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Influence in future games


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(Minor spoilers in this post, just to warn people)


During the development of KotOR II, of all the new features that had been announced for the game, influence was by far my favorite. Being able to corrupt/redeem party members just sounded so cool.


While the way influence was actually implemented in KotOR II isn't bad, there are some ways it could be improved in future games. It's a very cool idea, so as Obsidian's experience grows, I'm hoping they will be able to expand upon it and make it something really, really cool.


Before I discuss my ideas for improving influence, I should mention something that does relate to it a little, and that is that I think a poster named Orchomene made a very good point about spoken dialogue a while back. That while good voice acting can really help a game's story and immersion, it may sometimes tend to hold back that game's conversation complexity. In a game with little or no spoken dialogue, there is small limit to how long, complex, and varied conversations can be. But when every single line of dialogue has to be recorded...


Some of these ideas I'm listing below aren't necessarily super hard from a programming or design standpoint, but they would greatly increase the amount of dialogue. Would they be feasible for a game with all dialogue spoken? I have no idea. But I might as well mention them.


One thing about influence that could stand to change is that, especially in some cases in KotOR II, it is too easy to unlock all of a characters conversation options very quickly. While KotOR I's "go up a level and hear more backstory" system may not have been the best, at least it did tend to ensure that the character development of your party members was pretty evenly spread out over a large portion of the game. In KotOR II, I can achieve max influence with Visas and hear pretty much her entire backstory as soon as she joins my party if I choose the right conversation options. (On another, related note, some of the characters in KotOR II didn't seem to have very long backstories when compared to other characters in the game or when compared to some of the characters from KotOR I. Though this may be related to the issue I mentioned about voice acting, combined with a limited dev time.)


So for future cases where some sort of influence system is used, it would be nice if there could be a way to ensure that you don't exhaust all your conversation options early. Perhaps level requirements or something similar. Or perhaps something like with the Handmaiden in KotOR II: she wouldn't answer your final questions until you had finished sparing with her, and you had to wait a while before you could complete all the sparring matches.


Corrupting Mission Vao, or how I first thought influence would be:

In KotOR I, there were several cases where certain conversation options with Mission implied that you were having an effect on her outlook on life. Or more specifically, there were several cases where it seemed like you could corrupt her. So when I played DS in KotOR, I made it my mission(no pun intended) to see if I could twist Mission from an innocent girl into a deranged killer. I had her with me when I was given the offer to betray Gadden Thek, (Was that his name?) and also later when I did indeed kill her old mentor, I used her brother to increase her distrust and hatred. But sadly, none of these things affected her alignment, only mine, and at the end of the game I was still forced to kill her.


So when I first heard about the influence system in KotOR II, I was like "Yay! Now I can corrupt my party members... err, and redeem them too." And while that is the case in KotOR II, and while the redemption of Visas was one of my favorite things from KotOR II, it didn't feel quite as involved as I would have hoped. This is because once you get enough influence with a character, their alignment just changes automatically based on your alignment. While this does make sense from a story perspective, given the Exile's ability to make force bonds and effect others, as I previously mentioned, it doesn't feel quite as involved as I had first hoped influence would be. What I had really hoped for was something like with Mission in the first game, but expanded a bit and now actually effecting the alignments of party members.


Let's use Visas as an example of how I imagine this might work. Let's say I've just gained some influence with her, and therefore, her alignment has changed a bit towards mine. But it's only changed a little bit. The really big alignment changes with Visas will occur because my influence with her has just started to unlock special conversation options with her. When I talk to her right now, for example, I notice this option: "[Alignment]You mentioned once that there are many types of hate. Tell me about your hate." This allows me to have a discussion with Visas about the nature of hate, and her hate, etc. This time I'm LS, so I start to help her let go of some of her hate. At the end of our conversation, the message "Light points gained: Visas" appears, and I notice that her alignment has now changed a decent amount.


This actually isn't really that different from the current system. In the current system, as I gain influence with someone, their alignment will change toward mine quite a bit. In the system I'm proposing, as I gain influence with someone, their alignment will change towards mine a little bit, but I will unlock new conversation options that will cause their alignment to change towards mine quite a bit. Not really that different in effect, but it would make the redemption/corruption of party members even cooler, as well as provide a lot more depth to each party member.


Of course, there are issues with this. While the actually scripting/programming of this doesn't seem like it would be that much harder than other conversations, (though making sure the alignment options are unlocked at the proper times would take some refinement) the amount of recorded dialogue needed would increase greatly. Still, if Obsidian could do something like this in their future RPG's, I'd be very pleased.


