Simple Dialogue Systems in Google Sheets
Ever wanted to build a poor man's dialogue tree into a Google sheet? Well you came to the right place. This post shows how to do exactly that and then uses it as a quick little (and hopefully entertaining) puzzle.
Google sheets (and docs and slides) can be useful tools when doing virtual roleplaying sessions. The sheets can be shared with players, who have to use their technical chops to interact with them and tease out clues. Players can follow links to new sheets, or gain information that can be useful elsewhere in the campaign.
This post focuses on WiFi Connect, a Google sheet I put together for a larger online activity. You can copy the Google sheet here.
The sheet presents itself as a page with a happy little paperclip that is willing to help you connect to WiFi. There is a box into which the user can type. A cell gets updated below Clippy based on what is entered in the box.
In this example, the players need to connect to WiFi in order to proceed. The dialogue system takes what you pass in and performs a lookup to produce output. Players discover new possible inputs by interacting with the sheet.
The solution in this case is to connect to an unlisted network, "The promised LAN", which they discovered elsewhere in the gaming session. The password for that network is "DROP IT LIKE ITS HOTSPOT". If that is entered, the cell is updated with a hyperlink to the next thing.
Having a simple dialogue system is surprisingly entertaining. The players certainly appreciated it!
Under the Hood
The dialogue system has a hidden sheet in which the lookup happens. This is not a dialogue tree, which can store hidden state. Instead, it is a very simple dialogue lookup. The user's input is changed to upper case and then compared to a table of possible keys. If a key matches, then the corresponding output cell is presented to the player. As such, players can always jump straight to the end, if they happen to know what to type in.
The output achieves this with: `=VLOOKUP(TRUE, E1:F100, 2, FALSE)`. This means we are looking for a cell that is TRUE among those in column E, we return the value in the next column over, and we do not want an approximate match.
It is really easy to edit. You can easily change the look / feel of the first page to get an entirely different vibe. For example, you could be interacting with a demon, a shopkeeper, a logical guard, a sphinx, etc.
Hope this is useful!
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? Responses (2)
Oh, this is an awesome idea. Strolen - we may have a new submission type here! :P
A sweet play on the Riddle of the Sphinx. And anybody can appreciate the puns!!! Fun idea to put some interactivity into it. And as you shown, the hard part is coming up with your text adventure style series of Q&A. Really a brilliant idea to bring into the game!!!