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Opinions and suggestions on how to improve companion relationships and crew interactions

Companions Crew Ship crew Relationships Reputation Suggestions

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#1
algroth

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So, I was hoping that I'd be able to make this thread after finishing the actual game, but the issues with my computer are worse than expected (i.e. there's always a worse scenario than the worst case scenario) and so I doubt I'll get to finish it in some time. Likewise I've only been able to skim the boards of late so if this is all already being discussed elsewhere and people feel it comes across as spam or the likes, feel free to merge it with that other thread. For the most part I hope I can add something worthwhile to the discussion regarding the two titular topics and present some possibilities that could potentially help improve the same.

 

So, I'll go ahead and reiterate that I have not finished the game so I would appreciate spoiler tags being used when appropriate and so on, and also that my assessments below are based on what I have experienced so far of the game, which I would still say is over 100 hours or the same.

 

With that out of the way, I'll start off with the more contentious subject based on what opinions I've read, which is the companion relationship/reputation system. Right off the bat I would say that in general I dislike relationship systems based on a reputation scale the likes we've seen in previous games like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, and to me this is no exception to the rule. I feel that the more transparent these systems are, the more they invite the player to play to their companions' ego and "game" their way to a max relationship, and the more unnatural and mechanical the relationships feel; Deadfire seems to exasperate this further by adding a very clear set of traits that each companion likes and dislikes, and making them respond with stock reactions to every instance where either the player or another companion acts in a way that they like (leading to many strange reactions the likes we've seen many times in other threads already). In turn I also know that if I am to respond to a certain interaction in a specific manner, the rest of the party will inevitably "like" or "dislike" that response because that's what they're very broadly and obviously programmed to do - which is odd because even if someone is "light-hearted" for example, that same person won't necessarily find every joke amusing or every situation ideal for the same. Personally I would have liked a more invisible system myself which kept track in the background of what each liked and disliked and where we'd see only the results of these opinions more so than the ticking of every instance where we say something or do something that increases a character's disposition towards us; but what's done is done and for what it's worth I think the idea of keeping track of companion-companion relationships is an interesting one which I'm glad is to some extent or other being worked on, as it would seem a good way in which to make the party feel a little more dynamic and reactive and all that jazz.

 

But still, even if the system can't be torn down and reworked from the ground, there's a few things I reckon could improve it going further in Deadfire's development. For example, one thing I would love to see looked at is the effect that certain actions we take have on characters regardless of whether they match with their "traits" or not. For example, I am of the opinion that there's things that very likely have a deeper effect on a relationship than whether or not you are one way or abscribe to a certain philosophy.

 

Spoiler

 

I feel that in cases like these for each character, having a reputation change unaffiliated to companion likes/dislikes would do a lot of good towards making the relationship system feel a lot more natural and less "gamey" or jumpy than it does currently. I feel the like/dislike system is fine but it should really be relegated to very minor shifts, with maybe some big swings at very determined situations when things do get very personal, in either a positive or negative sense (e.g. Serafen helping Xoti out with her nightmares, or Aloth not being able to stand Tekehu's vanity anymore). Likewise it wouldn't be an entirely bad idea to have certain "critical" situations affect a companion's disposition to the *whole* party and not just the Watcher (to use Pallegina's example above, she'd probably be appreciative towards all who helped out with her personal quest and not just the Watcher).

 

Also something that I've noted is that at the beginning of the game, when we were first shown the relationship system via the tutorial, the tutorial section mentioned that companions could lead to forging deeper and more unique bonds and these same would be detailed through the "relationship" box right next to the reputation compass and so on… But has anyone actually seen this box get updated with new content between companions? Or even between companions and the Watcher themselves? I reckoned it was a bit early in my playthrough at first, but as the game moved on, and having reached the point I have most recently, it seems very odd that I should see no update to the same, not even to indicate the ongoing relationship between Maia and my Watcher for example. This would be worth looking into, I think, whether it is working as intended or not.

 

Moving onto the crew now… 

 

I for one will say I really liked the crew system, a heck of a lot more than the hirelings back in the first Pillars for certain. I liked the many vignettes involving them, I liked being able to collect them all across the Deadfire almost as if I were filling out my own little Eoradex, I liked how you could get an idea to their individual personalities through many of their introductory interactions and quests and so on. I also reckon that their personalities also determine the role they'd take in the vignettes out at sea, so I liked how Eld Engrim often played the pious character, Emeini the more combative type, and so on. However, I do feel that I would like to see a few situations more appropriately tailored to either the events of the game or to individual crewmembers, which I'll expand upon next.

