Player-Driven Protagonist Character Arcs

I haven’t seen any threads discussing this type of topic, but definitely link me if I ended up missing something.

I’ve been thinking about the possibility of adding potential character arcs for the protagonist of my game that are related to your character’s emotions/feelings about things, as well as their personality. For example, if your character starts off as shy but they slowly become more confident through the story, that’s something I’d like to be acknowledged by the characters. Another example would be your character having a certain opinion but later (either slowly or after a shocking event) change their opinion and start making different decisions from that changed opinion.

This is possible in a lot of Choice games, but it tends to be done within one’s own imagination rather than having an actual acknowledgement of it happening or have happened in the story itself. It’s something that’s been missing for me, so I really want to include something along these lines.

I’m curious about others’ thoughts on what they think about this idea (from both a reader’s perspective and a writer’s), as well as how one might implement something in this vein that’s more than just a one-time comment, but also doesn’t add an extreme amount of work. Also, if anyone can think of potential pitfalls of doing this or things you think I should watch out for, I would appreciate any comments on that as well!

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If you add chapter checkpoints to your game, you’ll have a built-in system with a record of who the character was e.g. at the end of Ch 1 or Ch 3, and could then have some stat checks in the final chapter to track how if at all they’ve changed over the course of the game, and write some indications of that into the denouement.

I 've not really used that to its full potential in my current game, but I plan to with the sequels!

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I’m also thinking of adding something like this into my game, but for the other characters instead.

Right now, I’m trying to make certain character interactions that result in a relationship decrease with someone add points to a “character arc variable” (and vice versa). My plan is that on certain points, where that character makes a major decision, the variable is checked to see if you’ve influenced them enough for them to make a different (but not necessarily better) decision.

Since they’re “character arcs”, I think it would make sense if it came into play during key moments where that stat matters, like when a previously shy character delivers a speech.

If you have an outline, I suggest going through it and try to identify the scenes for each stat where there could be a potential significant stat change.

The only pitfall I can think of (aside from extra work) is that some people might see it as the “correct” way to play, so it shouldn’t be too impactful unless it’s a main plot point.

Oh, and remember, negative character arcs exist too!

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this is a really smart way to make the player character really feel like an actual character in their own right rather than just a steering wheel for the plot, but i imagine implementing it would be a lot of variable editing in the later stages. the first time a shy MC starts to show more bite i imagine would be easy enough, but later on i feel like you’d have to start adding things like *if (reacted in a specific way for choice 36) (character reacts in a specific way to MC’s reaction for choice 67) to make it an ongoing thing to acknowledge it as a gradual development. however. it Is a really lovely way to add life to an IF, and it certainly would be possible with thought out into it. i really hope to see it work out!

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I’m trying to write something similar, as my story is literally about growing up, so it’s expected of the protagonist to change personality wise.

I get that most Choice games really hit your head with “be consistent as possible and you might live / win / play the game correctly”, and sure, I can agree with that when it comes to skills. But as for personality, I appreciate it if MC has more freedom in that, not just constantly hitting the same personality checks all throughout the story because it makes me feel like MC is a static washboard. Sure, it makes the MC a character with consistent character, but I don’t think by the end of a grand 'ol adventure the MC still acts the same as if they’ve learned nothing from their experience. I reached the end of the story, I did all that I wanted, and MC is still a freaking washboard from chapter 1, personality-wise lol.

I think giving the protagonist character arc adds another layer of depth to them, and as a player it makes me feel even more special because it’s like the game acknowledges my choices no matter how small they are.

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This is very smart! I’ll definitely implement it into my own game. I also wanted to add something where if your character normally behaves a certain way and you choose a different behavior than you normally do, that characters may comment on it, so this would be the perfect way to track in through a game in general. And I’ll have to make sure to keep an eye on those sequels, then. :eyes:

I can imagine the chaotic potential for readers with this, haha. I’d be really interested to see how it all comes together! I might also consider including something similar with certain points in my story.

I can see a lot of potential in key scenes where certain stats matter. Even if a reader isn’t doing an arc, those scenes would still be beneficial to building your character’s personality.

In regards to some people potentially seeing it as the “correct” way to play, I’ll definitely keep an eye on the balance of arcs and having consistent character. I think it’ll help if I give consistent characters some attention as well in order to maintain a balance and not swing too far in one direction as a writer.

And I’m so glad you brought up negative character arcs. I hadn’t even considered that and not only would that be fun to play through, but it would be fun to write! (for me, at least)

I think Havenstone’s suggestion of adding checkmarks at the end of certain chapters will help with this. I could still have some key choices that might be noted in variables, but keeping things general should reduce the list of variables. It’s definitely something I’ll need to think about and work on keeping as few variables as possible, though. It could create a ton of work, if I’m not careful.

I don’t mind when consistency is rewarded, it’s where a lack of consistency is punished that I feel unsatisfied. It feels unrealistic since people never act in one way all the time, though the same could be said about major personality changes being completely unnoticed by other characters. Of course, all the coding to add in a flexible system and a system that acknowledges what choices you’ve made is a lot of work and takes a lot of time and patience. So, I really can’t blame any authors for not including it. It’s just a point of passion for me. :blush:

I definitely agree with character arcs adding a layer of depth, too. Both to your character and to your experience reading through someone’s game.

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Something similar done by A Mage Reborn where you could altered personality and the story itself noticed that change, not just as values-changed from the code of stat.

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