Thank you Papillion for lending your thoughts.
Scope is indeed the primary problem, I'm trying to keep the game as simple as possible but still something I would be proud to share.
I have several game concepts that I've tinkered with, but I went with "The Archer's Curse" due to the fact that it's the most streamlined. Yet I can't release just a basic Dating-Sim, I have to have some Plot and interesting features too or I'll be dissapointed.
Originally the game was designed to include 8 girls, I've since cut that to 4. The other girls are still in the game, but you can't romance them. Perhaps I'll add them in in another version once I get the game finished.
For the Female Character, two of the girls offer a believable romance... one is a bit streched, the other I never wrote because I couldn't find the right angle. This is one of the reasons I've been considering adding Male NPCs to the list. Scope wouldn't be too big of an issue as the only dialog I'd then cut is the one I like the least. Additionally, it would then make things more "fair", the male Protagonist would be able to romance 4 girls, while the female protagonist would have 2 girls and 2 guys to choose from.
As to the matter of fairness between the options given to Male and Female Protagonists... I don't know, I guess in the end it'll be up to those who play the game to decide. I can say that I didn't stive for "equality" but more for "balance".
Let me give you an idea of the setting/theme, and the background on the character. Oh, the character's name is Morgan (Archer is the surname, heralding back to the time when your last name was basicaly your profession), it's a unisex name and it conveys the appropriate strength I want for the female protagonist.
The setting is a generic hamlet/village in medeval europe, it has some history to it and was a strategic point in the last war with the neighboring country. It's not a fantasy setting, the colors will be very earthy and the mood slightly on the gruff and dreary side. Yet this is not a village that is impoverished or plauged, so for it's time it would be a really nice place to live. There is a local Baron who rules over this town, and it's primary resource is farming... yet since it sits on a main trade route, it has all the amenities of a larger town (Inn, Merchants, Tavern, Stables, etc.). Additionally, when I do commission artwork, I won't be looking for an Anime artist... I want some Anime influence, but I don't want it to be the primary style.
Morgan, the protagonist, was born to a Hero of the last war, you acted as the head of the local militia and helped save the town... he was given an honorary title of Knight by the local Baron and invited to the Keep on numerous occassions to tell his stories to any guests that the Baron had. During that time he met the Baron's Niece, romanced her and fell in love... this made the Baron and his family quite upset, the niece was diowned and Morgan's father's title was revoked. The baron tried hard to break them apart but failed, he couldn't come right out and directly attack Morgan's father because of how loved he was by the village (and he had more sway with the local militia than the Baron did). The Rumor was that he had a curse placed of Morgan's entire family.
Since then tragedy has always befallen the "Archer" family... Less than a year after Morgan's parents wedding, Morgan was born but Morgan's mother died during childbirth. Morgan's father always blamed and resented Morgan for this. Morgan was raised with no love or affection... Since an early age Morgan had to take care of him/herself, and often suffered emotional (and occassionaly physical) abuse by his/her father. Morgan's father took to alchol, gambling and other activites... his health eventualy faded and he passed away shortly before the game starts.
Only a few days after his/her father's funeral (where he was buried as a hero, giving all kinds of mixed feelings to morgan), the Baron (actually the Baron's son, but it's a family feud) shows up... Morgan learns that his/her father hadn't paid taxes for several years, they never took action because he "was a used up old man with no value left"... but debts are passed onto the debtor's family... in otherwords Morgan. Taxes are due at the next Harvest, if Morgan fails to pay the Morgan will be forced into servitude.
The game itself has many of the elements of a dating-sim game, Stat building, earning Money, impressing your paramours.... but it also has some storline, Morgan must pay off the debt... but beyond that Morgan must find out the nature of the curse or tragedy will continue to come.
Obviously it's not a light-hearted game, although I'm not making it a dark game either... if this were to occur to us in this time it would be horrible, but for the era that Morgan lives in... it's not that uncommon, Morgan just has to find a way to triumph.
A female Protagonist does face quite a higher degree of challenge from a lot of aspects of the game...
