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About Azarkon

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  1. I don't see discussing romance and its implementation in games as a side track in the romance thread. Anyhow, I dislike the term 'wish fulfillment' precisely because it has a connotation of lacking in the player actually having to work at or towards a goal. The player wants it, so they're going to get it; this is true whether the wish is fulfilled in their wildest fashions or in a 'monkey's paw' sort of way to create drama. "You would never say that the action segments of a game being boring is the fault of the player not being able to put themselves in the character's shoes, so by that same argument, you should never say that romantic characters being unattractive is the fault of the player putting too much of themselves & their own standards into their character." Not finding a romantic character attractive or viable for the player character is inevitable, as its a function of character and no character can appeal to everyone. If I say I don't like Durance its either because (a) he's non-optimal for my party build from a functional standpoint or (b) I dislike him as a character. In the case of (b), should games not include a non-player character I don't like? If your answer is yes, then I disagree with the concept that NPCs have to be universally likeable (I'd also argue that it would be fundamentally impossible to create); if your answer is no, then I disagree that a distinction needs to be made in the subset of character that is romance. To me, if you're building non-player characters with the idea that any one (or all) has to be attractive to the player you're losing sight of the NPC as a character and as such, the NPC has lost any agency they might have had in the narrative. IMO, YMMV. I don't think requiring effort on the side of the player conflicts with wish fulfillment, since it feeds into the feeling of achievement which is what produces personal satisfaction. Being a hero would feel a lot less fun without overcoming actual challenges. The same applies to romance: it'd feel a lot less fun without there being obstacles. So I agree with the idea that it shouldn't be handed to the player, just as winning the game or getting the best ending shouldn't be handed to the player. On the topic of attraction - you can't ever appeal to everyone, but it's easy to see how you might appeal to most people. There's a more general problem, here, which is that modern Western CRPG developers tend to be too afraid of the 'wish fulfillment' criticism, so they put romance on a pedestal and utterly ignore how basic it is. Or they try too hard to be 'progressive' in their thinking, and end up like Bioware. Statements like 'romance is hard to get right,' or 'we don't do romance because it takes too much resources,' are evidence of this problem. Romance isn't that hard, and no one is expecting the love story of their life in a video game, so why so many excuses? As for the question, do you need attractive characters? The answer is, as always - it depends, but provided that you want player romances to be a component of your game, you'd be making it very hard on yourself to answer no. And this issue, here, is what I'm most worried about with respect to developers who exist in an environment in which they are constantly being told that conventional standards of attraction shouldn't matter, because they sure as hell do matter down here on Earth. Could attractive characters contradict narrative and character building goals? Sure. A game like Gears of War would not necessarily benefit. But then Gears of War does not expect the player to romance squad mates, either, so there's no conflict. A game that does expect its romances to be valuable content, however, has a different cost benefit analysis. You don't need to make everyone look like a celebrity, but the film industry wouldn't be able to operate without celebrities, would it? What I'm trying to get at is actually very simple: don't be so terrified or disgusted by conventional standards of attraction; don't try to make romantic love into more than it actually is; don't make romances that most people wouldn't find appealing. Of course, these are guide lines, not absolute rules. You certainly can and should experiment with characters that are exceptions, but remember: exceptions exist because there is a rule.
