Hiding Relationship Stats

It dawned on me recently that relationship stats can, like other things, be made invisible. The question is, would this work well in a game?

I have a sci-fi game in the works but I don’t have enough content to provide some kind of open beta to discuss this issue. I trust this is the right place for that.

So far, there are 8 main characters in the plot and the player can form a relationship with each of them. While designing the stats page, I chose to do text-based relationship stats that would be unique for all the characters. It seemed like a nice change from the percentages I’ve grown used to seeing.

Near the beginning of the game, there is a possible romantic interaction between the player and an NPC. The part that is ambiguous is the NPC’s response. Now, I think the scene works because it creates tension between the player and the NPC (which can be addressed later). However, all one would have to do is just run along to see the text stats and they would find it either improved or worsened.

That, for me, defeats the purpose of that little scene. For example, whenever an NPC says they don’t know what to feel for the player, said player can just go to the stats page and the answer would be presented there. It’s an immersion breaker when this is the case.

I’m hoping to start a conversation about whether relationship stats (text based, percentage or integer form) should be made invisible for greater immersion.

Just to be clear, if these stats are hidden I don’t plan to intentionally confuse the player. Rather to provide more realistic interactions that aren’t so black and white.


Here’s how I’m working on that problem. I have a choice in the stats page to “Hide relationship stats” and “show relationship stats,” so I can let the player decide if they want that ambiguity, or if they would rather have the information.


How would you code that in?

I think it depends on how stat-heavy your story is. I did text ones in Toaster and my new story because I like them better than the numerical variety, and balancing relationships with party members would be a big deal that people should be informed about. But I made them invisible in Parenting for NPCs like your sister or the best friend because it was supposed to be the kind of story where people didn’t spend as much time thinking about the crunch.


If you have a vision for true immersion, then do follow your gut to not show the stat. But it’s also not less important to set a deal with the player, “you won’t get to see the bar, but doing X will always give you progression for relationship.” Heck, this is even doable without any tracking stat whatsoever.

This requires finesse to pull off well, though. Through writing itself, player should be able to tell if an NPC has an improved relationship with them or not. It might be better to start with an easier project and just put up the tracking stat, regardless it’s immersion breaking or not.


I feel like if you’re going for immersion but DO still wish to show stats, text based would be the best way to do it. That way you can write it from either your point of view (as the author) or the MC’s point of view. The actual stat would be hidden by a blurb of text that doesn’t immediately say “relationship with xyz has increased”. You could also say stuff about xyz not liking an action the player does, etc. Anathema does this amazingly well in their WIP The Golden Rose, for example. Hope this helps :slight_smile:


Just set a variable like *create show_stats false

Then, ask the player “Do you want to see relationship stats?” If they say “yes,” then set show_stats true.

Then, in the stats file, just put any stats you want to toggle on and off under an *if.

*if show_stats


This is giving me some serious KotOR 2 vibes from the way it is described. I can see it now…

Influence Gained: Kreia
Influence Lost: Kreia

Man, was she ever hard to please!


To be fair, if I remember right part of her deal was “stop basing your actions on who will approve of them”. Which is fairly 4th wall piercing.


I think that if you think your story is best served through hidden relationship stats, you should feel free to hide them. Some players won’t like this, but some will. I personally find being able to see my stats grow (whether they’re skills or goals or relationships) to be one of the most rewarding parts of playing choice-based games (both IF and RPGs). I check relationship stats a lot.

Dragon Age: Origins used an approval rating system for companions that the player could view at any time as a bar on that character’s screen, but the newest game in the series, Dragon Age: Inquisition decided to do away the bar entirely. You could then only for sure tell where you stood with them depending on if you got their personal quests or romance scenes, or special scenes if your approval was particularly low enough. It’s a nice balance because it builds the immersion while also letting the player know where they stand with that character (although it is important to note that Dragon Age immediately lets players know when approval rating changes which you could probably consider to be immersion breaking).

I’m with @Gower. A good solution would be to let the players decide what’s immersion breaking for them and have a show/hide relationship stats toggle they can set at the beginning of the game.


XoR doesn’t show relationship stat numbers. You have to gauge from the story how people are feeling about you. Sometimes I want relationships to be more complicated than a single percentage bar can allow; often, to be frank, I want them to be less complicated, with only a handful of meaningful states rather than a continuum. With the stats hidden, I have that freedom; and I don’t think anyone’s complained yet that they couldn’t see numbers for how well people liked them.

I’ve enjoyed plenty of stories that use relationship stats, so don’t think there’s one best way to do this.