RO/LI Options

I think the forums may have eaten my last post, apologies if at some point the original shows up and I double post the same topic!

I’m Cass, I’ve been reading CoG and HGs for a while, since 2018-ish and am now looking into developing my own story in my free time. I’d like to ask the community however about overall preferences when it comes to ROs/LIs. This is what I’ve gotten it narrowed down to:

ROs/LIs have a set name, gender and appearance

ROs/LI have a set name for each gender identity, male, female and nb, appearance is set and changes slightly based on gender identity.

ROs/LI have a set name for each gender identity, but appearance is customizable

ROs/LI have no set name, choose from a list or enter your own, appearance is customizable.

Personally as a player I lean towards either of the last two, but I wanted other opinions as I understand throwing lots of customization at a player may make the game a bit of a slog, and will cut down on some of the characterization I can give the ROs/LIs.

In general, which do you prefer, or is there a better option you can think of? I’d like to make my story accessible for a wide range of players, and personally often find myself exiting games due to factors I wish I had more control over.

Thanks for your time and any help you can offer!

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These two for me. Too much customization make characters feel empty, at least for me. Also it takes me out of the story.

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You could post it in a poll if you want more responses. There is a thread for those as well.

https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/polls-about-cog-hg-and-if-games/

Curious to what most people think, as for me, it varies and depends on the story

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Yeah I get that, giving players too much control can make it seem less like a story and more like just checking boxes, and it makes writing unique content harder, since you can’t count on set backstory events necessarily.

As you prefer the first two, do you prefer to have complete descriptions of the character, or vaguer ones? As in mentioning skin tone/height, hair length and other physical features or something more like they had black hair and blue eyes, leaving more up to the player in that sense.

Depends, while i would appreciate a detailed description , i don’t particularly mind a vaguer one. Altho if character has any plot relevant details it should be noted.

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I’m definitely leaning towards one of the first two; having the player do most of the customizing stuff kind of makes the character flat

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That’s understandable, seems like I’m in the minority with a preference for customization, lol. Would you say you prefer set, detailed descriptions about the character’s physical appearance, or vaguer ones that let you fill in the blanks, so to speak?

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Detailed descriptions are always interesting, but honestly, I really don’t have a preference

I have to agree. As much as I hate to say it (because this makes diversity of gender among ROs so much harder to pull off), the more vaguely coded an RO is, the more I feel like they just kind of… exist to fill a trope or quota, rather than to fulfill a purpose.

I feel the complete opposite way here, though I think I’m in the minority this time ^^ Above all, I want a killer great story, so if I have to sacrifice some personalisation in exchange for that I am all game. That being said, forced characterisation for an MC - especially stuff that’s unwarned in the premise of the game - is enough of a dealbreaker to make players quit midway, in my experience.

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I plan to have all major characterization of the MC tied to prompts at this point. This might change based on feedback/complexity of the coding, but I’d agree that suddenly finding yourself with a bunch of traits you’d never agreed to is jarring. I’m thinking of also adding a ‘cheat’ mode where stat changes could be tracked before options are chosen.

I guess I’m fairly picky about the RO I want to romance, which is good to know. It seems a lot of people prefer to have pre gened characters with appearances to fill out a story. I guess this prompts another question of physically what kinds of characters would you like to see?

The first option is my favourite. Choosing NPC’s name and, to a lesser extent, gender can take me out of the story. One exception is siblings - say, if I’m playing a character named Khadija, it would be strange for her brother to be named Brett.

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I tend to agree with this. It’s hard for me to pinpoint why I prefer ‘set’ genders, but I think it’s because I like it when an author sets out to tell the story they’re most interested in. I just want to experience and investigate the story they want to tell. I like it when pursuing a new RO feels like getting to know more about a real person — they might not be who my MC expected they’d be, or who the MC once imagined they would end up with, and that’s part of the fun.

If I was the one who decided on the RO’s traits, then it feels like there’s not as much mystery. Being able to design the ideal RO feels too easy, just for me personally as a player, even if it’s just gender/physical appearance.

