Romanceable NPCs with one another?

How do you feel about romanceable NPCs in a game, when you don’t romance them, romance one another?

On one hand, I like the idea that characters go on to have lives without you, and I’ve seen this in Bioware games, done to some extent.

On the other hand, I’m a little concerned, because for me, it would deal with bisexual/player-sexual characters.

Example being, if you normally homosexually romance a character, who, if you don’t romance them, would be in a heterosexual romance, would you be less attracted to this character? Or vice versa.

I’ve seen one person comment about this before, saying, as a straight male, he wasn’t attracted to Josephine from DAI, because she is bisexual.

As a person who likes both men and women, I couldn’t quite understand it, though I try to be sensitive.

Am I making too big a drama out of nothing, or is this a potential issue for game designers?

Thoughts?

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I do like it when games consider external romances outside of that of the player, though that can often just mean ones the player can’t actively romance themselves. One good example I can think of recently is Nona and Ren in Oxenfree, where Alex can actively influence whether the two end up together or not. (It also has an excellent sibling relationship with Alex and both her brother Michael and step brother Jonas.)

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I also like the idea that NPCs go on with their lives without the MC, not just in terms of romance. But I suppose it could be a little off putting to see a NPC the player feels attached to or has a strong image about changing from one playthrough to the other. I don’t have a problem with it as long as the changes make sense, and are more about revealing a new side to that character than changing it.

Right now the game I remember does that is A wise use of time.

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I have no issue with NPCS romancing each other. In fact I have a few planned in my own WiP.

It makes the characters be more alive, and not just those characters being there solely for you to romance.

Of course it would be off-putting if the romance completely changes the character. It would be off-putting if the character changed who they were clearly if you romances them, however if the character instead only develops from the relationship not just does a 180 then to me that’s fine.

Great even.

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Some excellent points were made about that here:

To summarize some of the best:

  1. Players don’t want to feel like they’re interfering with someone’s OTP, so if the characters ends up with someone else if you don’t date them and it’s a great match, they might be reluctant to go after them in the first place.
  2. It might be better for player ego, and the MC’s central role in the plot, to suggest that they only pursued another romance because they were told by the MC it wouldn’t work with them.
  3. “Pairing the spares” can work, though, because it makes ROs seem more like real people and less like they were waiting to be romanced, and go back on the shelf if they’re not picked - that’s not how people act. It also might help players who feel unhappy about rejecting anyone, to know they have a chance of going on to a happy relationship anyway.

As for the orientation thing - I think you have a point, and the character should stick with whatever orientation they presented to you in their future relationships. People in the linked thread mentioned being happy to see a gay RO, e.g., go on to another same-sex partnership, because it underlined they weren’t just “gay for them”. But also you raise a valid issue about it being potentially upsetting to see a character you liked with someone you wouldn’t have imagined.

It’s hard enough in real life for someone to see their ex with a same/opposite sex partner if they didn’t expect that from their history… and yes, it can work both ways. I’ve had plenty of lesbians reject me because they found it absolutely disgusting that I was also attracted to men. This is one of the reasons it’s helpful to distinguish between “MC is attracted to male ROs flag true” and “MC is bisexual”, or likewise for the characters - being bisexual can change some things.

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I am in love with a world where a world still turns even while your character is standing still. That being said, I would point you at this pretty, pretty thread as some responses are quite pertinent, at least to your first question.

NPCs romancing NPCs is quite different from romanceable NPCs romancing other romanceable NPCs.

Edit: Ah, @Sashira, won by a fingernail. Well, a whole well-thought-out hand, really…

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Well if I have had the chance to romance a character and didn’t then I’m glad to see them with someone else, it helps to add depth to the character that they didn’t just sit around pining over me. I would rather they are dating a girl because there are so very few canon lesbian NPCs, but if they are dating a guy its not like it’s going to upset me or cause me to like them less.

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If the NPC relationships were a naturally and well written part of the story, I’d enjoy them. If the romances seemed inserted for “lessons” or “just because”, I’d not enjoy them.

