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I was thinking about some of my favourite experiences playing infinity engine games and something really sticks out: some of the most immersive experiences were those where I was able to influence the thinking and character of NPCs.

 

Anomen from BG2 really sticks out. Your choices in the game completely determine his fate. For me, the positive outcome he experienced on my second playthrough was made all the more powerful because in a previous playthrough I allowed him to fall down a dark path. It was a well executed piece of story-work - the implications of your decisions were foreseeable but not obvious, and by the time you see the full outcome of your words, the seeds are long planted and outside of the salvation of a quick-load.

 

I would love for this to explored more deeply in RPGs... PE seems like a great opportunity. Imagine being able to influence NPCs to change alignment.

 

Much of George R.R. Martin's success as an author is due to the fact that his characters can be viewed in different lights, with very few of them having a true alignment as such.

 

Classic D&D seems to veer towards a more Tolkeinian nature - your characters and their alignments are carved out according to the rules, in opposition, with polarity such as Good vs Evil, Lawful vs Chaotic generating all conflict.

 

Before people jump up and point me to the 'No Good or Evil Choices' thread, hold up. I'm not necessarily talking about player decisions, i'm talking about the characters around them and how they might change.

 

I would love to see a more malleable approach to NPCs in gaming. Besides immersion, such an approach allows for greater flexibiity in party formation.

 

For e.g. Minsc is an awesome character but unfortunately incomptable with an Evil BG2 playthrough. Surerly a scheming, intelligent player should be able to turn him over to the dark side, via manipulation and taking advantage of that bump to his head?

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I'm all for it, but...

 

Its absurdly expensive, with just how expensive it is depending on where in the game the character can be changed. The problem is that much (if not all) of the dialog downstream of the earliest possible "change" point has to be written twice -- once for version "A" and once for version "B". If this is early, then it may exceed the cost of simply adding another companion (more complex dialogs means more QA vs. the two companion scenario). Therefore, these sorts of fundamental changes tend to be permitted to occur very late, most commonly when you are locked into the finale (Jade Empire is a classic example of this), or simply don't have any real impact beyond a "stat" change (KOTR 1&2 handled it this way). Neither is particularly satisfying. Given the budget constraints that P:E is under...

 

I'm still holding out hope for one companion having a fundamental change of character, say, before the 50% point. That's probably as good as it gets, though.

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I won't have time in the next two weeks, but I've got a bunch of material kicking around on the science of influence, if anyone would be interested in me bashing together a short summary 'paper'.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I'm not just interested, I demand it.

 

Aieee!


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I'm not opposed to influencing my party members, but neither do I want it to be easy or even fully possible.

 

On the one hand, people changing their minds because they interact with other people is something that happens all the time, so it would be nice if such a thing happened in the game as well.

 

On the other hand, completely changing a pacifist into an aggressive brute for whom Violence Is Always The Answer, for example, is a bit... unreasonable and would make the main character too much of a Mary Sue. Sure, the game world technically revolves around the main character, but not that much.

 

So yes. Influencing people could be fun, but it shouldn't be taken to absurd extremes like suddenly turning good characters wholly evil or vice versa (unless you spend a lot of time and energy on a Fall From Grace/Redemption arc - and even then such stories rarely go all the way).

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I agree with WotanAnubis. The world shouldn't revolve around the player that much. I don't even want that much power over my companions. I think I remember a couple of games where I could convince them not to commit suicide and stuff like that. I don't want that because then I feel obliged to help these people.

 

When it comes to influence, I want it to be handled exactly as it was in The Walking Dead. Characters have their own personality, but you can convince them to see things from your side, or you can choose not to care and let them have their opinion. And more or less all that this changes is how they speak to and about you. It was so, so satisfying to just be able to play my character a certain way, and get a reaction about that, without constantly having to think that some objectively bad thing happens because of my decisions.

 

Having a dark path and a light path for certain characters is fine, as long as both are equally rewarding. And it should be clear which actions trigger which path that character takes - nothing is more frustrating than suddenly noticing that this guy turned to black magic because I shared my personal (and not overly extreme) philosophical views with him.

Oh well. It's always a complex problem, trying to make it feel realistic while gamifying personal relationships at the same time. My main point is that I would like to be in control. If my choices make a character turn dark, give me a way to change that with another dialogue in which I make it perfectly clear to the game which path I'd like for this character.

 

(And to those who would argue that I'm just a **** who can't deal with consequences: That's not it. I love consequences, but they have to feel right. My character travels with this group of people for several months, they should really get to know him during that time. The relationships between them shouldn't be influenced by the one dialogue in which they misinterpreted my answer.)

