I'm working on a game where the player has to talk with an AI (it's not the main feature but it's recurrent). I would like to display the text letter by letter to increase the feeling of dialog between him and the bot.

From personal experience, I hate when the text is displayed too slowly. The sentences will be short so I a "skip" button or something like that isn't relevant.

What I would like to know is how many delay should I set between each new character in the sentences? I want to be sure that user won't be annoyed by something to slow but something too fast isn't really useful. Do you know any study or analyses about something similar?

  • Am I the only one who doesn't know what an IA is? (Information Architect?) Sep 11 '15 at 14:14
  • @KenMohnkern oups, it's AI for artificial intelligence. I fixe d it ! Sep 11 '15 at 15:58
  • A recent question linked to a site spe.lt that has a placeholder typed in one character at a time. I really enjoyed it as it appears to come in at variable speeds like a real person typing. Maybe check his source code or contact him to get some ideas.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 11 '15 at 16:49

Have you ever played nintendo games? Have you ever actually sat through a character interaction where you waited for each line to be animated out?

I have a hunch that nearly everyone--once they figure out they can skip the animation part with the control button--does exactly that. At that point, the animation is no longer something that enhances the experience but just gets in the way.

So to answer your question, I'd argue animating the text isn't the best way to infer that it's an AI. AIs are fast anyways. The idea that the text would be animated in the first place is a bit of a trope, rather than anything truly useful and practical.

  • I think it depends on how important this part of the game is, if talking to the AI is important part in making the game fun then I suspect having it seem like AI is "thinking" by animating it's typing will add to the percieved value rather than it feeling like a preset deterministic conversation. However, if this AI is just required for story building or something trivial then I agree animation will just waste time.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 11 '15 at 18:01
  • @DasBeasto I'd argue that no one perceives that as value. People playing a game aren't patient and slow readers and willing to wait for the computer to do its thing. They just want to get on with the game. Plus, AI's don't "sit and think". Humans do that. Computers are quick. :)
    – DA01
    Sep 11 '15 at 18:17
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    I think this is mainly a holdover from movies where it's a common trope to have a computer GUI artificially animated for visual 'oohs and aahs' on camera (see: wargames). In reality, no one actually wants to use a talking military computer that has to ponder every move.
    – DA01
    Sep 11 '15 at 18:19
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    @DasBeasto well, I wouldn't discount it. You are right, that it could be a good thing. I guess what I was trying to point out is that this is already used quite a lot in a lot of games, and most people find it annoying. So I'd argue definitely try to make it work, but really think about it hard from a usability standpoint before shipping. :)
    – DA01
    Sep 11 '15 at 19:40
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    oh no I've seen it I just thought it was funny you referenced it at the same time I was googling clips. Definitely good as well as an iconic AI example (likely why we both decided to reference it)
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 11 '15 at 19:57

Printing the text to screen doesn't take very long, it's faster than any human can talk. So 'typing' out the things an AI says doesn't make much sense if there's anywhere near enough computing power to even run any kind of primitive AI.

Here's a completely alternative option:

Don't spell words out letter by letter. Don't even spell out everything the AI says word for word. Instead, have it pop up keywords. Then expand those words a bit and add the normal in-between words, and finally complete the sentence.

You could add in some pseudocode as well.

This more closely follows the path a computer follows when creating a sentence.

Spinny 'think' icon for a moment and then when it figures out the response

{self} need {key_bl} to open {door_002}

Becomes a more human

i need   blue keycard to open rear airlock

And then

I need the blue keycard to open the rear airlock for you.

Or something like that. It should give a decent sense of progress and computation time, while not seeming like an artificial slowdown quite as much.

You might also go a slight step further and organize communication in a more rigid sense;

To achieve X, Y needs to Z.

Which starts with the goal and traces back from there. (which could also make for a slightly more unique way of structuring quests) As outcomes it would give

To open the airlock, I need the blue keycard.

and then when the person speaks to the AI again.

To have the blue keycard, you need to give it to me.

Look up some videos of JRPGs (like Final Fantasy) to see what they do when NPCs are talking, then I'd make yours a little faster. Players today are used to very fast and zippy content.

Also, I'd reconsider ruling out a skip-to-end button that jumps the player to the end of a line's animation. Even if your sentences are short in length, fractions of a second can feel like forever when waiting for in-game dialog to complete.

Even if you don't include a skip-to-end button, a very high percentage of players will mash on what would be a skip button anyway until the animation is done. I've seen this over an over again in usability testing. We've found that including skip-to-end functionality for animated dialog makes the game feel more responsive, and reduces player frustration at those points.

  • I wonder if the text delay in FF et. al. games is to allow the voice acting to line up properly? Agree wholeheartedly with the skip to end. I can't stand waiting for the text to finish loading, especially if it's my second (or more) time through. Sep 11 '15 at 16:08
  • @ashley Maybe, though some of the early FF games didn't even have voice over. I would guess that they were trying to match average reading speed, but that is completely a guess. It also could have just been a "looks cool" thing.
    – Vicki
    Sep 11 '15 at 16:26

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