I don’t enjoy “malleable” NPC characters that are made to take sloppy-seconds from the MC - yes the story should put the MC at the center of the story but if the gameworld is truly built, not everything in the world revolves around the MC - unless the MC is a god, perhaps but not even then if the world is like ancient Greece or sum-such place.

The whole idea of NPCs are to act like supporting actors in a movie - I keep going back to the movie idea for characters in this format because the movie and the CoG game are so much aligned in their focus when it comes to the MC and the main character in a movie.

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But how does this all apply to bisexual partners?

My main ROs are all going to be bisexual, and while they may have some preferences- example, saying, Samar has only been with men before, but isn’t against women- so he would romance a female MC, but if he didn’t, and he went on to NPC romance, it would be a man.

Am I to establish sexualities, potentially stopping people from romancing a character they want to, just for the likelihood they won’t be upset due to so and so ‘swinging the other way’ when they do a playthrough where they don’t romance them?

An example could be DA2- if you don’t romance Fenris or Isabela- and you can homosexually romance both, but if you don’t romance either, they get together- a heterosexual romance.

Maybe the same could be said in DAI? Dorian and Bull can get together, and Bull is bisexual.

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Well, I’m sticking two of my boys together (if the MC hasn’t started romancing them, and they’re not dead). While their relationship will be gay, both characters will still be available to female MCs. Both, however, have romantic preferences more important than gender: one wants someone who can protect him, the other wants someone he can teach, and the two seemed to fit together nicely.

I, admittedly, do prefer it if the RO is canonically gay, but that’s more because of how rare such characters are, and in my own WIP, I didn’t want to stop people from romancing who they wanted.

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I don’t mind if NPCs end up with feelings or in a relationship with another NPC. Mass Effect 3 had that, DA:I had it, too. To me, it would just simply feel normal(and maybe give you a love-rival and possibly add a nice dose of drama). Heck, if it were like the Fire Emblem system(maybe expanded on a bit as FE’s is on the simpler side) it would be fun to play matchmaker.

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I’m not a big fan of it. The thing is, I usually end up having one RO I like above all the others. And that means I’d rather not see them with anyone but the MC - and if I know I’ll have to see them get together with someone else, I definitely won’t ever risk a playthrough where I don’t romance that specific character. Meaning there’s a lot of content I’ll miss out on.

Since people mentioned ME3 - oooh, did I hate that situation. It was doubly bitter because my FemShep was kind of in love with Tali since day one and was never allowed to romance her.

(Obviously, creators should do what they want. Games with romantic content are very much escapist fantasies for me, so I actually kinda like the MC being the center of attention.)

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I’m totally doing this in my current game. I think it’s an interesting theme to play around with.

In fact I’m doing it the bad way that players might end up hating, since any relationships the MC creates for themselves are secondary. But that’s part of the theme. You’re essentially a matchmaker, and it’s the role of the matchmaker to set other people up, not look for romance yourself.

I’ve got a one true-love/soul-mates pairing in the game. You can help them to achieve their Happily Ever After, ensuring True Love finds a way against any other obstacles.

OR you can try and romance either half of the pairing. You’re not meant to romance anyone, since it’s in those rules you never bothered reading before you started your mission. You’re especially not supposed to further your own goals at the expense of other people’s.

So yeah, I’ve romanceable NPCs in my game, wherein their ideal romances are not with the MC. But you can do it anyway. Because HA! Not everybody ends up with their one true love destined soul-mate. Not everyone even wants that.

Although I’d like to see sometimes games which allow for poly relationships.

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Continuing the discussion from Choice of Games and Hosted Games Recommendations Consolidated Thread .

@Konoi, I understand why you might feel uncomfortable with ROs pursuing a relationship with other NPCs, except this point;

I mean, how does it downplay the PC’s actions? A PC playing matchmaker between two ROs can retroactively be the reason for that particular RO’s happiness.

