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I both like and dislike what I've been reading about the companion characters in the party. Deep stories and so on are great, but there is a downside.

 

Dragon Age is a good example of having a few very deep NPCs to add to the party. The characters in Origins were mostly all fantastic, and I enjoyed them, but there were a couple of issues.

 

1) The NPCs got so much camera time and were so interesting that I felt my PC was somewhat overshadowed. It felt a lot like I was just there to be a witness to all the cool things happening to these other characters. By necessity, I was somewhat of a voiceless "straight man". I could make decisions that affected the outcomes of some of those stories, but as a role-player, my character's personality didn't really matter, and didn't have a chance to evolve.

 

2) Again, by necessity, there was a trade-off for such depth: quantity. Every character in Origins was more or less essential to the main storyline (though some less than others). Although you could only have a couple of companions "active" at one time, they were ALL in the party. This kind of killed the replay value for me - I actually tried replaying the game as a different class, but after I was done with the different origin story, there was nothing new left to see. Exact same characters, exact same personal stories, exact same decisions. Again, decisions could be made differently, but it just didn't feel worth it to see the predictable flip sides to the first playthrough.

 

So what are my suggestions?

 

A) Lots of companions. Even if this means some are shallow. Not every companion needs to come with 20 hours of gameplay for their personal questline. (In fact, I'm fine with it if none do, but that's me.) Temple of Elemental Evil and Baldur's Gate nailed it pretty well; I always felt like I had a great deal of choice in who I brought along.

 

B) "Finishable" companions. You don't see this enough. I love to see companion storylines with a beginning, middle, and end. Once you've helped the fallen knight clear his name, maybe he wants to return to court and go back to serving the King instead of following you around for the rest of his life. Once the lovestruck sorceress rescues her fiance, she marries him and quits adventuring. Maybe these characters will come back later, but they don't need to stay in my "stable" until the end of time. And then of course there're the characters who end up having to sacrifice their lives to truly fulfill their destinies.

 

It's just lame to see every NPC default to becoming your eternally devoted servant after completing their other objectives. Make their stories make sense. Maybe a few people will want to sleep in the same room with me every night for the rest of their lives, but not every one.

 

C) Companions with requirements. It's wonderful when an NPC is picky about who they team up with. An evil character who won't team up with a paladin. A paladin who will only team up with a cleric of the same faith. A guy who will only team up with you if you complete a quest in a certain (ideally non-optimum) way.

 

D) Mutually exclusive companions. This is a big one. Again, in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, you can't help but "catch 'em all". Characters who hate each other, a thief who won't team up with a rival thief, a halfling with a fear of half-orcs (or vice versa), and of course people with interesting story or quest-related reasons not to work together. This also includes characters who will leave you if you make certain decisions, and others who will stay with you only if you make certain decisions. See the first couple of Jagged Alliance games to observe how beautifully this can be done. (I really enjoyed hiring a "snitch" character who would spy on the rest of the team and report on any friction. Best of all was waking up one morning to find a character simply gone ... another squad member had murdered him in the night and disposed of the body without a trace. I assume. I never proved it.)

 

These are all ways to let the player see several different party configurations throughout the course of a playthrough, without resorting to "Oh, I want to hire this guy now, so I guess I'll fire you." They also help with replay value.

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I really like D. Storm of Zehir did this somewhat. The NPCs were pretty shallow, but it allowed some of them to be pretty unique. I believe there was two NPCs that were mutually exclusive. One was a cleric of Kelemvor and one was undead. If you raised an undead army you could keep the undead NPC and lost the cleric of Kelemvor, and if you banished the army, you lost the undead guy and could keep the cleric of Kelemvor.

 

I would also like characters to have useful skills outside of combat. For example if you have a player stronghold, a mage NPC could possibly enchant items, a tinker character could create useful tools/weapons, various characters could add unique resources to your stronghold, etc. Or maybe NPCs have certain connections that give you access to areas you couldn't otherwise access.

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Yes, you should compare to PS:T, one of the game hooks, not DA or ME. The party NPC implementations were completely different. PST had enough recruitable NPCs to force choices at least.

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The KS Collector's Edition does not include the Collector's Book.

Which game hook brought you to Project Eternity and interests you the most?

PE will not have co-op/multiplayer, console, or tablet support (sources): [0] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Write your own romance mods because there won't be any in PE.

"But what is an evil? Is it like water or like a hedgehog or night or lumpy?" -(Digger)

"Most o' you wanderers are but a quarter moon away from lunacy at the best o' times." -Alvanhendar (Baldur's Gate 1)

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You say Dragon Age, I say Planescape Torment. PST did not have a lot of recruitable NPCs and I think that is what helped make the characters of that game so memorable.

 

What made the characters of PST so memorable was being able to sit there and have half hour conversations with them instead of expending all possible dialogue options in 5 minutes. Then coming back later after some major events happen and having MORE to talk about.

