'God of War' Smartly Fixes The Very Bad Way Most Games Handle Dialogue


#1

Warning: There are some very minor spoilers for God of War ahead.

One of my favorite parts in God of War has nothing to do with the storytelling, combat, or endless secrets. It’s how the characters talk to one another, or more specifically, how the game handles moments when they don’t talk to one another. So many games make the wrong assumptions about how players are going to act, while God of War feels built by people who’ve played video games for a long time, and know what parts annoy them.

Though limited fast travel is available in God of War, you spend most of the game walking, climbing, and boating through the game’s violent, wintry landscapes. During those quiet moments, the game often fills the time with Kratos, Atreus, and others telling stories to one another, or asking questions about the journey ahead.

This isn’t unique to God of War, but I’m usually frustrated with the way most games handle these moments. When characters start talking, if you run into combat, or advance the story in any meaningful way, the cutscene (or fighting) will take over, and you’ll lose the thread. The discussion is lost to time—the game never picks it up again.

I’ve spent hours standing in a hallway, waiting to a conversation to end, knowing the game will cut it off. And how many times have you sat in front of an audio log, because the game doesn’t keep the recording going when you walk away? I don’t care about realism. Players are going to keep moving, and games should accommodate.

God of War does many things very well, but on this point, it’s exceptional.

Watch how this conversation plays out below:

An exchange begins, but as I leave the boat, Kratos interjects: “Enough. No stories—not while on foot.” Chatter happens on the boat is because it’s a safe, neutral place. You can’t even toss your axe at those annoying ravens scattered throughout the game! Walking around on land means anything could happen, whether a cutscene or combat.

“Completely understand,” remarks Mimir. “I’ll finish later, lad.”

It’s a natural way to pause the conversation, and more importantly, serves as recognition the story stopping halfway through, with a promise you’ll hear the end.

A few minutes later, I’m back on the boat, and this happens:

“Mimir, you were in the middle of a story before,” says Atreus. “Why would Freya agree to marry Odin? What was in it for her?”

This line is clever for two reasons. One, it seamlessly reintroduces the story, and acknowledges it was interrupted. This is how normal people talk to one another. Two, if you forgot what happened, Atreus’ dialogue places the conversation back in context. You now know Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir were talking about Odin and Freya.

It was a few hours into the game I realized this was happening, which is how it should work! The frustration in other games is realizing when it doesn’t. There are a lot of things I’m hoping other games will copy from God of War, but this is near top of the list.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvx7qv/god-of-war-smartly-fixes-the-very-bad-way-most-games-handle-dialogue

#2

I remember both Uncharted 4 and Uncharted Lost Legacy doing this during the driving bits or when you pick something up, are there any other games that do this before that?


#3

hey quick q how many more threads about one single video game are we gonna get


#4

probably at least two more. maybe another one after that if people decide they have to address the problematic stuff as it’s own article :yum:


#5

Can anyone else watch the videos embeded in this article? On windows 7, in both Firefox and chrome, I press play on the videos and they just spin a loading icon.


#6

Came here to say the exact same thing. Lost Legacy was really, really good about it with Chloe and Nadine chatting while in the Jeep and then saying “Hold that thought” when you got out. I also loved how they would then follow up with the previous statement.

I can’t think of another game doing this before U4 and Lost Legacy, and I was really happy to see that God of War did the same thing.


#7

This sounds incredible. Far Cry 5 has a similar solution, which stops the speaker mid-sentence and, upon re-initiating the conversation, they say “as I was saying,” and pick up on the sentence at which they stopped. The problem with Far Cry 5, though, is the dialogue sucks fucking ASS so you can’t abuse the dialogue system by punching them mid-sentence as a means to a welcome end

@smoonHooch nah, I’m on Firefox on macOS and they don’t display in this thread.


#8

This was such a great touch in Uncharted 4 when you would get in and out of the jeep.


#9

The first time I noticed it in Lost Legacy I was so impressed. Compared to the janky way it ends up in a lot of other games, it was a really nice touch. When playing a game and characters awkwardly interrupt for a clearly completely different conversation, or even start talking over each other with different conversations, it completely takes you out of it.

This kind of thing keeps you totally immersed.


#10

Yup. Unlike Far Cry 5 where your helpers would talk over each other with repeated dialogue and/or get stuck in a loop of the same phrase.


#11

It’s indeed rather rare occasion. Almost anywhere it was always abruptly cut-off, leaving ‘important’ dialogue for cutscenes. You never know when next abrupt cut might happen, so either you continue with you flow of movement and forfeit the dialogue, or stand in some nice spot and wait until it ends. Sometimes it goes for a long time (and there’s also special occasions when long dialogues turn on right before ‘abrupt’). And there might be conflicting thoughts – should I spend my time for this speech, or should I move on, never knowing where it will cut off – are there important bits in it⸮


#12

Hi smoon, they worked okay for me, but I would talk a look through some other Waypoint videos and, if it’s a common issue, maybe make a topic about it in #site-feedback? Comments on threads aren’t always picked up by the technical folks, whereas I know #site-feedback does get checked!