  2. I disagree; making the romance an explicit wish fulfillment is leading down the path of creating a feel good mini-game at the expense of your NPC. I think what needs to happen is that the game needs to allow the player to make a choice and have the game react to the consequences of that choice. How I'd approach making a respectable romance - Romance should not lock out the player from having an interesting traveling companion if they don't pursue the romance and should not lock players out of essential elements (ie items, xp) The NPC's goals and interests should not be subsumed for a romance A pursued romance shouldn't fail only because the PC ends it; the NPC should be able to end it as well Each romance shouldn't end in the same place It is okay to have the PC make a choice to pursue a romance with a character that will never end well The game should react to the romance in a way that makes the romance meaningful as a choice/consequence regardless of the ultimate disposition of the romance All rules are mutable with the right idea and good writing. In my opinion, which I will not elaborate too much so as to avoid side tracking, all games - but especially CRPGs - have a kernel of wish fulfillment. We experience CRPGs vicariously, and it is not an accident that people often emotionally identify with their characters. This is not to say all games should make you feel happy. Aristotle emphasized the importance of pathos and catharsis as functions of drama. Tragic stories can also fulfill emotional needs. But the central reason I bring up wish fulfillment with respect to romances in games, is that I want to warn developers against creating characters that no one wants to vicariously romance. There's that word again. As I mentioned above, romance is fundamentally a function of attraction, mostly physical, but also psychological and spiritual. You can't fake attraction, just as you can't fake excitement about a dramatic situation that ought to be exciting, but isn't because of the way it's presented, the competence of execution, etc. You would never say that the action segments of a game being boring is the fault of the player not being able to put themselves in the character's shoes, so by that same argument, you should never say that romantic characters being unattractive is the fault of the player putting too much of themselves & their own standards into their character. Thus, foremost in a romance designer's mind must be the appeal of the character of interest. Attraction is, unfortunately, a deeply personal experience for which general principles can only serve as guidelines. Nonetheless, I'd say that, unless your purpose is to troll the player base, being too flippant about the nature of attraction is a bad idea. Romances can be experimental. They can involve subversion. They should be original. But they should never take the player's interest as granted. You need to earn that interest, and Obsidian especially should be cautious, because they already have a reputation for being reluctant to introduce romantic relationships, which could become a self-fulfilling destiny should they fail to create compelling interests. That would reflect poorly on the company, and would also reinforce its negative association with romantic themes, to the detriment of all.
  3. I don't want to put romance on a pedestal. Romance isn't special. It's just another facet of human interaction. It's common. It's basic. Almost everyone will engage in it, and likely on several different occasions. There's little that is more base than sexual attraction. Little that is more crude than being captivated by the symmetry of a face or the fullness of a bosom or the broadness of a shoulder. Even when we extend that attraction to personality, it remains chemistry: instincts and hormones drive almost the entire process of looking for, evaluating, and committing to a mate. Of all the loves in the world, romantic love might just be the weakest, or at least the most fickle - quickly gained, easily lost, and always with conditions. Yet it is precisely because of the above, that there should be systematic agreement that actively avoiding themes related to romantic love can only weaken a development studio's ability to craft compelling characters, narratives, and interactions in the long-term. You can dance around the topic via side quests, elect to write only characters and stories for which romantic love would be inappropriate, concoct convoluted philosophies to justify your decision, but none of it can mask the artificial stiffness brought about by pretending that people don't want to bang each other bad. Romance is elemental, and universal; its exclusion cannot be justified, unless one's object is not to portray human nature but an ideological construct that has the face of humanity, but the heart of an alien. Beyond this basic agreement, opinions will differ. An argument can be made that since all video games are a form of wish fulfillment, romance in video games should also be wish fulfillment, and so we should follow the example of the Japanese, and proudly indulge in our deepest and most shameless fantasies. Thus, all romantic interests should be shaped according to the most lovely of forms, imbued with the most endearing of personalities, and coupled with the most emotionally gratifying of plots. The logic being, since it's all desire manipulation in the first place, why not be the most manipulative you can be? Yet a counter argument is that the more you indulge, the cheaper it feels. Harems of otherworldly beautiful women - or men, or both - throwing themselves at the player character over his or her pedestrian wit and all around mediocrity, feels... Wrong. Not believable. Like Agent Smith said, it breaks the Matrix. In this thread, Tigrane is Agent Smith, and his argument is worth repeating - how can you not cringe at the basic setup of most games that attempt this style of self-indulging romance? From a Western sensibility, or at least an Anglo-American one, it summons more bile than sugar. Maybe for a guilty pleasure, it can work, but for a more respectable company or game, it doesn't seem fitting. So then, how do you make a respectable romance? What, even, should be the goal? Presumably it still has to revolve around wish fulfillment, but of a more sophisticated kind. For the player to want to interact romantically with the character, the character must still hold a degree of attraction. But perhaps that attraction is not strictly carnal. Perhaps it could involve curiosity, by virtue of novelty - "how might one love an air elemental? or can love continue after one partner has been permanently polymorphed?" Perhaps it could subvert the cliche - "you profess your love, but are REJECTED"; though that might hit too close to home. Or maybe all it needs is a reasonably attractive character with believable standards for the time and circumstance, sufficiently developed and competently written. Not such an easy task, given the history of failures, but perhaps, ultimately, achievable.