I am all for tons of customization of the MC (and potentially their family), but for everyone else, I just want to let the story unfold and find out organically.

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If family comes up, you’ll be able to give them names from a list or enter your own. I can’t tell you how many MCs I’ve had that are like Mei Lin and their brother, Jared.

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I prefer these two.

I feel that with the latter two versions the ROs lose some of their character and it’s starting to feel more like as if I’d be playing Sims. The more fleshed out ROs I’ve read about in these games always belonged in one of the quoted versions. If I were to choose everything for the NPCs too then it would become boring. It’s enough for me to create an MC for a set world who meets set characters. And my guess would be that for a writer too it’s easier to write the characters they have in their mind, if they let the player only make decisions about the MC.

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Those two for me. Anything else, and we either get a very bland character or a character that was clearly written by the author as {insert gender here} who prefers {insert preference}. The appearance of a character is changed (that’s the easiest part) but their behaviour or mannerisms are set. I’ll try to explain myself better using examples, and for the record they are just that - examples. I don’t wish to start any discussion about why this or that game is better than the other.

So, the exhibit one - the cast of the Wayhaven. They were, at least for me, written primarily as men who vie for the affection of female detective. Understandable, most of the fanbase seems to be female. The thing is, those characters aren’t believable when the MC is set as a straight man. That’s one of the causes why I’m not interested in the series - I like to replay games to see various outcomes, so I don’t impose a ‘self-gender-lock’. Sadly, because of that I notice some inconsistencies and I’m thrown off during my second playthrough if, for example, a female heterosexual RO behaves identically to their male heterosexual variant from the first playthrough.
Of course, there are games that imo managed to pull off this whole choose-your-RO’s-gender (Fallen Hero comes to my mind here), but I’m always wary when the game asks me to choose the gender of a character I’ve just met. If it additionally asks me their name… Actually, don’t let me start on that. I’m sure most authors wouldn’t be happy if their characters were named offensively, and that’s something that can’t be avoided in that case. People playing Crusader Kings will probably know what I’m talking about.

As for ROs sexualities: a few years ago when Dragon Age II first came out, people were rather miffed by the fact that ROs orientations weren’t set, and that they were simply playersexual. Some people worded their displeasure poorly or offensively, but the main thing that concerned part of the fandom was that it seemed simply to be a poor and lazy writing. Now, there is one CoG game that I really enjoyed, where ROs were just like those in Dragon Age II - available for all types of characters. It was Tin Star, and no, I’m not sure how to explain why it worked for characters. Maybe they were so fleshed out that I simply couldn’t be bothered by the fact that in right conditions they were interested in player’s character, no matter their sex or ethnicity. Instead, the deal-breaker could be an attitude - slaughtering people (any people), or just people who were close to them, depending on which RO we are talking about.

That… Ended up longer than I intended. Hope I managed to explain myself and that it’s actually helpful for you.

Edit: actually, there is one game that managed to pull off the customisation of a potential RO: Choice of Robots - in that case the main character created the robot, so customisation was very much justified and made sense.

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First of all, I really love this topic and personally find it really interesting to read how other people feel about it! Personally, I enjoy all of the first three options. Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very easy to please if there’s a broody, dark-haired love interest.

Stories that have everything set are either a hit or a miss with me. ROs are really important to me, so if I’m not vibing with any of the characters, it kills a story for me. That said, I have no gender preference, so I can usually find some character I want to know more about.

Stories that change an RO slightly based on gender have turned out some of my favorite stories and characters, so I might be a bit biased in regards to this one. One of the biggest upsides for me with this option is generally being more interested in more of the cast. To give an example: I think soft, gentle, and friendly female ROs are adorable, but I never want to pursue their romantic routes. However, those same traits in a male RO have made some of my favorite romanceable characters. Of course, I don’t think an author should prioritize this route to maximize replay value or anything. That’s just what I’ve found valuable as a reader.

