In an interview with scriptwriter Jake Elliott on the dialogue mechanics of the game, Alex Wiltshire differentiates Kentucky Route Zero from other classic adventure games like those of LucasArts, in which dialogue options typically double back on themselves so that players can explore all possible options. And unlike the world-altering choices of BioWare titles, Kentucky Route Zero avoids foreclosing “good” or “bad” endings but is instead interested in revealing the open-ended, interior lives of characters through dialogue choices. In this way, the dialogue of the game is more character-driven than plot-driven. Choices often revolve around a character’s opinion about a place or another person, prompting players to envision the kind of protagonist they want Conway to be. When confronted with a stranger, is Conway on guard or curious? When traveling companion Shannon asks about his past, is Conway reserved or candid? Your choices dictate how much or how little you know about Conway and the other characters, lending the game a different temperament depending on your access to information. While the game lacks immediately discernible narrative consequences with each dialogue option, our choices still have meaning. Each player will shape their own version of Conway with each playthrough—his affect, his behavior, whether or not he’s gentle and introspective or tight-lipped and stoic—and in doing so, you more clearly understand the complexity of his backstory and inner life. Because choices are not heavily weighted with dire narrative consequences that lead to good or bad endings, Kentucky Route Zero’s dialogue remains ambiguous as to how it factors into the game, resulting in a meandering, poetic open-endedness.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.