Your opinion about stats in dating sims

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Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#1 Post by runeraccoon » Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:21 pm

Last time, I've asked about the kind of CGs you'd like to see in a romantic VN. Thank you for responding there, by the way!

Now, I'd like to ask you about stats and how they actually matter for you as a player in dating sims.

So, dating sims usually incorporate some kind of stat-raising. In Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side, the stats directly influence your chance to get Guy A. But how organic they work for you? If Guy A is studious, and you're smart, you gain their respect. That's the most organic way for me to retell things. I actually am not hyped for this usage. It feels like the guys only care about your numbers, not your personality or effort to connect with them.

In other games that incorporates RPG elements, like Rune Factory or Fire Emblem, your stats aren't related to your love interest. It only affects your own growth and abilities in the "Battlefield", meanwhile love interests are treated as part of the storyline. But, if the RPG element is taken out, does it make sense to have a dating sims where your stats only influence your statistical character growth instead of your relationship?

Could you give me example on how to use the stats meaningfully and still enjoyable for you to play around with? Maybe you've found it in a game you've played... or maybe you have an ideal concept of stats management. Whatever it is, thanks in advance for your responses!

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#2 Post by Katta » Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:43 pm

I like it when stats have some meaning for me per se, f.ex. when I go to classes because I want to study and get a good job in the future, when I join some club because I like the activity there and not just to get guy A/B/C. On the other side I don't mind studious guys being interested in studious girls (or some other type depending on the story), this is a part of a girl's personality after all. I find it more irritating when you need to constantly bug the guys yourself to get their affection (f.ex. visit the rude guys in Girlish Love Revolution). +I don't like it when you can only find out the right numbers from the walkthrough, so it's good when there're some hints but they need to be natural.

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#3 Post by Aviala » Sat Feb 27, 2016 2:03 pm

I like it when there are stats but they are not shown, and figuring out what activities affect which stats is intuitive. For example: You go fishing. --> "You feel like you got better at fishing!" or "You caught a bigger fish than last time!" ---> Wooing the fisherman's son is easier because of your fish knowledge.

I don't like it when I raise many stats and in the end find out I was supposed to focus on only one to get the romance I want. That's some salt material right there and will make sure I will probably never pick up the game again. However if the game tells you to focus on just one stat from the start then it can be okay, though I find it annoying if I'm not given enough time to get to know the characters. How am I supposed to know who I wanna date if I don't get to spend time with them all first!? If the answer is "just look at the character trope and you'll know" then that game is probably not for me anyway...

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#4 Post by killdream » Sat Feb 27, 2016 4:13 pm

I like stats, but I don't like how it's handled in most games/dating sims — where you get to see that list of meaningless numbers, and you do things to increase those numbers so things happen when the numbers grow above a particular threshold.

You can use stats for other things, though, and there I think it increases the possibilities you have of storytelling (rather than just having meaningless grinding for the sake of meaningless grinding). So, there are a few ways of telling an interactive story. One of the ways is to use a branching structure for your narrative, so where during the story users pick choices, and those choices throw them into a different story branch where they can pick more choices, etc. And this... works, I suppose, for some stuff, but it's just not that "interactive" for me. Another way of dealing with this is by having a kind of reactive system: when a thing X happen, then thing Y happens, and thing Y affects the probabilities of other things happening in a particular way. And you can use stats for this kind of system, where the stats dictate when a certain thing might happen. The games in Versu (http://versu.com/) use this in a pretty neat way.

I'm working on a game/experiment right now that uses a kind of stat-based system for storytelling. Stats cover several different things: the strength of your relationship with different characters, how likely it is for certain characters to talk to you, how knowledgeable each character is in particular subjects, likes and dislikes, etc. None of these stats are visible, and there isn't a "grinding" system where you choose particular activities to raise one stat or the other. Instead, stats increase or decrease naturally from your interactions with other characters, depending on the actions you choose to perform (or to not perform).

