I'm Sorry, But I Think We Should See Other People - ROs You Hate

That’s how Darcy is whether you’re in a relationship or not. Just… really not a good person. And you’re forced to be friends with them for plot reasons even though it makes no sense at all that you ever would be unless you are just as awful of a person.

? Where is the option not to be friends with them? I never chose to, the game just declared that I am. That’s what I hated so much about that game; it seemed like no matter how much you attempt to drive home that you hate Darcy, the game goes “nevertheless you somehow became friends.”

That is what I’m talking about, though I don’t know how early that is since that was more than half my playthrough before I was just done with that game.

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You’re not forced to be friends with them. You ARE forced to work with them, which is a different thing.

Oh, that, yeah, my bad.

I think he meant as in the early early game, where you’re reliving past memories and Darcy basically just forces themselves on you whether you like it or not, and the game just forces you to go along with it.

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In what way are they “abusive”, though?

Yes, they are antagonising at times, but they also soften with time (alreayd in the first chapter they can be worried about MC and not indifferent) and they never ever do anything to harm MC, physically or in other ways.

EDIT: also, they are not from a CS game so it’s out of topic to be discussed here.

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It was interesting reading your thoughts. What seems clear is that whether the characters read as female or male, seems to depend on what lenses you use to look at those characters. If you’ve read a lot of books or consumed other kinds of media where particular kinds of characters tend to be male, I can understand that it can often feels more natural to look at characters who are like them through those kinds of lenses, just like if you’d read or watched stories where the same kind of characters tended to be female, it would be more natural to look at them through those other kinds of lenses

I’m too old to have read the YA books you’ve mentioned, which means that I was, until you mentioned this, unaware of many of the tropes being used in those YA books being reused in TWC. However, I have read enough books, seen enough films and “consumed” enough stories in other kinds of media to be aware of other tropes that are commonly used for male and female characters.

So for M, I can see that a lot of their behavior correspond to the “Bad boy"archetype” and tropes associated with and that this has been an, although not quite “always male” kind of character, then at least a “usually male” or “almost always male” kind of character. So in that sense, I can see that they can read as male for plenty of readers/players even they’re set as female. However, outside of the YA context, you mentioned, I don’t get the sense that the other ROs are mainly based on a “usually male” kind of character, the way M is.

The way A is written, they seem to share many aspects with both the Ice queen/king kind of character and (I think) the(particulary popular in anime and manga) tsundere kind of character. And, as far as I know, both those kinds of characters were both originally " always female" or “nearly always female” kind of characters. There are also aspects of the A character that are more typical of male characters, like A being sort of the “Team dad”, but to me this just seem to mean that the A character is neither a (stereo)typical male nor a (stereo)typical female character.

N is a character that kind of takes on the role as a “Team mom” and the “mum friend” and also takes on the role as the “face” of Team Bravo by being the negotiator, diplomat and “social specialist”. They also seem to be the one out of the four who are the most inclined to compassionate and/or peaceful solutions to conflicts and problems in general. This combination of characteristics is much more commonly found in female characters than in male characters, at least in the stories I’ve read or watched, and particularly with stories that focuses on teams. So the female N, Nat, certainly didn’t feel “off” to me, despite N originally being created as a male character, my biggest problem with her, if anything, was that she seemed to much like a “typical” female character/woman, since I tend to prefer female ROs that are at least somewhat gender-nonconforming.

However, I agree that F doesn’t come off as either particularly typical male or female. I do also suspect that whether a character comes off as female or male also has a lot to do with your frame of reference

