What do you want more of in IF-games?

We were having a discussion in another forum post (honestly can’t remember which forgive me) but I looked and it doesn’t look like a post specifically for discussing things we want to see has been drafted despite there being the “Things we hate to see” forum thread.

I’m deliberately keeping this pretty open, for people to write their thoughts. However, special attention to genre, romantic option, or theming would be particularly useful for me personally.

For myself: I am really drawn to revenge fantasies, problematic romantic interests (with dubious morals), stories with themes of mythology or supernatural elements and complex main characters (even at the cost of customization). Following these themes, my favorite IF games are Fallen Hero, I, the Forgotten One, and The Abyssal. (Speaking of the Abyssal, I’m very sad the forum for that one is closed right now, I feel I have a lot to talk about there).

Edit: Specifying for my own sanity that I love player characters with a semi-set backstory / deeper history / trauma. It’s a common thread in all three of my favs, and I think that it really helps make them feel like there is more to them then just being a catalyst for my own desires to be thrust onto. IMO the key for a preset character backstory on a player character to work, is to let them choose how the character the reader controls responds to the things that happened to them within the narrative.

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I agree with you about complex main characters.

I’d like to see more dystopian games (where the emphasis is on the values and structures of society, not post-apocalyptic survival), psychological thrillers, slice of life, and realistic historical fiction (especially non-military). I’m always drawn to school stories (not exactly an underrepresented genre, but still), stories about intellectual or creative endeavors, anything that retells/expands upon/interrogates folklore, and well-done meta elements. I’d love to see more games that play with concepts of time travel and alternate realities.

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There are certain settings/genres that go really well with certain plots (fantasy=magic school, wars etc. Sci-fi=space battles, secret agencies etc). I love these combinations, but I would love some non traditional genre/setting-plot combos. A sci-fi school, fantasy murder mystery, etc

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Bronze age fantasy with space battles would be a curious one.

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More branching, more integration of stats and story, more varied endings. Basically more games with the chassis of Tin Star.

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I don’t know if I misspoke or if everyone just agrees with me by the way, but I specifically really like the player character having a history and demons that haunt them and important aspirations. I think a lot of games in pursuit of giving the player “customization” forget to make the MC a character as complex and as interesting as the romances or the side characters that they are interacting with.

Response to @Sally_Forth :
Yeah, I mentioned before I actually like themes of discrimination in stories. I think that it helps me feel more immersed and grounded in a world when I see it acknowledge and even sometimes look down on me for being different. All the better for me, I will show them what for! But I think the acknowledgement of it helps a lot with me being interested!

(Even excluding flat out discrimination, in Fallen Hero, mention will be made if you are a non-binary or trans character, and characters will bring up how they haven’t been in a same gender relationship or be generally naive. I think it’s pretty organic and adds a lot to the experience for queer readers.)

ADD: Honestly, I don’t understand the point of adding customization that you won’t reincorporate at some point. One of my favorite things while writing is using choices to reincorporate them later (finding ways to bring them back up or make them feel relevant). Honestly though, I don’t really like it when it’s only a word swap. I know it’s more work, but taking time to describe the different textures or skin tones really helps build an immersive experience. “He hand moves through your black curly hair” vs “His hand catches on tight ringlets, his fingers gently curling swaths of midnight on your scalp.” (If you had straight hair the hand would flow through them, if you had white hair it might be the downpour of snow on your scalp, etc).

Response to @Hayden_Winter :
You know… Now that you bring it up, I think the only specific example that comes to mind for me where sex comes before and without a relationship right away is M from Wayhaven. I think that they are the literal only one. There is a lot of stories where sexual/physical attraction is conflated into love (Looking at the stories where they take place over a fucking week! Physical attraction /= Romantic love people! You barely know the person at that point!)

ADD: I haven’t played Evertree Saga before but people keep mentioning it’s ROs so maybe I should check it out?

Response to @Suwariish :
Maybe then instead the charming / intimidating one could be based on perception, while the optimism/pessimism would be more determined internally? Because charming/intimidating is really traits that are filtered through how other people see you, while optimism/pessimism are things framed around your own state of mind.

