A game with one "true" romanceable character


#1

How should I handle this? For a game I’m developing some rough ideas for (called 100 Lives and shown here), the biggest motivator for the plot is the fact that the playable character has a soulmate who they are constantly trying to reunite with.

Along the way, there will be a few romanceable characters, but the only one you can really “end up with” in the very end of the game is the soulmate. I want to make the player able to decide what their feelings are for the soulmate (romantic, platonic, dislike, ect) but they’re forced to have SOME sort of feeling for the soulmate, if only to save themself.

What do you think I should avoid when I’m writing this? How can I make the soulmate pretty likeable to a wide audience? Because so much of the plot hinges on this and it’ll be made evident by the second chapter, I suppose that most people who don’t care for the soulmate won’t play it, but I’d like some input.


#2

Well, you could make the soul mate kind all around, and just try your best to hit the majority of the target audience, or you could make a few “tailer” personalities which you let the player pick from (almost like making the mate custimizable).


#3

It’s a bit of a tricky thing you’re trying to do here. I’d say, try not to make the soul-mate (or at least the soul-mate’s personality) one fixed thing. If you do so and try to force people to feel a bond with this soul-mate it will in many cases backfire and people will grow to dislike the character ‘soul-mate’ instead (Take Black Magic for example. Some people really like the whole ‘being crazy attracted to him/her’ thing, but even more very much dislike it.)

Three suggestions:

  • Write out different personalities for the soul-mate and allow the player to pick one so people feel like they’ve got some choice in what kind of person they end up with. (or pick one at random for more chaos/interesting results)
  • Allow the MC to directly influence the soul-mate’s personality and actions (or in extreme cases even manipulate it)
  • Make the personality of the soul-mate similar to or at least dependent on that of the MC (It could have interesting results if you make them polar opposites if you’ve got something like a morality scale. The further away they get from gray, the more extreme their differences become.)

Not sure which one I’d pick. It mainly depends on the execution, I guess.


#4

I like the idea of making it dependent on the MC. Kind of iffy about doing anything that changes the character’s personality from the get go, but having the MC influence the personality either by interaction or the MC’s own personality would be interesting. Like having the character have a fixed personality but have the way they behave toward the MC depend on the MC’s actions. (Like joke around with the MC more if the MC has a very serious way of conducting themself, but be more responsible if the MC is irresponsible)


#5

Yeah like Cecilia was saying maybe you could have the players choose the actions of the soul mate to their liking. I was also wondering if the other romance option would be even worth adding since the player won’t even be able to progress with that person.


#6

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot too—how to make a character that players are likely to get attached to, without it backfiring and becoming annoying. I’ve come up with a few provisional rules that I might follow to accomplish something like this.

  • Don’t make the character helpless or overly dependant on the MC. Players generally hate rescuing or escorting or defending useless people. Don’t make the character part of an obstacle to be overcome.
  • Instead, make the NPC’s presence beneficial to the player. The NPC should never be the star of the show (that’s the MC’s job), but the NPC showing up should be a good thing. Make them useful and fun.
  • At some point in the story, reveal some of the NPC’s vulnerability. Shared vulnerability can build empathy and intimacy. I remember reading about a study which found that pairs of participants who answered questions about their fears and weaknesses were more likely to report feeling an attachment to each other than those who answered other types of questions. A lot of writers/creators mess this up by being too heavy handed, or by focusing on things that most players can’t relate to (my parents were killed by an escaped rhino, etc). In your case, you have one possibility that avoids this pitfall: loneliness. I think everyone has wished for a soul mate at least once. Hit on the MC’s loneliness throughout the story, and give little hints that the NPC feels the same way.
  • Don’t force the relationship. I hate NPCs who joke around with the MCs, especially when they are just being introduced. It’s always someone else’s since of humor, not mine, and I feel like I’m watching two strangers having fun without me.
  • I think having the player decide the nature of the relationship is a brilliant idea. Giving the player a chance to change the nature of that relationship over the course of the game might be a good idea too.
  • Watch Dr. Who, especially the newer seasons. This is a show built around and driven by a likeable character whose personality changes every time he dies. Other TV shows, movies, or books like this can provide inspiration too.

Except for that first point, these aren’t really tried and true rules so much as suggestions.

Since people are dying and being reborn in your story, I think it’s a good idea to have the NPC’s personality change from life to life. Keep a few traits persistent, but have them manifest differently each time. That way, you are dealing with a character archetype rather than a single, fixed character (again, see Dr. Who). This can keep your game from feeling repetitive or predictable.

I think @Cecilia_Rosewood’s first two suggestions are risky, but they could work. It comes down to whether you want to sacrifice some of the NPC’s agency for a more malleable NPC. If so, you might be making a very different sort of game than you originally intended, one where the player is controlling two characters instead of one.

An alternative is to try making your NPC as engaging and enjoyable a character as you can, and making this a character-driven story. People who like the characters will play it. People who don’t will not. Just like any other character-driven story.