Anyway, for me, it’s no problem if any of the ROs have characteristics that are more often found in male characters, even when I choose the RO in question to be female. I think part of the reason why many people expect characters with certain characteristics to have a particular gender, whether that gender is female or male, is because most or even all the characters with those kind of characteristics that they’ve read about, watched etc have been male or female. And I for one, really appreciate it when I “run into” female and male characters that are untypical and use tropes that are most commonly used for characters of the opposite gender. I’d like to see more female characters that are “bad girls”, sexually upfront and the strong and silent types, like Morgan and more male characters that are “the heart”, like N is when they are Nat. And making more male and female characters that are more untypical will in turn normalise making more of the kinds of characters that have usually been always or almost always male or always or almost always female more gender neutral, which is a good thing, I think and may in the long run lead to most, if not necessarily all, people seeing nothing strange about a character with certain characteristics being female instead of male or male instead of female. For me, it’s usually quite easy to accept a character as male or female as long as that’s the way they are assigned by the writer or you writer lets me assign them that particular gender in story. But then again, maybe part of the reason is that I want there to more untypical and GNC female characters and, for that matter, male characters, so figuring out if the gender the author has assigned to an RO is “natural” or not is rarely, if ever, an issue for me.

Me preferring also part of the reason why I in practice, if not necessarily in principle, tend to prefer gender selectable ROs to gender-locked ones. Because although I also have read/played COGs and HGs with good gender-nonconforming female ROs, in my experience, there are significantly more COGs and HGs that include gender selectable where at least a signifcant portion of those ROs come off as gender-nonconforming when they’re female. And judging from the WIPs that I have tried and looked into, there seem to be a significantly stronger tendency for the WIPs with gender locked ROs to have ROs with characteristics that, at least to a large extent, conform to characteristics and tropes that are typical for fictional characters of their particular versus being gender-nonconforming, versus WIPs with gender-selectable ROs, where ROs that come off as at least somewhat gender-nonconforming seem significantly more commonplace.

I hope I didn’t come off as trying to invalidate your line of reasoning. Obviously we look at this from different perspectives, but that doesn’t make your perspective any less valid than mine. But I wanted to bring in a different perspective, from one who does not feel that the members of the team feel “off” as female characters and just show how it looks like through my particular lenses and my particular frame of reference, the way you’ve showed us what it looks like through your particular lenses and particular frame of reference.

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I have noticed that the responses mostly fall into
A) all of Wayhaven’s choices across the board
B) Jun/ko
C) the asshole routes
The first I found ok(I like the variety), the second is compelling to me(though it does go quite dark), and the third wouldn’t be an option if the author didn’t think people would go for it.

So, I have some questions tied to each:
A) why does Wayhaven fumble their romantic leads so much?
B) would there be any way to make Jun/ko easier to swallow(no, not that way) while mostly keeping their characterization?
C) what leads to the asshole/villain routes fumbling their attempt and how can they be made more appealing?

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Regarding villain routes - there’s no way you can make everyone appeal to everyone (that’s why you have multiple ROs in the first place), so as long as the characters are well-written, I’m not sure there’s any point in doing else.

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I think for me the reason was the slowness. Anything that resembles the development gets dragged out so, so damn slowly, it feels like dragging a cat by tail. Romantic development (damn A, damn M), character development (wow, thanks for resetting to your previous state, Mason, why the hell am I stuck with you) and it feels forced in other aspects too - like, for example, the crew complaining about MC who doesn’t like their deadbeat mom.

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A. My take on why the Wayhaven ROs miss is primarily because of the way they’re introduced (i.e., shoved into a murder investigation right on top of the detective who’s trying to work it, which happens in real life between law enforcement agencies, I know, but it’s no less annoying to have it happen), the way they’re constantly spoken about in the narrative (you can not go one paragraph without having the story talk about how head-turningly sexy they all are, it’s a little ridiculous - especially since you’re playing from the detective’s point of view for most of the story, and if your detective doesn’t like them as far as they can throw them, it makes no sense for them to be noticing how totally hot they are all the time, since it wouldn’t matter to them in the first place), and the way they casually disrespect the detective’s work without even missing a beat, all this while putting on airs of totally being the detective’s friend and wanting them to be included in the team. Sorry, but if you’re gonna treat me like crap every time I so much as breathe, then I don’t really want to be part of that team. And yeah, everybody can and will argue that romancing them makes them treat the detective not as crappy, but the fact that I have to get in their pants in order to get some friggin’ respect thrown my way only makes me more certain that I’m not interested.

