A Ludic Dialogue System for Interactive Fiction

Since the beginning of video gaming, branching dialogue has been both a blessing and a curse.
It allowed players to talk to characters of fictious worlds. And not just talk, but talk interactively, as you would in tabletop role-playing games. However, it has always been an expensive experience to create, limited in its modifiability, and a speedbump in interactivity. To solve this, a new class of dialogue systems needs to exist, one that blends dialogue writing with procedures.

How to make a game out of Twelve Angry Men (1957)?

A dialogue cannot truly feel alive to the player if they are always stuck making a limited amount of choices. Neither can dialogue be challenging, if the player is always in control of the direction of the conversation. Instead of the clean approach to dialogue one finds in a play's script, we want to utilize the messiness of real converastions, where both agents have to somehow take turns trying to take the conversation in some direction. Misunderstandings and interruptions are both common.

Instead of a tree-like structure, we create a dialogue space, which is oriented around topics, something the player and the AI talk about. Each topic gets some amount of attention from them and has a measure for progression. The former is captured by the focus space, the latter depth space.

Last Call (An Ante-Nuclear Role-Playing Game)

To test out the freshly devised design of LUDIC DIALOGUE, it was necessary to create an experience that could demonstrate the viability of the system as a medium for not just art but for gaming. As a system, there were very few examples you could compare it to in the world of video games. The LAST CALL was made knowing the following:

Did this succeed? Players felt like the experience was interactive and engaging, and everyone recognized it as a game. Many also felt that the conversation itself was unnatural. You can see for yourself by following the link below.