I’ve been toying with the idea of putting a lot of emphasis on romance into some of the games I’ve been working on, but I’d like to hear more about what people like seeing.
Personally I love romance in games, but I feel like a lot of romance focused ones (non-COG) just get boring because there’s very little development or uniqueness. And then there are games like Guenevere that really knock it out of the park imo.
What kind of stuff has stood out to you in romances?
Personally, I like characters where the relationship is more than romantic. In the Lost Heir series, you could see all the quests and develop relationships with the characters in your party regardless of whether you were romantically involved or not. That made them a lot more interesting because they felt like people first, and that’s part of what makes an RO appealing to me.
I think one of the best romances in CoG was Ecstasy from Slammed. They are one of the few romances I can think of were you get to be in a relationship and not just fall in love. I think part of the reason most romances are boring is because it only focuses on the pre-dating part. Most dating games end when the main character and their RO decide to go steady, after all, and at some point you kind of get the whole “been there, done that” feeling. I think there’s a lot to explore with a couple in a relationship and, personally, I would kinda like to see more of that in games in general.
It also depends a lot of the ROs, which is a really personal thing that would vary from person to person. I don’t really like the whole “best friends to lovers” thing, personally, so I don’t really like the best friend type of RO but a lot of people do! So having well written ROs that you get to interact with a lot is important.
I’d never really thought of it until now, but yeah, most romance games focus more on building up to the relationship than the relationship itself. Usually you don’t start dating until the last quarter of the game.
As for other things, I like when the romance actually feels like part of the story rather than just tacked on and inconsequential. It helps me enjoy the story more since I mostly play these games for the romance.
Don’t force Romance on the player. Let them choose whether to pursue it and how far how fast. Also none of that “you must marry Catherine for the best ending” or “you can have sexy time with all the guys but only Steve will marry you and give you children” or “love Aeris while you can because she’s going to die early on, no way to save her” stuff. Romance needs to be satisfying, darn it!
Make characters who are their own person and have their own stakes in the story. The biggest thing i notice that often puts me off in romances is when the characters you’re romancing clearly exist solely for the sake of having a romance option. They have no bearing to exist within the story or plot other than to be a romance option, and were clearly written in after the plot was thought out, and so have little or no impact on the plot. Start with characters in mind whom you want to be romancable, and write them in as you would normally. Have them feel and react to the MC’s actions they’re their own characters, and have opinions and stakes within the plot. They aren’t just there to satisfy the checkbox of having romance in the game.
1 Characters who are willing to attempt to initiate(and end) the relationship themselves and, it properly changes the way the characters (MC and RO) talk to each other, not just the MC being “we’ll shag later.”
2 RO(s) having a place in the story, i.e having their own stakes and interest in factions, events, and even other characters(possibly being a companion).
Ex In Samurai of Hyuga(so-far as of the 24th Jan) the RO(s) attempt initialize the relationships themselves and have their own stakes in opinions on the MC, places, factions, and have been a part of certain events.
Do you think that, if it fits within the framing of the story and isn’t railroaded, a romance that has a high chance of failing is still worth writing in?
The game in particular I’m working on is (likely) going to have three love interests, all of whom play enormous roles in the story whether or not you romance them. Because this is a small number and because these characters all have very extreme personalities, I was thinking of writing shorter romances for side characters that will most likely die or grow apart from you. These romances will start earlier, and will not interfere with a romance with the main characters in the future.
For me whenever I try to think of good RO characters I look at the Heroes Rise RO options. Those characters always seemed so well thought out, and the best thing was that they were independent from the MC their whole world didn’t revolve around the MC they had their own dreams and goals and ambitions, they had their own thinking and viewpoints, they didn’t just go along with whatever said and thought, they weren’t afraid to have their own voice heard and to challenge the MC if necessary, and it was because of their individual uniqueness that made them attractive to the MC. This seems more in keeping with reality.
The plot should not completely stop for the sake of your romance. While that includes not letting the romantic subplot take over and slow down the main plot, that also includes time not stopping when you’re smooching. The urgency of saving the world/galaxy/cluster is detracted from when you still have plenty of time to smooch, Bioware.
When the relationships are written in the way that the character get to grow and mature without sacrificing all the sweet little moments these couples get to bond and make their relationship stronger. There’s no toxic representation of domineering of LIs, like when there are totally hints of them trying to be ‘protective’ but it’s actually them being borderline manipulative and abusive. Avoidance of these portrayal under the pretense of ‘romantic’ gestures is definitely not okay and if it is taken out of the content it makes it more easy to indulge into an in-game romance.
Complexity: A good romance should be more than some idealized happy-go-lucky love story. To that end, we would have ROs which are flawed, motivated, and impossible to epitomize in one or two words. The circumstances should also perhaps be a bit dysfunctional which would help with immersion since love at first sight and such novelties are hardly realistic( unless some focal point of the story relies on the relationship being stereotypical )
Repercussions: The majority of stories which don’t revolve around romance specifically tend to treat it as a side-quest or an extra bonus irrelevant to the main plot. But as in reality, our relationships affect us much more than we care to admit or realize.
For instance, if we’re playing a superhero who perhaps already has a girlfriend who might be a journalist or a mayor, and suddenly decide to have an intense fling with a villain who may be able to animate corpses or something, I think that should play a significant role in the story( if you know what I mean )
And I guess if the characters have spent a sufficient amount of time together and the setting of the story is appropriate, I’d like to see their interactions go a little further than occasional kissing or flirting
I don’t know… Why do you want to add these extra romances? If it’s because you feel that the story is improved by them, then sure, go ahead. However, if your reason is to give romances to people who don’t like the main three (due to their “extreme personalities”), then that seems counterintuitive, since you’ll just end up taking those romances away again, leaving the players back with the (potentially unliked) main three, and I can’t see many players liking that situation more than just getting the main three from the beginning.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any game which I’ve fully forgiven for killing off (or otherwise writing out) the RO I was interested in. Paradigm City probably gets the closest, although it really didn’t help that it did it twice (or even three times, depending how you count it).
Just to be clear: I do feel that a tragic romance can work (even very well) in a story, but I feel that a CYOA/IF/CoG story is probably not the best way to tell them. It probably doesn’t help that gay couples in fiction do get a far higher proportion of bad endings, which is one of the reasons I come here to read.