Women are supossed to "behave like women", yet Morgan was taking care of herself from a young age, she's independant, strong-willed, and competent at many things that are generally discouraged for women... Hunting and Fighting are the two best examples. She isn't submissive, and kind of likes giving men a hard time.
I'm using a Reputation
system in the game, and it's effects are different for the male and female protagonist.... A female Morgan's reputation starts out at "Wild", while the male Morgan's reputation begins at "Skilled"... both refer to how well they fulfill their gender roles... the more skilled/independant/strong/successful Morgan becomes the further up the scale they rise... this is good for a male protagonist, but mixed for a female protagonist (although lower ratings are not "bad" for a female protagonist, but for a male protagonist they are). I also track Respect
, it's good for both male & female protagonists. It does work differently for a female Morgan, the higher it rises the more likely she will be taken seriously by the more traditional NPCs, and the more likely she'll gain admittance to certain aspects of the game that are restricted at the beginning... most of the things she can do to raise her Respect rating also raises her Reputation, and vice versa. If a female Morgan's Respect falls low, it's not nearly as bad as for a male Morgan. The last think I track is the "Player"
rating (I haven't come up with a better name yet), each girl wants a male Morgan to be within a certain range... if the score is too low or high the character might also get some ribbing (and problems with the family if too high)... for a female Morgan a high rating is Bad, Very Bad... the lower the score the better in practicaly all instances.
These Ratings are the primary way I use to affect the attitudes of the NPCs toward the character, obviously different NPCs place different values on the ratings. Thus most of the increased difficulty for the female protagonist is keeping these ratings where it's best for the particular path you've chosen... while a male character faces less complications.
Ofcourse the gender also plays into effect during certain scenes, a male protagonist is far more likely to have to fight during the game (and far more likely to wind up with ENDING 0 - Death), a female can flirt past some obstacles (but becareful, it can affect your ratings), a male protagonist is EXPECTED to have decent revenue... the female protagonist can be just about dead broke in most cases... the shopkeeper doesn't give a male protagonist any free stuff, and the female protagonist dosen't get kicked out of the local bath area when girls are bathing
(ok, she can... but you have to have a really bad rating for that to happen). So there is some balancing factors... not to mention a female Protagonist starts with a bit higher stats.
But as for the relationships, they are more difficult. I basing this off some recent studies which show the rate of homosexuality to be higher in urban (high population density) areas than rural area... the theory is that Homosexuality might be partly related to an instinctive reaction to overpopulation... the same results can be wittnessed in many mammals. So none of the girls are gay, but some will be *curious* if you approach the situation properly... which can lead to a real romance... but there are obstacles: The family's and village's reaction are primary, but the inability to get married and have children is another.
I'll probably make the romance's with the guys easier... well easy if you decide to take on the gender role of a woman (but you won't get the BEST endings)... and still difficult if you try to maintain your independance.
In response to your character types...
I appreciate the detail, I'll try to incorporate some of that into the two characters I've selected.
The first one is the Bard who performs at the Tavern, he's fairly close to being Bishonen for a game that isn't truely anime style. Hmm, brooding and angsty... that might work, although he might come off as a bit scizophrenic. He's energetic and social at the momment, but there isn't much dialog for him (yet). That could be his "stage persona", then out of the spotlight he becomes... hmm, could work. I originaly thought of him as a bit of a playboy, but I could still incorporate that... the reason he doesn't stay with anyone is because noone really knows him. I'll think about it some...
The second male is the Smithy, definatly fits the older muscled heart of gold concept. I wanted the main obstacle in the relationship to be Morgan's independance, he wants a calm traditional woman to stay at home, take care of the children and provide for. My biggest problem was trying to figure out why he's so traditional if he's helpful and sensitive. The "wounded" concept would work great... he's been married before (in another town, so this info would be hard to get), his wife was a strong-willed, independant sort just like the female protagonist... but she "got herself killed" while fighting for her beliefs... "if she would have only stayed home and let me handle it things would have been different"... yeah, deffinately could work...
Thank you for your reply!
(Wow, I just realized how long this post is)