Asking the same thing over and over.....thoughts?

I’m implementing a person. I’d forgotten how hard it was. I’ve been at it for a while. I’m just curious whether anyone has any thoughts on the practicalities of repetitive speech…

For most topics, I have implemented the standard ‘for the first time’ and ‘for the second time’ approach whereby the NPC will give a response to the topic, and then if the player asks again, will give a slightly different response, and then if the player asks a third time, will maybe not respond at all - or might be rude.

However, I’m starting to re-think this. The NPC is giving the player some much needed information, and quite a lot of it at that. In a longer form game (played over days or weeks), if I take away the information that a player really should be able to replay, it would be…irksome. Rather like only being able to examine an object once.

Hmmm…On the other hand, having the player say the same thing, and the NPC respond in the same way over and over again is somewhat jarring and serves only to take the player out of world.

Thoughts? I’m betting this has been discussed before. I read Caroline’s most excellent post here , but it doesn’t address this more tactical aspect of NPC writing.


A few ideas:

If it suits the NPC’s relationship to the PC and the nature of the information, you can leave enough of a reiteration of the important info in the looping ends of the conversation forks, or non-looping ends, that they act as a refresher of that information. (‘I already told you to go talk to Marcia about this.’)

You can also just abort the attempt to converse and give direct feedback to the player that this character already told them to go talk to Marcia. (‘I better not bug John anymore. He told me to go see Marcia’.)

Or mix all three or more. NPC ignores, NPC reiterates, PC’s inner voice steps in in advance, at semi-random, mixed up.

If there’s lots of important info from an old conversation that can’t easily be summed up in a line, you could consider adding in a recollection mechanism; give commands to pull up conversation histories.

The bluntest way would be to pull up literal transcripts, which might suit your game. If not, you can pot the conversation history yourself to focus on what’s important to the player or PC, and choose ways to deliver that. Make a summary version and stick it in a memories window or pane the player can review. Or turn it into notes (in game or out of world) or diary entries (again, could be in game or out of world) that the PC automatically makes as they go along.


I don’t find it jarring. That’s the behavior I generally expect to see, and if I ask about the same thing again it’s probably because I don’t remember what was said the first time.

Edit: Or it might be because the game has taught the player that asking about the same thing multiple times will yield different responses, and in that case I might feel compelled to keep talking to the character until I’m sure everything has been covered.

I like this.

Another thing to consider: if a change in the game can affect the character’s answer later, you might want to add a subtle hint, like “Y doesn’t have anything else to add right now.”