Hypothetical: filling every slot of the Hero's Journey

We’re all familiar with the game construct by which you are the MC and you can fill the “slot” of love interest with one out of several “romantic options”. The level at which this affects the game’s main plot varies from game to game. But here’s the thing: I think there’s an interest in games which allow the player to control the level of relationship with NPCs other than the designated love interest. And I think I’m not the only one who feels that need.

I know the feeling of being “boxed into” a romance I don’t want and I know the feeling of wanting to get to know NPCs better, without committing to romancing them. “Why can’t I be character XYZ’s BFF?” I scream into the void. The void does not answer, since it have no interest in game dev.

But like a good little writer, I have given some time, thought and study to the classic formula of the Hero’s Journey. While it’s essentially a template for plot progression, it also gives some important insights into several classic supporting character roles. Most of interest to me at the moment: hero, nemesis, mentor, companion/foil, and love interest.

It occurred to me that there are three vital roles in this structure that are being just a little neglected. What would it be like, I wonder, to play an MC going through a hero’s journey, but get to choose my own nemesis, mentor, or even foil? Okay, maybe choosing your own villain would derail the plot thread a little. Or a lot. But the idea of being given a choice of a mentor or best friend character… I feel like that has a lot of potential.

Thoughts?

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So, what you’re saying is removing the “sexual interest” option present at the beginning of most games with romance, and just sorta let relationships play out like the player feels?

No? There’s no contradiction between having a mentor or best friend and having a love interest. The MC can be involved in more than one relationship – and in fact, usually is. I just suggest that it’s possible to add an element of choice to platonic relationships, that allows players to focus on the NPCs that interest them most.

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I for one would enjoy some friendship with characters too, and we rarely do see any kind of mentor. Also, personally, I do find a lot of romances tacked on afterwards, as opposed to organically growing from the story. Plus, some people have no interest in romance, yet it is forced on them in a few games (rare, though, for which I suspect they might be glad).

So, I’d love to see more along these lines you suggest get used, to be sure. :blush:

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You can totally pick your Mentor in Lost Heir along with your Love interest. Just saying.

Being able to choose those 3 seems a bit too much work for the author. Choosing which one you want to focus on? Sure. Choosing which character to fill the role? I’m not sure.

It’s a bit like Metahuman Inc.
That game allows you to choose your R&D Director from 3 different options, and AFAIK, only one has the most significant uniqueness. Other two are pretty similar in their dialogues and interactions, aside from flavor texts.

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so like remove an npc…you don’t like from the story ?

Good thing I asked for clarification. Fair warning, about to ask for more clarification XD. I assume, by in your response, you mean seeing more character development and relationship building for NPC’s you AREN’T having coitus with? (Note, I am not making fun of you or anything, I am legit just asking for clarification, for a better understanding for me.

I’m not entirely sure what you’re suggesting.

Firstly, a foil isn’t necessarily a character role in the Hero’s Journey, that’s simply a literary device.
Secondly, a foil only works when you have a contrasting characters who highlight something in each other, and it’s hard to choose that if you allow your players choose their responses and actions, which could potentially change in such a way that you could no longer call them foils.
Further, foils will come up naturally within the cast of characters, so I don’t really see a point in choosing one.

Unless, of course, you tied it with stats. Instead out and out choosing a foil, your stats assign you one based upon your personallity stats.
That said, that could cause more trouble than it worth because then you have to account for all the possible foils.

Lastly—and I probably should have asked this first—what exactly will choosing your foil really do for gameplay?

Choosing a mentor can have lots of effects in game. I can see them altering your stats by literally mentoring you in whatever skill you choose.
However, for players to get significantly attached to their mentors, you would need lots of screentime, or else you may as well just be utilizing an off-screen tutor.

Killing off a mentor about a third of the way through a story, while also not really part of the hero’s journey, is used as a way of forcing the hero to come into their own, but is generally most effective if you are actually emotionally attached to them, or else the death merely seems hollow.

This, again, will run into the problem as the foil, because there would ideally be mentors for each skill, and even if you have a single mentor for multiple skills, you still run into the issue of there being a lot of characters and branches to account for.

I imagins that the reason something like that hasn’t really been done is because of the amount of time required to make all these possible branches and have them be meaningful.
It also seems like it would potentially lock people out of getting to know certain characters depending on their choices, which a lot of players activelg hate.

But if you change it so that all the players are interactable mentors and such…really that changes the idea in the first place, because then your mentor/student bond isn’t quite so unique among the cast.

It’s just…a lot of work and effort that a single person ir a small group of people really won’t have the time to do, as you must remember that most writers on here do it as a hobby than as a career.