So, for example, the MC in the game is a single mom with a very close relationship with her daughter. She likes to cook, and she's very good at it, and her daughter will often ask her to cook things. In one of the first scenes you have the choice of asking your daughter what she'd like for breakfast. At this point you have the choice of making her waffles (which makes her happy, but also slightly more spoiled), telling her that she shouldn't be eating sweets on breakfast (which makes her sad, and less likely to ask these things in the future), or ignoring her request (which makes her angry and increases the distance between the two characters). Scenes are chosen entirely based on the combination of these stats (and time/location), so there isn't a set storyline, only a pre-disposition for each character, which changes during the game, and many scenes that can happen, with different requirements and "rewards".

The system is very similar to Versu's (it was mostly based on the Richard's AI work—the guy who did the AI for The Sims—, except that I use linear logic to model the stats, instead of his exclusion logic), and it's pretty interesting for this kind of interactive storytelling, but also pretty complex. You can achieve a similar "more natural" way of adding interactivity with stats without going all the way into linear/exclusion logic, though: choose a small set of stats, hide them from the user, and replace the "grinding" system by one where the player can choose between different locations or activities, but choosing one of these gives them a small scene (or a not-so-small scene, if you fulfil a particular requirement) rather than just "stat boosts", and put some diversity on what kind of activities/choices/locations increase the stats so it doesn't feel like the player's got to keep repeating the same thing over and over again in order to end up with a particular character.

Good stat systems are still far more difficult to work with than the traditional branching-based system, but they can also be much more fun if designed properly, imho.

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#5 Post by runeraccoon » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:27 pm

Katta wrote:I like it when stats have some meaning for me per se, f.ex. when I go to classes because I want to study and get a good job in the future, when I join some club because I like the activity there and not just to get guy A/B/C. On the other side I don't mind studious guys being interested in studious girls (or some other type depending on the story), this is a part of a girl's personality after all. I find it more irritating when you need to constantly bug the guys yourself to get their affection (f.ex. visit the rude guys in Girlish Love Revolution). +I don't like it when you can only find out the right numbers from the walkthrough, so it's good when there're some hints but they need to be natural.
So it's when the game isn't entirely about dating, but also self development? I think I can relate to that. By giving out the TMGS as examples, they really are about shaping who you are, deciding your future, since it's a three-year of your high school days. I also don't really like the way you need to bug them (or in Harvest Moon's case, the endless gift giving system).

Do you think it would make sense if there are some "coincidental" elements? In extreme samples, randomized appearance in random places, though three times act as a requirement for more patterned meetings in the future. Like, "Wow, I think I saw you a lot. [talk talk talk] Oh yeah, I'm in the library every day besides Friday, nice talking to you." (Or getting their phone numbers.)
The other would be less randomized: the character doesn't know that studying under the tree as opposed to the library will get you to meet that annoying two-faced prince of the school. (But the player could choose it for them. Though it really feels like you need a walkthrough... Hm. .-. )
Aviala wrote:I like it when there are stats but they are not shown, and figuring out what activities affect which stats is intuitive. For example: You go fishing. --> "You feel like you got better at fishing!" or "You caught a bigger fish than last time!" ---> Wooing the fisherman's son is easier because of your fish knowledge.

I don't like it when I raise many stats and in the end find out I was supposed to focus on only one to get the romance I want. That's some salt material right there and will make sure I will probably never pick up the game again. However if the game tells you to focus on just one stat from the start then it can be okay, though I find it annoying if I'm not given enough time to get to know the characters. How am I supposed to know who I wanna date if I don't get to spend time with them all first!? If the answer is "just look at the character trope and you'll know" then that game is probably not for me anyway...
Duly noted. I also dislike stats for romance thingy. Which begs me for a question of how to use stats in a dating sim? Your example is kinda cute! I like the specific "fish knowledge" haha. In a light-hearted game, maybe everytime you go fishing you get trivias that can become conversational materials for the fisherman's son?

