"Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

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"Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#1 Post by MoonByte » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:18 am

Warning, big wall of text. For the main question, scroll down until you see the line xD

____________________________________________________

Looking at my own game and especially at the mentality of my characters, I have started to think about something.
I have a character that has been friends with the MC for years and is - from their point of view - not intend on changing that unless provoked. I have a character that flat out states "We are more or less siblings" and while they aren't opposed to dating, they are also not the type to flirt. I have a character that at one point is quite blunt and offers "I really want to help you become a better person. I don't care, if you see me as a lover, a friend or a sibling, but if I could make you like yourself more, then I'd like to do that".
Now think of all the romance VNs you have ever played and wonder: would ANY of those ever give any of these three people the CHANCE to be ANYTHING but a lover? And if you decide on one of these three, would the other two ever turn into anything but a small NPC that the MC will eventually forget? Can you ever interact with these three in any other way than being either romantic or rude?
I have to confess, I have yet to find a VN where I don't just butcher all social ties with every interactable NPC but the one I will date. So many missed opportunities for storybuilding.

So as the name suggests, the most obvious thing would be that when you play a Dating Sim, you try to DATE someone, aka romance the person of your choice.
BUT not only is that unrealistic (let's be honest, some VNs are pretty weird in how you smooth talk a perfect stranger in 5 hours), I actually find that........boring?

I mean, look at it from a narrative point:
Let's say you have three choices: Becky the childhood friend, Linda the new classmate and Christine the new cashier at your favorite shop.
If I would go after Linda and/or Christine, then chances are INCREDIBLY high that the game will play out in a way that I pretty much abandon my childhood friend. The game will end up with me ignoring Becky, maybe make her even cry from how I simply have no interest in interacting. Because I as the player am aware that interaction would lead to me romancing her which I am not interested in. Usually, a Dating Sim will pretty much end with me ruining half my social life, being rude to everyone I don't want to love, all for trying to date someone. Doesn't matter that Becky had been my friend for the last 15 years or that I have to be in the same class with Linda for the next three years, if I wanna fuck Christine, then I will rampage through that story without a single glance at casualities. Fuck friends, who needs those anyways (and hey, maybe I am at least lucky enough to have a male best friend that I don't have any player interaction with and thus can KEEP as a friend because there is no affection bar).

Which I think is actually kind of disturbing.
I am currently enjoying Max's story of "Roommates" and the game treats it somewhat better, though still a bit faulty in my opinion.
You have five roommates and - no matter if you play Anne or Max - one of them is not dateable (since they are straight). In Max's case, Rakesh is the male that is romanceable, but Dominic is straight and not interested. You can still raise your relationship with him and actually become friends. And I have to say, I really enjoy that.
It still does end up really weird though because I like Anne, Rakesh and Dominic, but I wanna date Rakesh. So what happens is that I CAN'T really have a lot of interaction with Anne because the game will simply make me end up doing romantic actions towards her (unless I am willing to get a drop in affection whenever I bail out of that). There isn't a chance where I let Max become close friends with Anne and Dominic while dating Rakesh. I need to ignore Anne in favor or Rakesh. In the worst case, I need to be an ASSHOLE to Anne so she doesn't surpass Rakesh and becomes my lover.

So I was thinking about having my game go TWO ways.
Everytime you interact with someone from the main cast, there are 3-4 options. One of them definitely drops the affection, one raises it in a romantic way, one raises it in a friendly way (and a fourth that either drops a specific one or a second romantic/friendly raise or whatever I spontanously think is appropiate).
Should it be ambigous towards the end, then the character will openly ask the MC about their feelings, if they want to be friends or want to date, just to be clear (or, if the friendship is high and it works with the characters mindset, then they may ask if they wanna be friends or "soul siblings" as in "I feel for you like a big brother"-kinda thing).
Maybe even have it in the vein of Rune Factory and - should the MC actually romance two characters that are in contact with each other (such as working at the same office or being classmates), then there will be an event where they find out about each other and will drop significantly in affection while both yell at the MC for two-timing them, thus forcing the player to either be a player that ends up alone or be serious and realistically think about who they want to date.

