers to setup custom conversations? I remember in the game Half-Life NPCs had some kind of stock material for random chatter in the way of "Question from NPC 1 -> Answer from NPC 2". For TDM there could be audio material for each of the current voice sets and mappers could set up small conversations apart from the automatic monologues we currently have for NPCs.

Yes, I have set this up for several of the more recent vocal sets.  I know I posted a tutorial on it, but I can't remember where atm.
 

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6 minutes ago, Springheel said:

Yes, I have set this up for several of the more recent vocal sets.  I know I posted a tutorial on it, but I can't remember where atm.
 

So just to be sure: You've made transcripts for multiple vocal sets (there are no audios & shaders yet) on a chatter system, but you can't find them currently? If yo could find them, the next step would be to reach out for the still-active forum members who contributed voice sets and ask them if they could record the necessary lines. After this someone has to put them into their respective folders and write shaders for them. Finally they would be usable for Dark Radiant map creators. Is that correct? If yes, then could we help searching the transcripts (if they're online somewhere) or are they somewhere on your personal computer? Thank you for your input on this matter anyway! :)

"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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The dialogue and soundshaders already exist for short, random exchanges between AI using certain vocal sets.  From memory, the Commander, Average Jack, Moor, Maiden and Cynic have them...maybe more I forgot.  The exchanges use random phrases that follow the pattern: 1. convo_question, 2. convo_response, 3. convo_close.

So you might get the following exchange:

AI 1: "What did you think of that new recipe tonight?"

AI2:  "Could have been better."

AI 3:  "You would say that."

 

The two AI sitting in the tavern in A New Job use this system (after they play their initial triggered conversation).

edit:  Oh, here it is.  Not as thorough as I thought:  https://wiki.thedarkmod.com/index.php?title=Random_Conversations

 

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Okay thank you for clarification on this matter and for taking the time to search the recent wiki article. This is a good hint for mappers to use in their current projects, but I guess there's still a bit more potential for more material in the future - if I might say that - since the system seams ready, but the content is sparse. I'll need to find the concerned audio files and listen to them to get a grasp of the possible questions & answers and then write the project / forum members who are still active if they are happy to expand this system a little. But it's nice that you showed us that we have a working system and some content to use already -  I hope mappers will use this more often. Great work on this and thank you to all involved contributors so far! :)

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"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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It's probably also for gameplay and level design reasons; if there's two characters standing around in an area the player can access (or shoot at), what happens when the player attacks them, or if they're merely spotted? What if this is a sequence that they need to pay attention to in order to to complete the mission (i.e. it gives the player a necessary piece of information) and it gets interrupted?

It's probably no wonder why the conversation in Eavesdropping in Thief II happens completely behind an unopenable door. :P

I kind of have one in my not great map; to deal with the problem above, the two guards won't play the next line in the conversation if either of them have an awareness of the player above a certain point. Regrettably, this doesn't interrupt the currently playing line (I couldn't figure out a way to interrupt currently-playing VO), which can lead to some awkward moments if they start chasing you.

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4 hours ago, jaredmitchell said:

It's probably also for gameplay and level design reasons; if there's two characters standing around in an area the player can access (or shoot at), what happens when the player attacks them, or if they're merely spotted? What if this is a sequence that they need to pay attention to in order to to complete the mission (i.e. it gives the player a necessary piece of information) and it gets interrupted?

It's probably no wonder why the conversation in Eavesdropping in Thief II happens completely behind an unopenable door. :P

I kind of have one in my not great map; to deal with the problem above, the two guards won't play the next line in the conversation if either of them have an awareness of the player above a certain point. Regrettably, this doesn't interrupt the currently playing line (I couldn't figure out a way to interrupt currently-playing VO), which can lead to some awkward moments if they start chasing you.

That's honestly the biggest dilema I always face with conversations. But how I get around that usually is just put things on a timer or make the AI basically a vegetable that doesn't notice anything.

 

In the accountant 2 there's a scene with a shady lookin' dude at the top of the elevator in the apartment complex, and he basically has a force shield around him and wont react to anything. You can shoot fire arrows near him and whatever and he just stands there like nothing is happening. I also gave him 1 health and fail objectives so that if the player knocks him out or kills him the mission will end.

 

But the worst problem we have in TDM concerning convos is actually a bug in the core game, if the player opens the menu and/or quicksaves during a conversation the AI will be muted for the remainder of that sound file they're on.

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  • 1 year later...