I also like backstories > trope, no matter how they may support a specific trope, haha.
killdream wrote:I like stats, but I don't like how it's handled in most games/dating sims — where you get to see that list of meaningless numbers, and you do things to increase those numbers so things happen when the numbers grow above a particular threshold.

[...] The games in Versu (http://versu.com/) use this in a pretty neat way.

I'm working on a game/experiment right now that uses a kind of stat-based system for storytelling. Stats cover several different things: the strength of your relationship with different characters, how likely it is for certain characters to talk to you, how knowledgeable each character is in particular subjects, likes and dislikes, etc. None of these stats are visible, and there isn't a "grinding" system where you choose particular activities to raise one stat or the other. Instead, stats increase or decrease naturally from your interactions with other characters, depending on the actions you choose to perform (or to not perform).

[...] choose a small set of stats, hide them from the user, and replace the "grinding" system by one where the player can choose between different locations or activities, but choosing one of these gives them a small scene (or a not-so-small scene, if you fulfil a particular requirement) rather than just "stat boosts", and put some diversity on what kind of activities/choices/locations increase the stats so it doesn't feel like the player's got to keep repeating the same thing over and over again in order to end up with a particular character.
Very interesting, and thank you so much for your response! I became very tempted to play Versu, but it's only on iOs so...

Ahem, anyway. Yeah, the meticulous grinding is the most tedious way to spend time inside a game. I think I see what you mean about events and diversity. The traditional scheduler system is easier to code because it's plastered there on the screen for you to choose in a looped span of time: day, week, month. I think I like your example about the mother cooking for her child, but how do you handle the unlimited variation your game potentially has? Is the interaction so specific that you could only do so with a specific NPC? Or can you do a lot of things for the NPCs?

My brain can reach the example of variation by maybe training your body could come in yoga, swimming, running, weightlifting, and they all increase your physical stats? But I wonder if that's not too organic, not as much as gaining such hidden stats through your interactions with others. But I don't know how the game would look like as a VN to have that many interactions types. Since you mentioned The Sims, I could see those dialogue balloons branching out as I clicked a character--- it would eat a lot of screen to implement that in VN, I imagine?

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#6 Post by RumRat » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:44 pm

fuicchi wrote:maybe everytime you go fishing you get trivias that can become conversational materials for the fisherman's son?
That's similar to my idea of it, as you said, when your stats determine your affection with a character it just seems like they're not interested in your protagonists personality, but numbers instead. However, if raising a certain stat enough would 'unlock' new dialogue options it would seem more natural, and like they're actually interested in your (in regards to the studious boy liking smart girl example) intelligence, rather than your intelligence stat.
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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#7 Post by runeraccoon » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:59 pm

True, that. In VN games, interaction means dialogues. Interacting with NPCs would mean talk to them about different things. The concept makes me shiver from anticipating the amount of dialogues you'd have to write in a natural, interactive VN though :">

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#8 Post by Ghost of Crux » Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:20 am

*** The following post might be a rehash of what's above, because I haven't read the thread in full yet **

I kind of want (read: will kill to) to see stats treated as YOU growing YOUR OWN PERSON, making yourself better for yourself, rather than just to hook up. I mean like, I kinda get why you use stats to unlock other characters, but I agree that it's a bit weird that it only seems like they like the fact that you're up to that particular number in that stat rather than the fact that you know more, now.

Using the "intelligence" stat as an example, sometimes it'd be like, check if int == 30, if yes then path unlocked. It could easily have been that you can hang out with said LI, but the conversations don't get truly lively before you learned enough to actually get into deep and fun topics to talk about. IMO having topics in common is what makes hanging out fun, after all, and while you can still earn affection points by hanging out prior to having said int stat, the boost increases dramatically once you are actually having fun talking with them-- just like real life.