I just think that the genre of romantic VNs could be so much more challenging and interesting, if it would actually allow more then just "Love is the only option".
I mean, I talk with ~20 people during the day and am NOT trying to get into everyone's pants. I want to be friends with some (be it because of my sexual orientation, their sexual orientation, because they are taken [and those people usually don't even get a countable interaction unless you can BREAK THEM UP which is a total dick move] or because I simply can't see myself dating them), for some I am open for whatevs and with some I am actually really interested in changing the relationship towards romance. And most VNs just don't reflect that.
In fact, the few games that allow me to be at the end like "Hey, let's be friends?" make the ending in a way that I feel BAD about not dating that person. It makes me feel guilty as if I am the only person in the entire world that might have made them happy and yet I am that asshole that "friendzoned" them. I don't need a VN for that, "Harvest Moon: DS" already made me feel guilty for every girl that I couldn't date, seeing that all but Nami end up in an unhappy relationship (let's not even get started about how Lumina is ending with a cheating husband...).
Dating Sims often make me feel like being friends is BAD, like you just shouldn't be friends if you COULD date someone.
But I actually often play VNs where I really like multiple characters though one fits my taste in who I'd want the MC to date. But yeah, the game will end up with the MC either ruining the existing relationship with everyone but the lover or simply have the MC ignoring them to the point that they may even forget they exist. Which is not only sad, but some missed oportunities in narration and storybuilding in my opinion.

I mean, there are so many opportunities for events when being friends. The MC could have a person that they go to for relationship trouble (because let's be honest, you usually tell more secrets to your best friend than your lover), you could ask them for backup, you could simply have a great time without the whole "Man, should I end this with a kiss or a hug???" problem. Even without that, a character has a past, present and future, they have dreams, wishes and fears. I share some only with my best friends, some I share only with my lover. Why not explore a character by revealing some thoughts and secrets only one one of the paths and giving the rest on the other?
What if you can only find out on the lover path that Linda actually has that awkward kink for getting her neck stroked, but only as a friend you find out that she is getting heavy anxiety attacks when being catcalled? You can create so much depth in a character without overloading the dialogue by having two paths where the character reveals different things.



____________________________________

Anyway, to stop my wall of text "rant":
What do you think of allowing the player to conciously decide on wether they want to befriend or romance an NPC (and I mean ANY dateable NPC unless something in the story disallows one of the two such as the sexual orientation making dating impossible or a long unrequitted love making befriending impossible ["Ristorante Amore" dealt with the latter in an impressively coherent way by making absolutely clear that it's love or nothing with a certain chara without beeing too pushy in all but that characters path])? And I mean specifically cases where getting a friend ending is POSITIVE and not a pity "Well, you didn't get laid, but at least you have someone to talk to, I guess..."-ending.
Would you enjoy it? Are you actually trying to implement it? Do you think it is stupid/unnecessary/too complicated?

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#2 Post by Googaboga » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:53 pm

I think there is plenty of room for dating sims to expand from the way they generally operate.

To me, one of the main troubles with interacting with many people is that ultimately there is only one ending. So it often doesn't make sense for someone to go out of their way to see a bunch of events with a character and not get any of the endings associated with them. If the player is planning on getting an ending of that character's later the player will likely want to save their events until then, if the player is not interested in the character enough to want to get an ending with them it is rare for the player to risk not winning over their LI of choice because they decided to spend some time with someone else they don't really care about.

My take on that was to make it so there isn't a single ending system. Instead the player will get a scene for every goal that they reached. If they have a boyfriend, they get a scene. If they made friends with one of the other boyfriend options, they get another scene. If they became friends with one of the non-dateable characters, they get a scene. Etc. So now players are encouraged to do more in order to fill their ending out rather than discouraged from pursing other things in the fear of not getting the ending they want.
[And, yes, the friendship scenes are just as worthwhile as the boyfriend ones. Actually, they could be considered better depending on your perspective.]

Another thing I did to encourage players to interact with more than one person is that I made it convenient and accessible. The gameplay itself is built for you to become close with multiple people and it will happen to a degree even if you weren't aiming for it.

