Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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richmcd
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by richmcd » Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:34 pm

I agree that's a candidate for rewriting, but I'm afraid I don't like those proposed corrections much. (Especially the semicolon one. Semicolons connect two independent clauses; there's no verb in that first clause, so it should just be a comma.) Sorry to be a prescriptive, but there's no point replacing something clunky with something ungrammatical.

Anyway, why complicate things by using dashes and brackets, which has the effect of making one item seem more or less important?

"Usually a sign of dominance, demanding or refusing to pay financial tribute has a negative impact on the relationship between both factions."

I think that's pretty clear.

ElegantCaveman
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by ElegantCaveman » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:45 pm

My rationale for using a semicolon there is an assumption of an unspoken "[Demanding tribute is] Usually a sign of dominance; [etc.]". More a stylistic interpretation than anything else, and I'm far from a grammatical expert, so it's entirely possible that my usage there was incorrect.

I like semicolons more than I should (especially considering they're tricky to use, and I've still not mastered them), but I'm also fond of simplicity, and I agree that a rewrite would be better.

I was trying to work with what was there, though, which meant fiddling with punctuation. As for rewriting...

I can't say I like the use of a comma in either the original or your rewrite; I feel that the latter part of the sentence is more a clarification than a continuation of the former part (sorry, I couldn't resist... did I use that semicolon right?).

Perhaps the two statements should be separated? What about:

"Demanding tribute is usually an attempt to impose dominance. Both demanding and refusing tribute has a negative impact on the relationship between both factions."

richmcd
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by richmcd » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:14 pm

I understand your thinking, but I think semicolons really need to be used accurately.They're a rare enough piece of punctuation that they stand out, so there really needs to be a tangible benefit for using one. Same with dashes and brackets. Sticking a smacking great pause in the middle of a sentence isn't wrong, but there needs to be a good reason for making the reader do that extra work.

That semicolon example in your reply is accurate; there's a main verb in both halves. I love semicolons too, but I feel a bit hypocritical when I use them. I spend so much time chopping them out of my clients' stories!

I think your rewrite is best, although "Usually an attempt to impose dominance" is fine as a standalone sentence as well. It's clear from the context how it should be read. (It IS fine to chop out the verb if you're just using a period. It's only when you're linking clauses together that it's important to use punctuation in a standard fashion, for clarity.) Stripping out "financial" makes a lot of sense. Unless I've missed out on a game mechanic for different sorts of tribute it's redundant here.

I think the general takeaway for the developers should be that a lot of the text can be shortened with a little thought and effort. It's natural to think that longer sentences which repeat the main points are clearer, but actually each extra word in the sentence makes the reader exponentially more likely to become confused or bored. If you're not writing with style in mind then shorter is always better. In most cases, a single sentence with a parenthetical aside in it requires more than twice the effort of reading two sentences.

ElegantCaveman
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by ElegantCaveman » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:36 pm

This is a very educational morning! :D

And yeah, I see what you mean about there needing to be a tangible benefit. Makes sense. As they say, less is more!

As for semicolons, I guess part of my weak-spot for them is that I feel they're underused, and underappreciated. Perhaps if they weren't such an "obscure" form of punctuation, they wouldn't be so misunderstood and misused.

I'll stop talking about semicolons now. Sorry.

Point taken about "Usually an attempt to impose dominance.", and I think it works better like that. And I'm pretty sure tribute demands are purely financial, I've not yet come across any other form.

As for shorter being better, it's doubly true in this case, as we're talking about mouse-over tool-tips, not primary text, so it should be as short and to the point as possible.

So how's this?

"Usually an attempt to impose dominance. Both demanding and refusing tribute has a negative impact on the relationship between both factions."

I'm still not entirely happy with the second sentence there, any thoughts?

richmcd
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by richmcd » Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:33 pm

Well. The issue with informative text is striking a balance between disambiguating confusing cases and overexplaining. So something like
Usually an attempt to impose dominance. Demanding or refusing tribute both harm faction relationships.
is brief, but is it sufficiently clear? That could be taken to mean that tribute demands/refusals can affect relationships with any faction, not just the two involved in the demand for tribute. Personally, I think it is clear. If I was the reader, I'd trust that if all factions were affected it would be mentioned. However, that only works if the reader generally trusts the accuracy of the text and the writer's ability to spot potentially confusing cases. At the moment the general quality may not be high enough for this.

If the ambiguity IS a problem, the shortest way to fix it would be something like:
Usually an attempt to impose dominance. Demanding or refusing tribute harms the factions' relationship.
But that's pretty dry.

There's a lot of contextual consideration when it comes to editing. A frustrated reader is likely to be wary. Some readers are so picky and contrarian when it comes to ambiguity that they aren't worth catering for. Etc.