And the intelligence stat won't just be gained through doing certain nerdy actions. Trivia, for example-- or literally, just hanging out with that person. God knows how much nerd LOVES spouting off random trivia. (Did you know that there are amethyst mushrooms, and that they're edible?) Heck. It could even be hanging out with non LIs. Maybe you can have scenes where you're hanging out and you can steer the conversation to trivia or nerd stuffs, or even tips on other things... It would make the actual stat raising have some weight to it, and you can see why the LI is now interested in you, AND you get to develop the main character and their interactions with other characters! (Having an existence outside of the harem of LI and a singular best friend is good, too)

While on that note-- I'd also like it if you actually GAIN STATS WHILE HANGING OUT WITH LI. Like I MEAN I WANT THIS. Hanging out with a jogger LI and getting little tidbits like "you know, [insert random bits of tips here]". In real life people get closer because they share knowledge on what they like, and it's basically conversation fodder later on. I'd really like to see this used that way, too. You discussing how to cook with a hobbyist in a hanging out, they give you tips, you try it out later and the next time you hang out with them you can be like, "oh I tried out the tips you told me last time, and it was great!". Insert a hefty amount of affection points, because there's few things people love more than having their tips acknowledged and tried.

Heck, that system probably will work even outside of the "int" stat. Knowledge comes in many forms.

And probably the best part is that... stat-raising like this will feel more like your character actually learns more things for themselves. The tips how to jog? It's useful for them. Tips how to make a fish taste even more delicious? They'll be the one cooking it, too. It most likely would make things feel a lot less... flat and more like the characters are enjoying hanging out with you because you actually are a human being capable of growing in both skills and experience than just a scene where you're walking home and there's a sweet moment where they're all "I enjoy our time together"*. Having tidbits of references to past interactions that are fully optional would make things feel a lot more alive.

I mean it won't be as nuanced as some of the other suggestions in the posts above. But for a dating sim, I think it's more than sufficient. Basically classify random bits of info, tips and trivia into various classes, add in some actions that can be classified as "big earners" (learning a quick way to do your Calculus homework that you can share with your LI, learning how to cook something your LI likes to eat/cook as well, jogging with an LI in the morning...), and have your character do things outside of the LI's view and have them talk about it in the future, prompting reactions from other characters that aren't just... pure boredom, even when it's not aligned to said character's "personality". (I mean, as nerdy or as jogger-y a character is, EVERYONE reacts to the knowledge that you can cook well. The jogger probably has something to say about that scene in Jurassic World where she outran a T-rex in high heels, and most likely so does everyone else, even though it's probably going to be classified as "nerdy" trivia.)

*I mean I enjoy VNs regardless of whether they use this or not, but if you want to not just be a simple dating sim, then it's probably best to avoid this.

Anyway. That was too long and most likely too rambly, so I'm sorry for that.
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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#9 Post by killdream » Sun Feb 28, 2016 12:50 pm

fuicchi wrote:Ahem, anyway. Yeah, the meticulous grinding is the most tedious way to spend time inside a game. I think I see what you mean about events and diversity. The traditional scheduler system is easier to code because it's plastered there on the screen for you to choose in a looped span of time: day, week, month. I think I like your example about the mother cooking for her child, but how do you handle the unlimited variation your game potentially has? Is the interaction so specific that you could only do so with a specific NPC? Or can you do a lot of things for the NPCs?
Dialogues in a system like this are usually character-specific, but general reactions/social modelling can be shared. Emily has an article (that's not so academic) about how it works in Versu (https://emshort.wordpress.com/2013/02/2 ... mentation/), In EVūL the system is much simpler than that. Each character is modelled with a particular personality (which includes traits, wants, relationships, likes and dislikes, etc), then there are rules on how each trait or character responds to common situations (e.g.: getting jealous when someone compliments my girlfriend), and finally there's the dialogue system.

The dialogue system in EVūL is modelled such that at any time there's a set of "topics" (with one topic that's considered the "current one", and a few related topics), inside a topic you have a particular set of scenes that can be played by a specific character. A topic introduces a set of "possible actions" (for all characters), and the system allows the player to choose from one of those characters. Since there's a limit to display only 4 actions at any given time, the system uses a weighted random choice (it picks 4 actions out of all of the available ones in a way that the ones that are "most relevant" are most likely to be presented). There's also a system that allows players to "not act." If they take too long to choose an action, that's interpreted as "not acting," and NPCs will react accordingly to that.