Response to @Anna_B :
The only reason I personally would limit the gender or sexuality of a character is for in character reasons. (For example, if I wanted to write a trans-masculine character, or a character like Steel. Honestly, I don’t see the Steel thing as a problem because he is very closed off, and if he doesn’t show open romantic/sexual interest in f!Sidestep then he probably just isn’t comfortable shutting down Sidestep before that point. You should still be able to romance anyone else.)

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More western games and pirate stories in general. I’m a sucker for those.

I know it’s not for everyone, but I also really love fantasy/sci-fi stories that have heavy elements of real-world problems in them, like racism and sexism, bc it feels very cathartic to me to explore those themes in fiction and be able to have my characters fight back against them and prove those people wrong. It’s not something I can always necessarily do in real life, so I find it indredibly satisfying to do while playing interactive stories and interactive games.

In general, I enjoy heavy themes of realism sprinkled into my stories; it makes them feel more grounded imo. And I really love seeing my characters going through traumatic events and then being able to overcome that trauma in a healthy and meaningful way.

Absolute yes on the problematic love interests thing, btw. Sappy sweet romances are cute and they can be fun, but there’s something about ROs with dubious morals that just hits different, man.

Exactly! In general, having character customization impact the narrative or dialogues in small ways can really help my immersion in a story. It’s just a shame that not many WIPs do that.

I get why, obviously, bc it’s a lot of extra work for the writers. But I still wish your characters features/preferences would have more of an impact or be mentioned more beyond just existing in the stat screen.

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Sex in the early stages of or even before the start of a relationship with an RO, as opposed to slowly building up to it, beginning with kisses or literal handholding.

More focus on the actual relationship and overcoming hurdles together, and not treating the relationship as the end goal / reward. @EvilChani has written many great posts about this.

More villain romances.

The Winter romance in Evertree Saga is like that, too. Sex without relationship.

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For what I’d like to see more of…

Like you I prefer defined/semi-defined player characters (backstory/histories/etc) as it allows author’s to really use or treat them like an actual character and then just allowing the players to choose the way the character responds to the events happening in the narrative. I also greatly prefer character-driven narratives over plot-driven narratives (especially so for romance oriented games).

Other than that, and I know this is probably gonna be a tad controversial, but more player sexual ROs would be nice as honestly when it comes to characters gender/sexuality/appearance is the absolute last thing I ever consider (if at all!) when deciding on who to romance first.

I care far more for who the character is and seeing how their stories play out in the overall narrative and how the player character can potentially influence them along the way.

Now before people can get too up in arms; I will say there is a caveat to the above such as if gender/sexuality/appearance played a tangible part in their story that we as players get to experience/witness/learn over the course of story (ex. Fallen Hero: Retribution demo - f!Sidestep can still attempt to romance Steel but eventually learns through their interactions that he’s gay and it’s a lost cause).

This also goes for the player character and in general I would prefer customization that can impact how other characters see them (even if that means less actual customization) or can affect how events play out (ex. I, the Forgotten One - where gender/height affects how your seen by your troops and how individual combat plays out).

@Phenrex

Maybe then instead the charming / intimidating one could be based on perception, while the optimism/pessimism would be more determined internally? Because charming/intimidating is really traits that are filtered through how other people see you, while optimism/pessimism are things framed around your own state of mind.

I feel like I’m missing some context here could you elaborate a bit?

@Anna_B Thankfully that particular interaction with Steel comes up early enough that switching tracks is completely feasible without restarting (unless you were dead set on romancing him). I really only tried it because I knew in advance and the author didn’t grey out the flirt choices despite the incompatibility (also a sucker for the unrequited love trope and it’s super rare for games to actually give you the option as the PC).

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I completely agree. I understand why someone would make a character have a specific sexuality or gender. It allows the character to be more fleshed out in the writers (and some players) mind. But it really annoys me from a player perspective. If there’s no narrative reason, why would you limit the players like that?