Some other ideas I have about inlfuence:

Assuming future Obsidian games with an influence system have charasma/persuade or something similar, I think it would be nice if those at least had a minor effect on the way influence worked. My current idea would be for charisma to add some modifiers to the amount of influence you gain/lose and the starting amount of influence you have with a companion. So if a certain party member joined me with a base influence of 50, and I have high charisma, it might boost my starting influence with this guy to 55. And when I do something to gain influence with him, the amount I gain would be slightly higher than normal because of my high charasima. When I do something to lose influence with him, the amount would be slightly lower, etc.


Persuade could perhaps effect your ability to altar your companions' alignment. Using my previous idea for [Alignment] conversation options or something similar, a high persuade would slightly increase the LS/DS or Good/Evil points my party members would earn as a result of those conversations.


I also have some ideas about earning influence. It would be nice if a party member's current LS/DS alignment could have some effect on the things that earns influence with him/her. While the base personality of a party member probably wouldn't and shouldn't change (So for example, Handmaiden might always prefer more straigtforward methods and dislike deception, even as a deranged evil killer), it would be nice if there could be some variation in the way directly evil/good acts affect a particular party member. This would be very complex to do, and could also cause some potential issues, but I figure I might as well throw the idea out at least.


Another thing that would be nice would be for the whole influence thing to be deeper and last longer. As mentioned previously, with some party members especially, it is easy to gain max influence. So making the amount of influence you can gain with each party member higher and adding more influence-unlocked things would be nice.


Also, as I understand it, certain conversations/events only occur in KotOR II when the player has a higher influence with a particular party member than another. And there was going to be even more of these situations at one time. But if it is too easy to max out influence with all of those party members, issues can occur. Perhaps they should even get rid of a maximum influence amount. Make it where even after I reach enough influence with someone to unlock everything, I can still gain more. That would ensure that it would be hard for a player to simply have an equal amount of influence with everybody.


I also have some ideas about gaining influence. First, I think it would be cool if minor amounts of influence could be gotten with someone just by fighting with them in my party. After all, people who fight together and risk their lives for each other on a daily basis are usually going to draw closer to each other. This amount of influence gained wouldn't be huge, but would mean that if I always chose to fight along side one particular character, then eventually I'd start to get higher influence with him.


Also, I think it would be cool if there were certain "total party events". What I mean is, in KotOR II, in pretty much all cases, I have to have someone in my party in order to gain/lose influence with them. While I understand why this is the case and believe it shouldn't really be changed a huge amount, I think it would be nice if there were a few huge events that would effect all your current potential party members, not just those who were with you at the time.


For example, in KotOR II, the Lost Jedi could cause some of these events. It could be where after dealing with each Jedi (Either killing him or sending him to Dantooine), when I return to the Ebon Hawk, a scene would occur. In it, every party member of mine would be discussing what just happened with the Jedi, and why I did what I did. If I had chosen to kill the Jedi, then obviously there would be some issues with some of my party.


This would make some sense, because while it is understandable that Handmaiden might never know about that guy I killed in the Kinrath caves ("You won't give me that gland? DIE then!"), it seems a bit unlikely that she would never know that I was slaughtering each Jedi I found.


And finally, I think it would be nice to add some more events that occur as a result of extreme low/high influence. Possbily even having certain party members leave or try to kill you if you have extreme low influence with them.


I apologize for my very long post. I realize that implementing all of these would be... difficult, but these are some ways I'd love to see the influence system expanded in. If Obsidian could at least partially implement some of these things, I'd be very excited.

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I have to applaud you on a good post. That's a lot how I imagined influence, twisting people to your ways, be it light or dark. One thing that annoyed me was the way that their alignment changed nothing, outside of their appearance and force power cost. The handmaiden, even though she's down on the bottom end of the scale, still preaches being nice to people. But then, fixing that would require a lot more dialogue, as you say.


I'd like to see influence affecting people a lot more. For instance, if they REALLY dislike you, they may just decide to up and leave you, or even attack you. This would require more hirable characters, BG style, but would be worth it. A lot like when Minsc would attack you if you didn't save Dyanheir in BG1.

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How the influence system works has a lot to do with the Exile as a character.


True. as I mentioned, the was the influence system works does make sense from a story perspective. Despite that, I still wish it felt a bit more involved. Call me picky, I guess.


And for future games where the main character doesn't have an unusual ability to influence others like the Exile does, some changes to the influence system would be nice.

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