Videos in the thread embeds don’t work (we are looking into it, but getting the RSS feed to work with the forums is quite difficult), so we’d always recommend clicking on the original article and checking there instead.


#13

I feel like a dummy now, because I’ve put probably 20 hours in this game so far and spent SO MUCH TIME waiting right next to a boat dock for a conversation to finish. It just never occurred to me that a video game could actually fix this.


#14

honestly i want to discuss this. the way AAA game design works is you have so many people putting so much Stuff into a game that there’s guaranteed to be 1000 articles even from thoughtful outfits about them. the amount of free promotion these games get - which they absolutely do not need - is absurd.

i mean, what this article really is - with all the love in the world - is “someone put a lot of time into audio scripting”. rad. what’s their name? who’s a part of that team? who figured out that system? how did they get it to work? have they been appropriately recognised - and compensated - for their work?

im glad y’all excited about this game, but if you’re going to run free promotion for them, please take it somewhere. or, yknow. try promoting something which can’t afford to run ads on the side of buses.

sorry to be a sour puss online.


#15

People don’t like talking about God of War, huh?


#16

This is probably gonna harsh some buzz, but one of the first popular games to do this was GTA V. Ubisoft’s tried implementing into some games too, FC5’s already been mentioned, but (IIRC) Watch Dogs 2 also started and stopped its in-car dialogue when something dramatic interrupted the conversation.

The signalling is different in GoW and Uncharted, as these more directly say “hey this’ll pick up when the drama’s over/the player’s back in position”, and it’s definitely a good way to make your mix of scripted-and-unscripted narratives work, but it’s not a super new fix and maybe even got its start in a… less than admirable game.

It can be pretty exhausting when an environment that prides itself on platforming diverse and unheard voices is dominated for more than a week with articles from a (by author admission) straight white dad praising a straight white dad action game.

I’ve got no major beef with Patrick or the meat of his coverage, it just feels like it could be patiently sat on and condensed so that it doesn’t feel like the front page is dominated by it, again, for more than a week.


#17

yeah, as someone who’s been interested in the gow coverage the same way i’m interested in people talking about any game i’ll never really play – kind of a “huh, neat to hear different perspectives on twitter” feeling – i took a quick glance at the front page right now, and 4 of the 12 articles/podcast posts under the “Latest” section are about the new god of war.

that’s a solid third of coverage, which is more than the game itself has had here in the past month; i only counted about three other articles/podcast posts since the start of april. among the rest of waypoint’s output in that same front-page “Latest” section, there’s articles about controversial athletes, a painfully watchable tv show, unionization and exploitation in indie games, using your sd card on the switch, and pronoun usage in battletech.

seeing kratos’s face over and over again among these unique articles does stand out, so i think it’s understandable for someone who doesn’t care about gow – or who cares about indie game coverage/spotlights on individual workers way more, for example – to be exhausted by it. i know there’s plenty of visual novel coverage i’d like to see more of and i’ve avidly kept an eye out for basically all of the articles waypoint’s hosted on the topic!

on the subject of this article: i’m always interested in hearing about dialogue systems in games, this is generally a neat topic! i watched a streamer fumble to understand npcs with overlapping dialogue and sudden yells in far cry 5, which was already mentioned upthread, but was just such a mess that it really undermined its own ambient storytelling.


#18

Then maybe don’t read them? Games like Zelda and PUBG have entire features based around them, not seeing how a few articles suddenly break the bank.


#19

Honestly I’m getting more annoyed by the people who come into a topic about God of War to complain that people are talking about God of War, especially when every thread and story I see popping up has something interesting to examine.

I mean, we can still talk about games we don’t like for things they do right or interesting things we can read into that tell about their ambitions and thematic core.

That said, I would like more pieces getting at the heart of the game’s inherent issues with misogyny and violence and how it tried to use the messy legacy of the old games for good and bad. But just coming into a thread to loudly proclaim “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THIS TOPIC, LOOK AT ME” is getting obnoxious.

As for the dialog stuff, I hope we see more games use similar tactics GoW is using so maybe we can cut down on cutscene overuse in games that rely mainly on mechanical impact. It would be cool to see something like the volume in the surrounding world turned down while listening to an audiolog, or taking a page from Gone Home and space the environment a certain way so players don’t get too far ahead as the dialog is being made.


#20

One of the cool stories of the last 2 years is Guerrilla and Sony SantaMonica rising up to naughty dog’s level. I’ve loved it as someone who adores ND’s narratives and production quality, but finds a lot of their gameplay kinda mehh.

Horizon and GoW have basically given me ND games with the gameplay I want.