That would honestly annoy me even more :joy:. I would have to go back and completely replay it

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wlw plotlines

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I’m agree with your sentiment about “semi-set” character.
But, first I wanted to talk about:

Plot. The goddamn plot.

⚠️ TLDR warning, I just completed my degree with this essay and now I'm graduated ⚠️

Some of IFs I’ve played lacked clear direction, because most of the events unfold are mere filler and fan service. It’s like wanting to go crossing a bridge, but everything is just BRIDGE, you never fully go to the other side because the other side is also a BRIDGE (I’m still working on my skill to do metaphor).
This is mostly just a writing skill problem and pacing issues.

Actually, it’s justified because most of the authors are non-profesional writer, especially the platform itself (as an interactive fiction) is still hard to hold right, I think the author wants the audience felt like they’re inside the story with making filler to swell them down slowly?—by sacrificing the actual story itself.

Hey, talk about “roleplay” in this particular genre, I find most of the authors are put in dilemma to balancing whether the “interactive/roleplay” aspect or the “fiction/story” aspect first.

I hope I could get my point across, it’s been long since I have this thought and never fully phrase it in coherent words than just floating in my mind as a mere cluttered abstract idea! Broken grammar be damned.

Side note, the term “IF” and “community” I will said here is refers not just for CoG/HG, but also Twine (that mostly from itch…io if you want to check it out)

Not trying to generalize that all IF authors are put in the exact case, It’s just my take away with the result game and this community (IF community) as a whole. And as a whole, IF community can be very “demanding.”
“Demanding” in a sense that the audience is so caught up into the roleplay—they’re trying to change direction of your own writing and demand you to change your artistic choice to met their each individuals playthrough!
I can’t remember what WiP was that, or which IF forum it was, but people had a debate because they wanted the WiP to have exact choice they want and really mad with the author’s artistic decision to make the plot go forward.

Oh, I think that’s the problem. Like what the comments above had said, some IFs are lacking complex character, backstory, motivation, and the MC feels like a blank slate—I think because authors are trying to satisfy every audience’s playthrough at once, they sacrify the plot, the story, the characters. They are trying to satisfy the roleplay aspect, the self-insert aspect—to the point the IF just became dress up Niki (no hate towards Dress Up Niki, it’s only another bad metaphor by me).

I personally doesn’t mind with predetermined backstory, predetermined background, or even—predetermined character trait. As long as we still can make key decisions in the story forward.
I share the same sentiment with the poster about this “semi-set” character.

And one example of IF I can think—that give complex MC with character development, good pacing, plot that make me hooked up, predetermined everything but yet still give us sense of free will, clear theme, it’s none than:

:sparkles:Samurai of Hyuga:sparkles:

Now, listen! This wouldn’t be a fangirling post of Samurai of Hyuga series whatsoever!
The fact is, I think we can’t never have fully customizable MC along with complex character and neat story—while ceasing predetermined aspect at all if our main goal is to insert ourself. Unless one of them must be in lesser portion.
Other IFs usually make the character become you, in Samurai of Hyuga however—YOU are become the character.

The thing I like about SoH, even tho some of the character traits are predetermined we can still choose how the MC react that affect the personality stat. It’s not fully a personality stat, but more at how the MC conduct themselves. For example, it’s clear our Ronin is a gruff person, but we can decide whether they are conduct themselves in charismatic, playful, gruff archetype, or in stoic, cold, gruff archetype. It goes the same with each other personality stat.

I can understand if people will hate this idea because it’s clearly losing the “interactive” element of this genre, it will be no different than an usual novel. SoH fandom often criticized like this, but hey, if it’s really bad, then why it got sold till 5th books? Where all the fans came from?
However, I’m admit like customizations for roleplay, but if the customization meant nothing the why bother? This isn’t applied with SoH, even tho the result is same, the flavor text really help to added immersion. You are still going and need to kill this guy, but your personality stat: Brutal/Finesse is adding difference, you might be kill him in gruesome way or in quick and clean way possible.

I mean, I’m of course still wants to able choosing how the MC will react, whether to kill A instead of B, going left than right, or anything like that. But, for the backstory and the character itself, I will follow wherever the writer took me.