Stories with a customizable appearance are far more tricky to pull off, I’ll admit that. If I had to choose between having a set name or no set name, it would really be down to the story. I definitely prefer a set name if appearance is the only customizable thing. But, I think a story really needs to be geared for this mechanic if an author is going to use it. I don’t think most of COG titles would be suited if you threw in appearance customization. And I also think it works best if there’s almost like… an in-game reason that could bring a bit of “grounded-ness” to the feature. I recently played a game (not COG but a visual novel, stick with me) where you could customize the RO’s appearance, but it was limited to things that still made sense for the character. (His hair, eye, and skin color always stayed the same, for example.) The game also had the ability to generate his appearance based on your prior choices, though. The story was about you two growing up together and I think the people you grow up with can have a large impact on how you grow and change, so I loved how this mechanic felt like it fit so much with the story.

Anyways, I’ve babbled on enough. To summarize, I think we shouldn’t discount the possibility of adding appearance customization, but should look more to what feels most right to an author and a story. Every story is different, so it really depends on the kind of vibe you’re going for. And I also don’t think there’s been nearly enough attempts at adding appearance customization to judge if it’s overall a good or bad thing. (Or possibly it’s just neutral in that it might not work for most games, but could hit just right for something in particular.) I think the ability to make any of these options work is really down to the author’s ability and effort to make them work. A lot of people are against gender-changing ROs for the same reason that many in this thread are listing about why they aren’t partial to appearance customization. But, it might just need to be explored more.

When it comes down to it, an author just needs to follow their gut and do what they like and what they would like to see in a story. I think you can’t ever go wrong with that.

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Speaking as a straight man who has played Weyhaven with a straight male PC on several occasions I disagree with this statement. I find it very easy to imagine the ROs as all women and would probably find them more jarring as guys now. So it’s a question of perspective I guess. I can agree that games like Choice of Romance written back in the day was definitely weird as a straight male reader though. :grin:

I agree with this too, ultimately you are writing it yourself so do what you think works best for your story and the romances. I personally like both core approaches since they’ve got good and bad aspects to each. Games featuring romance with gender and sexuality specific characters are more realistic for some people but run the risk of either only having a single option for each preference or needing a ton of romance characters that you have to all take into account. Whilst characters whose gender and preferences can be modified allow for wider selection but as others have said tend to come across as mere brushstrokes of individuals without concrete aspects around them.

Ultimately if you want to get as many interested you’ll want to try and include enough for all preferences in whatever means you like best. You might find setting up just three or four characters who can be modified is easier than twelve or more that are specific! :sweat_smile: That’s what you should think about unless you’re elect to make games for more specific audiences (which some COG writers do).

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I, the Forgotten One WIP has a feature where the appearance of ROs and other characters change depending on the appearance of the main character. It’s a clever feature that prevents the situation where player’s character is, for example, the only POC in the whole country, and both their parents and all siblings look nothing alike them.

I second that statement. There is a lot of ways to implement features, and I’m sure that there is some innovative way to add the option to customize other characters that makes sense from the narrative perspective. Worst case scenario, it could be added as an additional feature which could be toggled on or off, depending on players’ preference.

Really? Then it really might be a personal thing then, but I legit thought that something in the interactions is off. The series probably isn’t my cup of tea.

Agreed. That game was clearly a reimagining of the affair of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and it really didn’t work after switching genders.

Be prepared though that it’s never enough and people will ask about the possibility to romance characters that you would never have guessed that they might be appealing. :wink:

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Going with what most people have said, I think any look at the most popular ROs in all of COG/HG will reveal that they have distinct looks and personalities, and that gender-locked ROs are disproportionately popular.

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I seriously doubt that. If you made a Most Popular RO poll, the first few places would almost certainly be taken by gender-selectable ROs, if for nothing else because they’d appeal to a wider portion of the fanbase, many of whom only romance characters of the gender(s) thay’re interested in themselves.

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