The art of conversation




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Predictions

We expect people with a disposition to Type 4 Participant to be the ones most impressed with lots of conversation and dialogue options for obvious reasons. Type 3 Wanderers should also exhibit a preference for this due to their disposition towards “easy” challenges (and to some extent unique experiences), which we would argue that most conversations in games are (in Gothic 3 for example, the conversations are far less challenging than say fighting a group of “stun-locking” boars). Wanderers may also like games where there are a lot to explore, in terms of dialogue so games like Neverwinter Nights II, and Planescape Torment might score highly with this playing style. Type 1 and 2 are more difficult to predict, the Manager could view the conversations and dialogue options as yet another challenge to master, and so it would boil down to whether the player found this particular game mechanic interesting or not. But a Conqueror or Manager would probably view it as that: a game mechanic to be conquered or mastered, so we might see a larger percentage of Type 1 and 2 answering question 32 with “Nice gimmick, not crucial” or “I don’t know/depends”. And they might also view the conversations/dialogue options in any game on the list, as being more about finding the correct combination and in-game progression, rather than personal fulfilment.


In regards to the framework developed in the previous paper it is quite probable that the more “dimensions” influencing the dialogue options in a game has, the more people are liable to have felt that the conversations were realistic or that their choices mattered. This means that games like Planescape: Torment and Neverwinter Nights II will score highly here, whereas Oblivion might score lower.
Whether or not people enjoyed the conversations will most probably rest on whether or not they actually liked the game, and since all of the games on the list received positive reviews, we expect a lot of checked boxes here in general (maybe with the exceptions of Morrowind and Oblivion, since these games are not “dialogue-heavy”).

Results- Quantitative

We decided to base our statistics on four different data collections. The first being a general overview and reference detailing each individual’s personality type, playing style, importance placed on conversations and answers regarding the list of games.

The second was a game-by-game evaluation in regards to the answers on conversations on each game, and the third an overview of playing style versus importance placed on conversation (question 32).

The fourth and last collection compared playing style with the answers given on each game.


In respect to defining a person’s playing style, we decided that since the average answer to any given playing style was 13,2 on a scale from 4-20, a person needed a score of at least 15 to be defined as being disposed towards that particular style of play. This would also make sense in regards to the original questionnaire posed on iHobo, where a score of 15 would equal 3 out of 4 checked boxes, and strongly hint towards a specific playing style.
In our survey we found 61 players with a disposition towards the Conqueror playing style, 61 towards the Manager playing style, 31 towards the Wanderer and lastly only 21 towards the Participant. The low number for the Participant playing style clearly made the results concerning each game a bit frail, since for example none of the players with a disposition towards the Participant playing style had played Law of the West and only 2 had played either Planescape: Torment or Gothic 3.
When evaluating the answers to our questions, we decided to look at 6 different combinations of our 6 questions (0=not checked, 1=checked and *=doesn’t matter):

  1. Positive Percentage (1,*,*,*,*,*), to discern the number of people who enjoyed the conversation in any given game on our list.

  2. Negative Percentage (0,1,0,0,0,0), if the player felt that the conversations were only about finding the correct combination and nothing else, we deemed this a negative response.

  3. Realism (*,*,1,*,*,*), to gauge whether or not the player thought the conversations in a game were realistic or not.

  4. Goal Achievement (*,*,*,1,*,*), did the player feel rewarded by the conversations?

  5. Influence (*,*,*,*,*,1), how much influence did the player feel the conversations gave him or her?

  6. All-Good (1,0,1,1,*,1), with this combination the player obviously felt that the conversations were of a high quality, since he or she enjoyed them, felt they were realistic, rewarded the player and mattered. And were not simply about finding the correct combination.

The observant reader will notice that none of the combinations included the fifth question (“They meant a lot for my progress through the game”), as it was effectively discarded due to the problems concerning this question mentioned earlier.



Data-processing

When looking at our second collection where we looked at the answers to each game according to our six different combinations stated above, it is striking that Morrowind and Oblivion score lower than the others in respect to whether people liked the conversations in them (Positive, Negative and All-Good Percentages). Morrowind get decent scores in Realism and Goal Achievement, but falters again in Influence; Oblivion does decent enough in Realism, but fails in both Goal Achievement and Influence.

The clear winners are Fallout and Planescape: Torment who score well in every combination.

Realism on the whole seems to be the category where most people find games wanting.


The third data collection doesn’t reveal much concerning playing style disposition and conversations, whatever difference there may be in playing style, it doesn’t seem to matter much when evaluating the importance of conversations/dialogue options in games. One could conclude that Participants are the ones most positive towards conversations and dialogue in games, followed by Wanderers, Managers and lastly Conquerors, but since the difference is only 5 percentile points (in the combined “Important”/”Absolutely crucial”-share) from Participant to Conqueror, this is a weak argument. This is also illustrated by the fact that a higher percentile of Conquerors finds conversations “Absolutely crucial” than Participants (46% versus 43%).