I can also think of some other ways to smooth the issue of abandoning other characters over. Namely, having a good amount of automatic events and/or random events. Automatic events that happen regardless of choices and random events that occur at random throughout the game can show that the MC is still associating with everyone that they know, even if gameplay-wise the player is only choosing ways to be around one person. Those types of events are also just a lot of fun and add some variety to the process of getting through the normal gameplay of a dating sim.

Another option is to not have all the LI's scenes be one-on-one situations. A game could definitely have events meant for a specific LI that includes a variety of other character or even events that don't include that LI at all.

As for choosing between friendship and romance, that's tricky. It if is ambiguous for too long players can end up being disappointed that there aren't many events specific to the type of relationship they wanted. If it splits early in the game players can get frustrated if they end up wanting to go a different way later (and that's a lot more work for the dev). I can't say for sure how I'd handle it.
[In the game I'm making now you're basically choosing between being friends or being exclusive friends with benefits, there is no love or romance. If you want to be official with a guy you just ask once he likes the MC enough. But whether you do or not, the way the two act around each other is the same so it's much simpler to manage.]

Anyways, I'm very pro-friendship and less interested in romance myself so I always appreciate games when specifically being friends is an option, especially when it's treated just as well as choosing to pursue the character romantically.
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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#3 Post by Imprexia » Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:09 pm

This is a bit late, but I think that's a fantastic idea! I agree completely with @Googaboga and if you ever make a game like this I'd definitely want to check it out

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#4 Post by MoonByte » Sun Apr 24, 2016 5:58 pm

Googaboga wrote:My take on that was to make it so there isn't a single ending system. Instead the player will get a scene for every goal that they reached. If they have a boyfriend, they get a scene. If they made friends with one of the other boyfriend options, they get another scene. If they became friends with one of the non-dateable characters, they get a scene. Etc. So now players are encouraged to do more in order to fill their ending out rather than discouraged from pursing other things in the fear of not getting the ending they want.
[And, yes, the friendship scenes are just as worthwhile as the boyfriend ones. Actually, they could be considered better depending on your perspective.]
+
I was thinking about something like that.
"Coming Out On Top" had a nice variation of that where the ending is split into multiple scenes where it explains on what your degree is (based on how much you studied), if you stayed friends with Penny, if you stayed friends with Ian and what happened to whoever you tried to romance, all given the same amount of importance (unless getting a good romance ending which has that section a bit longer).
It actually makes it feel like being nice to your roommates really matters, even though it has little effect while playing, if you're nice or an ass to them.
Though it would of course be even more interesting, if there would be constant random/automatic events where the game checks the current stats for people and reflects your behaviour towards them up until that point to make the player aware that YES, being nice to your co-worker actually DOES have influence on the MC and NO, having ditched that sport event with Michael is not just ignored and forgotten.
Another option is to not have all the LI's scenes be one-on-one situations. A game could definitely have events meant for a specific LI that includes a variety of other character or even events that don't include that LI at all.
I agree, though I noticed that many games that do this often force the player to take a stance. As in, when talking to A and B, if you compliment A, it will instantly drop B's affection, even if you and B aren't even close (or friends and thus not romantically involved). But then again, just the more opportunity for whoever wants to change it and be creative and making encounters like that nice and natural.
As for choosing between friendship and romance, that's tricky. It if is ambiguous for too long players can end up being disappointed that there aren't many events specific to the type of relationship they wanted. If it splits early in the game players can get frustrated if they end up wanting to go a different way later (and that's a lot more work for the dev). I can't say for sure how I'd handle it.
Actually, though I get that part, I would say it also depends on the character. I know from my own experiences that some people actually just are forceful and pushy and try to make you agree on a date after 10 minutes of chatting. And then there are people that are very shy and ambigous about it for weeks and months before they have courage (or you simply confront them). So while I think that it is a good general thought, it should also depend on the person the MC is dealing with.
Someone that is a big flirt and very spontanous is justified to be brash and request a hug after 5 minutes. Players are allowed to find that irritating, but that's how it is then. I myself after all don't really like having to read super deep into the shy types (or even worse Tsunderes, I hate being insulted for being nice), so being made to wait too long would then again annoy me. It is a personal taste thing, both from the characters point of behaviour and the players taste.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#5 Post by Kinjo » Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:29 pm

Totally agree with you. Lots of dating sims tend to focus on just the "dating" and not so much the "sim" and that completely ruins the experience for me. If you can make a game where the choices deeply matter then you'll have made one of the better games out there. By that I mean, focus on the consequences of picking options, not just in the context of "does the player end up with their romantic interest?" but also in the context of "what happens to the story based on the player's actions?" It seems that there's too much emphasis on trying to solely please the player by making the whole thing centered around what the player wants, and to me that seems incredibly selfish. Trying to balance what you want with what others want makes it a much more interesting game to play, and is also significantly more realistic.