B. I feel like the overall consensus on Jun/ko is to just remove the whole “dragging you around by a leash and sexually mistreating you” part of their narrative, entirely. People seem to largely agree that this incident took it way too far, and their character massively suffered for it. Me, I never made it that far in the series, so I can only say what I’ve seen being said, here.

C. Done right, asshole characters can be some of the most inspiring, but it’s a tricky balancing act between them being an asshole and, you know, occasionally acting like they have a heart somewhere in the cold, dead vaccuum of their chest.

An example of a good asshole character, to me, is one of my own: Kendrick of Ithos, my OC from Heroes of Myth, had a sour attitude at best and was downright foul-tempered at worst, oftentimes snapping at people who considered themselves his friends and otherwise trying his damnedest to avoid his many, many fans and rivals, but this was a result of him being dealt a hand of cards that he wanted no part of but had no choice but to play in order to keep his head attached to his shoulders. Three years of keeping up an act that makes him sick to his stomach has really taken a toll on his demeanor, and by the climax of the story, he’s practically begging for the chance to expose the truth, come what may, so that he can actually get some sleep at night.

Yet, even in spite of this, Kendrick throws himself into the fray to protect others without a moment’s hesitation, deception or not, because while he may be disgusted at having to be a liar, he never once stopped being a fighter, and innocent lives don’t deserve to be lost on account of his cynicism. Sure, the fact that he takes up a sword instead of using the magic everybody thinks he has (but he really doesn’t) confuses people from time to time, but nobody can argue that he gets results, and at the end of the day, he shed his own blood to protect others, so nobody’s gonna complain, either.

Once he succeeds at exposing the truth like he wants, the weight lifts off his shoulders, and from that point on, even as people spit at his feet for the deception he played a hand in, he marches with his head held high to face whatever comes fearlessly, and with a song in his heart, and at the end of the story, he’s much more at peace and easygoing around others.

That’s what a good balance of “asshole” and “not asshole” looks like, to me: Yeah, the guy’s a prick, but it’s not for no reason, and that doesn’t stop him from doing the right thing when called upon. You don’t have to like him, but he at least is worthy of respect.

You don’t… tend to see that much, with how a lot of authors write asshole characters. Where Kendrick’s grumpiness is readily explained and he actively works to improve his situation and knows when to rein it in for the sake of others, many asshole characters in other stories are simply assholes for the sake of being assholes, or as a poor attempt to shoehorn the “tsundere” archetype into the romance lineup, or you have to dig so hard for any small scrap of why they behave the way that they do that you may as well write a book called Indiana Jones and the Search for Why You Gotta Be Such a Bitch, or they’re like Jun/ko and are one step from mass-murdering psychopaths, but with none of the backstory to explain it that Jun/ko has.

Again: All my take. I don’t claim to speak for the majority, here.

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At least in my experience, the villain routes tend to be “ignore evil because sexy,” which kinda… doesn’t work for me. But I’m sure in some cases it’s just the way I played my MC. Maybe if my MC was a bit more evil the villain romance route would make more sense. But at that point, if they’re on your side, is it really a villain romance route?

I was actually thinking of the various games in which you get to choose whether your MC is good or evil. The evil romance routes are probably designed for evil MCs. Not that you have to be evil, but that was probably the intent.

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That would be a thing, wouldn’t it? Have a story where you’re expected to be the good guy and romance the good guys, but if you choose to romance the villain, you can sidestep into a parallel plotline where you become one of the bad guys with your new villainous bed buddy.

Obviously, for sanity and length of code reasons, nobody is ever going to do that, and there would be plenty enough people who would take issue with only being allowed to be evil if in a romance that the author would have no choice but to do even MORE coding, but it would be a cool twist.

