Does a dating sim need additional mechanics?

I’ve been wanting to write a game for years, but always been intimidated by coding. I want to start as simply as possible while still making a game that’s appealing and fun to play. My concept is a gay dating sim centered around a baker who makes magical desserts and who hires four assistants to help run his business.

So far, my only idea for choices or stats that mattered were the relationship meters for each love interest and maybe a score keeper for how successful your bakery is. Should I try to add more stats or impactful choices to make game play more developed, or is it best to remain barebones to focus more on the story?

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You can add more stats if they impact the story in some way, there’s no need to add complexity for the sake of complexity. You can start out with a barebones version and then tack things on as needed.

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It is a lot easier to add things than remove them! Once you are in the story you will realize what stats you might need (if any) and what choices you need to track/tag.

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Stats aren’t what make a game fun; what matters is how you use them. There are excellent games with just a few stats, and there are excellent games with literally dozens. Different players have different preferences, too; some like to think carefully about how each choice is likely to raise or lower particular stats, while others rarely or never look at the stats page and focus on the story.

I suggest you set out to tell your story the way you truly want to tell it. Maybe you’ll find you want to track friendship and romance separately, or track the relationships among some of the ROs to determine whether they’d be interested in forming a throuple. Maybe you’ll want to add a subplot about competing against a professional rival for the vacant space in the mall food court, and you’ll need to keep track of your relationships with your rival and the owner of the mall to determine the outcome you get. Maybe you’ll be surprised by how much you enjoy writing about the business aspects of running a bakery and you’ll add a resource management dimension to the game. And maybe you’ll write a cute little game with five stats. But when you get to the end, your stats should reflect the story you wanted to tell and the mechanics you found necessary to tell it. Don’t add more stats at the beginning just to add them - let the story tell you what it needs.

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Thank you for your insight! I’m very much a discovery writer, so I tend to figure out the next step for the story as I’m writing it. Interactive fiction felt intimidating to me, because it seemed like you NEEDED to plan in advance, at least to a certain extent, to ensure things and variables stayed consistent. But I’ll try figuring it out on my own, and see where it takes me.

It’s funny you suggested the ‘throuple’ aspect, too, since I also considered being able to play matchmaker for the assistants instead of romancing them, or even joining them in a polyamourous relationship.

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Dating sims definitely don’t need additional mechanics to be fun. They can have them but the fun always depends on the implementation. From personal player experience, keeping it simple is your best bet. Your game’s premise sounds cute and not like something that should be overcomplicated by unnecessary stats. “Impactful” choices can be exciting but, to be honest, not everything has to be earth-shatteringly important all the time: In the context of your game, for example, it could be considered impactful enough to let us choose our bakery’s signature magical dessert to which our customers and/or assistants could react differently.

Since you already mentioned it: Poly routes and a matchmaker mechanic sound like two great ideas that would probably make a lot of players very happy, myself included.

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Thank you so much! I’m glad you like the concept and ideas. I was a bit nervous there wouldn’t be much interest, so knowing even one or two other people are interested is very reassuring!

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