I think your idea in particular is a good start, and I'd go with that unless you can come up with something better. Can't say I'm taking a particular approach myself because I'm not working a dating sim but if I had to make one I'd think it'd be worth a shot to try something different. One idea: it's not enough to "win" the game by getting an ending with your favorite character, but in order to really win you need to make sure your whole social group is above a certain percentage where they still like you, and you totally haven't ruined your social standing. Or maybe you need to balance it with your academic life, so maybe you got the girlfriend of your dreams but you flunked out of school or you got fired from your job, so game over. Basically, include side-goals so that the player is not solely focused on one aspect of the game but has to balance a number of goals. That's going to require a strategy and actually thinking about the choices they'd need to make.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#6 Post by Klawzie » Mon Apr 25, 2016 7:04 am

I was actually just talking about this with a dev friend of mine the other day!

The heart of what I was saying was that it was really frustrating to me that I hadn't found many games that let you be friends with someone without that messing up your romantic route path. (Because obviously, hanging out with a person of the gender(s) you're attracted to is the same as courting them.) Especially annoying is when you know it will mess things up to hang out with them or help them out, so you have to refuse them - and your options for refusing amount to being a total jerkface to them. So, the minimum I'd want out of a game is that I don't have to be a jerk to other people just to make sure my potential love interest isn't clear on me being interested in them. :p (I get so many "forever alone" endings, it's not even funny. But I always prefer playing the game how I feel best the first time through, even if it doesn't conform to the game's logic.)

The Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side games (I've only played 1 & 2, so I don't know if it's changed at all for 3) let you have friends! Yay! Except it became an outright liability to have them because of the drama bomb stuff. I'm an introvert and I tend to keep a fairly small friends circle just out of personal comfort. Maybe it makes the game "more complex and interesting" or something, but it's also incredibly stressful to try to juggle friends who pout like infants because you've been too busy with school, clubs, jobs, and the person you're dating to spend time with them. (Especially if you don't like the character at all, but, hey, you know them, so obviously having said hi once means they have the right to drama bomb if you don't go to the movies with them once a month.) My point with that ramble is, "Yes - I'd really love to have friends in games, but please don't drama bomb me into making friendships a chore/liability."

I have to agree with the point Googaboga made with having multiple endings. I've played a couple of different games that had some sort of "compartmental" endings. So, for example, having an ending that gave you an ending/epilogue for your strongest friendship, your career, and your romance. Some games even go down a list and give an epilogue line for every major character. (1931: Scheherazade seemed to do that for literally every character you met in the game - which could be good or bad depending on the player considering that numbers in the dozens.)

Super tired, so I've forgotten what else I was going to add, but maybe I'll remember later. xD;
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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#7 Post by gekiganwing » Mon Apr 25, 2016 10:05 am

Kinjo wrote:... focus on the consequences of picking options, not just in the context of "does the player end up with their romantic interest?" but also in the context of "what happens to the story based on the player's actions?"
In my opinion, it's fine if the story focuses only on characters' relationships. I also think it's fine if there is a general plot. The main character can have multiple goals, such as "find a significant other," "get a full time job," and "address local ecology problem."

If the story focuses on a plot, then it should still be possible to use game mechanics of statistics and time management. The main character might be improving themselves to achieve a goal. Persona 4 does this in order to help the MC solve the murder mystery. How about a video game in which the main character works on their stats in order to win a competition? Or perhaps use raising simulation gameplay in order to train one or more people who could become superheroes?
Kinjo wrote:... It seems that there's too much emphasis on trying to solely please the player by making the whole thing centered around what the player wants, and to me that seems incredibly selfish.