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As someone who plays SoH mainly for the Jun/ko ‘romance’ I might be biased, but I feel like the game was written mainly for people like me who liked having the dark sexual tension in the past, and then ended up dragging the rest of the (probably the majority) players along for the ride in the fourth book. And to keep the people who wouldn’t willingly dive back into and trying to put things ‘right’ with Jun/ko and their past, the leash/magic stuff was added to force people to go along with it against their will, making things a lot worse than they had needed to, and thus making many of them drop the series entirely (or at least pretend book four has never happened).

As a writer, I don’t know how I would have fixed it. It is the perils of having a long-running series, the more characters and players develop their own personalities, the greater the risk of having the writer’s plot/vision/direction diverge from the readers. While some things can be warned up front (like the fish scene, your mc will be crude, brutal and not too bright at times) enabling people to nope out of the demo, things like this come into play only after a book or two.

I think the only way this could have somewhat been handled is not by changing Jun/ko, but by having a mostly parallel path through book two, with a full divergence at the orphanage scene somewhere. The alternative path would be the Ronin taking the other side and not joining with ‘Fake Jun’ in the election, with many similar scenes, but with uncovering the mystery of the new allies, ending in the same descent into hell. Much of the same information could be seeded in that path, and the story would be a similar tale of uncovering past trauma and coming to terms with new responsibilities. You’d be much more involved in the current plot, with the past being more of added spice to explain why the Ronin are the way they are. In essence you’d have a split for the players who wanted back to fix/relive/escape to the past, and other players who wants to keep hold of the new dignity they have gained. Of course this would have meant maybe +300 000 words so…

I’ll probably run into similar issues with Fallen Hero (in fact I already have so, which is why book two is so bloody long and had to be split into two).

It’s not an easy choice as a writer.

As an afterthought, I wonder if this is why Wayhaven is so bloody slowburn, to avoid having to deal with any major divergences in later books. Just a simple mystery with added romance in each book, nothing complicated or deep that needs major variations apart from what RO you have. A smarter way to build a long series (most have a fixed status quo, just look at X-files), but also something that can lose readers that actually wants things to change.

And if you only write one-offs, the risk is that people see the RO’s as shallow and only there because they have to since there’s no time to go deep if you have more than one…

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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I think that particular issue plagues a great many of the one-off CoGs on offer. It seems like rushed or half-baked characterization due to the story being short and a one time deal is the norm for many of the stories, and then stories like Jolly Good or Empyrean or Heroes of Myth come around with some actually decently written cast and make you do a massive double-take because you’d stopped thinking it was possible.

I’ve honestly stopped keeping track of how many CoGs have been written now with romance angles I just didn’t even bother with, and can count on one hand the ones where I was interested enough to engage. I feel like the one-off stories should be seen as acceptable grounds for an author to decide, “hey, maybe I really don’t want to have romance stuff in this story, you know?”, but I know mine is something of an unpopular opinion on that matter.

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On Wayhaven--this is long

I think it’s a combination of things others mentioned above.

First, like @vera said, development is needlessly dragged out, mainly for the A & M paths. Part of it is to cater to the angst lovers, I know, but the slowness makes no sense to others without it being forced. M is being turned into a mini-me of A, with the only differences being that A knows they’re in love with the MC and refuse to touch them, whereas M is clueless horndog and, despite being pitched as the most observant person in the world where the MC is concerned (and M even says this at the end of b2 if Sanja dies and the MC tries to pretend they’re okay with it) is too frigging stupid to realize that the whole “it’s just sex” thing isn’t just about sex anymore. It’s beginning to make M look like a complete and utter dumbass, and already makes A look like someone who is intentionally giving mixed signals to the MC no matter how much it hurts them.

Problem #2: All four LIs are overly extreme versions of tropes–N’s the sensitive one, F’s the fun one, M’s the horny asshole, and A is the distant, stoic one who is full of emotion but refuses to show any of it till they explode. And while I don’t expect the foundations of their personalities to change, I expect there to be some changes to the ROs behavior and thought processes after they’ve been around their supposed soulmate for going on six or seven months now. Yet, A still pulls away constantly and M may realize there’s something “different” about the way they are with the MC but is too stupid to do the math on what that is. Or to even start doing the math on what that is. So with A and M you get brief moments where they pull their heads out of their asses, but quickly take ten steps backwards to doing the same crap as before. With F & N, at least, there is apparent progress in b2 and b3, respectively.

