Disallowed conversation

On some blog or other (I think it was Twine related), the person made a comment about a benefit of choice based games: all possible actions are appropriate to the context. In parser based IF the PC can do many things that don’t fit with the story – which may not be a problem really (it’s up to the player if he wants to do that), but it got me thinking about something I’m working on.

I’m attempting to make a conversation system that handles full sentences (like a chatbot). One issue is how to handle non sequiturs. It would save a lot of effort to just disallow them:

The sheriff looks up and asks, “What are you doing in these parts, stranger?”

say “I hope so”
[That doesn’t make sense in this context.]

Does that seem reasonable?

Parsing out relevant answers to “What are you doing in these parts” is a difficult problem to solve. Traditionally, chatbots have tried to fake it when they don’t understand the user’s answer, and it seems plausible that the sheriff of this town might not well care what answer you give, which is a perfect opportunity to fake an understanding response.

For a great example of this, check out the “blue flashes” path of love in Blue Lacuna.

Go downstairs, start to paint, give the ring back to Rume, choosing to live with him/her for a few years. The story of your family is told is a montage of blue flashes, where the player is asked to type stuff. The game does respond to some obvious answers, but if it doesn’t understand, the game fakes it.