Help for Romantic Option Choice

So, I was musing over Choice of Games and how you frequently get to choose a gender, and the games will gender-flip the love interests so that they’re of your chosen gender. I absolutely love how playing with gender in that way changes my own preconceptions of a character. It also makes writing simpler.

I was also thinking about Black Magic, who is the ultimate player-defined romantic interest since you can choose both gender and appearance. I did actually find comparing Black Magic to current celebrities broke my immersion in the game. I didn’t find any of the celebrities listed as attractive, and I noticed how other players mentioned they typed in ridiculous things.

There’s also a scene in Total Recall, where Arnie’s choosing his love interest. He chooses gender, he chooses build, hair colour and the like, and then she appears exactly as he requested, with the same plot as well as he wanted. That scene always struck me as utterly fascinating, him picking his preferences that way, and it’s just like we do in Choice games, in a way.

I’m thinking of including a shapeshifting demon in my game, who will appear to be the perfect boy/girlfriend. I want to play around with allowing the player to make choices.

Do you think I’d be better to include what hair colour, what eye colour, what build, what personality, and allow the player to pick each one in turn. Or instead have some pre-written descriptions to choose from instead? Personally I don’t like picking everything separate, although it does allow for a greater degree of customisation.

And what sort of choices should I allow to be picked?

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Personally, I can roll with either. While I do appreciate when I’m given the option to customize things to such an extent. Like currently I’m playing around with some old CoGs in the WIPs, one of which is “Dark Matter: A Summor’s Choice”, and at one point you can change/alter your default skin complexion, hair color, and eye color (by default in the CoG you’re a young girl). But, I can see where a demon wishing to appear to their chosen victim/target/client/whatever’s ideal sexual preference man or woman, hair color, skin tone, eye color, body type, etc etc etc… Even if it that description is just there for that singular scene, it sticks within the reader/player’s mind for the rest of the narrative. So it is a nice little immersive tidbit.

That said, though, I never do mind when an author creates their own attractive suitor, male or female. Because after all, an attractive man or woman is attractive regardless, so in the end it still works, and it also can make things a lot simpler for the author when deciding to reference their appearance. Before I was understanding when author’s did this, but since starting to write my own CoGs now and experiencing first hand the level of tedium involved with coding–I not only understand but sympathize when author’s decide not to bother with the immense customization route and just go with defined appearance.

So either way, personally I’m good with either, and really just suggest whatever will help benefit you and your story most should be the route you take.

@Apillis That’s a great answer. I do already have a bunch of characters who have fixed appearances and I’ve been trying to have a bit of variety between them.

I do have a slight problem of falling back onto describing people as attractive, good-looking, handsome, beautiful. Which I’ll need to rewrite I think. Rather than telling the player that someone is attractive, I should write a description so they can decide whether or not the character is attractive to them. Apart from the guy with sexual pheronomes, but even with him the protagonist can just react awkwardly and treat it as a problem to be fixed.

I suppose I could just have the demon look different every time they show up. Or even meta the choice by having the demon ask them what their preferred appearance is. Ha! Actually doing that could be a lot of fun. “Bigger breasts? What even bigger? Bigger still? What am I, a balloon?”

Yeah the tedium of implementing so many choices is a problem. Also with things like hair colour, eyecolour etc, I’m usually aware that the author’s coded up an eyecolour variable and it’s just inserted and has absolutely no impact on the game itself. It’s just customisation for the sake of it.

However, in graphical games I do love being able to customise appearance. In choice games, I do like having to choose to a certain extent.

“I suppose I could just have the demon look different every time they show up. Or even meta the choice by having the demon ask them what their preferred appearance is. Ha! Actually doing that could be a lot of fun. “Bigger breasts? What even bigger? Bigger still? What am I, a balloon?””

^ Ok, that there made me lawl. XD But actually I like the idea where the demon just outright asks their victim/target/client/interest/whatever’s preference is… Because I can see a demon doing that. Because in a sense I can see a demon inquiring such a thing as basically like… causing their human “friend” or “interest” to give them information that unwittingly enables the demon to take on a guise to better manipulate them.

But then again, on the other hand, it can be utilized to a very creepy or unsettling vibe that the demon just KNOWS what the MC’s ideal boy/girlfriend would look like, and thus takes on that form in an attempt for better leverage and manipulation when attempting to convince or coax something from the MC in one way or another.

I think the shape-shifting demon is a new approach, but I think I’d still rather not see gender flipping/choosing - I find it weakens the character.

Yeah. :slight_smile: I think my own writing style would work best with the first option. I tend to write tongue in cheek, light-hearted and the first demon appears like it would just fit better in my writing style.

The second is something I’d also love to do, as well but I’m not sure if my writing style is up for the sort of psychological horror of realising this person who will customise themselves just for you, who’ll repeat that your favourite things are theirs as well, who will automatically know what you like and will bring you all the sorts of gifts you love and take you to your favourite restaurant, without ever asking you what you think.

I don’t think it would work for my current project, I’ve a set protagonist who I don’t think would actually be creeped out properly by any of that. As a short game I think it would be amazing to highlight how disturbing that sort of relationship can be. If I wasn’t forcing myself to just work on the one project I’d definitely be writing up a short-story inspired by that. I think it could be really interesting if also done from both perspectives.