The above problem is exacerbated by the fact that the MC is forced into accepting A and M’s behavior and, furthermore, forced into interpreting such behavior in a way favorable to A and M. That goes double for Rebecca. Your MC hate their mom? Well, be prepared to have guilt heaped upon your MC because they notice Rebecca is all teary-eyed and sad looking, then UB piles on with their tense looks and questioning about how well you’re getting along with R and looking all sad or defending her if you don’t.

In the b3 demo, there is an opportunity to pull away from A before they do it, and that’s great, but there needs to be more of that. And the chance to tell A off for the mixed signals. Ditto for M–the MC can get mad at them for telling a random stranger that the MC is a sex toy for them (or wannabe sex toy) but then the MC is forced to get over it by the end of the demo. Mr/Ms Observant apologizes but has no clue why it upset the MC and A (if the MC walks away first) reaches out for the MC and the reader gets told about it… not the MC. If these were one-off occurrences, then fine, I can see letting it slide, but this is repeated behavior that borders on emotional abuse of the MC and there should be an opportunity to point this out to both of them (there’s one with A where the MC says A can’t keep doing this… and then A does it again…).

The result is an extremely unequal balance of power and a complete lack of agency for the MC because even when they’re pissed they’re forced to feel fluttery and heart beating faster crap. And that ends up negating the MC’s true feelings about anything. It’s like saying: sure, the MC is mad but they’re still gonna worship at the alter of the RO because… soulmates. Worse, there can be no real communication or growth because it has been decided that two of the four “relationships” can’t happen until much later in the series. Because screw making sense, angst is king. If you don’t want angst, then you’re stuck with what amounts to a child in an adult’s body or a romance that makes saccharine seem less sickeningly sweet in comparison.

Problem #3 is something @Zyrios hit on. In b1, UB was complete and utter shit to the MC. N was the only one with enough decency to even want to do the right thing and fill in the MC, but because N is a spineless fop and obeys Master A’s every wish, the MC got kept in the dark and a child was murdered because of it. Was this ever really discussed? No. Was there an apology for treating the MC like crap? Nope. The MC was expected to accept a team of liars as partners and move on. Forget about the dead kid. Forget about being tortured for hours by a psycho vampire, something that could’ve been avoided if R hadn’t been a controlling bitch who cared more about hiding the truth than her kid’s safety. Two of my MCs actually trust UB despite this, because it has been built, but they trust Rebecca as far as they can throw a two-ton ball, and if it pertains to something they thing Rebecca would disagree on, they’d keep it from UB in a heartbeat because they know A would betray them for R. My other two… don’t really trust any of them still, mainly because of the events of b1 and they have yet to see reason not to think UB would do the same shit again to them (for good reason, because if R ordered it, they’d hide crap from the MC again).

I might buy this if Sera wasn’t constantly adding new variables for the fun of it. Since it’s pitched as a romance story, I think it would make more sense to give more variation in the romances themselves and stop worrying about adding every Tom, Dick, and Harry third-tier NPC for the variation. I’d trade Tapeesa vs Vieno, whether Falk wants to bang the MC, and what name UA refers to the MC as for a chance to get A and M’s romances moving faster, because I’m playing this game for the romances, not minor character bullshit (that said, I love UA, loved Falk, and think Tapeesa and Vieno are adorable, but would still rather have more variation in how the romances go and when they happen instead).

And, if it was about keeping major divergences out of later books, then why not allow various entry points for growth? Example: if the MC gets upset at M in b3 over the bakery scene, then hash it out. Or at least get M started on the path where they are beginning to get it (“We may have said it was just sex, but the MC is mad… and I can tell they feel something for me… and I feel this weird thing that may be indigestion or love. And I didn’t eat anything, so…”).

