Romanceable NPCs with one another?


#1

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?


Romantic "rivals" to your RO
#2

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.)


#3

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.


#4

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.


#5

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.


#6

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…


#7

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.


#8

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.


#9

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.


#10

Just because a person is bisexual doesn’t mean they will chase every skirt and every pant that walks down the street. Each of your characters should have something that attracts them to a person… whether that is eye color or sense of humor or perhaps favorite food…

I honestly think you are making things way too difficult for yourself and overthinking things.


#11

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.


#12

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.


#13

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.)


#14

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.