Give the main character rivals. Let there be a real possibility of NPC x NPC relationships. Do not let the relationships revolve around the main character. Consider a love polygon in which they are just one part of a tangled web.
Kinjo wrote: One idea: it's not enough to "win" the game by getting an ending with your favorite character, but in order to really win you need to make sure your whole social group is above a certain percentage where they still like you, and you totally haven't ruined your social standing. Or maybe you need to balance it with your academic life, so maybe you got the girlfriend of your dreams but you flunked out of school or you got fired from your job, so game over. Basically, include side-goals so that the player is not solely focused on one aspect of the game but has to balance a number of goals.
I like both ideas. Let the main character's actions lead to a variety of outcomes. "Everyone stays friends" can be a good ending. "Get a boyfriend, but alienate two of your friends" might be a bittersweet ending. "Get a girlfriend, but have to go through a GED program" might be a not-so-great ending.

There was an untranslated romance game in the '90s called Dream Generation: Koi ka? Shigoto ka!? I learned about it through an English guide on GameFAQs. According to what I read, this video game included not only a focus on relationships, but also a focus on the main character finding work.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#8 Post by MoonByte » Mon Apr 25, 2016 10:54 am

"Coming Out On Top" actually does that "Ending Epilogue" thingy somewhat alright.
It counts how well you did in studying (which defines your degree and by extension your future job), your relationship with your best friends (and if you stay in contact, if they will be successful as you encouraged them) and what happened with your romantic interest.
Which felt very genuine, since I at one point was frustrated with a romantic path and didn't care about the other things (I think, I was only culminating money?), making me depressed when I got the good romantic ending, but ended in a bad job and with the best friend breaking off contact.
Klawzie wrote:Maybe it makes the game "more complex and interesting" or something, but it's also incredibly stressful to try to juggle friends who pout like infants because you've been too busy with school, clubs, jobs, and the person you're dating to spend time with them.
Again, find this one difficult to make a general statement about.
My current friend circle is very relaxed (I can literally not call or meet them for a year and they will be just as happy to meet up again once I have time), but I had also friends in my life that required me to regulary meet and chat to them. I myself am not the type for that, so those friendships died naturally (because they deemed I was an asshole that obviously didn't care). So I think, depending on the type of NPC, it is absolutely ok to dramabomb you for not going with the into a movie once a month. There are those that just smile understandingly and those that take it personal.
And just like in real life, I think it lays in the players hands to decide on whether or not they want to be friends with those that "don't care" or those that "require constant attention". As long as the best ending doesn't depend on the player being friends with everyone, I see nothing wrong with it.
gekiganwing wrote:Give the main character rivals. Let there be a real possibility of NPC x NPC relationships.
I agree, but I also think it in part depends on the game. The more possible romance options, the more difficult this becomes (unless making the romance options end up dating each other), simply because you have to plan out a mountain of paths and interactions, calculate who knows how many seperate variables and all that.
If there are only 1-3 romance options, then I am all for it. I found it always very effective in the Harvest Moon games to whoo my prefered NPC as thoroughly and fast as possible, simply to avoid losing that one to my potential rival. It made me trying hard on being nice and considerate feel more natural since I had to "fight" for it while most games make it more feel like The Sims where you simply go "Talk Talk Talk Flirt Flirt Flirt Kiss Kiss Kiss Whoohoo Propose".

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#9 Post by descats » Mon Apr 25, 2016 4:48 pm

Some Dating Sims devs want to feed the competition between their love interests routes to improve the replay value of their games but not many manage to make them satisfying enough. I agree that many times the romance comes off as forceful but I have to say I'm a masochist and I love the frustration and stress that comes with that system, haha *whenever it's well implemented*.

From my own experience, Harvest Moon 64 became one of my favorite games because of these time/resource limitations. In the end, I think it's about the kind of audience you want as a dev.

On the other hand, it's not very realistic that every love interest you don't woo meets a terrible fate. I would only enjoy these archs if those radical endings are justified by the plot development -for example if you don't romance a certain character in Horror Survival style of VN it would potentially mean their death or something along that lines-.

As for the friendship matters, I think everyone is rooting for more realistic interactions with the characters -not everything is flirting!-. Even when I'm speaking with the person I'm actually interested in romancing, I wish we could approach them in a more natural way. I would love to see a game with friendship endings too but it sounds like a lot of hard work.

