The dialogue tree is a way of letting the player choose how his character reacts & how the story plays out. they are most often found in RPGs and visual novels, but can be found in a variety of other genres as well. Most of the time, a dialogue tree is a list of sentences that the player chooses from. Usually each sentence falls into one of these three groups: positive, negative or neutral reaction.
There are different ways that dialogue trees appear. Some are presented as a list, while others come in a circular "wheel" form like in Mass Effect. Sometimes the responses are spelled out exactly how the character will say them, like in Dragon Age or many visual novels. Other times it's more subtle, letting the player choose a type of reaction for the character, who will then say something that corresponds to this reaction, like in Mass Effect.
Main article: Timed Decisions
Some dialogue trees even have a limited window of time to decide on a selection, and if time runs out the character's "silence" is their response within the story. Examples of this include the Sakura Wars series and Alpha Protocol.
The dialogue wheel combines the dialogue tree with the radial menu, the latter mechanic originating from Secret of Mana in 1993. The dialog wheel was popularized by the Mass Effect series, which began in 2007.
On December 20th, 2011, the US Patent office issued an official patent to Bioware.
Graphical Interface for Interactive Dialog
A system and method for creating conversation in a computer program such as a video game. A plurality of classes of dialog is provided and a conversation segment is assigned to each class. A graphical interface is displayed during operation of the program that provides a choice indicator, wherein the choice indicator has a plurality of select-able slots, each associated with a dialog class. The graphical interface is consistent as to the position of dialog classes throughout at least a segment of the program.
The patent was filed on March 15th, 2007.