The 25th Kickstarter update for Wasteland 2 is a follow-up on the video update, following up on the camera, the HUD and dialog.The last thing we want to talk about is the keyword dialog system. Many of our systems are designed to be a modern take on systems from the original Wasteland. We started with the Wasteland keyword system and updated it, adding layers of complexity that enable us to increase conversational reactivity.
The foundation of the keyword system is the player building up a keyword library through interaction with NPCs and the world. The keyword list starts out empty, and as you speak with NPCs they will reveal new keywords to you. If the revealed keyword is only of interest to that NPC, it will go into a local list. You can click on words in the keyword list to navigate through the conversation. If the revealed keyword has importance beyond that particular conversation, it is put into the regional keyword list. These keywords are of interest to most of the NPCs you encounter that region. A third option, which is never required, is to type something in – a nod to Wasteland 1’s system.
Keywords are also added to the keyword list through perception skill use and environmental description text. For example, if you use perception to examine an object in the world, your observations might reveal a new keyword. Or, if you explored the level and triggered the descriptor text of some object or feature, it too might unlock a keyword.
The NPC’s reaction to any given keyword can be affected by a number of factors including: the party composition, previous gameplay choices, previously used keywords, previous player responses to NPC questions, character skills, character attributes, item inventory, equipped weapons and armor, prior party actions, and CNPCs in the party. In other words, there isn't a one-to-one correlation between keywords and the NPC’s response.
It is important that the player listens to (reads) what the NPCs are saying, because often you can judge by their tone the right way to approach the conversation. For instance, in some cases using a keyword at a particular point of the conversation changes the NPC’s answer to other keywords, or even ends the conversation all together.
One of the suggestions from the fans was that the Ranger party should deliver a line of dialog instead of just barking a keyword. We really love this idea. Having full sentences creates a natural conversation flow. Additionally, this approach allows us to remove the ambiguity of keywords – holding your mouse over a keyword will show you a preview of the sentence your Rangers will say.