And that's my input.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#10 Post by Klawzie » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:39 am

MoonByte wrote:So I think, depending on the type of NPC, it is absolutely ok to dramabomb you for not going with the into a movie once a month. There are those that just smile understandingly and those that take it personal.
And just like in real life, I think it lays in the players hands to decide on whether or not they want to be friends with those that "don't care" or those that "require constant attention". As long as the best ending doesn't depend on the player being friends with everyone, I see nothing wrong with it.
I think that's pretty fair, honestly! I think my reaction is mostly just because the game(s) with the dramabombs had me actively avoiding meeting any new characters just so I had fewer people who'd demand my precious time or they'd actively poison the relationships I wanted to pursue, setting off horrible chain reactions as it made other characters' relationship points drop causing them to dramabomb and so forth. In The Sims 3 I would hurry up and get the "long distance friend" perk asap and/or even use the Loner trait so they didn't need as much social contact to make them happy.

As long as the gamedev thinks about if it's a game about social stress and/or considers whether difficulty settings are something they're interested in working with so players who aren't up for it can lower the rate, then it's fine! Bonus if the game is promoted as featuring that aspect as part of its make-up, so players like me know what they're getting into and can go in with the proper mindset. xD


(Wanted to mention that other people in the thread are making some really interesting points, I just don't have anything to add yet.)
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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#11 Post by MoonByte » Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:10 am

descats wrote:As for the friendship matters, I think everyone is rooting for more realistic interactions with the characters -not everything is flirting!-. Even when I'm speaking with the person I'm actually interested in romancing, I wish we could approach them in a more natural way. I would love to see a game with friendship endings too but it sounds like a lot of hard work.
THIS.
Of course, when on a date then I can perfectly accept that all interactions are either awkward socialisation or direct flirting (even though it is STILL unnatural, I had stupid discussions about pirates on a date and me and my lover had still enjoyed ourselfs).
But if it's in a school setting, then I would definitely not walk up to my crash and be like "Hey baby, you look hot today *kiss" like some VNs advertise it. I think it is legit to nurture the idea that you can also interact in a non-romantic way with romantic leads (welcome back to the beautiful issue of "Character X's pure purpose is existing be flirted with" and how to avoid that).
ESPECIALLY the less characters there are, the more I'd like to see that. Simply, because if you have ten dateable people: ok, it will take you five years to get all the possibly interactions and family ties and whatevs down in script. But if you have just two people? Then PLEASE elaborate on them, let me get to know them. Character Development is something that - for whatever reason - usually only either happens in long-running TV shows or in a over-the-top way during a movie and game (I mean, did anyone here ever play FF8? It is such a beautiful thing to watch Squall mature, develop opinions and form bonds with other characters and in such a well-made way as well).
VNs are a narrative medium, but I sometimes find that they suffer from being a game by being treated like most games, meaning: challenges, achievements, endings! But narration? Story? It somehow suffers at times which is a pity...

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#12 Post by philat » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:28 am

I don't think anyone would say it's not a worthy goal to write better and more realistic stories and character interactions -- I think pretty much everyone would say they want it, but it's quite understandable why there isn't more of it -- it's obviously like quintuple the work. Not just in terms of time, but in terms of creativity, it's a high ask. It's quite difficult to write a static, quality romance/friendship/antagonism/what-have-you story. It's REALLY difficult to write a branching story that leaves these possibilities open in a nuanced way that is still very good. Which is not to say that we shouldn't be asking for it; just that I don't find it at all bizarre that there isn't more of it; I find it quite natural. For whatever that's worth.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#13 Post by Cakey » Mon May 02, 2016 11:05 am

I wanted to say something about realistic choices and frendship. Actually frendship is more like unreal thing because in otome game or any game who focuses on relantionships, it is very hard to keep player interested. The story is usually even too flat to make the romance good. Romance is just like a pile of sweets thrown onto table. The problem is that you have to have a lot of nice dishes to make an interesting alternative for romance. Another thing is that in real life we have friends because we actually meet a lot of people. In game you have to limit uninteresting parts of a story to the minimum. The truth is that it is hard to make real friends omiting everyday life topic(which is actually kind of hard and boring topic to handle). The lat thing is that actually most guys who finds certain girl attractive, is ONLY interested in romantic relationship. It means that if you have around three to five characters in otome game probably only one would be in situation and would have lead him to real frendship with protagonist with makes a lot of extra content and actually kind of unbalanced amount of content for the characters.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#14 Post by sunwave » Mon May 02, 2016 1:35 pm

