I'm developing a flash puzzle platform game in my free time and I got stuck on deciding how to implement a feature. The game will be controlled by keyboard only, no mouse available.
My game will have Dialog boxes, used for story telling, announcing events, tutorial hints etc. I'd really prefer not to dedicate a large portion of the screen allowing the player to play while the dialog is displayed.
So my approach is to pop up the dialog and pause the game until the player closes the dialog. That's because the game has a small resolution (640 x 320) and some of the dialogs are pretty large (up to 5 lines text, talker's thumbnail etc).
EDIT : Another major reason I want to pause the game, is that I want to be 100% sure the player will not miss a dialog. Also, I want her to read it in a certain level area, before visiting another area of the level, or doing something that will advance the plot.
The thing Is that I can't find a way to make this work right. After testing the game with a few friends, I'm not satisfied from the feedback I get.
If I force them to close the dialog with one specific key (ACTION), I see people keep hitting keys randomly (e.g FIRE or JUMP key), while they know that it's closed with ACTION, like they did that 2 minutes before. They eventually get to close the dialog, but I can see they get a bit frustrated. I don't think they adopt the control as fast as I'd expect.
If I let them close the dialog with ANY key, they find themselves closing the dialog by mistake. Some of the dialogs are popping out while they're not expecting it.
So I'm starting to think that the 'Pause for dialog - close it to Resume' might be a bad idea in the first place. Do you think it is ? Or is it OK to have the dialog pause, but I just have to find the way to do it right ? Maybe the problem is not the controls, but something else, like say, I should not pop out the dialogs unexpectedly ?
Do you have any example of some game doing that right ?