As far as I know the quick save conversation bug is now solved in2. 09. However as you said, one problem still might be the player alerting the NPCs accidentally.

I think in Thief they gave them a low level of visual and audio accuracy until the conversation finished.

Does anyone know if this is possible in TDM too? I know that you can set those levels for each NPC, however they're permanently, so even after the convo they'd be deaf and blind. Is this changeable somehow after the convo finishes /with a times trigger / script?

"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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23 minutes ago, SeriousToni said:

I think in Thief they gave them a low level of visual and audio accuracy until the conversation finished.

Does anyone know if this is possible in TDM too? I know that you can set those levels for each NPC, however they're permanently, so even after the convo they'd be deaf and blind. Is this changeable somehow after the convo finishes /with a times trigger / script?

I'm pretty sure we already do this.

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This is currently tracked as:

https://bugs.thedarkmod.com/view.php?id=2246

I'm not the best with AI side code, but I was planning to fiddle with this. If someone else wants to take it on, that would be great too...

Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:

 

http://www.indiedb.com/mods/the-dark-mod

 

(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

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The tracker may not have been closed, but I'm pretty sure grayman did implement a lowering of AI acuity during conversations (or rather, they ignore alerts of level 1 or 2).

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I'm not sure to what degree the workaround has been implemented but I know that I tested "William Steele 4: The Warrens" early in the 2.10

Dev cycle and found that the first conversation still seemed pretty sensitive to any player sounds so it may need more adjustment.

I'll test again tonight.

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2 hours ago, SeriousToni said:

As far as I know the quick save conversation bug is now solved in2. 09. However as you said, one problem still might be the player alerting the NPCs accidentally.

I think in Thief they gave them a low level of visual and audio accuracy until the conversation finished.

Does anyone know if this is possible in TDM too? I know that you can set those levels for each NPC, however they're permanently, so even after the convo they'd be deaf and blind. Is this changeable somehow after the convo finishes /with a times trigger / script?

You can use setAcuity("type", number) in a script, where types can be "aud", "vis" or "tact". So like $ai1.setAcuity("aud", 50);

The risky thing about doing something after a conversation is that the conversation can get interrupted and the thing never happens, i.e. the AIs stay blind and deaf. So you'd need to put the script events on a timer that begins with the conversation.

But if there is/will be an official fix, then adding your own scripted method on top might be too much of a good thing.

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2 hours ago, nbohr1more said:

This is currently tracked as:

https://bugs.thedarkmod.com/view.php?id=2246

I'm not the best with AI side code, but I was planning to fiddle with this. If someone else wants to take it on, that would be great too...

Wow that bug tracker commenting was hilarious! :) 

As I'm not quite done with the tutorial on how to set this conversation up, I'll wait for your testing results. Then I might try to apply dragofers script if it hasn't already been fixed.

Nevertheless this would be good to know for anybody else who might want to setup a conversation.

"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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Ive seen this happen where the AI will be alerted during a conversation but wont take action until after the conversation loop is finished. This is usually from a build up of audio alerts. If they clearly see you they’ll usually stop.

Just a heads up conversations and scripts can get pretty messy. Ive experimented with this is my current fm and its seems like any functions called directly to the ai ($guard.moveTo() for example) will happen after the conversation is done and as Dragofer mentioned you can’t always depend on a conversation being done… 

After my first mission I kind of learned to just design areas around conversations so there’s less chance of them being interrupted by the player. Making sure they start while the player has a good hiding spot, removing noisy surfaces and things the player might bump in to, and also trying to start the conversation  before the player sees the AI so they don’t accidentally shoot them with an arrow or flash bomb them. 

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19 hours ago, Dragofer said:

You can use setAcuity("type", number) in a script, where types can be "aud", "vis" or "tact". So like $ai1.setAcuity("aud", 50);

Thanks for that.  I hacked together something clutsy before, teleporting out/in the vegetable/normal ai.  The above worked to reset the vegetable ai to normal and the result is smooth.  Not clutsy!  It also gives me an idea of the general form.

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I had to clean up my SVN working copy with a fresh checkout last night so I didn't get much time to test but it seems

that the AI sensitivity to sound is lower during conversations but visual acuity doesn't seem that much lower if at all.

I will tinker more tonight. ( I believe there are debug cvars that show the actual acuity numbers. )

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Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:

 

http://www.indiedb.com/mods/the-dark-mod

 

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Thank you. I appreciate the time and effort you have taken. I'm sure all other mappers and future maps will benefit from this too. I'll eagerly await your test results :)

"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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