 

I think it would be good to have say 5-6 core NPCs that the devs can go all out on, giving them PST-like depth, then maybe 6-10 companions that are either single quest companions (join at the beginning, leave at the end) or hirelings with little depth.

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I honestly didn't feel that the DA:O characters were all that interesting with the sole exception of Sten. And he had too little to say.

 

None of them felt like an Annah, Dak'kon, Minsc, or Viconia.

 

Mass Effect characters were a lot better, but still felt a bit phony at times. I still haven't played DA2 though, so I can't comment on that.

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I'm all for deep interesting characters that are equal to the PC. I'm also all for them being a major player/part of the story.

 

I don't want meat shields, pack mules. I want characters I like or dislike, strong characters with their own motivations and place in the world. The worst thing Obs could do is make me apathetic towards a character, which is something I did feel towards some of the BG cast. But I also don't want character that do the every whim of the pc, or that all of them can be broke or bent to the PC will.

 

I also don't want all the have characters daddy issues, or that need me to put on my Dr Phil hat.

Edited by Bos_hybrid
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Well a large part of the problem with Dragon Age Origins was the Origins part of it. By funneling the half-dozen different starting points into one choke point at the beginning of the game, then proceeding linearly afterwards, they reduced the possibility of further personal character development since there were so many backgrounds just squashed into one and struggled to split back out again - like what happens when you mix the colours in your Play-Doh. :p The player character was overshadowed because the player character was metaphorically short, as opposed to the characters surrounding were tall.

 

 

That said, points C and D are fine, indeed almost expected features, and I'd be happy to toy around with option B as well.

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I agree with points B,C and D. I don't think the companions need to be that shallow in a game like this. Voice over costs won't be an issue, so it all comes down to writing the companions, which I've always felt was one of the things Obsidian does way better than any other company.

 

Though I agree that all of the companions won't necessarily have to have a questline of their own. Just as long as there is bantering, shared momements etc. with every one of your companions (well maybe not with dogs and such). Though I guess everyone can't comment on everything you do. But still I would hate to see quantity over quality, I want both quantity and quality.

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Hate the living, love the dead.

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Sorry all ... couldn't use PS:Torment as a springboard for my comments because I never played it for more than a few hours. Can't say why it didn't hold my interest :shrug:

 

Never got far in Baldur's Gate either, and as a result never bothered with the sequel.

 

Loved IWD 1 & 2, played both to the end. Of course there were no companions in those, soooo that experience doesn't inform my thoughts at all for this thread.

 

I did finish Origins and ME 1 & 2 as well, and the "Mass Effect Effect" does seem to be talked about somewhat in the Project: Eternity vision. Super deep characters that stay in the party from game to game? That sounds just like ME, in kind of a bad way. It just feels weird to have these characters following me around forever. And what if I don't have a particular guy in my party at the end of P:E1? All the writing and scripting they do for him for P:E2 will be wasted, unless they use the Bioware "immortal companion stable" model, which I hate.

 

Lastly, I'll mention Temple of Elemental Evil again, which I never quite finished. I think that game comes closest to my ideal model for NPC party members: lots to choose from, some shallower than others, some less obvious than others; many with direct story hooks, at least a few with definite endings to their associations with the team. I would like to see that model used again, hopefully with more characters and more writing on each character, and with more of them having endings to their storylines. It would be great if Spugnoir left the party after gathering 50 scrolls (since scroll gathering is his definite stated purpose), or for Furnok to sneak away once he had x amount of money ... or even if he ran off in the night with the party's money if they racked up enough so he couldn't resist.

 

I've always disliked the sensation of having to fire a good, loyal character to make room for someone newer or stronger because "Well, we can only have 8 people on the team, and I've seen everything you're going to say or do". In a movie or book, once a character has nothing else to contribute, there are no more scenes with them. "Writing out" NPCs in the same way is dramatically interesting, and opens up the opportunity to use other characters. Naturally, there's a gameplay flipside to this: "But I love Minsc! I want to keep him forever!" And I can see that. My problem is that I'm generally interested in every character. The one thing I want to avoid is randomly hiring and firing them just so I can see them all. I'd rather have them leave for a reason, or refuse to join for a reason. You know?

Edited by Zombra
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I agree with you somewhat about the main character. Roleplaying is nice and all but it would be nice for my character to MATTER in some way. I know the devs leave it bland to let the player slide into their position but that can really make you feel distanced from what is happening in the game. The most extreme example of this being Diablo 3 where you felt like little more than a minion of the cast of characters.

 

Imoen's promotion to Bhaalspawn in BG2 bothered me in this way. For once I'd like for the main character to be central to goings on and not just some faceless guy who acts like a interviewer in an NPC reality show, if that make sense.

 

I think the key to unlocking this problem might be consequences of behaiviour becuase then you feel like you have some influence on the world and your character IS a character. Just a thought.

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As long as they utterly rebuke, with the +1 Mace of Loathing, the over-the-top, romanceable, emo, squee-laden Bioware NPC model then I'm cool. Dave Gaider loves his NPCs so much, you MUST comply with their stories. Yeuch.

