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You know the drill. Pat the NPC on the head and give lip service to his/her cause and they'll love you, get new dialogue, get stat bumps, etc. Punch them in the gut and set fire to their family and they'll get disgruntled, leave, or try to kill you. Makes perfect sense, really.

 

But it can have some major weaknesses. In the worst cases, it feels like you're being rewarded for genuflecting to a character's viewpoints and punished for standing up for any contrary views. Before long, if you want the rewards of high influence, your character is like a sleazy politician, searching the dialogue tree for the exact right response that'll get you the biggest haul of influence, everything to everybody and yet a hollow shell of a character. You can avoid this behavior, but the game often effectively punishes you for it through influence loss.

 

I have other thoughts on the subject which I'll post when its not 6:54 in the morning CST and I haven't been up all night from insomnia, but until then I open the floor to thoughts about NPC influence: what works, what doesn't, what you'd like to see, what you hope to never see again, etc.

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You gain influence with Dak'kon by telling him that you're better at understanding the core religion of his life than him, basically.

You gain influence with Ignus by......actually, not sure if I'd call that influence, but you can affect him somewhat by letting him permanently damage you.

And there's, well, there's Kreia, who's basically impossible to suck up to unless you're following an FAQ or an a later playthrough.

 

Basically, I think there's a lot of merit in the influence system. However, most games, including BG2, make it out so that you only gain anything by agreeing with every word the NPCs say, which makes you look schizophrenic. Taking DA:O as an example : I should be able to have ethical arguments with Morrigan and practicality arguments with Alistair without losing influence with them; piss them off, yes, but influence should be about making them *think*. That's actually their possible character arcs, Morrigan getting more decent (yes, it's in there, but you might have to dig for it) and Alistair hardening up. But is still requires that you suck up to them first, then selecting the *one* option that changes them when it comes up. That shouldn't be needed. That doesn't really make sense. Yeah, if you trust someone you might listen to them more, but if someone does that to me I might be inclined to think of them as hypocritical jerks.

 

It should be interesting to see how you can influence your teammates without resorting to that, I believe, for isn't conflict the best teacher and cementer of relationships sometimes?

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Sword Sharpener of the Obsidian Order

(will also handle pitchforks and other sharp things)

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I'm with Monkcrab, it should track what you say to each character and how you actually act and then have the characters call you out on your BS when you don't act as you say or when you say one thing to one person and the opposite to another.

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You gain influence with Dak'kon by telling him that you're better at understanding the core religion of his life than him, basically.

You gain influence with Ignus by......actually, not sure if I'd call that influence, but you can affect him somewhat by letting him permanently damage you.

And there's, well, there's Kreia, who's basically impossible to suck up to unless you're following an FAQ or an a later playthrough.

 

Kreia, for me, is the textbook example of how to do influence badly. You HAD to get influence with her if you wanted a big chunk of the storyline to be comprehensible, which meant you were actively punished for not paying lip service to her philosophy. That meant doing exactly what you wrote above...follow a FAQ or rigorously choose dialogue that might be completely alien to your character, all in the interests of getting in the good graces of a manipulative Ubermensch wannabe. Very obnoxious.

 

Basically, I think there's a lot of merit in the influence system. However, most games, including BG2, make it out so that you only gain anything by agreeing with every word the NPCs say, which makes you look schizophrenic. Taking DA:O as an example : I should be able to have ethical arguments with Morrigan and practicality arguments with Alistair without losing influence with them; piss them off, yes, but influence should be about making them *think*. That's actually their possible character arcs, Morrigan getting more decent (yes, it's in there, but you might have to dig for it) and Alistair hardening up. But is still requires that you suck up to them first, then selecting the *one* option that changes them when it comes up. That shouldn't be needed. That doesn't really make sense. Yeah, if you trust someone you might listen to them more, but if someone does that to me I might be inclined to think of them as hypocritical jerks.

 

It should be interesting to see how you can influence your teammates without resorting to that, I believe, for isn't conflict the best teacher and cementer of relationships sometimes?