While this system is simpler than Versu's, writing content for it is still... a lot of work? A lot more than I had initially planned for, and definitely much more than what you usually see in dating sims. Here's an example of the conversation I've mentioned previously: https://gist.github.com/robotlolita/f13 ... 7a1967bfe2

Versu does have a programming language to make this simpler, though, and something I want to implement eventually so I can release it as an engine people can use to make games like this. Here's an example of Versu's code:

Code: Select all

A poor young straight Ancient Roman man. 
By reputation he is attractive -  “[He] is widely accounted tremendously handsome”,
intelligent - “[He] is known for his poetry, and cannot be supposed a fool”,
but not proper - “[His] misbehaviour, with various ladies, is the talk of the town”.
He is open, unconscientious, extroverted and flirtatious.
He is concerned with attractiveness, intelligence and friendship.

(About Bluntschli and the carpet bag.)
Catherine (to Louka, naively): Captain Bluntschli! That’s a German name.
Louka: Swiss, madam, I think.
All of the traits described in that piece of code (open, extroverted, flirtatious, intelligent) will reuse the rules for the traits in the game (both for how the character acts, and how people react to that character), which makes the task of writing new games considerably simpler.

But, erm, I digress.
My brain can reach the example of variation by maybe training your body could come in yoga, swimming, running, weightlifting, and they all increase your physical stats? But I wonder if that's not too organic, not as much as gaining such hidden stats through your interactions with others. But I don't know how the game would look like as a VN to have that many interactions types. Since you mentioned The Sims, I could see those dialogue balloons branching out as I clicked a character--- it would eat a lot of screen to implement that in VN, I imagine?
You can definitely incorporate some of these ideas in a dating sim without going all the way into all of this complicated AI business, though, and that was what I wanted to say in my post ahaha.

The ideas Ghost of Crux presented in their reply are, in fact, pretty good. It's still going to be a bit of work adding these kinds of things to Ren'Py because Ren'Py was designed more for a branching-style of narrative, but it's still doable. If you use labels for scenes, and make them unlock-able with certain pre-conditions, then you can even interleave these small bits of references to past interactions by just branching:

Code: Select all

label hanging_out_in_the_park:
  ( ... )
  if npc_taught_how_to_make_cookies and npc_interest > X:
    mc "By the way, I tried that recipe you gave me the other day. It turned out pretty good!"
    npc "Oh, that's good. I'd like to try them at some point."
    $ npc_interest += 1
    $ npc_would_like_to_try_your_cookies = True
    mc "Sure thing! I'll bring you some next time I make them."
It's still a fair bit more work, but I think it feels more natural and enjoyable as well.

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#10 Post by runeraccoon » Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:15 pm

Ghost of Crux wrote:That was too long and most likely too rambly, so I'm sorry for that.
Never apologize for an insightful response! I love it lakjdlkjlFALJSFK (you make a fan out of me even more than before haha. Really can't wait to play your VN(s)!)

I'd like to thank you for writing what I have in mind into a coherent argument. All of your words make sense, and the idea is practicable. I hope many more games/VNs/dating sims would implement this character growth "system", because if we want to invest a long time (esp. in dating sims), it's more likely that we want the character to grow, not only to just wear different clothes or go to different places without any impacts to the character's lives.

I think I need to rewrite the outline of my game :D
killdream wrote:You can definitely incorporate some of these ideas in a dating sim without going all the way into all of this complicated AI business, though, and that was what I wanted to say in my post ahaha.
Thank you for those samples and advises. Wow. Since I haven't delved into programming that much (try at all), half of your explanation need a thorough reread before I could manage to get insight from it. I mean, the sound of extensive programming and writing scares me off my boots. In itself, it's really awesome, so I'd really like to play EVul once it's done.

