Kenshi uses a hybrid dialogue-AI system. AI packages are used broadly to give characters and squads their basic functions. Dialogue is used to flavour the game world and offer the player opportunities to interact.
Dialogue is also how the AI makes complex decisions – and the system has enormous potential.
Procedurally generated dialogue isn’t a new concept. The problem of procedural vs. “hand-crafted” dialogue encounters is the same with any other form of procedural content.
It’s quickly apparent where the lines are: How procedural characters are generated; how procedural dungeons work; how procedural quests are created.
The problem is a lack of variety and an overreliance on rigid structures.
Dialogue in LitA is a mix of both procedural techniques and encounters, and hand-crafted events. There’s an enormous amount written, a massive amount still being written, and every dialogue event is designed to account for a wealth of factors. These factors include your reputation and past actions – but also circumstance and character personality.
Ultimately, any given conversation has a huge number of twists, turns, and possibilities. Your standing and history with individual characters and their factions is considered in-depth any time you interact with them.
To make this possible, LitA has its own dictionary of procedural phrases, sentence fragments, and paragraphs.
Emergent Narrative Roleplaying
Kenshi is an emergent game and reflecting an emergent narrative – with dynamic, open-ended quests and ongoing world events – requires a stable dialogue system to back it up.
Diplomacy should be as varied and interesting an option as combat. To keep your options open and enhance your roleplaying opportunities when making decisions, LitA uses complex dialogue checks that allow you to:
Haggle when negotiating prices
Persuade, Intimidate, and Bribe when convincing characters of your opinion
Extort traders and villagers for a payout
The core elements of the dialogue check system are the ability to persuade, intimidate, and bribe. These three options are available whenever you’re presented with a check – and rare, recruitable characters have unique backstory-based options on top.
Each dialogue check is contrasted with your reputation and circumstance. Intimidating a group of hungry bandits depends on many things. Simple factors like your relative strength and numbers count – but so do rare elements, such as whether you’re armed; whether you’ve given them a beatdown before; and whether you’re known across the wasteland as the scourge of the underworld.
Extortion is available wherever there’s a trader to exploit. It’s a way to make easy money, fill your pockets with rare items, and rarely swindle the odd recruit or two from a terrified farmer. But it’s a double-edged sword, earning you a reputation as a bandit overlord, and the ire of both larger factions and your competitors alike.
Haggling is the option to negotiate over prices. It lowers the cost of hiring mercenaries, buying information from information brokers, recruiting new characters, and paying people off.
And all of these options are tracked in the background.
Succeed at persuading powerful people and you’ll eventually become known as a silvertongue; intimidate everybody you come across and people will begin to cower before you. Haggle over every price and you’ll be known as a cheapskate. Everything can backfire, so choose your words carefully and pay attention to the demeanour of the people you talk to.
The choice is yours to make.