 

Spoiler

 

Likewise, and this is a minor addition but and important one I feel: when we look into our journal for information on the mechanics to crewmembers, be it the way they level up on their positions or what advantage does each position and experience in the same bring, these are either not present or very scarcely explained, with all that's said about them is that they're a "motley assortment of neerdowells" and so on. I don't think it's ever mentioned that crewmembers can earn four overall stars across all ranks before they max out either, and I only learned it once I looked at the wiki or a subreddit discussion about it. A more detailed clarification within the game itself that we could access at any time would be appreciated, I think.

 

These are some aspects which I feel could improve both systems over how they presently are, which I also feel would be feasible to do for a future patch or something. What do you guys think? Anything else you would like to add, or would disagree with, or any changes you would propose yourselves?


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#2
Heijoushin

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First, I agree that the system is too transparent. As you say, it invites the player to game the system. All of the trait stuff and reactions could have gone under the bonnet. It’s almost like they spent so much time working on the system that they wanted to show it off.

Personally, I think each companion should have hand written dialogue for each scene (basically the old system?) Is that a lot more work than designing a strange traits system? I’m really not sure.

Incidentally, what were you experiences with the in game “relationships”? I was in a relationship with a large yellow female who will remain unnamed. However, after becoming an item, absolutely nothing changed. No snu-snu scene. No extra lovers dialogue. Nothing. I’ve never been in such a boring relationship in my life. Bug or feature?

 

While I’m ranting: I wish the on-ship dialogue options would be updated sometimes! Seriously, it would have been really cool if they occasionally had something slightly different to say when you visit them below decks. Instead, throughout the game, you get the same dialogue tree. What’s the point of going down there for a chat?

Overall, I can see Obsidian worked really hard on the new system, but conversely, it feels like it has taken a step backwards.

 

Hirelings: I have almost no complaints about the hirelings. I hear that you would have liked even more reactivity, but honestly, I think the companions and sidekicks need the work first.


Edited by Heijoushin, 04 June 2018 - 09:26 PM.


#3
Mannock

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@algroth

I think your suggestions and comments are on point and basically I agree with all of them, though in general I'd say focus on improving companions first, then sidekicks and then crew. If there has to be a priority I mean.

Personally I had trouble with the romance of Maia. I don't know if it was bugged or working as intended, but I had a romantic interaction fire five minutes after I recruited her and then the next romantic interaction fired right before the final encounter in the game. So the romance felt both thin and unevenly distributed throughout the game, to put it mildly.

So hopefully some of these things could be addressed through patches.
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#4
Slotharingia

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I don't think the approval system should be invisible as it would be extremely frustrating in its current incarnation. Aloth would hate probably 90% of players and no one would know why. If it's going to be invisible, it should make sense and pertain to things the Watcher does and says that actually matter/are directly relevant to the person/entail a certain level of rationality. As it is now, the Watcher can be super benevolent but still hated, or an **** and still loved, which makes companions feel stupid to me (as do a lot of their traits/reactions which frequently feel more like bigotry/closed-mindedness than personalities). However, visible or not, all approval systems of this type encourage metagmaing. Of the approval systems I've seen in games, I like ones that use rivalry/friendship the best, such as in DA2, where Hawke's companions were loyal if it was high enough in either direction, but not if it was lackluster in the middle. This makes sense because people can be friends and loyal to one another without having sycophantic relationships where one person is always pandering to the other, which positive-weighted systems can often feel like and where the PC will just go behind companion's back to do stuff they dislike and lie to them. Nevertheless, even that system usually results in players engaging in metagaming to push the relationship in the direction they want, be it by using the Wiki or reloading.

 

Another point is that if companions are going to react constantly, effort should be made to make their personalities make sense. In the current state, they come across as superficial and hypocritical, some more than others, with Aloth in particular suffering the most, but it doesn't only apply to him. Pro or anti joking, for instance could make more sense if it was restricted to talking directly to people, where Eder could laugh at being the butt of a joke, but Aloth would hate it, while still enjoying other types of humour. They could have pet peeves with jokes unrelated to them, but if they are going to consider every second joke of zero importance "irresponsible", they should also react negatively to organised irresponsibility that actually is important (state of the Gullet/slavery etc), and positively to attempts to solve such things.