@CJW I love experimenting with gender and perception and those gender flips are one of the things I love about Choice games. I love how they play with my preconceptions, and they’ve actually strengthed some characters for me. I like seeing them both ways. It’s just an aspect I love, while at the same time I thought it was one I’d never work out how to do in a way that satisfied me.

I wanted at least one genderqueer character in my game. I wanted to do gender flips but for those choices to be on the character level, not on the player level.

One of the genderflip choices I’m offering is based on perception. I let the player choose whether a NPC is male or female or don’t know/care, as they would in any other choice game. It doesn’t actually change the character’s gender and it’ll be resolved storywise. That’s my non-magical experimentation.

With the demon, I guess I’m going to be asking in character for the player to choose, which I hope will be fun.

The pick-each-detail sounds tedious to do both writing and reading/playing. I think of all the damn features I labor over in Skyrim and the Sims just to be satisfied, let alone happy.

I’m sure I could be sold on it, but I’d put my mark under pre-described.

Then again, I don’t have the idea you have in your head in mine. Yet.

I’ll judge it when I see it :smiley:

I love adding as many options for the player as I can, but shy away from pick each featue. I think at some point it becomes a pain to click all those choices. And takes away from the game.

I think I could likely do pick each detail as amusing, but only if it’s the demon who’s specifically asking you to, and they would comment on every choice that you made, including “Purple eyes? Seriously? That’s going to clash horribly with my orange hair. Fine, fine, but be sure to buy me amethysts and violets to match them.”

My problem with pre-written descriptions is that I’m not that good at writing descriptions. My second is that I’d like them varied, and appealing to all sorts. And my third is that I find people tend to assume caucasian and I don’t particularly want to do that. However I also dislike being as blunt as actually mentioning race.

Hmm it’s also going to prove problematic when I get some character portraits drawn. I suppose I can do the demon in silhouette though, or make a joke about demons not showing up in pictures.

I think that this is a good idea overall, though you just have to be careful not to add too many options and stuff, so maybe a bit of a combination of both? I mean, maybe you could choose the eyes and the hair and the breast size or something but not much further because then, you’d have too many options added and it’ll just be quite lengthy to code, I imagine.

But pre-description or pick-a-feature is both fine for me. They’re both fun to the player, in any case.

My opinions, at least.

I have thought a lot about this topic, and based on what I feel is realistic and best for coding is to have specific characters that the MC can choose from with unique, non-changing personalities and gender preferences. On strictly appearance, I don’t care, because we all find different things appealing. I keep the physical description to a minimum and let players fill in the gaps. I give characters a personality and let the MC choose who they want to be with.

Your idea of a demon is intriguing, and I think it can be fun for an MC to pick the appearance and make the demon interact with the MC based on those choices (e.g. ""Purple eyes? Seriously? That’s going to clash…). But the demo’s personality, be it aggressive, subservient, mischievous, etc. should not alter but be built in to the unique character of that NPC.

Here to wreck the party! I don’t have great visualization skills, so no matter what physical characteristics you let me choose, it’s going to be how you write them-- who the character is-- that paints a picture in my head. This also means that if you want me to have any idea that they’re physically attractive, you’re going to have to mention that bluntly and repeatedly. Tell, not show. Or provide pictures, I guess.

I mean, you’re not writing this for ME in particular, of course and I don’t think you should. But there’s probably not going to be a consensus…

I do love the idea of the demon actually asking the protagonist and responding to more extreme choices with snark. That seems like character, not wish-fulfillment.

@Chrysoula Not a wreck at all, in fact just what I was hoping for.

So what traits do you find attractive?

For writing descriptions I fell back on describing most of my characters as attractive. Not what was specifically attractive about them, just handsome/beautiful etc and it gets a bit meaningless when everyone’s described that way.


I liked how you did things in ZE.

I think if I was doing a choose a personality it would be its own game. It would be a game specifically about filling in a dating agency form (or something) and then being sent on a date with your ideal match. It would most likely be a short-story style of game, instead of an epic or a novel. That way I think it could focus better on the themes.

I don’t think I would be happy writing it for a longer game, since I’d be hoping to supply a wide range of personality types in the various NPCs, doing lots of repeat work for a single character seems a bit pointless and more work than result.

Oh, let’s see. (I have to go over NPCs I’ve found attractive in games.) Most of them at least have portraits, except in tabletop RPGs.

I like self-awareness. And extreme competence. Not at everything, but, you know, super-competent somewhere. (And I don’t think I’m unusual in this; I think this is why even highly skilled M:tG players get groupies.)

The characters I’ve liked in games have usually had a dark backstory and been kind of gruff, cynical or even assholes because of this. I think this is appealing not because HEY BAD BOY but because those things are, in fiction, often a marker for actual personality and character development. I don’t like it when as soon as the NPC has been ‘romanced’, he drops whatever made him interesting and becomes a cooing dove anytime I interact with him. Falling in love (or whatever) should add to who a character is, not subtract what made him interesting.

Sounds cool, but I think I’d feel like it was too… Artificial to decide how they look. But it might work, I guess.
Wouldn’t it be better to have several possible love interests, each with different appearances?