Yes, I’m intentionally oversimplifying, but my point is that certain behavior/comments/actions from the MC should cause some sort of understanding or growth in the ROs to move things along faster. In the aforementioned scene, whether or not your MC gets upset really has no effect on the story–if the MC does not get upset, then M still recognizes something about the situation bothered them. So getting upset really has no purpose other than dialog changes, when it could’ve been used for a major story fork because, really, it’s a major moment for some MCs. It should be treated as such instead of just brushing it over and moving on. I think it just goes to show that the romances won’t be allowed to progress until the author says so and no choice is going to help that along.

Hell, if it’s too much, then give one of these per book–if the player’s MC picks certain choices, it dominoes into things happening instead of one step forward, three steps back. She’s already doing this with F and N by offering the opportunity to start a relationship or not, so it wouldn’t be that hard to do for the two “slowburns” either. It’s just a matter of wanting to or not, and I think it’s a definite not because that’s what she’s decided for those two and isn’t going to change even if it makes all involved characters behave like angsty teens with no communication skills and the ROs behaving as though they couldn’t care less if they hurt the MC in the process.

How to make J a bit more palatable...

Either remove the enslavement of the MC entirely (by giving an alternate path to the end) or give options for the MC to make it clear they absolutely hate Jun/ko and would kill them if they could. I mean, honestly, the whole enslavement thing pissed me off to the point I could’ve smashed my computer into tiny little pieces, but the fact that, no matter what options my MC chose, they were forced to feel empathy and care for the monster that enslaved them made it a billion times worse.

Much like I talked about above, with Wayhaven, there was no player agency. Your MC couldn’t decide how they felt, not really, because no matter what, it was played off as, “hahaha! That Jun/ko is such a cad and I can’t help but love them!” Fuck that noise. My MC wanted to gut that bastard and wear his entrails around her neck. There was no sympathy for him at all, not from her and not from me.

It could have been written in a way that made J more sympathetic, but the combination of forced slavery and forced love and sympathy for that piece of shit ruined any chance that I or my MC would feel anything toward him but raw hatred. Hell, even if it had been written in a way where the MC felt they had no choice but to work with J, it might have worked as long as the MC could decide how to feel instead of having feelings forced on them.

Before anyone defends it (I’ve seen this before), I get that the MC used to love J, and that’s fine. Show how things used to be… show the MC’s feelings then but don’t tell me how the MC feels now. Leave that to my character to figure out. Give the MC the past–then let them decide who they are now. I mean, this is essentially what @malinryden is doing with Fallen Hero–you can’t change your MC’s past but you sure as hell can affect their present and future.

I also have to add that having Tosh try to stand up for the MC with J, even if it had ended with him getting his ass kicked, might have also helped. Because after b4, I hate Toshio for leaving the MC as J’s slave and not noticing that the MC was miserable. Spineless bastard. B4 pretty much ruined everything for me, which is why I’m done with it.

More blabbering...

As someone else said, you can’t appeal to everyone, so all I can give is what would appeal to me. First, assholes and villains are separate categories, so…

For assholes, the biggest thing for me as a reader is to make them assholes for a reason. One reason I keep reading the M path in Wayhaven is because I get that they’re an asshole because of being in pain all the time due to their hypersenses. I’ve had migraines a good portion of my life, so I get how pain and harsh environments put you in a horrible mood and make you snap. Out of all four vampires, M is probably the most interesting to me because they have the potential to be a great character. No memories of their past, always in pain and overstimulated… it makes for a miserable life, but that can be mitigated if the MC romances them and that would make for a great story if it wasn’t being dragged out for five books before a relationship can happen, anyway. Take out M’s author-induced cluelessness and stupidity and M is actually a great “asshole” character (overdone in b1, but I can overlook that).

