Fortress Occident Developer Blog


Afterthought system for dialogues

Since this devlog is all about skinning milk cartrage assets in SKUyA — I make this remark with deep apologies to our technical artists, SKUyA is not a real thing and no one “skins” anything — I thought I’d share a little “RPG stuff” with you. For good measure. It’s this little trick I might have implemented over the weekend. It’s called afterthoughts, because L’esprit d’Escalier was too fussy to copy-paste in this post.

For those unfamiliar, L’esprit d’Escalier or Spirit of the Staircase is a cute french expression for the predicament of coming up with a perfect reply too late. I.e. when the conversation is already over. When you’re walking down the staircase and suddenly the perfect witty reply or devastating argument pops into mind. Well — how would that work in an RPG?

I haven’t, technically speaking, seen it work in engine yet, but I think we have the answer.


In No Truce, you have conversations with a lot of people. But the person you’ll have most conversations with — is yourself. We use this literary device a lot. We’ve even built special systems to facilitate it. Systems like our sense orbit, that lets skills pop up outside dialogues. Basically, we designate areas and then — if you have a high enough skill — said Skill will pop up there. Click on the skill and you can have a conversation with it (a part of yourself), if you like.

For example: you step on a stage, Drama pops up and asks you if you feel at home. This grounds you in the world more. We can even give conditions to these pop-ups: click on a drainpipe, it says: “rainwater is gushing out.” Then go down the street, Visual Calculus pops up and tells you the street is tilted to east, because the water only streams there. (No click on drainpipe — no get this pop up. Conditions!).

So, using these building blocks, we can do afterthoughts too! Even exactly the same L’Esprit D’Escalier effect I described before. Say you’re in a conversation. With a colleague from the RCM, the Revachol Citizen’s Militia. You get into a little argument over an irrelevant detail, then go back to the main topic. You end the conversation and walk away. So far so usual. But the area around the colleague you just talked to is designated as the area where a medium difficulty Rhetoric pops up if you had the argument before (the condition is met), and you have enough points in the Rhetoric skill. You then click on the little Rhetoric orb on your head, this starts a dialogue. Your Rhetoric gives you the perfect thing to have said. If you’re nice to it. Some skills are touchy. (Yes, really).

Then turn back to that colleague of yours. The argument appears on his main conversation menu. You choose it. He replies with something like: “You literally just came up with that four meters away. I could see it on your face, you made this…” (Makes crooked face) “stupid face, like you were trying to come up with something.”


Postmodern tricks aside, afterthoughts let us make our dialogues shorter and leaner. No Truce is a talk-em-up, but conversations still need to have pacing. And under pacing I mean they need to be FAST. The quicker the better, so as not to become chores. On the other hand, we like to pack in as much content as we can for different character builds. The detective with perfect encyclopedic knowledge wants to pick up trivia and discuss that with his colleague. The physical character wants to get Half Light anger flashes (more on that another time) and hound the suspect on a stupid suspicion he has. Putting all these skills in the conversation, however, slows down the tempo and leads you into tangents. This draws attention from the main dynamic of the conversation.

We work on some dialogues for well over a month. In this time a writer-designer gets many weird, adventurous ideas for different skills to add. Afterthoughts could be a way for us to keep dialogues leaner while adding more content for different builds. A win-win.

In theory.

It may be annoying in practice, who knows. Right now I’m quite excited about them. I made a bunch of these micro-dialogues over the weekend. Who knows, maybe there’s even a gif added to the post, illustrating one pop up…


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