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Oh, not really.
Imagine you did a lot of things for that character, and saved their life, got them out of depression, etc. Not to mention, they may have been very difficult to romance, as in, the character wasn’t receptive to love and the MC really had to work to be able to have a romance with them.
And then, in another playthrough, they “randomly” hook up with someone, and it seems all is good and nice and they don’t have their issues anymore. Not only did that other character get the romance so much easier than the MC; but also, they didn’t have to do everything the MC would have to had done for the RO if they were romancing them. So it’s a bit as if all the things from said RO’s route were actually useless, since that other character can get the same result with no effort whatsoever.

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Oh, I get it. It’s the process of “courting” that the PC had to go through, which other NPCs seemed to have skipped while pursuing that RO.

But, in that case, isn’t almost every otome VN with NPC dynamics guilty of that? I can’t seem to remember any that did something similar to what an ideal “courting” would be.

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Hmm that’s not exactly that. The courting MAY be one part of the issue.
But really, it’s mostly about what we did for the character. I’ll say it again, but very often in a story that would be romance driven, the MC would literally save the RO by romancing them. It is that romance, that love, that saved them - for many reasons.
And then another character can hook up with them. And they don’t go through all of that, but the RO is seemingly fine. So what was the point? In the end, they weren’t truly in danger, or they didn’t really need that love that was deemed so special when romancing them.

I like the trope about love saving someone - in one way or another - and visual novels / text based games do offer romances like that on a regular basis. But then if a random character can get to the results of making the RO happy and safe without any effort and without going through the whole character developement arc of the RO, and without all the happy and sad moments etc, then what was the point in doing so for the player / MC?

So yeah, I don’t need a perfect courting simulator, but if there was complicated courting on the MC’s side when romancing the RO, then it should be just as complicated or more for another character to do (as in, high chances of failure etc). And mostly, they should go through the same hurdles, with the same chances of death and so on.

In case of a romance that truly saved the RO, like getting him out of depression or saving his life in a literal way, I wouldn’t mind if they hooked up with someone else if not romancing them, but then the game showed clearly that they are not as happy as in the good endings if romanced by the player, or maybe even they’d die, because that other character wasn’t the one who could save them…

I have a hard time explaining it better than that, but I hope I did convey the things I feel for that in clear enough way!

Edit: maybe imagine you’re weaving a beautiful tapestry, and the result is gorgeous. This is the romance/route of that RO.
And then someone next to you purchases a machine-made tapestry with the exact same design, and it looks just as pretty, without all the effort and pain and stuff… You sure can think yours is better because it’s legitimate, but you’d still feel frustrated and may think “what was the point of all that if it could be achieved so easily?” - that’s how it makes me feel

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Ah, got it what you’re trying to say. The tapestry example certainly helped :smile:

Honestly speaking, that does seem a bit selfish from my POV, but I wouldn’t mind it happening too. Especially in cases of “destined lovers”. That thing really bothers me too.

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Oh it IS entirely a selfish POV!
I’ll never deny that! :rofl:
But I think we’re allowed to be selfish in games like that - it is fiction, and you don’t have to act or think like in real life.
I don’t need a game where everyone would be in love in the MC because they are the MC, but I still want it to be centered enough about the love story WITH the MC, and not add alternative romances.

And well, it adds to the petty jealousy of not wanting the characters to be with someone else, and also to the more tame and romantic opinion of loving the couple with the MC and RO, and being bothered by seeing said RO with someone else. I already rarely replay to explore various romances as it is, but when I know a game does something like that, it’s a guarantee I won’t try any other romance ever.

But I’m glad I could convey my feelings!

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Some poor otome writer somewhere is screaming rn :rofl:

The overly-rational part of my brain would like to politely disagree with you :sweat_smile:

Unfortunately, I almost never find that sort of dynamic in IF. The only game that comes to my mind is School Days and…yeah, we know how that turned out (RIP).

I kind of relate with this? I mean, I’m going to try every possible RO, but once I have that “chosen one” (sounds cheesy, ik), I’m going to stick to that route :grin:

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