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Anyone heard of readers confused about who is speaking?
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Rochnarand
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 9:14 pm    Post subject: Anyone heard of readers confused about who is speaking? Reply with quote

My friend and I make computer games as a hobby. We've made one and we're finishing up another. We have cutscenes set up between levels in our latest game. These are the parts of the game where you aren't playing but you're watching the characters talk to each other. I made comic style word balloons for the characters to talk with and was going to make yellow narrator style boxes for the narrator.

Then my friend totally shocked me when he said that a yellow box wasn't enough to show that a narrator was speaking. He said that when he read comics as a kid he remembers being confused as to who was speaking when he read the yellow narrator boxes.

I was completely floored, has anyone ever heard of someone being confused by this? He's asked me to give the narrator box an illustrated outline. I've outlined other things with cartoon bones, it fits the theme of the game, so I'll probably do that. He wants to eliminate the possibility of confusion as to who is speaking.

I'm not going to fight him on it, because in a collaborative project you choose your battles, but I don't see how an illustrated outline makes who the speaker is more clear.
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Tim Tylor
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Joined: 18 Aug 2003
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Location: Cornwall, Great Britain

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd think it would be clear enough, as long as the narration box is clearly different from the speech-balloons. The bone-outline sounds a nice touch, though.
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Rochnarand
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's what I think too, but what is strange to me is that there are intelligent people--I suppose you'll just have to take my word on it--who were confused about who the speaker was when they saw the yellow narrator boxes.

Just how much, after all, can we assume about the reader when making comics? I know I'm not making comics with these cutscenes but I think you get my point.
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Tim Tylor
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only thing I could think of would be somebody mistaking the narration boxes for the dialogue of an offscreen character, say a god or some such entity. I'm thinking of One Over Zero in which the artist often talked (or quarreled) with his characters, putting his own speech in oblong boxes. But the context made it clear that it was him "speaking", and I imagine the context of the game will make it clear that the boxes there are narration.
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ragtag
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Joined: 22 Jul 2001
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is such a thing as comic illiteracy, or rather...people who have no idea how to read comics. Also, I believe a lot of people are not familiar with many of the common icons used in comics. So it is perfectly possible that a narrator box can confuse intelligent readers.

I like the touch with bones around the narrator box, so I see no reason not to go with it. Also, if the narrator is talking about the characters of the story/game in thrid person and in a way that would seem unatural for a dialog but okay for a narrator (don't have a better way of explaining it), it might help make it very clear who is talking.

I remember giving a copy of my comic "Tim" to my dad. The first time he read it he didn't like it too much, then later he read it again...but this time he also looked at the prictures...and he liked it much better. He teaches Icelandic, and reads a lot, so I guess for him it was natural for him to just read the speech bubbles and narrator boxes, and not to "read" the pictures. My mom on the other hand just gets dizzy or motion sicknes from reading comics. (honest to god true).

Cheers,

Ragnar
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losttoy
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Joined: 02 Apr 2002
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is my two cents worth ...

My wife was not a comic book reader when I meet her. She has hence become just as much as a comic literate as I am. However, since this transition was recent, I ask her, "when you started reading comics, did you have any trouble differentiating between word balloons and narration boxes?"
"No"
"Did you get confused by the box at the top of the panel that perhaps it was one of the character's speaking?"
"Anybody with common sense could tell if somebody is speaking or if it is a narrator."
"What did you think of word balloons when you saw them in a comics."
"Well, I have been reading comic strips in the newspapers all my live. I know how they work"

Most people do not have to have word balloons explained to them. The balloon points at the character speaking. It there is a box instead of a balloon and it is not pointing at the character, then it is narration.

However, whose narration is it? Is it first person narration of the main character popular in noir crime fiction? There is sometimes a second person narrative, but more often than not, narration is in the third person. Narration in the third person usually does not create problems. However, narration in the first person can cause problems if done improperly.

Hint of first person narration in comics:
? Do not make a habit of switching who is narrating within the comic
? The main character usually should be narrating
? Consider thought bubbles
? If you have to switch, make sure that there is an clear indication between who is narrating (like having each character have a different color box)
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Rochnarand
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I think I'm safe in showing you the dialogue in question:

Narrator: This is Cedric. He's a little demon
Cedric: Yeah, and just because I'm little, all the other demons think that they can push me around. It's not fair!
Narrator: Cedric was not very happy with Hell at all.
Cedric: How could I be? It's Hell! I'm getting the hell out of here.
Narrator: And so our adventure begins.

Now, if the narrator text was in a yellow box (alright, rounded rectangle) with no arrow pointing to anyone, and Cedric's text was in a white rounded rectangle with an arrow pointing to an onscreen cedric, would anybody be asking, "Who's talking with those yellow boxes?"

This is the assertion made by my friend. That some would. Okay, I'm off to make a box with a cartoon bone outline.

edit:
By safe, I mean it's not released yet and even though we're not making any money with this we do take that kinda thing seriously.
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Tim Tylor
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds clear enough to me.
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was pretty obviuos to me that it was a all seeing non-character narator speaking in the yellow boxes, however I see where the confusion might come from. Having a character respond to narative can be confusing depending on the context. In this situation, I might have done the Roadrunner & Coyotte tactic and have text above or below the character without a box. That might be a style choice, so do what you think is best. However I might consider change in the text, not the box itself. JUst a sight rewording might also help.
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