How the Avengers Academy writer makes dialogue shine in online games

How do you make dialogue a key component of your online game? TinyCo's Allen Warner has a few thoughts that may help.

“I think it's refreshing and fun to have characters comment on the absurdity of living in a superhuman world, the nonsensical "gamey" aspects of their lives, and even deeper revelations into the real world.”

-Marvel Avengers Academy Writer Allen Warner

Dialogue is not often one of the big selling points of online games, especially ones licensed from properties like Marvel. But if you’re a developer working on an online game, could dialogue still be one of your secret weapons to draw your players in?

That’s what TinyCo has been experimenting with in their game Marvel Avengers Academy. As writer Allen Warner explains, sharp, snappy, and sometimes subversive dialogue can be a great way to keep players coming back even if your game is meant to run for months or years. 

Speaking to Gamasutra by email, Warner says that the game’s eccentric writing came after three passes on the main storyline, trying to find both a proper tone that would suit the game, and a logical reason for some of the gamey elements. 

“It would be easy to say they're young because this is a video game and we said so, but I wanted to use Marvel lore to create a story reason for why these characters are younger, and in some cases, drastically different than how we've seen them portrayed in other games and media,” Warner explains.


The fact that these (mostly) traditionally adult characters are now running around a high school became an opportunity for Warner to explore situations that were both comedic and even sometimes tragic. 

“Everyone is generally more immature, insecure, emotional, and reckless when they're younger, so turning up the dial on a character's normal personality traits is usually where I start. After that, I just bounce the characters off of each other, and try to let each conversation take its natural course while throwing in the occasional curveball.”

And if you’re wondering how story elements and dialogue can work when the gameplay involves in-app purchases, Warner has some tips for that too. He says that just because not all players are guarunteed to see a set of content doesn't mean you can't load it with key information.

“For example, we had a mini-event with Pepper Potts a while back, and there was no guarantee that every player would get her…but I included clues and information in her stories that weren't seen anywhere else because it made sense that Pepper would have access to more information than the students.”

So if you’re a writer looking for insight into making tight dialogue, or a developer looking to use dialogue to your advantage in an online game, be sure to read the full Q&A for Warner’s thoughts on turning Marvel Avengers Academy into a builder sim that’s fundamentally about character interaction. 

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