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This is long enough to deserve it’s own breakdown, if you don’t mind entertaining me for a bit.

Response to @Suwariish :
When I said stat-less, I suppose I was specifically referring to having no personality stats. However, I also think just allowing for traits that you select specialization in instead of having these weird percentages that don’t give you much genuine information about how good you actually are at something… I’d rather have a small description of my specialty than just have a percentage bar I guess?

For example, instead of having something like:

Explanation of my idea on stats / it's implimentation (this is long so it gets a hide tab lol)

Charisma 45%, Intelligence 25%, Caution 25%… etc

Instead having something like, maybe a sentence describing each of your characters stats?

You are skilled in the arts of persuasion and take on a Charismatic disposition toward those around you. Within your own mind, you are a Pessimist, but your Stoic face makes it difficult for people to see it.

or

You naturally fly under the radar, a Neutral disposition that makes easy for you to find sympathies. Within your own mind, you are an Optimist, and your Expressive face makes it clear to others your feelings.

I don’t know, I guess I just like feeling like I can see the character, and that can be hard to do when there are 6 separate personality stats clogging up the screen. I think that a description helps paint a much clearer idea of what the MC you make might be like as a person. (Mind you, what I wrote above is no masterpiece, obviously, but I think it gives a vague idea of what I mean? Anyway, the idea would be 1 stat revolves around people how people generally react to you, 1 stat decides your general internal mindset, and one stat decides how easily that mindset is expressed to other people.)

In terms of how this might mechanically work, if it’s inspired by I, the Forgotten One… I think that charisma/intimidation would be reliant on your appearance/impression, while optimism/pessimism and stoic/expressive are given at the end (allowed to be swapped if wanted). Basically, the player makes choices, freely, and each of the choices ticks up a point or subtracts a point on a scale. (Basically, there is a stat, but it doesn’t directly change the player. It is a point counter keeping in mind the player choices that allows a change if the player wants it.)

The player can make whatever personality choices they like, but if they contradict than the player will fall somewhere in the middle and there might be a prompt every so often…

You had always had an Expressive face, but lately people have had a harder time reading your feelings. It appears as though you are naturally being more Stoic, would you like to embrace this change?

This will allow for a special scene depending on what the change is by the party or group, and changes future dialogue to show a Stoic disposition instead of an Expressive one. I think it gives a history to the character, rather than building a character from the ground up you are instead evolving / changing as a person and I think that is far more interesting.

For an example, perhaps if you did change from Expressive to Stoic

The party had noticed for the past few weeks that you were readily showing your emotions less and less. A vague sense of concern and tension that nobody was quite willing to break whenever you would choose not to speak when you normally would… Or the neutral face that comes much more naturally to you… It appeared to unsettle them for a while, but as of late it seems that they are slowly starting to understand that you are naturally more Stoic now. Perhaps one day you can find a way to be Expressive again, but right now that is not how you naturally feel.

I do think that I want to allow the player to select a specialization, or some skills, but I can’t say what those will be yet since I have a few different projects of assorted genres.

Response for @N4MI :

Contained Here!

Some of IFs I’ve played lacked clear direction, because most of the events unfold are mere filler and fan service. It’s like wanting to go crossing a bridge, but everything is just BRIDGE, you never fully go to the other side because the other side is also a BRIDGE (I’m still working on my skill to do metaphor).
This is mostly just a writing skill problem and pacing issues.

You incidentally completely explained my current problem while writing my own stories what the hell? I am very introspective and critical of myself. I keep coming up with ideas for plot set ups but lacking the plot itself or the satisfying conclusion that can follow. It’s so hard to get all the pieces to fit. But a lot of stories feel like not much happens, or like there can’t be a conclusive ending because there needs to be a chance for a sequel.

Like what the comments above had said, some IFs are lacking complex character, backstory, motivation, and the MC feels like a blank slate—I think because authors are trying to satisfy every audience’s playthrough at once, they sacrify the plot, the story, the characters.

