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…Are starting to get a little overused, no? Even Obsidian has tried copying them in Alpha Protocol.

This way of handling conversation trees was perfect for the cinematic style of the Mass Effect series. They still do a great job of making the player feel like the hero, but the game does give the protagonist a voice, fewer options and a level of canonical personality.

Compared to traditional dialogue selection, it disassociates the player character from the actual player, which can hurt the level of immersion. Rather than putting you in the shoes of a space badass, it puts you in the very specific shoes of this particular space badass.

Now it’s been reported that Dragon Age 2 will be using a similar system to this. I’m fine with them giving the player a name and restricting them to playing a human. Especially if it helps them write a good story this time.

But just swiping part of what made Mass Effect unique and cinematic is not helping a series that should be forging its own style. Plus, given the irritating lack of choice in the original, further oversimplification isn’t going to be a positive for the game.

As if that homogenisation wasn’t enough, Bioware are also using Mass Effect’s dialogue wheels in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although the quick, basic and smooth choices may just be a good fit for online play.

But it’s just worrying to see them reusing this system in every new game they’re making. Bioware are the kings of interactive storytelling, so to see them making their stories less interactive is a sad thing. Or taking away from the individuality of the Mass Effect series.

Here’s hoping Jade Empire 2, or whatever their next big project is, doesn’t go down the same route. Who knows, maybe they’ll come up with a brand new conversation system!

…That will then be reused for Dragon Age 3.



  1. I don’t see why re-using something that is proven to work is a problem. Bioware came up with the conversation wheel, so why shouldn’t they use it in future games? Just because they used it in ME first? I mean, it’s not like this is some completely seperate company saying ‘hey look, Bioware did this and if we make a slight change we can plagiarise it and noone will ever know the difference’ This is them reusing their own idea that, as stated above, WORKS. In DA2 for example it’s either conversation wheel with different types of response all in the same area, or boring list of selections. I’d choose the wheel every tiome. I hope it gets used in more games in future aswell, until something equally good, or better comes along.

  2. It’s interesting that you bring up the issue of protagonist being given a voice removing a sense of immersion from the player. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot at the moment in trying to optimize a story for a game currently being designed.

    Any line of dialog I give the character to say seems to segregate the protagonist into two versions to the player; the ‘in-game’ one and the ‘cut scene’ one. I’m leaning towards the protagonist saying nothing, a la Half-Life, which I believe is a brilliant example of immersion compared to many storied games today. But it’s very difficult to construct stories when your main character cannot say a word. This challenge has illustrated to me how well the story in Half-Life is told.

  3. I just recently tried Alpha Protocol and it’s even more retarded than the Mass Effect wheel. It gives you absolutely no time at all to to choose the desired response since each NPC will finish whatever they’re saying as soon as the time limit runs out. Bioware and Obsidian are two useless companies these days.

    If you want proper conversation you’ll need to grab some RPG’s made in Europe such as Risen, The Witcher series, Divinity series, Gothic series (NOT Gothic 4, it stinks – Made in the US as well) etc.

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