 

Old-skool hirelings who die every ten seconds are cool too. Just defrost a new box.

 

But seriously, BG2 is about right. Even the romances were just about bearable and none of the NPCs outshone the Protagonist.

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You can look at Mask of the Betrayer for the type of NPCs Obsidian can make. There aren't a lot of them, but they are deep without absorbing all the story to themselves. I've yet to meet a party companion like Gann-of-Dreams in any other game.

Dragonblade of the Obsidian Order

 

No sleep for the Watcher

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I agree with all of your points. I actually don't like super-deep companions, to be honest. I appreciate them getting involved in the story and in having motivations that work with the theme or plot of the game, but beyond that I think that time required to create complicated backstories, personal quests, lengthy dialogues, influence systems etc. could all be put into improving the rest of the game.

 

There are exceptions. I think that Neverwinter Nights 2's biggest strength was how it took the staple of D&D - adventuring parties saving the world - and put everyone under stress. There were conflicts between characters, some of them had motivations that weren't honest, and at the end of the game the influence system paid off big-time. Even though a lot of people disliked the characters in that game, and unfortunately there were a lot of things holding it back from real success, the companions were still the high point. As much as I enjoyed Mask of the Betrayer, I found myself far less interested in the main story itself precisely because all the companions seemed to be the main focus of the game, not the plot itself.

 

A poor example of companions, to me, is Baldur's Gate. Aside from Imoen and maybe K&J, almost nobody has a good reason to follow the player around, certainly not for as long as they do. There are party members who literally just join up for no reason. Baldur's Gate II also suffers from "hey, it's the player character, everyone join up" syndrome. Perhaps that's why I enjoy Icewind Dale so much more - sure, there's no companions except the ones you make, but if the player can imagine their motivations then suddenly it becomes a non-issue.

 

I guess the thing is, I have to care about companions for them to be worthwhile, and they can't overshadow everything else in the game at the same time. That is a very hard balance to strike, and given the choice I'd much rather go with a more complicated, interesting main quest with more passive companions, than one where the companions themselves are the focus of the game. I know that's popular these days among BioWare and even Obsidian fans, but it'd really be a nice change of pace to not have to solve everyone's daddy issues.

Edited by sea
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Great post, sea.

 

Soooooo we have new information on the Kickstarter page: FIVE (5) companions in the base game, with the possibility of one, two, or three more when stretch goals are reached. So call it eight (8). Compare that with thirty-one (31) in Temple of Elemental Evil. :\

 

I hope this is a long game. With the same companions in my party every time, I'm not going to be feeling much replay value.

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I will agree with OP on the lack of guys. One of the very few things I disliked about DA, is that everytime I played it, I always had the same characters with me. They were awesome, but I ended up just replacing one with my new character, and keeping the others the same.

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"You say Dragon Age, I say Planescape Torment."

 

Irrelevant. Just pic whatever game you like and go from there. Besides, half the PST npcs were awesome but the other half sucked ballz. L0L Firefool L0L

DWARVES IN PROJECT ETERNITY = VOLOURN HAS PLEDGED $250.

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You can look at Mask of the Betrayer for the type of NPCs Obsidian can make. There aren't a lot of them, but they are deep without absorbing all the story to themselves.

 

Yes, a small number of really well developed companions would be my preference, rather than a lot of shallow ones. Maybe with dialogue-free hirelings as a second level of NPC for those who like large/customisable parties; perhaps even let players generate their own hirelings.

 

Stretch companion dialogue out over the whole game, rather than having them be "completed" when their loyalty score is maxed out.

 

The potential for NPC death would be nice, a la Shandra in NWN2, but avoidable (generally at a cost, eg force the PC to chose between saving a companion and saving a village). The PC has plot immunity, but the risk of losing friends along the way raises the stakes nicely.

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I loved PST and DAO, both had great deep companions I liked. I actually want a semi big pool of companions to choose from with a LARGE dialog trees I can interact with. It is something I have missed in these modern games. Getting to know your companions, befriending them, possible romance with, helping them out, perhaps even altering their personality (like turning an evil person good or vice versa), those are cool things to do. I cared about DAO characters a lot, I went out of my way to complete all my companion quests, even looking all over for stens sword. I felt pain when one of my characters died at the end and reloaded to save everybody. In DA2, I felt nothing for any of the characters. They were shallow and I the dialog was horrible. When some died, I did not care and honestly felt nothing for them. Bonding with companions and characters through dialog and action really makes a RPG for me.

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I loved PST and DAO, both had great deep companions I liked. I actually want a semi big pool of companions to choose from with a LARGE dialog trees I can interact with.

 

That's the ideal, sure, but with finite resources, there are tradeoffs to be made. If we can't have a forest, a few large dialog trees are preferable to a big shrubbery. Also, it's great when companions interact with each other as well as the PC, and the work involved in that increases exponentially with the number of characters.

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