So I think M, if you get rid of the forced slow burn, is a great example on how to do an appealing asshole character–hostile to almost everyone but their romanced MC (and closest friends, but in a different way), willing to fight with the MC and pick on them (I love M’s snark, lol), protective of those they care for to the point of stomping over everything else, and kind of generally crabby. Seriously, if you take out the part of M being an idiot (“Durr… why do I care that I upset the MC??”), it’s a perfect romance. Not saccharine, not childish, and no forced drama. It’d just be M and MC dealing with shit and being together. Probably one of those instances where they’ve been living together for three months before they actually realize it.

Grey from SiNY is another pretty good example of an asshole romance that works, for similar reasons, but I don’t think the author plans to needlessly drag it out.

For villains… this one is hard. Before the whole Jun/ko thing, I would’ve said I’m a sucker for Stockholm syndrome romances, but I guess that was incorrect. And even if the author had implemented the changes I suggested above, I still would’ve hated J. Just… no.

It’s not that I don’t like villains, either. I did want to marry Darth Vader when I was a kid, though, and have always had a thing for the bad guys (in Shadow and Bone, I think Alina is an idiot and Kirigan is freaking awesome; in a Court of Thorns and Roses, I grew to hate Feyre and love Rhysand, but thought the author ruined him a few books in). Honestly, for a villain that works as a RO, I can’t think of one that exists in CoG. I had considered Manerkol from SSW, but I can’t stand him–he’s just a psycho.

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Stars Arisen is the only one I’ve played where romance is supposed to be optional and actually felt optional. (In fact, I don’t even know who the ROs are because I felt totally fine just opting out.) Plenty of them have optional romance, even HC games. But it almost never feels optional.

…Then there’s again Wayhaven, which apparently is not supposed to be optional but has almost none in the demo and doesn’t even slightly feel like a romance.

The game still ends when it’s established that you’ve decided to skip romance, just like with choosing a romance route in an HC game. It’s really the same format, just you’ve chosen to be single (or at least, be single over the options presented).

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If HC games are supposed to be romance-focused, then how’s that work if they are optional?

I had the same issue but was informed that the author considers the build-up and longing looks to be romance (for A and M, anyway; for F and N, it’s about the budding relationships). I’ve seen her say the romance is in the romantic “moments” in each book (which for two paths are few and far between so far).

I guess it’s all in how you define it–once I realized we wouldn’t be getting an actual romance from A and M until the end of the series, it made life easier. Or, at least I know what to expect now, even if I sometimes get infuriated over the MC’s lack of real choices in those paths.

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For me, it makes it easier because the two characters I like the least have the most infuriating and unsatisfying romantic routes, so I can safely disregard them as romance options in the first place.

There’s at least one HC author who’s written two published stories for HC now, where you still have an entire story to be told whether you engage in romance or not - Belle de Nuit becomes almost a Zorro-esque story with the added plot hooks of being the primary bodyguard of a prostitution establishment and having to pitch in here and there on odd jobs that are not your forte in order to keep the business from closing down, and Never Date Werewolves becomes a story about a single mom who’s got too many damn things on her plate to even consider dating anybody right now.

The intent is that you engage in romance, but the author put enough meat on the bones that the story doesn’t completely fall apart if you decide not to engage, instead.

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I kinda do feel Never Date Werewolves falls apart right at the end for another reason though: It teases that your ex is returning, but the game ends before that happens. The ending just felt incredibly sudden and unexpected. Maybe I wouldn’t think so if I weren’t waiting on an event that never occurs. I did like the game for the most part, but certainly not the ending.

I… actually don’t recall this option at all, but if I had it, I didn’t take it because I actually was trying to get back with my ex which apparently wasn’t an option

I wonder if the ex coming back was supposed to be a time limit on choosing a partner? Like, “if you don’t choose before your ex comes back, then… uh… something maybe bad probably.” That would make the ending less sudden. But it’s not really written in a manner that suggests that.

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I felt like the ending was a bit rushed, too. I feel like while you have the option to not do romance, the actual, intended ending(s) of the game were written with romance in mind, so the author just kinda went, “uh, crap” and threw something together for the players who chose not to bother.