  4. I have not posted on these forums for a long time - ever since Avellone left, in fact - but since you did not bring this issue up on the Codex, I will respond at length here. The naming system of Tyranny most resembles that of Dungeons & Dragons, and it is not a coincidence that you think it also resembles that of American cartoons, and I'll add American comic books, because that's the popular cultural environment from which early Dungeons and Dragons drew. Consider Greyhawk, the first edition Dungeons and Dragons setting and Gygax's brain child. The following is a list of names drawn from Greyhawk's Circle of Eight - the best known mages in the setting: Mordenkainen Bigby Otiluke Drawmij Tenser Nystul Otto Rary Now examine a similar list from Faerun, the most popular Dungeons and Dragons setting, drawn from the top of my head: Elminster Khelben Blackstaff Larloch Szass Tam Telamont Tanthul Halaster Blackcloak The Simbul Sammaster Manshoon No where in either of these lists do we detect a culturally and/or linguistically consistent naming system, or anything that can be attributed to a believable historical context, such as exist in Tolkien's, or even Pillars of Eternity's, world. Instead, names are chosen by a simple rule: because they sound cool. This is the well known rule followed by most comic books and comic book inspired settings, and comic books were the face of popular nerd culture, as people such as Gygax would have known it, in the 1970s and 80s. It establishes and reinforces the fact that Dungeons and Dragons was always a less serious and more comic book setting than, say, Tolkien's Middle Earth. The creators embraced the entertaining, tongue in cheek nature of their game system through the often ridiculous adventures that they then wrote for it, and the over the top characters that populated their settings. It was a time when inside jokes, silly wit, and bigger than life personalities mattered much more than the need to build historically accurate settings. Looking back, I can't help but think that this comic approach to fantasy helped, rather than hurt, games like Baldur's Gate, and that taking a more historically accurate and/or linguistically consistent path hurt, rather than helped, games like Pillars of Eternity. I am not saying that the market has no room for serious fantasy or historical settings, but developers who are trying to appeal to nostalgia should understand that the success behind Dungeons and Dragons was not very different from the success behind comic books. Names can be such a small detail, at times, that we often ignore their impact in establishing the feel of a setting and a game. But compare names like Engwithan, Cilant Lis, and Lle a Rhemen to names like Zhentarim, Baldur's Gate, and Candlekeep and it becomes immediately obvious what approach is being taken, and what atmosphere is being established. Many people complained about Pillars of Eternity having a dry setting, of dumping information on the player, of having too many details that were either not necessary or not welcome. But in many ways, their criticism could have begun with the names. For when you start with a name like Cilant Lis or Bîaŵac or Glanfathan, it is almost certain that you will have to information dump the player at some stage, because the name itself tells us nothing about what it is, and because any developer who comes up with such an elaborate system of naming, must have spent so much time on the details, so as to have no choice but to share them.
