Should the player be a witness instead of a soldier?


I’m currently working on the outline of my story, and I was reconsidering my main idea (you’re a soldier/commander, you go an a mission on a planet) and instead, keep the story exactly the same, but the player is a colonist on the planet: a witness to all the crap happening and trying to survive, rather than being part of the military unit who’d solve the problem.

I’ll try to make it clearer: if it was Stargate: Atlantis, instead of being commander Sheppard or a member of his team, the player would be a villager trying to survive a wraith attack

I like games where you take action and make tactical decisions but I feel the story might be more interesting if the player is someone else. What do you think?

Edit: if it were a movie, it would look like Cloverfield (witness/victim) instead of World War Z (the one who solves the problem of the plot)


What would be most fun for you to write? What would you enjoy most?


That will definitely be what will dictate my final answer

For now i decided to write a simple outline for it and see what it’d look like. I might do it as a bonus scene instead and keep it short


I think having a protagonist who acts instead of reacts is more fun. I like having control of things. That said, I’m also not a huge fan of being all fighty fighty all of the time. So if I was a villager sort during an invasion, I’d want to be organising a rebellion, or playing diplomat, or even befriending the invaders and selling out my own people for personal profit, instead of just watching and running.


Making the MC an average person caught in the middle of whatever happens on the colony and just trying to survive is a nice idea. It’s certainly less usual and more refreshing than games where the MC is a soldier send on missions.

But when you say that the MC would be a witness and victim, I wonder how much choice would the MC still have? Will any of their actions have plot significance or would they just see what happens around them?

If you want to write about a witness, it seems to be more apropriate to write a story and not a choice game.

Als, if you have a story in mind that the MC can influence a lot, for example if the MC should help to defeat the invading aliens, you may not have to choose between the two options. Just make soldier and settler two different background options for the MC. Both would have a very different set of skills.


You can make a convincing and entertaining story out of just about anything. I’m absolutely convinced you could make a wonderful game about nothing more than living the daily life of a cobbler during the middle ages without so much as mentioning knights or royalty.

The only potential pitfall I can see with switching from soldier to witness is falling into a pattern of writing a hero that’s less active than they are reactive. In a novel, watching a character get swept away by events can be interesting. In a game format all about making choices, a passive protagonist would not be particularly fun to play. Of course, there’s no reason a witness would need to be passive. Even a medieval cobbler is the hero of his or her own story.


Well my original idea, the player has a lot of control and a lot of power over the course of things (acts like a commander) but, because of a corruption and conspiracy it will fail and get from bad to worse

As a villager/colonist I’d probably make it a mix between gathering clues, surviving (simply surviving can actually require a lot of choices) and being a “witness” to the plot, but not necessarily to his plot. (story plot: X company is corrupted, teams up with Y company, creates a weapon on this planet, things go wrong) his plot: (things went wrong, it is getting worse, you have to survive, take of of whoever is left)

Jenna_V brought this point before I had time to post it lol


OK, this concept sounds promising. :thumbsup:
I’m waiting for the WIP.


The issue I had with my new idea was relationship wise, because I made it perfect for my initial plan, but if the colonist is a scientist working on the project, forced into doing it, keeping secret, things go south… now we can see a lot of plot/relationship trouble occurring with coworkers and family

Good news is I can actually make both happen. The plot and fictional universe is complex enough that I could make multiple stories in it, so whichever I pick, I can do the other ones in a later future (as long as I make their own plot)


absolutely, i think both are valuable. This War of Mine had you playing civilians in a war rather than soldiers. now, it is not a fun game, that’s been said many times. you don’t play it to have fun like you’d play, say, pokemon or skyrim. but it is no less valuable because it is not fun. on the other hand, games where you are purely a witness to a story happening, where your input doesn’t matter in any way, seem more suited to non-interactive media.

it really comes down to the story you want to tell and which themes you value more, since even a few chapters or scenes in a non-action-oriented role can be used tell a different story. on that note, while three quarters of the main cast are largely action-oriented, i recommend divided we fall if you have the time, money, and vaguest hint of interest. there might be things to pick up from that hg.


Personally, I think there are already too many games about soldiers. I’m not very interested in military-themed games, which often come wrapped in layers of patriotism, traditional heroism (I am the good guy because I support my comrades while we kill all the strangers), and other ideals I don’t agree with.

I would love to play a war game as a civilian. I think it would be a more realistic, compelling and challenging story. I haven’t gotten a chance to play “This War Of Mine” yet, which is along those lines, but I would happily play another game like that.

Civilians are not necessarily passive. Being a victim doesn’t make you a person who can only react to things, it makes you a person who has to struggle through things to achieve their goals. Non-soldiers do still have goals. Also, you could manage a bit of fun in a war-torn world - a party with your fellow survivors would raise morale between encounters with horror. No group does NOTHING but survive, 24/7.


It’s equally possible to be the villain of your own story though, it just depends on your outlook.


I was gone for a few days but yes, I understand a lot of the things you say. As the ideals for example, it often happens to me that I disagree with the ideas portrayed in a game or a movie. If I follow through with my initial plan these ideals won’t be in it that is for sure, but I can see why it’d be hard to portray the opposite if automatically, in a battle, you have to kill the ones shooting at you.

I got an idea for this at the same time as I was writing it haha. Similar to Choice of Broadsides if you meet your enemies and get close with them, it will automatically send “hey, they’re people too” as a message.

The enemy wouldn’t actually be the people of the other team/army (in this case an independant corporation with its own military) but rather the corrupt people on “your” side and the owners of the other corporation. Everyone else simply being pawns.

As for making the game as a “witness”, I think it’d make a crazy story if the player is the scientist that took part in creating the biological weapon (a parasite that infects food which then kills anyone who consumes it, without them knowing until it’s too late). Maybe forced to do it or tricked into doing it without knowing that this would actually be used for.

And then, of course, when things go south, has to survive, maybe figure a way to contact the “peace military/police” so they can solve this thing (which would be the player and its team in the initial plan)