At the end of the day, I reckon a lot of time and effort was spent on creating this system, but it was ultimately too complicated for the scope of the game/budget/time available so it's ended up where it might have been better had it not existed at all, or been more basic.


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#5
Wormerine

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Relationship system seems like a cool idea, which doesn't really add much. I always liked the idea of "reputation system" with companions, though I never enjoyed the implimentation - I probably like KOTOR2 the most, DA:O origins I disliked because: 1) most interactions happened in private conversation so it felt like I am catering to each companion after another with none being aware me doing that instead of being my characer and companions reacting to it. 2) gifting system made the whole thing obsolete.

I personally hoped that Deadfire will have more unique reactions of your companions: all "likes" and "dislikes" would be tracked seperately with various reactions for each one, and all combined would lead to character's overall opinion of you. example:

Spoiler

As of right now, the relationship system seems like a straight line with predetermined positive/negative reactions. It makes me question why relationship system is in the first place. We know Pal and Xoti will fight - I hardly imagine the situation when you could use those to and not have this happen. Writing a more coherent, linear characters developements based on time spend together seems like an easier way of doing it, which would probably achieve a better effect. 


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#6
Slotharingia

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1) most interactions happened in private conversation so it felt like I am catering to each companion after another with none being aware me doing that instead of being my characer and companions reacting to it.

What do you mean? You could get approval or disapproval (usually minor) in personal convos, which makes perfect sense, but you also got it or lost it for things you actually did, all the time, sometimes to the extent of companions attacking you or leaving. I think you can get to the DAO endgame with only dog & Loghain simply by pissing them all off. Morrigan would disapprove of you helping people (except Jowan) and even of saving the elves in the alienage at the end, Oghren and Alistair would have mammoth fits about Connor (with Alistair even telling you to do one thing and then hating you for it), Leliana and Wynne would approve of all the goody two shoes stuff and go mental during the sacred ashes quest if you did certain things, Alistair pretty much disapproves of every person who joins the group, and so on. Only Zevran remains neutral for the most part as far as I remember, but even he reacts to stuff that he feels strongly about. In DAO you can even harvest people's disapproval just by kissing your LI in front of them, and some of them will join in brothel activities given the right circumstances. Ofc you could still do things like make Leliana pickpocket all the religious types and so on, but at least in that game there are consequences for compulsive theft xD Gifts I agree make it banal, but so does the fact players just end up picking the options that please them or change out the party to whoever approves or at least doesn't disapprove of what's about to be done, but you can also simply choose not to make use of those options, and I think if you piss them off enough with their no go choices, they still leave/attack irrespective of their gullibility to bribes. 



#7
CENIC

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I got pretty attached to the initial crew members you start the game with.

In the opening area of the game, they have unique personalities and unique dialogue, so it was pretty disappointing that they only had generic lines when you spoke to them on your ship afterwards.
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#8
Lord_Mord

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Dont know how to use spoiler tags.
 

 

Likewise I feel like events such as *** ought to ellicit some reaction or change in disposition from her considering how she expressly asks us to ***

 

She has a very strong reaction. If you have her with you while doing these things. If you leave her on the ship, she does not notice what happened.



#9
Verde

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I'd say the lack of companion dialogue and meaningful reactions was a major disappointment to me. Really Eder you have nothing else to say? Serafan we just completed a quest regarding subject matter close to your heart and...nothing? Unless it's trigger bugs I dont see a patch helping unless they add more in the DLCs. But I dont want it uneven where in the main quest Eder has 5 lines total and then the DLC he is a chatty Kathy.
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#10
Bill Gates' Son

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I'm not a fan of the crew personality system because your crew members are no longer unique after recruitment.  I honestly would have preferred a smaller boat crew over a bunch of generic characters who say the same lines on deck and in the scripted interactions.  I didn't find myself getting attached to any of my crew members after I recruit them.  While I'm not the biggest fan of BioWare, NPC crew interaction is something they do extremely well in the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, and I was hoping for something similar in this game.


Edited by Bill Gates' Son, 05 June 2018 - 03:03 AM.

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#11
Stephen Unsworth-Mitchell

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Should have plank on our ships 

 

whats fun been pirate if can't make companions and crew etc walk the plank!

 

If we get given the plank for our ships we need some sharks too.


