I absolutely loved the recent poll thread that was done on character customization and realized that another key factor in writing for our stories could use a good thread in order to gauge some user information about preferences.
A good place to start is in the question of how heavily romantic options weigh on your interest in an IF?
- Very Strong - It’s almost essential to have a romantic interest for me when I am reading IF.
- Strong - It’s very important generally, but there might be exceptions if the story is engaging or there is a narrative reason for not having them.
- Moderate - I look into whether or not there is an RO for me, but it doesn’t matter as much as story or setting.
- Weak - I don’t care that much about the ROs, having a dynamic world and interesting plot are my primary drivers for reading.
- Very Weak - I just don’t care about ROs at all, or I generally do not play romance in IF.
While it is easy to always say that more is better, it’s important to consider when thinking of the size of a romantic interest cast the weight that romance has in a narrative versus the ability for the player to feel like they have an interesting character to pursue. Where Fallen Hero: Rebirth has only two romance options, and I, the Forgotten one only has three due to both of them being character centric but also having a strong narrative focus separate from it means the small RO casts they have end up very integrated/focused.
Secondarily, games like Royal Affairs focus almost entirely on romantic pursuits and have vast casts of options to select from. Neither of these approaches are ‘worse’ than one another, they are just different in their goals, the purpose of this question is what type of focus you tend to prefer when looking at an IF.
- 1-3 - Small Focus - concentrating on only a few usually makes it feel like there is more depth to them.
- 1-3 - Small Focus - too many romantic interests can feel overwhelming.
- 4-6 - Moderate Focus - I think it strikes a good balance.
- 8+ - Large Focus - I prefer having a big variety of options to choose from.
- 8+ - Large Focus - Usually otherwise it’s hard to find the type of RO I am interested in.
- I generally don’t consider the amount of ROs, but rather whether a specific one interests me.
In some stories, gender or sexuality is preset for a character. I have seen mixed feelings about whether or not this is a good thing in the past. I will state that my personal bias is that characters usually should be specific in gender and sexuality because generally it just means there is more opportunities for integrating their sexuality/gender into their identity. (While reader choice is very important, sometimes gender is inbaked into a writers vision, and to explore specifics in sexuality or gender an RO needs to have a view on romance themself to challenge it.)
- Distinctive Sexuality and Gender usually add to a story, I prefer when ROs have distinctive identities over being gender selectable / playersexual.
- Distinctive Sexuality & Gender are okay with me, if they fit with the character or have a narrative purpose, otherwise I prefer a choice.
- Distinctive Gender is usually fine, but I don’t like being closed off from Romantic Interests because of sexuality.
- Distinctive Sexuality is usually fine, but closing off selecting their gender usually makes it hard to romance my preferred ROs.
- I don’t want the Sexuality or the Gender of an RO to be pre-defined.
- I don’t have a preference on whether or not Sexuality or Gender is defined (I don’t care).
For people in the real world, there tends to be a large variety of factors which will lead them to break off a romantic pursuit. In IF, we generally skirt the ‘cut off’ points for most romance-able members in a cast, still for many there might be cut off points where they will refuse to be with an MC who does specific things against their morals. An example of this would be Vendetta, where different ROs will reject the MC depending on the path they choose (a journalist is generally not going to accept a criminal heir as a partner, unless you convince them otherwise…)
- ROs willing to break off their relationships adds intrigue and makes it feel like I’m seeking out real people, I love arguments but even more the chance for real narrative fallout from them.
- Having them capable of breaking off a relationship is great, but should be tightly controlled to avoid making the reader feel locked into specific choices to ‘appease’ them.
- Having an RO break off their relationship is fine, if you do something clearly against their beliefs and do not try to reconcile.
- Having an RO break off their relationship with the MC no matter the reason is not okay, ever. I don’t play IF to be rejected by my fictional partner.
There is generally two different approaches I have noticed to building relationships within IF. The first (and I believe to be most common) method is through building up ‘romance points’ by usually shyly or boldly indicating your own interest (flirting about what you want to do to them in bed or being too meek to speak and looking away when their eyes lock on yours).
A secondary method of having romantic progression is through events, spending time with characters at specific points allowing you to trip ‘flags.’ For example, Fallen Hero: Retribution has flags for possessing a crush, whether a character notices that crush, and then whether the character once knowing you have that crush as confronted you about your mutual feelings. At various points in the narrative, you can change your feelings towards ROs to develop or lose interest in them. In the case of FH: Retribution, connections to others numerically are determined solely by your ‘relationship’ meeter, which here seems much more clearly to indicate the closeness between you and another member of the cast.
The question then is in what method you prefer, flirting or flags?
- Flirting - I like being able to see the reactions!
- Flirting - I don’t like the flag mechanic, I think it can limit my ability to react.
- Flags - I think that it helps with narrative flow.
- Flags - I don’t like the flirting mechanic, since it limits my abililty to react to things organically.
- No Preference, I think both of the systems are great!
Romantic Interests sometimes will, if not being romanced by the main character, seek out another character from the cast for romantic relationships. Do you think that characters should be able to find love outside of the MC in the course of a story?
- Yes, the dynamic-ism allows for more interesting ways to see the characters.
- Yes, it’s cool but only if the reader gets asked first.
- No, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
- No, I don’t think it adds much and time would be better spent elsewhere.
- I don’t have a preference really / Doesn’t change much to me.
In some cases, a plot or narrative may possess a character you can form a romantic connection with whom later ends up betraying the main cast. In cases like this, especially without any forewarning, it can leave a bitter feeling, but at the same time implying as such might lead .
- I want betrayal OR death to be clearly stated
- I want betrayal OR death to be implied as a future consequence or otherwise foreshadowed.
- I want betrayal to be implied or stated but don’t mind death being a surprising consequence
- I want death to be implied or clearly stated but betrayal should be kept from being stated or implied until it happens
- I don’t want any potential spoiling of these events, I would rather find it out as it happens.
- Charismatic Flirt with a preference for alive.
- Bubbly jokester who raises the teams spirits!
- Ice Queen with a Golden Heart.
- Socially awkward scholar with a ‘romantic soul’.
- Team Leader who takes the weight of the consequences.
- A Person with Authority whom you end up somehow having a chance with.
- Best childhood friend turned romance.
- Childhood crush grows up everything seems to change but but the crush.