This really is an interesting read. I have been thinking about the same thing for a while now. Usually it's just "choose to woo or not to woo" which is really strange. After all, maybe I really want to help someone out with their problems, but still really feel attracted to someone else. I don't want a bad end for the characters that I don't hang out with! So, neutral "friendship" options are something I always like to see. However, most of the time if there ARE friends that you can have, they're either not a love interest at all, or they will automatically be your friend on a certain path, outside of player control. I think that's kind okay. It could be done better by giving the player the option to manage friends, but that does get really complicated really fast. As Philat said: It's really difficutl to write a branching story that allows for multiple interwoven routes (like, 2 friend routes AND a romantic route, following the same story. Which would end up being 2^3 = 8 possibilites which you need to take into account).

What I'm trying to do right now, to implement 'friends' yet still keep the story straight:
- Everyone gets a relationship status in the common route. You can usually pick options for "offend them", "neutral/friendly" or "friendly/flirty" (Obviously, you don't always know which is which).
- Eventually, the game will check for characters (each at different points in time) if they should be "dropped" or not depending on if you've been a jerk to them.
- You will get to people's routes depending on completely different choices. If you try to take a route of a "dropped" person, they will not appreciate you poking into their personal life and you're screwed.
- If they're still friends, you can go their route.
- If you shut out everyone, you will not be able to get help when you need, and you will get screwed, resulting in a bad end. Especially if you're being jerks to the ones your main hangs out with.
- Nearing the end, you can pick "friends", "lovers (and get rejected)" or "lovers (and get accepted)", the last two depending on if you have enough relationship points.
- By the end, you will get a scene for each of the people you're still friends with, and a scene for your main heroine.

Now, I understand there are still some problems with this, but it does make it quite linear for each route, so not too difficult too write. On the other hand, it still is important to be nice to people that are not your love interest, AND by the end of the route, you just have to go through checks for each character to get a good scene for them or a bad scene. Technically, you can be friends with everyone, friends with your main hero(ine) and people important to them, and have a lover or not. The only thing NOT possible is getting a to the end without any secondary characters.

So basically the story consists of (common) => (pick route, bad end if they dislike you) => (do route) => (Check for other friends, bad end if no required help) => (friend or lover?) => (Final scenes)
The only two REALLY branching points are 1) picking a route and 2) picking lover or friend. Other scenes will just have two or three different options depending on who your friends are, but will not change the main story until you need their help.

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Re: "Dating Sim" with more then 'only Romance'

#15 Post by MoonByte » Mon May 02, 2016 8:40 pm

@philat
Of course, but that's how interactive media are.
In difference to a movie or book do we have to think of all possibilities and put them into the game by hand, each and every single one of them. Some will find it too exhausting, even AAA creators often shrink away from too much freedome and realism in choices.
And I am fully aware that this state is natural since all in nature and life prefers it easy, yet effective. People aren't screaming loudly for the whole thing, so people can get away with not doing it.
My question was thus mostly about whether or not people are interested in MAKING it. BECAUSE it isn't a feature that the audience requests, it isn't an super obvious one, even if one would expect so.

