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Text boxes VS. floating text on the screen


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What do you all think about the use of text boxes, like in SQ1VGA, VS. floating, colored text over characters, as in the first Monkey Island games.


I think the floating text makes the gameplay so much better. It doesn't pull you out of the scene so much, and sometimes I think the jokes and written sound effects (eg, *snap*) work much better out of text boxes. It is more like a comic book style.

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It depends on what kind of game you're playing. Most LucasArts games are narrated in the first person, i.e. the main character is describing what's going on around him. I've always found this type of narration slightly distracting, as it seems to me like the character is either muttering these observations to him/herself, or there's some sort of fourth-wall-breaking where we as the player is the only entity capable of hearing these things. I think the Tex Murphy games did the first person narration a lot better, in that we as the player are privy to Tex's private thoughts -- the narration in the Tex Murphy games (Under A Killing Moon / The Pandora Directive / Overseer) is narrated by Tex's thoughts, rather than him describing stuff out loud.


The Sierra games use a third person narrator, which I think works better as a story-telling device for adventure games, to be honest. Think about it -- if someone walked into a room and started describing all the objects in the room out loud, wouldn't you want to call the nearest asylum and see if they might be missing an inmate?


Now, if there's character dialogue, sure, I'm all about floating text. Although I think character portraits (like SQ4CD) work just as well. And the even more intimate "full-screen character portrait" (GK1 or QFG4) work even better, because it feels like you're actually in the conversation.

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Yes, excellent points. I like that Tex Murphy-style narration.


On the subject of text on the screen, I also like it when the hotspot label text moves with the cursor. It saves you the extra step of having to click to examine things to simply find out what they are. You can still examine further if you want more details, but it saves time and doesn't make you need to avert your eyes to another area of the screen. The gameplay feels more seamless to me. Was playing the Kinky Island demo again (you guys should check it out, if you haven't... they seem like a really competent team), and I was reminded how much I enjoy that kind of interface. I also think the moving hotspot labels would make playing on a touch screen much easier.

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I agree that it depends on the game I'm playing. Boxed narration is good for unbiased descriptions when a game wants to keep the focus on exploring the world. King's Quest and Laura Bow, for example, work great with boxed narration since it gives the game a nice book-ish feel. Overhead narration seems to better suit games where the player character has a very outspoken personality. Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry could have easily used overhead narration since the existing narrators already seem to share their respective hero's sense of humor. Although I do have a soft spot for turning the narrator into an actual sentient being that lives in the PC's head. :)

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"Although I do have a soft spot for turning the narrator into an actual sentient being that lives in the PC's head. "


Yes, I know what you mean. I'm the same way. I also like it when the narration uses humor and has some personality, but not too much.


I keep going back and forth over which style I like better.


I think I'd really have to agree that certain narration styles just suit certain characters and games better than others.


For example, I thought the narration in Larry 7 was perfect, especially with an actor who didn't go too far with the condescending tone. I think the narrator actor in Larry Reloaded is very talented, but he went overboard with the rude, condescending demeanor. It started to wear on me rather quickly.


But I also thought the "no narration" in many LucasArts games also felt almost perfect, though I will say that many times in Monkey Island I wanted Guybrush to examine various things in his surroundings, and I felt cheated when it resulted in a nothing canned response.

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