A TOOL TO FACILITATE THE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT OF DIALOGUE-BASED SERIOUS GAMES
1 Institute for Educational Technology, National Research Council / University of Palermo, Department of Engineering (ITALY)
2 Institute for Educational Technology, National Research Council of Italy (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Among Serious Games, those that have a strong narrative component based on dialogues are the ones that tend to hook the player the most from an emotional point of view, increasing at the same time both engagement and immersion, and consequently increasing the likelihood of having an impact on the player. This type of dialogue-based narrative has varying degrees of complexity. From a simple linear and predefined sequence of dialogues, each one characterized by a predetermined series of character spoken lines, to a more complex plot, which instead involves dynamic sequences of dialogues that are composed according to the choices made by the players and the reactions they provoke in the game world and its inhabitants.
Designing and developing a Serious Game is a difficult operation that requires complex, diverse and heterogeneous skills. In particular, in the context of Serious Games that have a strong narrative matrix, one of the problems that often arises is that whoever within the working group has the skills to write the script (which includes dialogues, descriptions of objects) does not always also have the IT-related skills to integrate this work within the tools commonly used for game development. The creation of this content (and in particular of the dialogues) is therefore typically done using tools that allow the creation of graphs and trees. One of the problems often encountered is the lack of integration between these solutions and the most common game engines, thus requiring further development of "bridges" between these two worlds. Similarly, the localization of these dialogues and texts is a process that can be cumbersome and demanding, especially when the translators are not inside the design and development team and it becomes necessary to distribute the texts in different formats and through different platforms. The solutions available on the market, both commercial and open-source, unfortunately often do not meet all these requirements and instead focus on only a few of these aspects. For this reason, we have developed a platform that can help the process of design and implementation of Serious Games with a strong narrative component from start to finish while untangling the complexity of storytelling, that presents a simple graphic interface, suitable also for those who do not have specific skills in the field of computer science, that facilitates the localization in many languages by design (including the export in formats convenient for the exchange between different teams and for reading and editing) and that integrates quickly and easily with game engines, and in particular with one of the most popular and used: Unity3D. Moreover, we also structured the platform to both be aware of in-game events, in order to allow the plot designers to integrate dynamic dialogues that behave differently depending on the actual state of the game and to generate new game states based on the dialogue options the players choose to pursue. In this paper, we will describe in detail the developed platform, both in terms of functionalities and in terms of technologies used, and we will talk about the case study on its use within the design of the Serious Game "Hwaet! The Vercelli Book Saga", a game developed for the valorization of the Vercelli Book, one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon texts still existing. We will then proceed to analyze the conclusions drawn from this case study and discuss the future works arising from this work.
Keywords: Serious games, narrative, game design.