 

This is also my thoughts in a nutshell. 'Influence' should not derive from 'agreeing with every word they say.' Maybe that's one route to influence...but what about a route that involves intelligently challenging their beliefs and perhaps changing them over the course of time? As an example, in Mask of the Betrayer, what if you could either agree with Kaelyn the Dove that the Wall of the Faithless must come down or become a sort of philosophical sparring partner with her, winning her respect not with blind agreement but by forcing her to critically examine her own ideas? What if both of these routes offered roughly equivalent influence gain?

 

This of course is a lot more intensive in the writing department than dividing it into 'agree with them (+ influence)/disagree with them (- influence), and of course there would be NPCs who would very much have a 'with me or against me' attitude for whom agree/disagree would in fact be the best influence pattern. Nevertheless, for some characters....especially if you could change their point of view over repeated arguments rather than with just one sidequest or whatever...it would add a ton of depth while allowing you to play your character as you liked.

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Usually, gaining influence with NPC's though dialogue means agree with everything your companions say, which is quite boring. If I'd compare it to reality, I'd say that your party is kinda like a crew assembled to do a bunch of really weird jobs, with your PC as the boss. Usually in real life, you may like or not like your boss as a person, same goes with respect for their capabilities of doing their job. I've personally, both as a employee and as a manager, had co-workers that I've liked as persons but disliked as co-workers, the opposite and either all positive and negative.

 

I think the same could be applied to a game like this as well. I'll assume that both the PC and the companions are competent at their job, as healer, fighter, mage or similar, as it kinda makes sense. That and the fact that they most likely share roughly similar goals as far as the main story goes, it means that your companions have a reason for sticking with you, no matter of what they think of you personally. Unless you do something they really disagree with, like setting their miniature giant space hamster on fire or killing their parents. If the influence system affects this kind of things then it would be pretty redundant to have.

 

But if influence affects what your companions feels about your PC as a person and not as great hero, then it makes more sense. In real life, if you have a co-worker you share the same views with in general and have a lot in common with, you're probably going to speak a lot more that person than the one that you really have nothing in common with. But you can usually have arguments with people about stuff you either don't have much knowledge of (like diffent religions as an example), or view where you have different opinions (like politics). And if you're a **** about it, then they're usually not gonna like you. But if you express different opinions without treating the other person disrespectfully, they're problably either gonna like you more or remain neutral, depending on their personality. Difference subjects would logically also be of different importance to companions, depending on their personalities. Telling Minsc that you hate hamsters should antagonize him a lot more that saying that you actually like those cute little kobolds.

 

I'd like to see something like this in the game, generally you should be able to gain influence with your companions without having to agree with everything they say, assuming you're respectful to them. Then I would also like to see difference kinds of personalities which means that some might be more like Kreia while others really don't care.

Edited by Kai
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It'd be awesome if I could openly disagree with the views of one of my companions while still gaining influence with them by debating said views in a thought-provoking/persuasive manner.

I agree with the rest here that if I want to gain influence with my companions, I end up feeling like a slimy politician whop just says whatever he needs to in order to suck up to his "demographic" and then do whatever he wants to when words have to turn to actions. Though the actions themselves may every now and then cause a slight drop in influence, the influence system is often balanced in such a way that I actually still gain net influence through lip service alone. This was even worse in, say, DA:O where I could buy all sorts of baubles in order to gain influence with my companions and then just bribe my way to their good side even if I was talking and acting completely contrary to their beliefs otherwise.

 

I say, as far as dialogue goes, always have an option of going "I disagree with you, and here are my reasons why." when debating stuff with a companion and still gain influence by it. However, not all companions are necessarily impressed by your arguments either because your argumentation is piss-poor or because they're so deeply entrenched in their beliefs that they simply refuse to consider anyone with opposing views as a good person. In these cases making the amicable disagreement dialogue options some sort of a persuasion/diplomacy/charisma/intelligence/knowledge(puppy-kicking)/whateverseemsrelevant-check sounds like a good option. Make the difficulty depend on how deeply entrenched the opposing companion is with the particular issue that's being debated.

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