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Romance options/Story branching

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I wasn't sure whether this would fit the writing forums or the development forums, so I just made a pick and decided to go with it.


I feel like with the advent of Bioware games like Mass Effect and Atlus games like Persona 3, that American gamers are beginning to enjoy wooing NPC's into being romantic companions. In fact, if a game has friendship/romance simulation in it, I feel compelled to give it extra points in the writing department.

That being said, I'm currently thinking of a story that changes depending on the partner the protagonist chooses. Furthermore, I'm considering making the selection a free-for-all i.e. both sexes would be available to romance. What do you all think of this concept? Feel free to discuss and commentate.

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Who you choose as your partner in life has a direct affect in the outcome of 'your story'; why shouldn't it be the same in well written games? Though, I can foresee some interesting story line branching implications depending on how large of an outcome change the partner selection process involved.

I've not played Persona 3; but in Mass Effect the Human Biotic Alinko and could be wooed by both male and female players. There were others, but I'm drawing a blank. I think that as long as the game doesn't become a platform for trying to push one lifestyle or the other then it's fine. Leave the option open for the player to decide.

In general, I feel like romance has a very strong emotional tie and - when applied appropriately - can help to immerse the player in the game. [rollup='Possible Mass Effect 1 Spoiler']
When I had to decide which of my crew mates to leave behind with the bomb, I had to really consider the implications of the choice. Seeing both options as an equal loss, I leaned towards my romance.
[/rollup]

I like games that give you a 'lesser of two evils' choice and allow emotional ties to play in. I mean - come on, are you going to save the person you've begun romancing, or the strong arm? The gentleman in me will always pick the romance. ;) Edited by ShadowValence

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I think that "romancing" in games is an aspect that has been over-looked by western audiences for a while now.

Take a look at Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo. You could go on dates and eventually marry if you managed to woo her.
Also in Asura Dreams for the Playstation had a romantic interest sub-plot. Even Final Fantasy 7 had a subtle romance option that allowed Cloud to go on a date. They've been around, but I think games like Mass Effect got so much media for it because of the world we live in now, with saturated coverage and the fact they went out of their way to say there were sex acts with aliens in the game. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/laugh.png[/img]

It may just be my opinion, but I think romantic options are a good way of developing a deeper immersion for the player and that it's recently been brought into the spot-light with more AAA giving it a try. Having them effect the direction of the story is an interesting dynamic that I feel more designers could use to pull the player even deeper into their worlds.

Speaking of romances in games, my team and I have been kicking around an idea for a fighting game that has a dating mechanic involved, but more along the lines of a dating sim/fighting game with a similar free-for-all for "preferences". Not as in depth, but something just fun and arcadey. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.png[/img]

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[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1349290432' post='4986489']
I think that "romancing" in games is an aspect that has been over-looked by western audiences for a while now.

Take a look at Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo. You could go on dates and eventually marry if you managed to woo her.
Also in Asura Dreams for the Playstation had a romantic interest sub-plot. Even Final Fantasy 7 had a subtle romance option that allowed Cloud to go on a date. They've been around, but I think games like Mass Effect got so much media for it because of the world we live in now, with saturated coverage and the fact they went out of their way to say there were sex acts with aliens in the game. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/laugh.png[/img]

It may just be my opinion, but I think romantic options are a good way of developing a deeper immersion for the player and that it's recently been brought into the spot-light with more AAA giving it a try. Having them effect the direction of the story is an interesting dynamic that I feel more designers could use to pull the player even deeper into their worlds.

Speaking of romances in games, my team and I have been kicking around an idea for a fighting game that has a dating mechanic involved, but more along the lines of a dating sim/fighting game with a similar free-for-all for "preferences". Not as in depth, but something just fun and arcadey. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.png[/img]
[/quote]
[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1349290432' post='4986489']
I think that "romancing" in games is an aspect that has been over-looked by western audiences for a while now.

Take a look at Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo. You could go on dates and eventually marry if you managed to woo her.
Also in Asura Dreams for the Playstation had a romantic interest sub-plot. Even Final Fantasy 7 had a subtle romance option that allowed Cloud to go on a date. They've been around, but I think games like Mass Effect got so much media for it because of the world we live in now, with saturated coverage and the fact they went out of their way to say there were sex acts with aliens in the game. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/laugh.png[/img]

It may just be my opinion, but I think romantic options are a good way of developing a deeper immersion for the player and that it's recently been brought into the spot-light with more AAA giving it a try. Having them effect the direction of the story is an interesting dynamic that I feel more designers could use to pull the player even deeper into their worlds.