Honestly, this is my biggest problem with Wayhaven Chronicles. The MC has no real history besides an EX and knowing a few random people at the station. I feel as though there could have been more done to make the Detective feel enveloped in the world rather than just an entity put on top of it. (This and my other primary problem being the lack of agency to call out when a RO is being a POS.)

I personally doesn’t mind with predetermined backstory, predetermined background, or even—predetermined character trait. As long as we still can make key decisions in the story forward.
I share the same sentiment with the poster about this “semi-set” character.

For me, I think that the valuable distinction to make is that you can set the character up until the story starts and then allow the players to begin changing them from there. I think if you make the character entirely pre-defined then it is basically just a book, and the vast majority of people want some customization on how the character is as a person.

I think that giving them a history is very important though for the character feeling grounded. In particular, giving them a history outside of “My childhood friend that has a crush on me that I may or may not reciprocate.”

I just wish I had someone to talk to, exchange information to and maybe develop our stories. I keep debating picking up the Samurai of Hyuga series by the way. What is it’s writing style? I’m a heavy-flower lover so if the writing is too dry it won’t appeal to me, but I would love your opinion. Also, best romance option for a gay king? (If you did romance / romanced any of the M characters).

Reply to @HoldTh3L1ne :
I do not think that you can fairly take game created by triple A studios with massive budgets and dozens if not hundreds working on them with solo authors. I understand the sentiment, and of course it would be nice if that degree of freedom were possible… Honestly, DA and MA always felt like the weakest component for me was my own character.

Reply to @XaosMinion :

Regarding Steel's Sexuality

Steel only reveals he is gay after you have shown interest, but he explicitly states as much. I asked the author, and it appears as though while he can kiss an M!Sidestep before the end of the demo, it will take him a little to warm up to a N!Sidestep (he cannot be romanced by a F!Sidestep, which I appreciate personally.) I am on a N!Sidestep route with Steel in the demo, I’ll let you know exactly about that part because I’m not certain on it. He is not bisexual though, he identifies as gay, even though he will romance N!Sidestep. IDK if that changes his identity since the full game isn’t out.

Reply to @Nemureru_Mori :

Response is in here ;)
  1. I do think BFF systems in more games would be good. Usually it’s kind of like, either you are dating and inseparable or you are just friends without really being nearly as close as partners. It kind of fucks over Aro/Ace people too having it so the best engagements are all romance locked. I think having a romantic interest who serves better and ends up letting you learn more through the friendship route would be a welcome subversion.

  2. A character vice is something similarly incorporated into Fallen Hero, I think it’s actually very valuable. My thing is always that I want the character choices to matter when it comes to character creation more than anything. So, if they get a vice, it will come up more than once, and I need to sufficiently justify it in the writing.

  3. I have a character like that, I think the important thing is implementation of a clear on/off in engagements. So, the character has a ‘gauging flirt’ before entering pursuer mode, if the MC reciprocates then they mode is turned on, if the MC declines the mode is turned off. I am personally having a kind of ‘attraction’ system, where the MC can basically say how they feel looking at someone. If they are attracted to them when they first see them, the description is more in depth as they spend more time looking.

  4. I believe I have seen something of the sort before? I personally wouldn’t be interested in implementing it, because having to course friend, neutral, and romantic routes seem like more than enough work as it is.

Note: I think I still don’t like blank MCs myself, mostly because it limits the interaction with the world. I think that the connections woven into a story through giving them a clearer backstory is just more interesting than if you make them a completely blank self-insert. I think I want multi-background, but I also think incorporating something like that is a shit ton of work, so making sure you want that is important (if you want it interwoven into the story beyond flashbacks, of course.) My biggest thing is, I love and readily am looking for reincorporation opportunities, so being selective about what I add is really important.

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I do think that many authors compromise an actual story/plot for audience demands, which can make them feel shallow at best. But as for the semi-determined character aspect, I think that games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age did it best.

The player is given a character put into a certain situation, with a choice of backgrounds; this helps the player character feel more “alive” and less of an empty shell, but the player is also offered choices to mold the player into who they want, whether that’s as a self-insert, a roleplayed character, etc.