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#12
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What do you mean? You could get approval or disapproval (usually minor) in personal convos, which makes perfect sense, but you also got it or lost it for things you actually did, all the time, sometimes to the extent of companions attacking you or leaving.

Not how I remember it (and I replayed it many many many times trying to like it ever since release. My most recent playthrough was within last year, finally beating all expansions). I could spend the dreadful hour or two, talking to companions in the camp and gettin 10+ reputation with each conversation. Figuring out what they want to hear was easy, as the writing wasn’t exactly subtle.

There were reactions when adventuring but they were for most part insignificant (i dislike helpin people: minus 1-3 Morrigan points). There were some major ones, but they were... extreme choices, I would have never picked outside “I want to see how it plays out). Anyway, going through the right, private, conversation paths and doing their personal quests were enough to keep everyone 80+. Well, except the elf assassin guy. But I kept killing him outright after my first play through.

Edit: oh and I fed the dwarf with alcohol so I don’t have to talk to him.

Edited by Wormerine, 05 June 2018 - 03:26 AM.


#13
Slotharingia

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What do you mean? You could get approval or disapproval (usually minor) in personal convos, which makes perfect sense, but you also got it or lost it for things you actually did, all the time, sometimes to the extent of companions attacking you or leaving.

Not how I remember it (and I replayed it many many many times trying to like it ever since release. My most recent playthrough was within last year, finally beating all expansions). I could spend the dreadful hour or two, talking to companions in the camp and gettin 10+ reputation with each conversation. Figuring out what they want to hear was easy, as the writing wasn’t exactly subtle.

There were reactions when adventuring but they were for most part insignificant (i dislike helpin people: minus 1-3 Morrigan points). There were some major ones, but they were... extreme choices, I would have never picked outside “I want to see how it plays out). Anyway, going through the right, private, conversation paths and doing their personal quests were enough to keep everyone 80+. Well, except the elf assassin guy. But I kept killing him outright after my first play through.

Edit: oh and I fed the dwarf with alcohol so I don’t have to talk to him.

 

I don't want to digress into a meandering off-topic DAO debate here, but you can bribe all of them for positive rep, not only the dwarf, and I don't remember ever getting +10 per conversation (I've also played it this year, 4 times). That might happen once per character if you romance them/did their quest. Also, I can come up with perfectly valid arguments for almost all the rep. dump choices the game provides. You can kill Wynne before you even get to recruit her just by saying "perhaps you are right" to Morrigan and she'll go off on one and attack you, for instance. Of course you can reload/pick strategic responses, but my point is that they react to a ton of stuff outside of personal convos. Suffice to say you don't like it while I thought it was somewhat better than the Deadfire system.


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#14
Mimia

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I'd actually say that I do like the idea of the reputation system- but I definitely think there are places for improvement.

 

My biggest suggestions:

 

- Clarify better to the player what it means to have negative reputation points. Players often see -2 and immediately jump to the conclusion that 'X character hates Y'. But if you actually play through many of the negative companion dialogues, the "hate" is more of a disagreement that is often amicably resolved. The scenes are great, but you can't blame players for misunderstanding the system. I've seen many comments that when someone sees two characters not getting along, they separate them from one another or feel they can't use them together because of theoretical consequences. We know there are no negative consequences [for the most part]. But its hard to blame players from not understanding this.

 

- Context should play more of a role in what characters are approving and disapproving of. This includes the random 'approve' lines. There's moments where characters laugh or smile in situations where no sane person would. There's also times when a character approves of something that feels contrary to their character- but because it is tagged 'dutiful' or 'humorous' the character automatically approves without much thought to what is going on in the story.

 

- Characters should have equal opportunity to raise or lose reputation points. Many people have commented on it being difficult to earn reputation with Aloth- which is not too surprising when he has so few approval tags.

 

- Create an alternative way to gain approval points once quest dialogues have been exhausted.


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#15
Stephen Unsworth-Mitchell

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One improvement would be that aloth doesn't eye roll at almost every conversation.

 

Maybe if he did face palm once in while.

 

I think I started eye rolling at aloth every time he eye rolls. 


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#16
Slotharingia

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I'd actually say that I do like the idea of the reputation system- but I definitely think there are places for improvement.
 
