Some writing craft chat for your Saturday…,
I love in interactive fiction how as an author you can shape MC/NPC relationships even before the time in the game. I particuarly felt the bond between my MC and Rory in Tally Ho, Dev in Heart of the House, Oscar and Roshan in Asteroid Run, AJ in Sixth Grade Detective, Wakefield in Choice of the Deathless, Finch in A Study in Steampunk, and Alexandre in The Eagle’s Heir.
I’m doing this in a few varied ways in Royal Affairs: because the MC is so important in the setting, I wanted them to feel as embedded in society as they would in-universe.
Royal Affairs character craft details
Asher has a longstanding relationship with the MC but is also with them for a very large chunk of the story. I wanted to show this history but use a light touch so that players can fill in the blanks with imagination rather than trying to cover everything from the MC’s early life. Asher interactions are therefore put at the forefront of the first chapter; they’re the first character the player encounters. Asher is also a vehicle for a couple of the MC-definition choices - in particular the Queen saying “look after my son/daughter/child”, and it’s through Asher that you access the memory of your siblings fighting that leads to deciding your highest stat. This is intended to highlight the constant presence that Asher has been for the MC. But it’s through the player’s choices in the present that the current relationship is established and developed.
You know Dominique already, and I let players choose how they feel about them and how they’ve interacted before: friendly, non committal, antagonistic, or romantic. With Dominique the relationship can vary a lot: I want the player to be able to state how they’ve interacted before, and there’s more variation in how the relationship will play out. This reflects Dominique’s personality: they are pretty chilled out about how they move through the world and tend to be a people-pleaser. At the start, at least, they’ll imprint on someone and be pretty responsive to whatever way the other person behaves.
Javi has much more of a specific shape and emotional journey than Dominique and has a much more headstrong, strong-minded personality. As a firm rivals-to-friends/romance character, I wanted to establish straightaway a past interaction that sets the tone for the relationship. There would be no sense having a choice that was “we had a nice chat and everything was fine” but I wanted to give some control to players about how this antagonistic interaction took place. So choosing the way in which Javi was antagonistic to you at Rosario’s wedding is a way of ceding narrative control as an author, giving players a sense of personalising their character, while still keeping the emotional tone intact.
In Chapter 4 I’m doing the exact same thing as Javi for a non romanceable character who hasn’t appeared yet, but the opposite tone. For this character, I want to show a long-standing sense of care and affection towards the MC, so I’m giving a set of options about a particular caring thing they did for the MC when the MC was a child. The player can say something about their own character through this choice, and then once we’re in the present, can state how they feel about this NPC now - embarrassed, nostalgic, stifled, affectionate, etc.
I’d love to know how you feel about characters where the MC has a history with them before the events of the game. Like them? Dislike them? Are there times you’ve played something and it really felt like your character knew them even though you’d just “met” them as a player?