  5. The cultural problem isn't that we reject romance, but that we have a difficult time accepting romantic wish fulfillment as a valid indulgence. It's a problem of immersion, of becoming sufficiently emotionally invested in a video game character to actually enjoy interacting with him/her romantically. Such immersion is vital to effective romantic roleplaying, but is incredibly hard to achieve when you refuse - eg for cultural reasons - to become emotionally involved with a video game in that way. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about 'Aerie is my eternal waifu I no longer care about 3D people' obsession, but rather a middle ground between it and the 'I play for teh lelz' crowd who's never going to be immersed to begin with. And I'm not asking for as much as you think - because the fact of the matter is, we DO get immersed in games, and we DO derive wish fulfillment from them. Otherwise, you won't see people becoming so emotionally invested in, say, Ellie in The Last of Us, and for that matter a World of Warcraft raid boss drop. Provided that you accept this premise - that emotional investment is critical to the success of a romance - then the rest of this logic is straight forward. The basis of an effective CRPG romance is a character that is endearing to you, and the basis of such a character is an aspect of wish fulfillment that appeals to you. Whether the developer subverts this aspect later - ie for thematic effects - there's no way to avoid it in the beginning, because in order for the player to even be drawn to that character in a romantic way, there has to be a raw attraction, and that attraction isn't cheap, especially not when you're trying to effect it through a computer screen with pixels. It's not enough to simply have a compelling character, because there's no excuse for forcing a romance track just to develop a compelling character. It's also not enough to just have a 'romantic story,' because the narrative fails when there is no investment - it feels empty and cheesy. It's further not enough to just have an attractive model, because that only inspires sexual attraction, which is cheap and fleeting when it's through the computer screen. There has to be a wish fulfillment aspect involved. In fact, there's nothing unique about romance - as people have already said hundreds of times - outside the actual existence of romantic feelings, and it's inspiring those feelings without any hope of sexual fulfillment that is the hardest task for the game designer. Romantic feelings? For a video game character? Madness, but in fact, people fall in love with fictional characters all the time - from books, comic books, films, etc., and in lieu of interaction they write a lot of bad fanfiction. But just from the fact that I cringed while writing this post tells me that there is a deep-seated resistance against this sort of behavior, and that to the degree that the 'mainstream' gaming culture shares in this resistance, video game romances won't flourish.
  6. I don't oppose your idea, but at the same time, I don't think it's a matter of choice - ie 'bring it on!' vs. 'kill it with fire!' Badly executed romances are just bad, and it's the poor execution of romances that drives people to the other side. People who hate romances in video games weren't born that way. They were made that way by crappy execution, and I don't blame them, because the track record is terrible.
  7. You have to learn to walk before you learn to run. I think the problem with a lot of the well-intentioned promancers in this thread is that they've set such a high bar for romantic content that developers are liable to run away from it than embrace it.
  8. Western culture? We have been doing romances for centuries and include them amongst our most treasured cultural achievements. Aren't you being just a little hyperbolic here attacking an entire culture for a few people's opinions on RPG romances? Maybe instead of burning down a civilization in a bizarre bit of generalization you should just stick with the argument that wish fulfillment is what we are in the business of here. I was obviously talking about modern Western culture; it isn't necessarily a condemnation; and it isn't limited to video games. Romantic 'wish fulfillment' is derided in contemporary Western pop culture wherever it appears - simply look at the Twilight flak - and especially by men. But its cousin - sexual 'wish fulfillment' - isn't. In lieu of romance, what we get in Western made-for-male-consumption pop media is instead porn and soft-porn - ie the parade of scantily clad females in films, tv shows, and games whose only purpose there is to provide various states of undress. At the same time, other figments of wish fulfillment - especially of the violent, heroic sort - are ingested without a shred of introspection. Teenagers today grow up on games eg GTA, CoD, and Madden NFL, which speak to their 'power fantasies'; but when it comes to romance, all they get are GTA shack-a-hos and Bioware 'SJW progressivism.' A lot of it comes down to the sort of hyper-masculine ideal that is, in my opinion, intrinsic to modern Western culture's social standard for males, but that's precisely what makes it so hard to see when you don't have a foil. The purpose of my bringing this up is to think about why, after a bit of initial experimentation with romances in games, the video games industry in the US - and to a lesser degree in Europe - abandoned them altogether, while in Japan, for example, romantic wish fulfillment became a thriving industry for both male and female gamers. Promancers flock to RPG forums - and especially to Bioware's and Obsidian's - because interactive romantic content is basically only found in this increasingly marginalized genre, along with a handful of indie games. Yet, even among Western RPG developers, it is a dying art - as Gromnir has effectively argued. Bioware does a bang up job selling their romances, but in the end, even for them it's an afterthought. I'm all for debating the pros and cons of having romance in games, but at the end of the day - is there simply an insurmountable cultural barrier to romantic wish fulfillment in the US and Europe, such that promancers are forced to coat their arguments in a veneer of aesthetic respectability lest they get laughed out of the room? For gamers in the West, 'dating sim' is the sort of phrase you don't want to touch with a ten-foot pole, even behind the protection of anonymity. Hell, I've met Persona fans who were positively horrified when I floated the idea that it was a dating sim. But isn't it just our cultural proclivity? And does it hurt us to admit it? That's what I figured out after all this to-and-fro about the 'objective' value of romances in games - they're no different, at the end of the day, from all the other types of wish fulfillment that make up gaming.
