Discussion about hearthling speech

A HUGE thing for me would be the ability to mouse over speech bubbles to see what they’re saying. Show little icons normally, but have things from the Journal Entries be visible if you mouse over their speech bubbles.


“Oh, Freya Burlyhands is talking while she eats! I bet she’s appreciating the resplendent dining room I’ve built! Let’s mouse over and see what she says…”

Freya: “Berries again? Bleh! This is horrible!”

“…Ok, how about this one…”

Maya: “I’d rather eat dirt.”

“Maybe this guy will appreciate-”

Bron: “If I don’t get some meat soon, I swear I’m gonna go berserk.”



Personally I’d like to see the Hearthlings stay silent- as in, no audio. At the very most I’d like it to be a low murmuring, maybe a little different per culture/race (I’d expect the Ascendancy and Rayya’s Children to at least each have their own accents, if not their own language, so the murmurs would have a different ‘flow’ to them) but nothing that’s going to be distracting. This is because there’s already so much going on that adding more noises would just start making the world audibly crowded. The murmuring could be neat with big settlements, where you can hear that it’s a living town with people moving about and interacting- but that may work out better as part of the background sound effects rather than a triggered interaction going off dozens of times at once.

So how about the speech bubbles themselves?

I’d like a mix. Because I’m difficult.

Emoticons are neat, and I’d like to see them incorporated for complex concepts or things that would otherwise be difficult to fit into a sentence with only a few words. The stone bunny sculptures, for instance, or a series of item icons that represent a cooking recipe. I’m hesitant about endorsing a “100% emoticons!” approach for the same reason as adding lots of map icons to the edges of the world- if having to make more art resources is an issue, it makes sense to try and avoid going art-heavy.

At the same time, I’d like to see bits of neutral text linked to a Hearthling’s job, and if they’re particularly unhappy, their principal complaint (though here again I’m thinking you could work in emoticons- a bed, different kinds of food, a gravestone), just to add a bit of flavor.

So some examples:

"Lift with the knees!"
“Coming through!”
“Everything in its place.”

"Measure twice, cut once."
“Phoo! Sawdust.”

"Knit one, perl two…"
“Maybe a nice sweater…”

"Hut, two, three, four…"
“Keep an eye out.”

"I should check the oven."
“A watched pot never boils.”


Anything similar to the animated emoticons of Ragnarok Online. In my opinion, they have the best emoticons since they are simple yet easy to distinguish feelings or thoughts.

I think better way is use only emoticons, because some kind of monologues or dialogues are difficult to translation and localization.


Yeah I’m with @VoQn on this one

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I’m just gonna copy what I wrote in the brainstorming session about animation for idle hearthlings. It fits better here anyway.

I think the most cost effective way to make them feel more alive would be by letting them speak to each other, using speech bubbles with icons in them. There could be both emots and subject icons. To keep it looking nice and clear all the icons should probably be painted (so no pictures of specific voxel models) but the subject icons should be general enough so that there won’t have to be a lot of them. For example there just need to be one for monster (maybe like a black emot with red eyes and horns). Semi random combinations like one emot and two subject icons in the same speech bubble could quite easily make the player wonder what they’re actually saying (“Oh so you love eating monsters? That’s not creepy at all…”).

Another good think about talking is that they can do it all the time, not just when they’re idle, though idle hearthlings might walk over to someone to start a conversation.
As long as they’re close enough to another hearthling there is a chance that one of them will say something and once someone said something there is a higher chance that someone else will respond. Responding could be a “task” that is thrown around. Others might respond with emots at the same time, so a whole group could start laughing or get angry.
To make it look more like an ongoing conversation the response could repeat at least one of the former subject icons.

Usually works the same as talking but with larger speech bubble and a smaller chance of happening.
It would be nice if they could shout warnings. If someone sees an enemy approaching town they shout a warning, which spreads from hearthling to hearthling and the guards won’t come running until they hear it. Could also be combined with warning bells.

Same as talking but they can do it on their own or at the same time as someone close by. Different songs could have different colored notes in the speech bubble. Hearing others sing makes them more likely to sing along and they might keep singing even if they walk away, so a song can spread through town.

Turning heads and hand gestures
On the animation side I think it would add a lot if they dynamically turned their heads (and maybe upper bodies a little bit) to look at points of interest. Not all the time and probably not at all while they’re working.

It would also be nice with animated hand gestures that match the emots in their speech bubbles. This would probably be limited to when they’re idle or walking, and only with hands that are not holding anything.


A few questions made explicit…

  • What should the balance between verbal and nonverbal communication lie?
  • Is the communication just for show, or do they actually convey info from one hearthling to another?
  • Do we want just heartlings who can speak, or do we also want to know what they are saying?

@Agon mentioned the second question with his idea to make a shout for monsters spread through town, and @YetiChow also mentioned this with his idea to have hearthlings call out for help.

On the third question Most of you have chosen that the speech bubbles should actually contain readable info, be it through emoticons or text or symbols. Although there are two concerns I have about this;

  • Long sentences may stretch the speech bubbles to the point where they obscure lot of the view, this might be annoying.
  • In a bustling city, beiing able to read every single speech bubble of the , like ten, that could pop up every second, may be very distracting, when a player actually wants to do something else, like designing a building.

As a solution, for the last concern, I would suggest that speech bubbles far away from the camera become less and less readable, until it is just a blank speech bubble like we have now, (or having some dots in it.). This way, if you want to read the speech bubbles, you need to come into hearing distance, and if you don’t want to read it, you’ll not be distracted. Of course @Agon s shouting suggestion would need a wider range or no range at all.


As mentioned in this post (as well as many other posts on the discourse) politicians will find their way into the game eventually. The upcoming text bubbles are a perfect platform for the politicians to politic on !

They can say stuff like
"Vote for me"
“I will improve your lives”
“I never said that!”
“I’m the best”
“Donate money to me”

and any other thing a politician might need to say.


In Devstream 274 (Looking at Animations), @malley talked about wether certain kinds of conversations will (soon) be in the game. Conversations between three hearthlings, between a hearthling and a pet, between a hearthling and an inanimate object.

I was wondering, will we also see hearthlings argue with themselves. (Or is that weird?)

imagine an engineer argueing with himself (maybe with a speechbubble of a contraption, or a cog), and then being caught by another hearthling.

Hearthlings talking to themselves is another one we want to do but wont get in this round, I just forgot to mention it ; ). Also activities like looking at the stars/cloud watching are on the list as well.