@Cakey
I actually would disagree.
Of course, there are such and such players. There surely are those that get bored and don't care and just try to get their love interest to the ending without caring at all. But honestly, most of those players also don't care about that love interest. They are hunters, collectors. They just want something and probably only read the story of that interest with minor interest.
And to be honest: no matter what game I make, I am not aiming for such people as an audience anyway. I want players to like my characters, to understand them and their story. It is not about getting all the endings, it is about getting THEM to the ending. If you think that my characters can be ignored and that you can be rude since you don't care, then chances are that I will rig the game in a way that it will severely punish you for being cruel to them. Simply because that's how friendship is: if you are ugly to your friends, they will either get revenge and you'll suffer...or they leave you and you have to face life totally alone.
Oh, and they may tell your love interest as well, because nobody should have to date an asshole. Games with consequences are my personal favorite, so whoever thinks they can fuck a character of mine over will have to learn the hard way that I will shoot back.
And honestly, whenever a game does it to me when I am being disrespectful, I LOVE IT. I enjoy being punished for having been ignorant of someone else's hard work. When I had played a dating sim that had noticed that I had flirted with multiple girls until very late despite already having been in a certain love route, that dateable character told me that THEY KNOW and that I am the worst piece of shit before they deleted my save file because there was no way that the character could date someone that shamelessly flirts behind their back.
You may find that too much, I found that awesome and it inspired me greatly.

@sunwave
Sounds somewhat like what I am working on, though if I get it right, then you actually have a branching route that DEPENDS on a secondary character and thus gets prefered over the others? Because everything else would be too many routes, if I understood that correctly?
My current version actually doesn't have that much trouble in managing it.
Each character has certain qualities they like (one character prefers for the MC to be honest and strong-willed), but those are just general. To enter the romance path, you need to "give them a sign" (with my example character, it's easy, just flirt with them). If you are friendly, but don't flirt, then they will ask you to be their friend. If you flirt, they ask to be your lover. You are able to say no to either and remain unrelated to them. They also give you this choice a few times more (including returning to being friends or "upgrading" the relationship).
The ending will change depending on what the status of all characters are, since the friends will support the MC in what they want to do and become, but the lover will move in with them and be their main support, so the major change in the endings for the MC depends on if they date someone and - if yes - who.
It isn't that complicated though.
That example character has currently eight state variables that mark certain choices or events (the MC crying, the character mentioning something, even a variable for the chance that a date has gone bad). There are also two states, friendship and relationship. Finally there are three numbered states, being "love", "friend" and "affection".
friendship and relationship simply get activated by getting the correct choices and then agreeing with the offer of the character.
Affection rises or drops based on how you talk to them. If you do what they like/hope, it goes up, if you're rude, it goes down. If you are flirty with the example character, you get a point for "love", even if you agreed to being friends.
Before the ending sequence, the game analyses the amount of affection, love and friend. If affection is low, then whatever the character was with them will be broken up and the MC loses contact with them. If love or friend are high, but the official relationship is the other one (they are friends, but love is the higher number), then the character will ask, if they should change the relationship. The MC can agree or disagree, it's perfectly optional.

And in general, it is actually pretty simple, I think. Sure, it's lots of text, but it isn't DIFFICULT ._.
I just run through the events for that character and most of it happens the same, no matter what the relationship is. But every now and then, I have a if-statement where the text changes based on it.
If they're lovers, the character may say "But I really got to know you ever since we started dating", if theyre friends its "But being friends with you really opened my eyes", if none of them is true then it's a simple "You're not really what I expected...". The game will reflect your choices, though a few events play out entirely different based on the relationship, with their own menus and choices.
One character has a 80% chance of dying, if being neither a friend nor lover to the MC (since the MC doesn't really care) while being very likely to survive, if being close to the MC.
They're very small things except for the few times where love makes the characters go on a romantic date while friend makes them go out for a drink to talk about work and the weather.
But I let a few of my fellow students playtest a section (mostly since I wasn't sure, if my menu stacking was working and I had no nerves to do it myself) and they were easily impressed by how they felt like their choices really mattered and how different it felt between dating the character and befriending them despite great parts of the text being identical in all cases.

Which is exactly how it should be in my opinion.
A friend isn't a totally different being from a lover, I go out eat dinner with a friend as with a lover, though there ARE differences in the conversation and maybe some actions (like holding hands).
And I agree, not having a single friend can make great differences in your life as well. You are lonely, you have no one to back you up. It is a very sad existence and if the game has dangerous events, then being alone is gonna end poorly.
Though I think, making the characters aware of your choices (such as possibly flirting with two characters simultanously or being an asshole to someone without good justification) would make it even more interesting. But yeah, starting small (especially as a one-man-team) requires from most of us to make decisions that are possible to somehow be made. The more text and the more complicated, the more likely that it will remain unfinished forever.

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