  9. Video games in general are puerile sorts of adolescent wish fulfillment. Do you think games eg CoD, GTA, FIFA, etc. are any easier to take seriously when put besides RL? Games aren't life experience simulators. I don't think what people want out of video game romances is 'serious RL relationships,' just as I don't think what people want out of GTA is a 'serious simulation' of what it is to be an organized crime boss/inner city gangster. In fact, fantasy/sci-fi themed RPGs, even further so than games eg GTA and CoD, are all about wish fulfillment. Archetypal fantasy RPGs are variations on the Hero's Journey, while in counter-current RPGs, it's about being a gritty bad ass eg the fantasy equivalent of Noir anti-heroes. In both cases, the game world, narrative, characters, etc. revolve around the PC. Whether it's Commander Shepard, the Nameless One, the Knight Captain, etc., the PC's role is eternally that of the MVP, the alpha-protagonist, the axial-character. To this end, it's difficult - on the surface - to understand why there's a double standard regarding 'wish fulfillment' in video game romances vs. 'wish fulfillment' in video games at large. You're fine with being the hero who saves the world, but not the guy who gets the girl? <replace at will with personal gender preference>. Never mind the fact that in RL, a hero who saves the world is liable to have suitors tripping over each other, the disproportionate resistance people have towards 'wish fulfillment' in romantic relationships is quite illogical when you take into account how little resistance they have towards 'wish fulfillment' in other aspects of the game. Is it cultural? After all, the Japanese, known for their dating sims & wishful-thinking romances in games, do not look to be afflicted with the same double standard. Indeed, Eastern pop-media, on average, have little inhibition when it comes to fantastic 'wish fulfillment' romantic scenarios. But in that case, what is it about Western culture, exactly, that makes it so difficult for us to entertain such scenarios with a straight face? I ask this not specifically of you, but of all the people - including myself - who, over the years, have expressed the exact same distaste about 'wish fulfillment' in video game romances. It's not occurred to me till recently how fundamentally hypocritical - and culturally conditioned - such an attitude is.
  10. The DA series proved to me that 2D/isometric RPGs are a proper platform and not merely a nostalgic throwback. I am loath to tolerate this WoW inspired, Frostbite induced over-the-shoulder gameplay in a game that tries to be a classic RPG. For one, moving around is an absolute chore, and it doesn't help that Bioware has a passion for abusing elevated terrain. In the IE days, all you had to do to move from one area of the map to another was a click, pathfinding willing. Now? It takes me 10 seconds of WASD just to get around a fallen tree, not to mention the time wasted on getting past chairs, broken tables, boulders, and a horse that stops galloping whenever it uses collision detection. It's a chain reaction. Exploration is not fun because movement is not fun. Collection is not fun because exploration is not fun. Long treasure hunting chains eg the Astrarium quest, the Shards quest, the Bottles quest, etc. are not fun because collection is not fun. When you have a game where 99% of the gameplay involves moving around the map, poor movement mechanics simply destroys all enjoyment. It's not even worth talking about the rest of the game. The movement ruins it.
