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Canislupus54

A Mysterious Player Character?

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I want some advice on writing for a game. I'm currently planning a game, and I have the gameplay more or less figured out, but I'm deciding between two narratives. The main issue in question is the nature of the player character. In one of the ideas, the player character is mysterious, even to the player. To be clear, she doesn't have amnesia, though she pretends to at first. She instead actively keeps her history a secret, including from the player. What I'm wondering here is, would that be satisfying? I can't think of a game where the player character's backstory is known and important, but kept a secret from the player. So basically, I want to know if you think the player would feel cheated or misled in a bad way by this sort of twist. If so, why, and do you think anything could be done to mitigate that feeling?

Thank you for any advice you can provide.

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10 hours ago, Canislupus54 said:

She instead actively keeps her history a secret, including from the player. What I'm wondering here is, would that be satisfying?

It can be, if done well. Are you planning to give hints? Are you planning to reveal the truth before the game or series is done?

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1 hour ago, Tom Sloper said:

It can be, if done well. Are you planning to give hints? Are you planning to reveal the truth before the game or series is done?

I am planning to give hints and reveal the truth before the game is over. It's a pretty important twist that changes the focus of the plot. Without getting into unnecessary detail, the game centers on a group of people trapped in a mysterious location, with none of them remembering how they got there. The protagonist claims to be one of them with more extreme amnesia, but is actually the one who brought them there on the orders of the main antagonist, only to have second thoughts at the last minute. Once the truth is revealed, the focus changes from "survive and escape" to "defeat the antagonist." I plan to have hints throughout the story about the protagonist's true nature. Some of these hints are woven into the gameplay as well.

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7 hours ago, Canislupus54 said:

I am planning to give hints and reveal the truth before the game is over.

Well, okay then. That would be satisfying.

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I agree with Tom Sloper. Assuming there are some hints dropped that things are not as they seem, the twist that the player character was misleading the player all along would be an interesting one.

One possible way you could 'hint' at this would be to have some internal narration. When showing the player character's thoughts on other characters involved, the character paints them out as unreliable, which contradicts what the player can see from themselves of the NPCs doing good.

This is definitely something that could go great or bad, so I advice you to make sure you have a few trusted beta-players/readers who can give their thoughts.

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On 1/24/2019 at 8:30 PM, Canislupus54 said:

I can't think of a game where the player character's backstory is known and important, but kept a secret from the player.

First game that came to mind was FF7, but lots of JRPGs follow the same "unknown past determines the hero's fate" trope, but FF7 had the rest of the cast knowing the main characater's secret and keeping it from him to use him to further their goals.  Not exactly what you described but kind of close.

As for a good story where the protagonist's past is known to him but slowly revealed to the audience as his intentions change, check out a movie called "Lucky Number Slevin", they do a really good job telling a story this way and when all the pieces come together it's kind of satisfying. 

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Do you have an in-universe reason for why the player knows so little about the character he controls?

"Because fantastic story" doesn't sit well with the majority of fans of interactive media, particularly when the story affects the interactions.  Does the character know about the character (like in Hellblade)?  Does the player know that the fourth wall can be broken?

Instead of "cheated" or "misled," the narrative you present is more likely to encounter, as criticisms, the adjectives "confusing" and "pretentious."

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You can make it clear to the player that there are important things he doesn't know and/or that the character is actively lying about. For example, in the described setting, knowing details about the location (e.g. a UI command to bring up a correct and complete map) that imply a previous familiarity with the place and no amnesia.

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