#7

I honestly wonder too how you plan to handle the NPCs character during their different incarnations. Maybe they will have some characteristics that are so strong they will stay consistent in every live. Though depending on the trait it could make the MCs aim more difficult/ easier to accomplish in one of the other lives (like the NPC being always a loyal or stubborn person, but then being born on different sides than MC for example). And in case you give MC a hand in defining those traits during their first live…oh the irony. (Whereby you should be careful with how much influence the MC can have on the NPC. I’m all for the MC having an impact on those around them and - with the background MC and NPC have – maybe a greater impact on their soulmate, but nobody likes a character that is alterable beyond recognition…)

Considering all things, the first life is pretty much the point that either breaks it or makes it when it comes to the emotional connection to the NPC.
Nevertheless, you could consider to refrain from focusing the relationship between NPC and MC on romance alone; the main point is that a strong connection should be established, but forcing it to be the same nature or only romantic during all their incarnations may repulses some players. It reduces their autonomy during the game, if you don’t want to water down the character of the NPC to insignificance to make them likable for everybody - And considering how often the romanceable characters are disliked because of a lack of own character, you may want to avoid that. So defining the love MC can feel for NPC more openly, could be an easy solution for you to have more scope to define NPCs character in a concrete manner without alienating players. And the other romance options wouldn’t feel as redundant, too.


#8

I would love to see you pull this off.

We all have idealized versions of our perfect partner in our heads, although they will vary wildly, but if you can somehow tap into that idealized vision, you will have struck gold. And yes, that requires that the reader be given power to shape the love interest, at least the beginning, and perhaps name them as well (I actually think allowing the reader to name the love interest might be the single biggest immersion factor because we will automatically think of our “love of our life” real-life person and filter accordingly).

But you can’t allow the reader to control every decision the soul mate makes, because no one is going to love a puppet. Some disagreement or drama is necessary, even if it infuriates the player at some times.

However, I think you’ll be forced to devote a significant % of your writing/coding to giving life to the soulmate, and it will never be perfect, because even though the reader might say her soulmate is funny, the reader’s view of “funny” and your view of “funny” will be so different, you can only hope to hit the mark sometimes, even if you narrow it down with choices like “dry humor,” “a love for puns,” “self-deprecating humor,” etc.


#9

A game which I think handled this particular aspect very well - the one-romance-option character issue I mean - is Aloners, which is a visual novel that you can download for free here. After watching some discussions about the game, two of the things that came up consistently was the NPC’s responsiveness to the MC (whose character is quite adjustable), and the NPC’s acceptance of the MC. I’d go on, but I don’t want to spoil the game too much for those who might want to play it.

I do think acceptance is key, though. There’s something really wonderful about people who accept you however you are and just run with it…especially if that’s managed while maintaining an overall healthy relationship with appropriate boundaries and all the rest. And for soul mates, appropriate boundaries would be quite an interesting issue to discuss and discover.

One of my works in progress also has one and only one possible romance option character, and I was surprised at how well that character was received. I did give three basic personality options for said character, though, although I kept certain traits the same. I also gave a choice of a small handful of weaknesses for the NPC. And there’s the option of avoiding that character, if you wish.

I even had someone suggest I should use the template to write a sort of A.I. dating service, and I’m still not quite certain whether he was joking…


#10

I this regard I think that the most effective means of doing this is getting the players imagination to do most of the work in putting together the general sense.

A keeping the meetings brief and meaningful. Flesh out only the bare essentials of the soul mate leave much of them as a mystery as you can to hold interest and curiosity.

Maybe a have a bit of a Night in Gale thing to kick everything off.


#12

@BabbleYaggle

To that last suggestion of yours…

pulls out a picture of General Ackbar and holds it up


#13

I think the idea of writing a story with one “true” romantic option is perfectly acceptable. It sounds to me like what you’re writing is a love story. Not an adventure with romantic side plots. Personally I love that idea. I really hope I get to play it one day.

If you think about it most of not all CoG games only have one main story. There might be different paths, and perspectives along the way, but the central story remains the same. If the central story is the MC falling in love with a person then you really wouldn’t be able to have 4 romantic options without writing 4 complete stories.


#14

well sounds great cant wait to try it


#15

Necromancer…what kind of wizardry is this! lol
.#ThreadPolice


#16
  1. Hashtagging “ThreadPolice” will get you no attention unless a bored mod happens to wander by.

2.The Thread Police only care about WIP threads. Pretty much any other topic may be necro’d at will.


#17

I was just joking with them…:expressionless: Wasn’t doing it for attention or anything.


#18

So are you here because you’re bored, or was @RyseAbove successful ? lol


#19

I’ve been chuckling the entire time. I only realized today that I replied to something that was last seen in October. It didn’t look like it was even that far down on the list at the time.


#20

Edit: a bored or hopelessly procrastinating mod. :slightly_smiling:


#21

Then you should get back to work on XOR, or learning Nepalese, or pleasing the wife, I suppose.