  11. I am in complete agreement as to the idea that romance is no different than any other deeply felt relationship. As to why people want them in games - I ought to hope it's not simply because they want what they lack in life! But that rather, it's because romance is a form of character interaction and critical to certain types of characterizations. Going back to the Annah example, the pathos of her story depends on the fact that the love she develops for TNO results only in a state of greater misery for both of them due to TNO's curse. There's no way to represent this pathos without romantic interactions with Annah, as there's no way to represent Deionarra's tragedy without her unrequited and ultimately futile attempts at trying to get the PC to love her - and thereby regret what his previous incarnation did. These two characters - along with Ravel - are depicted in PS:T as being tormented by their doomed romances, and their suffering are ultimately driving forces for TNO to 'change the nature of a man.' These characterizations work because romantic love is, at the end of the day, a powerful human emotion and therefore we're able to believe that it's capable of such grand tragedy. That, and not pandering, is why you ought to include romance in RPGs.
  12. It actually is harder to portray. The classic JRPG romances are made the way they are because it's easier. When you're writing romance, it's way harder, and much more expensive to deal with the changes that happens after the romance starts. The character development and the change in group dynamics etc is not easy to make credible. That's one of the reasons why most games with romances ends with some defining quest, event or battle after the shagging. I think you're putting romance on a pedestal, so to speak. Again, I go back to PS:T because this being the Obsidian forums, I reckon the bulk of people here know it: Morte vs. Annah - what makes you think the latter was harder to write, besides MCA's own proclivities against writing romance in the first place? Morte has, from what I recall, a greater quantity of lines, and a greater amount of interactions with the PC through the course of the game. The fact that Annah was in love with the PC did not result in her interactions with him being fundamentally lopsided vis-a-vis the other NPCs. Personally, I don't think there was anything wrong with the PS:T romances - ie they were not 'bad' / 'incorrect' - so I bring it up again and again as an example to counter the idea that romances are content++. Now, to take a step back, what DOES make romances content++ is the pedestal attitude for which Bioware is famous. See, when you regard romances as being extrinsic to the character - as a feature of the game, as extra content - then you get into all sorts of trouble with demographic inclusiveness. Make one such romance, and suddenly there is an outcry for a dozen others because the one romance you made did not fit XYZ sexual orientation and thus your game becomes discriminatory against XYZ group, and bam, your company's in the crosshairs of social justice warriors and has to devote a tremendous amount of resources to be inclusive every time you do romance. The way to avoid such ordeals is to not treat romance as extra content in the first place. Don't make it about 'romance vs. no romance.' Make it about character A vs. character B. Don't sell romance. Sell the story and the NPC interaction that just happens to have romance every now and then. I don't think Obsidian needs to be afraid of including romance in their games. I do think they need to be afraid of the attitude that romance is extra content, and that because it's extra content, it has to be equally distributed across target groups.
  13. Because there is no tomorrow? I think the answer is in Sawyer's statement. He said they didn't have the resources to do romances correctly. And he's probably right about that. Obsidian does not have a staff of Harlequin novel writers, like Bioware does. So any romances they would have attempted for PoE would have probably sucked ass, like they do in every Obsidian game. And that's, You know, the opposite of correctly. PS: there's no such thing as a platonic romance. If it's platonic, then it's a friendship. And Obsidian did not rule out friendships in PoE. It's a good bet they're in. As for PS:T, well... Take it up with Chris Avellone? He's not the lead writer for PoE. He's got a limited role in the game's development so any romance he would write for the game would have been minor and peripheral at best. (and a waste of talent, but that's just my opinion) Did I actually write that post only twenty days earlier? Yikes, felt a lot longer than that. I haven't had the time to return to it till recently, so sorry for the missed replies. In any case, I understand what Sawyer said, but my contention is that his statements about 'deep NPC interaction' and 'we don't have the resources to do romances' contradict each other. Romance IS a form of 'deep NPC interaction' and it's best that it's treated that way rather than as harlequin escapism. Romance is not added content onto a character; it is intrinsic to the characterization itself. It's fine that the NPCs in POE do not fit the bill. I don't want to end up with a game ie DA2 where every other NPC is a conveniently single bisexual in heat just because the developers felt the need to hit all their constituencies. But at the same time, I don't see why romance is so special that it requires so much additional resources to develop over other NPC interactions. Indeed, it's down that road that we get to DA2 in the first place - holding romantic interactions on a pedestal over all other forms of interaction. In life, as in art, which imitates life, there are a lot of complex, poignant, and deeply affecting relationships characters are able to have with each other. Examples that involve no romance whatsoever are plentiful, and recently in the gaming industry one of them - father-daughter - has been getting a lot of attention in games eg Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Walking Dead. And in case you want to be less male-centric, then there's the equally popular sister-sister and mother-daughter pairings that Disney has recently made subversive. Are such relationships less resource intensive to get 'correct' simply because they don't involve romance? I'd say that's a gross misconception. All interpersonal relationships are capable of being profound, complicated, and messy. All of them are also capable of being simple and superficial. Look at the 'romances' found in your average Michael Bay vs. the 'friendships' found in your average Joss Whedon. It's not just romances that are hard to get 'correct.' It's all 'deep NPC interactions.' Therefore, there's no cause for why we need to single out romances for the extra effort ... unless we're already treating them as pandering features ala Bioware.
