Leanne Taylor-Giles

Game Writer for Ubisoft Montreal

Leanne C. Taylor-Giles is a Game Writer with 10 years’ experience in the video game industry, 4 years’ experience as a lecturer in Interactive Narrative, and a Masters in Branching Dialogue Systems. She has worked on 14 games, most recently Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Watch_Dogs 2, and Torment: Tides of Numenera.

She has a strong interest in AI and systemic dialogue, as well as machine learning techniques for reducing narrative workload in non-fully-voiced games. She currently works at Ubisoft Montreal and mentors up-and-coming game writers in her spare time.

Talk Description:

Economical systemic dialog for fully-voiced, open world games

Economical systemic dialog for fully-voiced, open world games is aimed at predominantly linear AAA experiences that would like to integrate narrative reactivity without including full branching or interactivity within their dialogues. The talk examines tactics from the early days of CRPGs to provide a world that is tailored to the player’s in-game actions.

As video games have moved toward increased voice over, and increased budgets, reactivity has declined because of an overall lack of resources. What was once relatively simple is now infinitely complex, involving intricate recording schedules, mismatched tones within the same conversation, and a general decrease in characters responding directly to the player as they represent themselves within the game world.

In short, this talk proposes a robust, variable-based approach that natively constrains the amount of additional dialogue that is able to be implemented, while giving writers leeway to respond to a wider variety of player actions. The system itself is easy to test and debug, and can be updated via a patch post-launch if playtest data indicates that players are receiving incongruous responses in dialogue.

This is attained by using variables to track the player’s progress – how many times they have performed X action – then assigning that value a degree, such as Low, Average, or High, for a given gameplay area. Additional lines of dialogue can then be triggered within existing linear conversations to respond to a given variable where appropriate. If managed using best practices, the result is a tailored experience that responds to how the player is viewed through the eyes of the game’s inhabitants, increasing the potential for self-recognition or thoughtful reflection.

Attendees will come away from the presentation with an understanding of:
• Variables and how to apply them to non-branching dialogs
o What to track and why
o How to maintain narrative balance
o Reaction scales and narrative coherence
o Approaches to using variables in dialog
o Why playtesting is important
• How to keep writing and recording sessions uncluttered
o Using additive dialog
o Using replacement dialogs
o True branching and what it means for your game
o When to branch and when to blend
o The creation of best practices
• Worldbuilding using player-based variables & NPC Psychology 101
o Creating a non-player-centric world
o How to choose which NPCs should comment on the player’s actions
o The benefits of cosmetic reactivity
o Worldbuilding through NPC motivations
• Ambiguity role in dialog
o Using body language
o Embracing interpretation as a narrative device
o Using gaps and silences to generate intrigue
o Encouraging cooperative storytelling

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