10 March 2020 / Brian / Comments Off on Ugliness Unnoticed – Dialogue Boxes in Final Fantasy VII
In which the author explores what kinds of ‘poor craftsmanship’ can be gotten away with when developing dialogue boxes.
Recently when I was making a dialogue box system for The Book of Invasions, I decided I would open the PlayStation-era Final Fantasy games to see how they were done there. Specifically, I wanted to know:
Is it okay if a dialogue box obscures a character?
Does it need to be near the character who is speaking?
How big can I make them?
In the end, I discovered that the answer to each question (and some unasked questions) was: nothing matters very much.
At the end of Final Fantasy VII, after the credits and FMVs, there is a screen with lots of slowly animated stars. As this loops continuously, the main theme plays in the background.
When I saw this after my recent play-through, I figured it might shortly cut to another scene. When a short wait yielded nothing, I figured I was meant to press something. When this did nothing, I admit to feeling a pang of uneasiness.
UI graphics are essential for providing information to the player that would be impractical to provide through the game’s environment. It would be difficult to inform the player of which weapons they can equip and how to equip them without a weapon wheel, for instance.
On the other hand, we don’t want our UI to intrude on the atmosphere of the game’s environment. While it’s almost impossible to make a UI that is entirely unintrusive, we can take some measures to limit that intrusiveness.
This is where it helps to know what effect the basic shapes give off, and
what their strengths are.
Mad Max was an underwhelming game. I feel like it was almost
something amazing, but after a few hours it became clear that it wasn’t going
to deliver on its conceptual ambitions.
After my initial disappointment, however, I started to enjoy picking it apart, simply because it did a few things differently. Little things that other games don’t always give much attention to. One of those things was its level up system.
To this end, I ordered Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, which I’d heard was pretty good. I’ve already enjoyed quite a few of his articles, so I was pretty excited to read something of even more substance.
We are a video game development team based in Cork, Ireland, with a heavy Gaelic cultural angle. We come from non-gamedev backgrounds, but expect to make a few small releases this year along with several write-ups about game design and game development (and other semi-related topics).
All the best, Brian and Neil from Digital Rag Games