Allow character swap or stick to the selected path?

Hi people,

I’m working on a sci-fi themed game in which a space ship (for want of a better description) is sent to investigate the apparent loss of its sister ship. On arrival, things start to go a bit awry, of course.

Close to the start of the game, the player gets to choose whether to play as the captain or the engineer of the rescue ship or as a survivor awaiting rescue and can choose the gender of the part they want to play. Once the selection has been made, the game randomly sets genders, alignments, etc. and makes some minor changes to stats for the other characters, mainly based on my preconceived notion that people tend to empathise more with people who are similar to them, this is mainly for flavour text. All stats are affected by the players response in certain situations as the game progresses so none of the machine modified stats are going to materially affect the direction the player takes.

That adds some re-playability of course, since a different choice can be made the next time but I was wondering if it might be a good idea to offer the player the chance to switch to another playable character at certain points. i.e. swap between captain/engineer/survivor and maybe even a normally non-playable character for certain scenes, or if that would just lead to confusion.

I’m still at a very early stage in this project so now’s the time to make the decision :wink:

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My stance in this is basically,

  • Stick to one character the whole story? Ok
  • Swap characters at the mid? I’m not sure

Why not have players be the survivor at the first playthrough then completing it unlocks the rescue team playthrough?

You could track actions too so if the survivor opens or locks a door then it’ll be open or locked for for the rescue

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In this case, I think sticking through with one playable character is probably best. If you do want to try alternating MCs, switching halfway through the game is probably not the best strategy. It will probably just end up feeling like you jammed two games together. Alternating chapters from different POVs is something that might work, for players who are interested in such a thing. For example, you could have the player engineer their MC to their exact specifications, then randomize the NPCs as you said, and allow the player to choose to alternate POVs with one of the randomly generated NPCs.

Switching protagonists might be difficult to pull off as a writer of IF stories. There are a couple of HG works that do so (Divided We Fall about the Spanish Civil War is one such) but some readers find it hard to follow the story with switches.

I’d write a small demo scene involving switches and see how it comes out before making the final decision on what to do. It is a little more work upfront but you would gain valuable feedback and you also would test the development for your own evaluation.

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I think that Choicescript allows for a unique opportunity to explore multiple perspectives of the same events, an opportunity that is rarely capitalised on. Coupled with the statistic system, it could make for a really unique game about managing the needs of an entire crew rather than the needs of a single person.

You could even allow the player to make a tough decision as the captain, give orders to the crew, and then choose to ignore the captain’s orders! It would be a really mind-bending meta-commentary on what it means to make decisions in games.

Or even just mimic some of the missions in the Sly games where you have to control every member of your crew in order to pull off a more complicated task (e.g., Bentley disables the security lasers, Murray fights off the guards, and Sly nabs the secret documents).

If you don’t go down this route, that’s totally fine. None of the hosted games or COG lineup do this, to my knowledge.

But if you do go through with it, you’ve already set yourself apart from the rest of the herd. It’s something unique that only your game fulfills.

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Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Some interesting viewpoints and ideas here. You’ve given me plenty to consider. Glad I asked the question now :slight_smile:

Going away to put the thinking cap on…

I think swapping can be really cool as long as it’s clear you’ll be playing multiple characters! It sounds awesome!

Personally I prefer to never switch perspectives. In traditional novels it’s fairly common, and often effective, but in interactive stories it breaks the immersion.

For me the real appeal of IF and video games is who I get to be in the story. I like to lose myself as much as possible inside a character. Switching perspective means that I’m suddenly viewing that character from outside.

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If I do go down that route it’ll be optional and those options will be something the player can choose to hide. I certainly wouldn’t want to force someone out of their immersion, I know how jarring that can be.

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A food for thought.


I do plan to use this “multiple perspective” in my own work, although it’ll be different from how you’ll do it, if it’s the case.

Basically, in my story, the PC will have the power to mind-read at some points. They can read the thoughts and memories of other people around them and get their perspective on how these people view things around them, via 1st person POV dream sequence.

That being said, you can only access the things from the past or the possibility of the future. You can’t make direct decision for these NPCs, so it’s kinda lacking in that area.