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swiftcoder

Interactive backstory generation

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swiftcoder    18437
What do you think of interactively generating the protagonist's backstory, as the game is played? I always feel that the character creation process in your typical RPG breaks immersion, so the idea here is to integrate RPG character creation more intimately into the game itself. I am envisioning an interactive dialogue scene, where the player's responses determine the backstory of the protagonist. Something along these lines has likely been done before, but the closest I have encountered is Fallout 3, where you play through a portion of the protagonist's backstory. Consider the following interactive opening sequence:
Quote:
Camera focused on a desk, and the receptionist behind it. Receptionist: "What name is your appointment under?"
  • "Mr. Jones" - protagonist chosen to be male
  • "Miss Jones" - protagonist chosen to be female
Receptionist: "Here we are. I am sorry, the form doesn't seem to list your profession?"
  • "Special-ops" - protagonist has a military background
  • "Counter-intelligence" - protagonist is a spy
  • "Cyberwarfare" - protagonist is a combat tech
Receptionist: "Thank you. You can go right in." Camera pulls back to show the player character (with their selected gender and uniform) enter the office. Man behind the desk: "Glad you could make it, Jones. I assume you are wondering why I have asked you here?"
  • "I assume something to do with Sirius Prime?" - 'Well Informed', player gains bonus to charisma, and additional information from sources in the future
  • "Not really. Just point me at someone I can kill." - 'Brutal', player gains bonuses in combat, at a penalty to charisma
  • "Good to see you too, old friend." - 'Old Boy Network', player can call in favours in the future
...
My intention (at the moment) is that the player not see the explanatory text I showed here, so that it appears more seamless to the player. I figure that if the player wants to create a specific sort of character, they can always lookup the necessary responses in an online guide. Has this been done before (links appreciated)? Do you think this would increase the sense of immersion for the player (over traditional character creation screens), or merely come across as a gimmick?

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TechnoGoth    2937
A few games over the years have had this type mechanic, to create characters. The ones that spring to mind are the Ultima series, and the Elder Scroll games, and I think the Mass Effect games do as well.

But those are usually just simple multiple choice questions that determine the players starting stats, and class.

A more in depth system of guiding the player through a scene that determines the character could work just fine, even better if those choices affect future game play. You might want to even think about using the whole tutorial level to determine the starting character. That way the player gets used to the game mechanics and the character starting abilities should reflect their players playing style.

Although it is probably best to let the player know what the affect of each outcome is that way they can be sure they get the character they want, and ideal letting them see the character sheet and make changes after the scene is over would be best.

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Dragoncar    517
This can work well for this like name, age, race etc, but the problem comes when I'm changing how my character will play without know what the outcome will be. Depending on the game the may be ok the first time I play, but I don't want to have to stuff around with a guide or guessing when I want a different sort of character.

What happens if I want to play as a mage, but the responses I give generate me as a warrior, I might try again, but at some point I'm not likely to go and find a guide (assuming one exists yet) I'm just likely to go and play something else.


This doesn't mean this type of thing will never work, but it can't have to big an effect on the game. For instance one of the old Ogre Tactics games had you select responses to a number of questions, but it worked because it only affect the single use cards you started with and the units you started with.

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Crowseye    308
Morrowind incorporates the character creation process into the release of the player's character (though the class selection gets bogged down by a long list of multiple choice questions).

KotOR 2 has a few instances where the player's answers to questions that assume the character's knowledge affect some minor details. In one case, I believe it affects the weapon the player's character is seen using in a later flashback scene for example. Incidentally, if the player character is already defined by the story, flashback cutscenes are a case where a dynamically created backstory can be incorporated logically where it need not have to alter the character's stats, class, etc.

Another option might be to use early dialogue choices to adjust alignments/attitudes of NPCs to the player. If the player says he grew up a street rat in the Gutter District, NPCs there could treat him better than they would if the player decided his character was the spoiled son of a silk merchant, and so on. The danger here, indeed with most character creation/evolution defined in dialogue, is that the character's backstory becomes limited to the available options. If the player envisioned his character as a lifelong apprentice to an insane wizard but your dialogue options don't provide for that backstory, you've possibly detracted from the player's experience.

There are certainly a number of things you could do to create a character dynamically that could be interesting if done right. The "electives" you sign up for at the university, the arm of the military you enlist in...you could even put the player through some trials or exams that yield a recommended major, character class, stats, whatever. Heck, many of the forms and applications people fill out every day are practically character creation sheets as far as the information provided goes. Maybe your game opens with your character stumbling into your world's equivalent of an unemployment office, or going for a job interview. In a comedic adventure-rpg game concept I've been playing around with I have the player place a mail order for a few "____ for Dummies" guides that would effectively define his or her starting skillset. In general I do think that being explicit about how a player's decision affects his character's class and stats at the beginning of the game is preferable, though things like starting weapon/armor/inventory offer a lot more leeway IMO.

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haegarr    7372
Quote:
Original post by Dragoncar
What happens if I want to play as a mage, but the responses I give generate me as a warrior, I might try again, but at some point I'm not likely to go and find a guide (assuming one exists yet) I'm just likely to go and play something else.
IMHO, strict distinction in sort of mage vs. warrior should not exist anyway. As already discussed several times, why should a warrior not be able to cast spells, or a mage not be able to swing a sword in princple?

I'm also not a friend of decisions made at the very beginning of the game (i.e. when the player has no clue what expects her/him during gameplay) with irreversible impact on the game. But if the game is also influenced on actions taken during the game (as is also discussed several times already), then irreversibility isn't given, and "wrong" decisions have a lower impact.

That said, I find the basic idea, i.e. a smoother integration of character and backstory generation, fine.

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