What it does reveal however, is that the overwhelming majority of players (82% positive-share) who answered our questionnaire, thought that conversations/dialogue options in (role-playing/adventure) games are an essential part.


The fourth data collection is very interesting, in that it reveals clear differences on ones perspective on individual games depending on ones playing style disposition. These differences will now be discussed game-by-game followed by a playing style summation:

Law of the West

Players with the Manager disposition were the most positive people towards this game, except in the case of Realism, where Managers were significantly less positive than players with a Conqueror or Wanderer disposition.

It is quite interesting that players with a Conqueror disposition were the only ones to think that the conversations/dialogue options in LotW are both really good (All-Good) and really bad (Negative). Players with a Conqueror disposition are obviously divided here.

As mentioned earlier none of the players with a Participant disposition had played the game.



The secret of Monkey Island

Nearly everybody seemed to have enjoyed the conversations in Monkey Island, yet no-one apparently thought that they were really good (All-Good 0%). This can be attributed to the low degree of realism felt by the players, which probably was what the makers of this SCUMM-game intended in their design. They conceivably meant for the dialogue to be funny and cartoonish, not realistic.

Players with a Wanderer disposition are generally the most positive, apparently feeling that they achieved their game-play goals and that their choices mattered. Players with the Participant disposition however, did not feel this, even though all of them enjoyed the conversations.

Fallout

Fallout is the clear winner when it comes to conversations/dialogue options in games, scoring high across the board from all playing styles, and the only comment here should be that future conversation/dialogue designers ought to play this game and learn.



Planescape: Torment

Since only two players with the Participant disposition had answered the questions for this game, it would be highly speculative to read anything into the results for this disposition.

Overall, players with a Wanderer disposition were the happiest with this game, even though players with a Manager disposition were the ones that felt their choices mattered the most (73%). Players with a Conqueror disposition were less impressed than the others with the conversations in this game.

Baldur’s Gate II

Players with the Manager disposition were the ones happiest with the conversations in this game, while the ones with a Participant disposition were a bit more negative, not feeling the same sense of influence or that their game-play goals were achieved with the conversations.



Morrowind

Less than half of the people in our survey enjoyed the conversations in Morrowind (a first); in particular people with a Participant disposition were less than impressed. It should however also be noted that the players found the degree of realism higher than in several of the other games in our survey, particularly players with a Conqueror disposition seemed to think that the conversations were realistic. This could be explained by the ability to ask everyone in the game about almost everything one had ever heard of in the game-world.



Vampire: Bloodlines

In general, players with a Participant disposition are less impressed than their peers with this game’s conversations, even though a large number (relatively) of them think that they were realistic. This could be explained by the way the camera zooms to the person you’re talking to, and that you get to see the eyes move and the facial expression change, but then the same should be observed in Oblivion, where you also get to see these things, but it’s not, so why players with a Participant disposition felt this way, is a mystery.

Also of note is that players with a Wanderer disposition didn’t really feel that their choices mattered, or that the conversations felt realistic. They therefore get 0% in the All-Good combo.

Oblivion

Oblivion did not fare well in our survey, and again particularly the players with a disposition towards the Participant playing style were the “unhappiest” (low positive score and very high negative score).



Neverwinter Nights 2

We were quite surprised to see that Neverwinter Nights 2 didn’t do better considering the time and effort spent by Obsidian on developing this particular part of the game. Again it was observed that players with a disposition towards the Participant playing style were lees keen on the conversations in this game.

Players with the Wanderer playing style disposition also stand out, as they are the most outright negative and also rate the game low on the positive combination and influence, yet rate the game higher than the others in realism and goal achievement.

Gothic 3

Not many of the players in our survey had played this game, and the statistical base for players with either the Wanderer playing style disposition or the Participant was weak (4 and 2 players respectively).

Managers overall seem the ones most impressed with the conversations in this game.

Playing style summation

When looking at the weighted averages for each playing style disposition, only three things really stand out: that players with a Participant disposition were much more likely to be negative and think that a conversation in one of our games was only about finding the correct combination, and the fact that players with the Wanderer playing style disposition were more likely to feel that the games in our list rewarded them. Lastly it was also evident that Players with a Conqueror playing style disposition were slightly less happy (Positive, Negative and All-good combinations) overall than players with a Manager or Wanderer playing style disposition.

The weighted averages also spell out that although there are sometimes clear differences when looking at playing style’s in each individual game, overall speaking the difference is usually minor, when looking at our data.

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