Speaking of romances in games, my team and I have been kicking around an idea for a fighting game that has a dating mechanic involved, but more along the lines of a dating sim/fighting game with a similar free-for-all for "preferences". Not as in depth, but something just fun and arcadey. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.png[/img]
[/quote]

That sounds like a game I'd write for.

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Well, personally I am not fan of branching stories - but I am fan of romance in games.

First you have to distinguish between:[list=1]
[*]Romance as a part of the story
[*]Romance as a part of the game mechanics
[/list]
I think western games are mostly interested in the first option. The second one is possibly much more interesting, but really hard to execute well. Also if you base anything in your romance system on simple mechanics, you open your game to the criticism on the basis of "objectifying" certain groups.
As of story-based romance - good games connect stories to mechanics - the more the better. Like as in good RPG your grinding and wandering has to be somehow important for the main story arcs. Similarly the romantic plots should to be connected to mechanics so that interacting with your significant other will change the core elements of gameplay to some extent. Simply having your brother/sister in arms to fight among your team is not interesting IMHO.

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I like this option in games, ever since Harvest Moon. But I think that the type of game you're making will have a big impact on how well received such a mechanic will be, especially by a Western audience.

Games like Persona 3 and 4, while selling respectably, aren't blockbuster hits in the US. Mass Effect had a "romantic" aspect, but it's pretty light. My impression is the more your game resembles a JRPG the more likely your audience is to enjoy a Persona-style experience, where you go on dates and slowly develop your relationship with characters with a moderate to significant effect on gameplay. If your game is more similar to a Western RPG, I think that those elements might be less well received.

For your game as you've described it here, I think that you could probably follow either route. But it might be easier to imitate Mass Effect for a free-for-all: you have to do less writing for the potential relationship developments with each character and dedicate less in-game time to describing those relationship developments. Additionally, if you want it to matter to the plot it might be easier to use ME-style event triggering to advance the relationships rather than having the player allocate free time whenever he or she chooses.

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Another *thumbs up* for romance in games. The romance element in FF7, though underdeveloped, was one of the things that got me interested in game dev as a hobby. I'm not sure there are any of my designs that don't have romance in there somehow. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wink.png[/img]

To approach this from a writing angle, I'll mention that I always had difficulty writing romance options designed to please people with different tastes than me. It almost seems like designing the cast of characters and writing the story for an interactive romance sim would have to be a team effort, so it could draw on the different preferences of multiple writers and designers to try to provide a variety of options for players' varied tastes.

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The ar tonelico series has always had a girl selection system. the second of the trilogy was probably the peak of the system. While the girl you chose did not directly effect large portions of the games story, it did effect the final outcome, the ending you got, and a lot of the conversation topics and/or girl related events. pretty fun series to play with a fairly decent replay value.

Fable touches on the romance aspect, although it's done in a very sandboxy after-thought where the women you pick have very very very little consequence on anything, other than being quest rewards and/or providing familial rewards and bonuses.

Overlord, the campy series about being an overlord, gives you several options of mistresses on varying sides of the karmic spectrum. the mistress you pick effects certain gameplay mechanics, quests, and, if i remember correctly, certain parts of the story. Oh, you can also decorate your lair based on your mistresses tastes.

There's also that atlus game Record of Agarest War that has basically completely integrated the romance aspect into huge chunks of the game. You pick from several types of girls with varying personalities, woo the one of your choosing, eventually completing that ages storyline, which continues with your offspring who then himself picks a new mate, rinse and repeat. There are like 3 or 4 generations you can play through. There's also a sequal to the game.

Ar tonelico is by faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar my favorite. the story is engaging, and the way you interact with the love interests is by diving into their souls and learning personal truths about them, helping them overcome whatever problems they are facing on that particular soul level. Plus they have really cute mechanics that are different for every girl, such as the crafting aspect. One recipe will yield a different item for every girl, usually resulting in an amusing scene about how they came up with that item.

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