My biggest suggestions:
 
- Clarify better to the player what it means to have negative reputation points. Players often see -2 and immediately jump to the conclusion that 'X character hates Y'. But if you actually play through many of the negative companion dialogues, the "hate" is more of a disagreement that is often amicably resolved. The scenes are great, but you can't blame players for misunderstanding the system. I've seen many comments that when someone sees two characters not getting along, they separate them from one another or feel they can't use them together because of theoretical consequences. We know there are no negative consequences [for the most part]. But its hard to blame players from not understanding this.

I think in some cases it's more about players grouping companions together with simialr likes/dislikes, so it's easier for the player to get approval with them.


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#17
Slotharingia

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One improvement would be that aloth doesn't eye roll at almost every conversation.

 

Maybe if he did face palm once in while.

 

I think I started eye rolling at aloth every time he eye rolls. 

 

Hey! He sighs through his nose and gives you pained looks too ;)


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#18
Stephen Unsworth-Mitchell

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One improvement would be that aloth doesn't eye roll at almost every conversation.

 

Maybe if he did face palm once in while.

 

I think I started eye rolling at aloth every time he eye rolls. 

 

Hey! He sighs through his nose and gives you pained looks too ;)

 

 

2 play throughts noticed that one once. but eye roll just so common.

 

I scared if he keeps eye rolling I might get see my brain (or is it lack of a brain), from returning the eye rolls.

 

Thanks made me laugh when read your reply.


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#19
aksrasjel

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I don't know if it was mentioned somewhere before - if so, apologies.

For me personally, this weirdly binary tag-based relationship system is the one of the things that makes companions in this game seem much more straightforward and shallow than they realistically should have been. Not saying, thats the ONLY reason, but I don't think it helped.

Every companion seems to have been reduced to a couple of easily-identifiable - and incredibly transparent - character traits in order to make their tagged personalities stand out. What you see is what you get. For instance, Pallegina has been tagged as god-hating, pro-Valian and anti-godlike - and she happily operates on those traits on a binary 0/1 basis - with little to no nuance. So, in the end she comes off as ultra-jingoistic shill for VTC, that you'd expect her to stand at attention, singing Vailian anthem everytime the Republics are mentioned and hates everyone even remotely religious with such a burning hatred that even Varg Vikernes would tell her to tone it down a bit. I think this is one of the reasons people claim that Pallegina and Eder became parodies of themselves. There is almost no nuance, no character growth - beacuse mechanically some tags must have been changed in the process and I don't know if that's even possible. Talented writers can work around this system to make their character work anyway, but technically speaking relationship system should reinforce a nuanced character and not put a writer in a proverbial straightjacket. That is the thing I was afraid was going to happen when Sawyer mentioned this tag-based approval system - and was hoping to be wrong. 

I also dread what would happen to sidekicks if Obsidian ever decides to add them into this system. One thing I really like about Ydwin for instance is a certain nuance to her character - and what we might get is probably "proud/wordly/pro-animancy/dislikes tradition". Work with that.

The other question is: do we really need this system to be this arbitrarily complex? I guess it's ambitious, that companions check their own dispositions, but what does that achieve in the end? Yeah, Pallegina and Xoti will end up hating each other - it could have been done much easier with more linear system with identical results. It also ends up kinda immersion-breaking in the end for me. For example, Xoti should logically be a character that Aloth should at least dislike - she's rash, irresponsible, loud and flighty. Yet she performs actions that has been tagged "dutiful" and "traditional" and in my playthrough Aloth ended up adoring her beacuse he hit some arbitrary approval raitng with her with no context. Can't we stick to more linear system with "prerecorded" companion relationships - like the ones in BG2? It would at least allow the writers to tell a inter-party story with something resembling a character arc.

I also think, one can even make the KotOR 2/DA:O approval system between the player and companions work in this situaltion by simply multiplying the increase/decrease of the approval points given to players for their actions in game world and keep the approval increase/decrease in conversations relatively low - so we can avoid the situation, in which I get 100% approval from both Morrigan and Leliana by telling them contradictory things that they both approve of with either of the none the wiser. Words are cheap but actions matter kinda thing.

But that's just my rant - apologies to people actually trying to read that. 


Edited by aksrasjel, 06 June 2018 - 06:35 AM.

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#20
handsomenat

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aksrasjel, Aloth tells Xoti in a conversation that what he admires her for is her guts to believe in her own thing despite being looked down by others from her order. So it's not arbitrary thing that resulted from the relationship system.

 

And I too didn't like the system that much. I agree that it seems to reduce companions to just a couple of traits and it doesn't seem that sophisticated.







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