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If anything, I’d say because many IF games, especially CoG/HG, are text-based it should be easier to create that same environment. Not the polish or 3D interactivity, obviously, but the concept of having a semi-established character within the universe, but one that allows for enough player input to make each unique.

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me too!! I personally find it best for us to work on a semi established character than to create a blank canvas.

my latest favorite game, who is already in my top 3 even before the official release is stars arisen precisely because they make you work with your character based on the backstory.

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I keep reading that as the MC being a sentient blanket :woman_facepalming:

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I actually made a similar thread earlier this year, about COGs and HGs specifically. Here’s the link:https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/options-you-want-to-have-more-often-and-other-features-and-elements-you-want-to-see-more-often-in-cogs-or-hgs/114368/154

It’s been mainly inactive since the end of summer and the last reply is from the end of october. But maybe the two threads can be merged? And if not, you’re surely welcome to look at that thread to see what some other people at this forum, including me, had said/written about what they like to see and/or see more often in COGs and HGs.

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I want more diversity in genres, don’t get me wrong I love high fantasy stories, but lately its feels like these are the only stories here. I would love more western stories/ stories taking place in the past (not necessary medieval age), or perhaps something like Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley? I understand it would be hard to create something like that in choicescript.

OR maybe something with dragons? The only ones that come to mind are Dragon Racer and Choice of the Dragon, and I think it’s a shame that they aren’t very integrated in societies, except as beasts to defeat.

Sidenote: Is Steel from Fallen Hero gay? I remember reading somewhere that he was bi, but didn’t realize that?

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Regarding blank slate VS semi-set backstory discussion: I’m all about roleplaying, so for me blank slate MC isn’t necessarily a problem, I can fill the blanks with my imagination. But in that case MC needs to have a strong voice and personality within the story, otherwise MC will appear too boring compared to other characters. Semi-set backstory is also nice if players are able to choose how to react to events that happened in the past, so even with the same backstories, different MCs experiences going to feel more unique to them. Alternatively, there may be several backgrounds for players to choose from, instead of just one. For example, how it was done in The Soul Stone War, where we can choose one of the three villages MC originates from, and then, depending on that choice, MC can have different events that occurred in their past.

Now for the things I would like to see more of:

  1. BFF mechanics. Character-driven stories are my favourite, so meaningful relationships between MC and other characters are very important. This, of course, includes romance, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Friendship can also be beautiful, and having one person who MC can consider their best friend and always rely on without a second thought is something that I wish to have more in games. It can be one of ROs you didn’t romance, like in The Wayhaven Chronicles, or perhaps a separate best friend character. Though players might want to romance them too, so maybe they should already be in a happy relationship or be incompatible by sexuality/gender with MC.

  2. Character flaws/vices. I think it really enriches the MC if they are not perfect, so being able to set flaws that are actually being acknowledged in a game is really cool! Maybe MC can overcome this flaw over the course of the story as a part of character development, or just stay like that for the players who like their character to be that way. Great example of that is The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes WIP, where we can choose what vice our MC has.

  3. More active love interest. I wish we have more ROs who are the pursuers in a relationship, and MC can be the ice king/queen/monarch for once! I know unwanted attention can be a problem for players (me included), that’s why it should probably be triggered with one subtle flirt option. If you choose this option, the game will be notified of the player’s interested in this RO, and the “pursuer” mode will be activated (the player may be warned via author’s note while making this choice).

  4. “Rivalmance” system. It’s a term from Dragon Age 2, where you can romance people by gathering approval points with them - in that case you enter into a usual romance with them. Alternatively, if you disagree a lot, but still feel attraction for each other, you can enter a rivalmance with them, where, despite all conflicting values and views, you can’t help but fall in love with each other. I think it’s so interesting to explore relationship like that, even though they can easily be unhealthy, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. But I love it, because you can romance a baddie while still being good, or the other way around; or just be extremely different with RO. In that case both MC an RO can stay true to themselves, while still being able to be in love with one another.

Oof, that was long, thanks for reading to the end :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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