I will say this, though: having the option to tell your ex to shove it when he teases at maybe deciding to show up for once was pretty fun. Nice try, jackass, but if you couldn’t be bothered for this many years, you don’t get to start pretending to give a crap now. My detective already has to deal with too much of that shit from Rebecca as it is.

It’s right at the end of the story, when you suddenly get a text from the guy, if I’m remembering correctly, and one of the options is basically to tell him to go to hell.

Yeah. I prefer nicer RO’s in general, never got the abrasive, domineering ones. They just seem like assholes. I know some people are into that kind of personality, but I never understood why. Same for the dark, moody ones. Admittedly you don’t see as many girl ROs with these traits so most of these RO’s aren’t aimed toward me but even without that as a factor, they’re just really obnoxious.

Honestly it depends on who’s definition of “model relationship” we’re talking here.

Idk anything about Wayhaven so I’m skipping A.

For B, I didn’t actually complete book 4 yet, partly because of an early scene with Junko that put me on edge. It’s a Yandere route so obviously things are going to be rather fucked up, it comes with the package. I can count the number of Yandere romances I’ve seen that don’t end terribly for one or both parties on one hand, though the ones that do fit that criterion are some of my favorite romances period. Usually, the main appeal of that niche sub-subgenre is figuring out why the RO in question is like that and helping them through it to make things actually work. Those are basically the only ones that work for me, the others are just too fucked up. I’m not sure if that’d work for Junko though. It might, but there’s some things (even before book 4 apparently went all the way off the deep end) that make her seem more like a domestic abuser than anything. Considering what a Yandere IS, that’s not surprising but it alienates a lot of people. It’s an odd needle to thread.

Honestly, I don’t think Junko would be such a problem for so many people on her own. The problem is with SOH itself. I love the series but it’s far, FAR too linear for a CYOA game. You don’t actually pick your adventure; your choices feel like window dressing. If Junko was like other villain ROs, where you’re free to want nothing to do with her on her own (even if you were definitely involved in the past), it’d be fine bc only people into villain ROs of that flavor would go for it. But there’s no choice. At this point rather than just being a character, Junko becomes the personification of railroading. A crazy ex who enslaves you and forces you to follow a linear plot. People who prefer the other ROs (and hopefully you can actually go with another of the ones being set up. Otherwise, what’s the point?) won’t like being forced to go for this one, and it’s the one with the most niche audience at that, but even people who do would like to be able to explore other routes. It’s like if Monika from Doki Doki wrote her own dating sim.

That brings us to D: how to make the villain RO’s more appealing. The trouble is that there’s three camps when it comes to this sort of thing. The first camp doesn’t like romancing villains as a matter of course. Some people in this camp may find more sympathetic villains attractive sometimes but by and large, they won’t really go for it.

The second camp is people who want to redeem the villains. A villain that pulls a face-turn because of the romance will please these people. Tragic villains, well-intentioned extremists, minions that are being manipulated or have been conditioned since childhood, right hands that serve their masters out of personal loyalty rather than any real interest in their schemes, brainwashed minions, or villains that are just plain fun and charismatic and not too irredeemably evil (unless you’re one of those types willing to forgive murder because of character development, I’m sure not). Those villains tend to work best for that sort of thing, though some may fawn all over truly vile villains and try to act like they’re one of these types because they’re hot also exist.

Then there’s the third camp who don’t want any kind of redemption. They find the villain sexy BECAUSE they’re evil and changing them would spoil that. There’s a lot of people who like the domineering, demeaning ones in this camp. I can’t really elaborate because honestly, I don’t understand the appeal.

The issue is that while the first camp is usually fine so long as they don’t need to romance the villain (unless attraction is implied regardless), the latter two are mutually exclusive 9 times out of 10. It’s incredibly difficult for one villainous RO to fit both molds. You’d need two separate arcs. Far easier would be two separate villain ROs. One with a redemption arc, and one without. How easy this is depends on whether you had any candidates you could use for another route, or if you have any ideas for a new one.

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