I really like your last example, it's clearing up a lot of things. I wish I could respond with something more profound, but as it is, I'd like to just try it and see what I can come up with. Here's hoping many would get more benefits than I do from reading this thread! :>

And if there are others who'd like to say something about stats in dating sims, how to deliver it, and what they wish for, I'd love to hear them here.

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#11 Post by Ghost of Crux » Mon Feb 29, 2016 2:56 am

(you make a fan out of me even more than before haha. Really can't wait to play your VN(s)!)
Oh no-- another disappointed soul--

Ooh, once you post your projects, I'd definitely keep an eye out for them! It's probably a lot more doable than the other ideas-- though that's mostly because I'm working with the limitations of my own knowledge.

Also: adding a routine action where you get to increase a skill that can be used as conversation starters, though! Like... when you cook often, you get to talk about various different aspects of cooking with your LI, while maybe not doing it often/not reading about it often might reduce the affection points over time... since the same old topics will get stale after a while.
Of course this will be more work, but well, everything nice is work :'d
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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#12 Post by runeraccoon » Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:36 am

Ghost of Crux wrote: Oh no-- another disappointed soul--
Oh shut up and just receive the compliment. :>

And that last part is definitely interesting! In Tokimemo, you can go home with a randomized LI after school and hang out with them before you get home. Though you can start conversation with them, it's mostly an excuse to get to know them better. The topic is all about them, I guess. The option for starting a topic (other than asking LI's likes and dislikes) and whether or not you can pull it off based on your (in-game) knowledge sounds pretty doable! More work, but definitely doable, so thank you for mentioning that.

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#13 Post by MLoreley » Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:20 pm

I echo a lot of the sentiment that I've read in the thread already; stats are generally irritating when they're a requirement in a romance-oriented game, and they treat the stats as an absolute for "getting with the partner" instead of, say, the dynamic choices you make in getting to know the characters in question. I've been turned off of games where the stat system is more complex than any other choice you make, and it affects your outcome. And I can get especially irritated if it's poorly telegraphed what you need to do.

It CAN be well implemented, but in games where the primary focus is in building an individual character rather than building a relationship with another character. Where the stats apply to story elements, not interpersonal ones. Even in cases where "Studious character would prefer another studious person", that shouldn't necessarily predicate being able to romance them- I have known real life instances where people THINK they know what they're interested in, and change it after meeting someone who is nothing like that.

I prefer the interpersonal-relationship-building VNs to be focused on "did you make a choice that reflects understanding the character?" and "have you been paying attention to what this character has been doing/saying?"

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#14 Post by runeraccoon » Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:03 pm

MLoreley wrote:I prefer the interpersonal-relationship-building VNs to be focused on "did you make a choice that reflects understanding the character?" and "have you been paying attention to what this character has been doing/saying?"
Thank you for your input, especially this last one. I think that's true.

It would be just a waste if past interactions stay in the past without having impact in the latter ones. That Versu example and Ghost of Crux's input on how to actually implement that kind of impact inside the game are really useful. Your "understanding the character" also reminds me of the effort I'd like to reflect in the game, to have that kind of satisfactory relationship-building, haha. Since it's interaction with subtle stats, probably map would be better than scheduler? Hm...

Thank you and good luck with your games!

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Re: Your opinion about stats in dating sims

#15 Post by Nephalos » Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:32 am

fuicchi wrote:Last time, I've asked about the kind of CGs you'd like to see in a romantic VN.
In other games that incorporates RPG elements, like Rune Factory or Fire Emblem, your stats aren't related to your love interest. It only affects your own growth and abilities in the "Battlefield", meanwhile love interests are treated as part of the storyline. But, if the RPG element is taken out, does it make sense to have a dating sims where your stats only influence your statistical character growth instead of your relationship?
In the VN Roommates (available on Steam) they use a hybridized system, where your character gains points which influence your relationship (personal stats that can make you more relate-able to certain characters). Since an interactive schedule and some form of time management was involved, it added another aspect to the VN besides merely choices of dialogue. I thought it was interesting and added to the story.

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