  14. I'm going to take issue with Sawyer's statement about not having the resources to do romance correctly. Romance is simply a facet of a character - and didn't Obsidian set as a design goal, highly reactive NPCs with their own unique personalities and developed story arcs? How does one distinguish, resources-wise, between an in-depth PC-NPC relationship and a romance? In my mind they are one and the same. It's though Obsidian completely forgot about their own experiences working on games eg PS:T, where love - both amorous and platonic - was not a mere appendage but a central conceit woven into the plot, the NPCs, and their interactions with TNO. I am disappointed, therefore, to hear that Sawyer thinks of romances in the same way Bioware thinks of them: as a *feature*. Does Obsidian not understand that the flak Bioware takes for their romances is precisely because they treat it as a customer requirement rather than an organic property of the characters? People ridicule Bioware because their process of romance design is akin to selling NPC /cyber with a spreadsheet. Bioware markets their romances as check-off boxes, tries to score with the LGBT community by intentionally making an issue out of how-many-sexual-orientations-we-support, and makes hideously awkward out-of-character, immersion-breaking sex scenes for media attention. They treat their romances and their characters as inside jokes, so it's only fitting that we do, too. Don't get me wrong, I don't think for a moment that Sawyer and co. are ever going to stoop to Bioware's level of pandering. Yet the very belief that romance is 'content++' - and therefore requires tremendous additional expenditure of resources - is wrong-headed. A NPC isn't either a major character blessed with a romance or a minor sidekick/mercenary. That's the way the worst of BSN treat companions. A company of Obsidian's caliber ought to understand that you don't need to build a dating sim to achieve an effective romance. Hell, Pixar was able to tell a poignant love story in 8 minutes of footage and minimal dialogue in Up. I get that to have today's jaded gamers care about a NPC in a game takes great time and effort, but I don't see why Obsidian believes this characterization challenge is limited to NPCs whose plots involve romance. I'd believe an excuse to the effect of - 'our writers hate romance and that's why we won't have it.' That'd be honest. But saying that you're not against romance, but won't do it because you don't have the resources, reveals a disturbing leaning towards the idea that romance is a 'special feature' and not simply an aspect of characterization. In turn, it makes me worried about the rest of the game's characterization. The decision's made and done, so I'm not here to crusade about it, and in fact I care little, ultimately, whether amorous love is central to PE - to each game their own. But the explanation given for why there won't be romance in PE: *that* I take issue with, and is what prompted this post. Don't put love on a pedestal. Love is basic. It is instinct. All else being equal, a complex character that is romantically involved with the PC is no easier and no harder to portray than a complex character that is platonically involved with the PC. In fact, as JRPGs show, it's frequently the opposite.
  15. Japan having nukes is pretty irrelevant in the scenarios they're in conflict over. Japan is not going to fire nukes at China because China took one of their offshore rocks; that's the sort of escalation that only happens in armchair fantasies. Nobody takes that sort of gamble when it's their existence on the line; MAD in this situation simply cancels itself out.
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