ElegantCaveman
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Re: Backstory / Dialogue

Post by ElegantCaveman » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:19 am

Balance can be tricky.

But in this case, considering the purpose of the text, I think "dry" can be acceptable. It's just supposed to be an informative pop-up, after all.

I rather like your second suggestion, actually. Maybe add "involved" to the mix to further cement the clarity?
Usually an attempt to impose dominance. Demanding or refusing tribute harms the involved factions' relationship.
It's unlikely someone would think that the effects apply to all factions, but you never know. As much as I'm against games treating players like idiots, in general, well... sometimes it's true.

I also feel that adding "involved" rounds out the sentence a bit, making it somewhat less dry. It might be an unnecessary clarification, but aesthetically, I find it makes the overall sentence more "complete".

eidolad
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by eidolad » Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:11 pm

Posted my thread before I found this one...some feedback for the backstory: viewtopic.php?f=173&t=47590

Belanos
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by Belanos » Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:37 am

GriddleOctopus wrote: Just thought I'd pop in to say that if you've got any feedback, or you spot a bug, or a line doesn't make sense ( :shock: ), please post it below and I'll have a look at it.
"I(We?) can think of nothing pleasanter." is not proper grammar. It should be "I(We?) can think of nothing more pleasant." Of course that would require a new voice-over, but it bothers me to hear that.

richmcd
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by richmcd » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:08 pm

Belanos wrote:
GriddleOctopus wrote: Just thought I'd pop in to say that if you've got any feedback, or you spot a bug, or a line doesn't make sense ( :shock: ), please post it below and I'll have a look at it.
"I(We?) can think of nothing pleasanter." is not proper grammar. It should be "I(We?) can think of nothing more pleasant." Of course that would require a new voice-over, but it bothers me to hear that.
I get where you're coming from. My natural instinct when talking or writing in my own voice would be to say "more pleasant". However, there are plenty of stylistic reasons why an "ungrammatical" choice can be best. My gut editing reaction would be to mark it with a query to check that the author really meant it and leave it at that.

Still, I was intrigued. And actually "pleasanter" is listed as the MAIN comparative form of "pleasant" in all three dictionaries I checked (paper, none of this online bullshit). "more pleasant" isn't even listed as an alternative in the OED.

That surprises me. To me it sounds rather old fashioned. "I can think of nothing pleasanter than taking a turn around the gazebo, Mr Dagwood." But actually it would seem that "pleasanter" has more claim to being grammatically correct than our preferred version.

Belanos
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by Belanos » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:23 pm

richmcd wrote: And actually "pleasanter" is listed as the MAIN comparative form of "pleasant" in all three dictionaries I checked (paper, none of this online bullshit). "more pleasant" isn't even listed as an alternative in the OED.
I'm surprised it's even a word, I didn't think it was. I guess I'm just being nit-picky, but it doesn't sound right to me.

GriddleOctopus
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by GriddleOctopus » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:56 pm

eidolad wrote:Posted my thread before I found this one...some feedback for the backstory: viewtopic.php?f=173&t=47590
Thanks for the feedback - very kind, sir!
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GriddleOctopus
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by GriddleOctopus » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:59 pm

Belanos wrote:
richmcd wrote: And actually "pleasanter" is listed as the MAIN comparative form of "pleasant" in all three dictionaries I checked (paper, none of this online bullshit). "more pleasant" isn't even listed as an alternative in the OED.
I'm surprised it's even a word, I didn't think it was. I guess I'm just being nit-picky, but it doesn't sound right to me.
Yes, I was using it deliberately - it is a bit Jane Austen, but it was the actual Schliemann quote, as I found it (though it's quite likely that it was translated from German). Apart from the chatter we're making up for the characters, the historical quotes are, as far as my research goes, accurate.
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khadgar
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Re: Backstory & Dialogue Feedback

Post by khadgar » Tue May 13, 2014 12:47 am

Hello GriddleOctopus,
just wanted to say that I enjoyed the flavour texts and especially loved the voiced once thus far. If you still plan additional updates I would really like to see if it's an original quote or something invented. Like different colour/style/font or something. I'm not saying it is hard to spot the difference but it would be a positive educational improvement that doesn't consume much programming resources.

Of course ultimately I long for a narrated tech tree. I find the voiced tech-tree of Alpha Centauri was the best one I recall *ever*, and I hope that Pandora becomes a huge success and can afford a second installment where more voice acting is included.

On a side note I couldn't really connect with the factions' conversations, but until today I limited my diplomatic stance to:
"No, whatever it is you want, I'm not interested, just go away and leave me to my research!"

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