Advice about player character

Hello! I’m a newcomer to the forum and Choice of Games, and I wanted to get some advice on what the expectations or preferences are (if any) about how to handle the player’s level of control over the player character. I more or less get how to set up a character creation scene, although I’ll probably be back looking for advice on how to make that flow well. But right now I’m curious about the level of control people expect to have over the character throughout the story.

Basically, how much control should the player have over the MC’s personality? Their backstory? Dialogue? Obviously I want to give the player a fair bit of control over the MC’s actions and decisions, but I’m not sure if I should give the character some degree of personality in their own right, or just try to keep them as blank slate as possible so the player can project onto them more easily. I guess I’m trying to find a good balance between keeping the story fixed enough that I can count on it moving in a certain direction, while still letting players have the freedom to behave and engage it the way they want to. Is that something that should be balanced in the first place?

…I hope that made sense. Sorry, it’s been a while since I studied writing and I’m forgetting how to talk about it, haha. Anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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I think it’s mostly up to you. Given that its interactive fiction, there’s always going to be an expectation of player choice, but the degree to which you include it, and the degree to which it’s important, should be what makes the most sense for you as a writer and for your story.

For example, its relatively easy to create a dynamic character creator that allows players to fully customize appearance without having much of an affect on the story and without creating a lot of extra work for you, but it’s a little bit harder to code and implement truly dynamic personality choices. It’s even MORE work to allow players to choose their own pasts/background AND have it significantly impact the story. And sometimes that extra work is worth it and makes for a really good, engaging interactive story! But sometimes it’s not worth it and hampers your freedom as a writer.

I think the context of what you’re writing and where, if at all, you’d like to direct or push players is important to consider; the right choice for you might not make sense in another person’s story, and vice versa. But very curious to hear other’s thoughts!

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Hi, there!

I think a good place to start would be the COG design guidelines. They don’t go into detail about how you should write your MC, but you should get a feel about the main features players expect from a COG title from those.

Then, I would advise you to search the forum — the issue of the type of MC players prefer has been brought up many times before, so if you want to look into that subject more in depth you can probably find a ton of existing topics about it. Here’s some I found in a very quick search:

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I think the best way to figure this out is to play a lot of good Choice games, and figure out what works for you, and what helps you connect with an MC. The more you play, the more experience you’ll be able to bring to bear on it when you design and write.

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Thanks for the advice, everyone. It sounds like there’s a little bit of leeway here, which is a relief. I appreciate the links, I’ll be sure to check those out this evening. Then maybe I’ll start experimenting with some different levels of interactivity and see which feel more reasonable for the story I have in mind, or if I need to adjust the story to make it more pliable or anything.

I actually played several of these games a couple years back, and happened to revisit my favorite of them recently, which brought me here. I’ll go ahead and replay the others I have, then keep exploring to get an idea of what I think works or doesn’t, or what I think I just want to try out or not.

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