Edited by Fearabbit

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Considering the guys from Obsidian made planescape torment and alpha protocol, I think they are way ahead of the curve on this one. PST party character development is a benchmark and comparable to BG series and IMHO more personal. AP influence and plot branching system let the gamer have very different view of the NPC depending on the path chosen and player interaction. I fear that due to the shortcoming of other aspect of the title, this was overlooked by many. i just hope that the developers further evolve this

Edited by Aldereth

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So long as the characters retain an identity of their own I'm all for it. I wouldn't want to talk a proud assassin out of a life of murder for hire just because I'm playing a 'good' character. If you had a remorseful assassin that was questioning in his path in life the whole time he's been with you maybe you should be able to influence them a bit. That or if a truly life altering event happens to a character in the game I can see you guiding them a little afterwards.

One example of changing a character that I really dislike is the 'hardening' of Leliana in dragon age origins. She was a spy, assassin, thief, etcetera, for her former lover then after being betrayed, tossed in jail, escaping she finds religion and tries to reform herself. Yet through the course of the game you can quiet easily convince her to give up on all that just because you're her party leader. You'd think with her past she'd be a bit hesitant to fall into those old habits for somebody else. I'm not saying that this should be impossible (people in abusive relationships tend to keep going back to them after all) but given the length of time the game seemed to take place over the change was too sudden and easily accomplished and made her feel like she had no identity of her own. I wouldn't like to see anything like this happen again.


K is for Kid, a guy or gal just like you. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up, since there's nothin' a kid can't do.

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I'm not opposed to influencing my party members, but neither do I want it to be easy or even fully possible.

 

On the one hand, people changing their minds because they interact with other people is something that happens all the time, so it would be nice if such a thing happened in the game as well.

 

On the other hand, completely changing a pacifist into an aggressive brute for whom Violence Is Always The Answer, for example, is a bit... unreasonable and would make the main character too much of a Mary Sue. Sure, the game world technically revolves around the main character, but not that much.

 

So yes. Influencing people could be fun, but it shouldn't be taken to absurd extremes like suddenly turning good characters wholly evil or vice versa (unless you spend a lot of time and energy on a Fall From Grace/Redemption arc - and even then such stories rarely go all the way).

 

I really don't want to deal with my companions in a binary way in the first place. I do want to influence though, but more in the way of manipulating them. I do want to talk them into doing certain actions, but I don't want to do it by completly changing their personality. Instead get the result by playing effectivly with their personality.

 

There's more than one way to design influence.

Edited by C2B

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I think it's mainly about simple reactivity. The possibility that your efforts and advice could cause a character to reconsider something. It's not about making people change. It's about people already being in flux, processing and considering oodles of factors to make them the way they are at present, and about your main character (the player) being allowed to be yet another factor in all that.

 

Simplest example I can think of: One of your characters realllly doesn't like godlike. Bad experience with them when they were young, bad experiences since, etc. They've decided godlike are pretty much trouble and can't be good people. But your main character is a godlike, and extenuating circumstances have partied the two of you up (they don't literally LOATHE godlike and try to murder them on sight. They just try to avoid them, under normal circumstances, and don't really seek to give them a chance or trust/make friends with them.). So, over the course of your travels, based solely on your actions, they realize "Hey, this person's a godlike, and he's not just going around screwing everyone over or causing everyone trouble. And he's actually helped me a great deal, and accomplished some amazing things so far. Maybe I just got really unlucky with my interactions with godlike all my life."

 

So, now, your actions and interactions with this character, as a godlike, have influenced the character's viewpoint on godlike. He's now open to the idea that godlike CAN be pretty okay and even splendid folk, whereas before he was closed to that idea. It's not because you said "Hey, man, godlike can be pretty okay and even splendid folk, and you should totally think about that" in a dialogue with him, and waved your jedi-mindtrick hand, and he went "You know what? You're right! Since you told me that, now I'm going to think that. Especially since your Influence skill was so high! 8D"

 

Heh. But, yeah. The difference being that, if your main character is NOT a godlike, you probably don't have much of a way to influence THAT aspect of that character to a very great degree. So, they may go the whole game distrustful of godlike, and that may affect various choices of theirs throughout the game.

 

Influence is not the same thing as persuasion. A lantern in the dark influences my decision of whether or not to perform a detailed search of the room. In darkness, I'm not really going to consider collecting detailed visual information about things. But, now that there's light, it's not such a stupid idea. But the lantern doesn't MAKE or COERCE me to have any interest in searching the room. It just changes the factor set that I consider to make the decision. If I find searching rooms utterly boring and horrible, then the appearance of light still isn't going to have me searching the room. It simply wasn't a great enough factor to change the outcome of my decision-making process.


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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This has always felt like a dumb "mechanic" to have (aside from Alpha Protocol, MAYBE) but a good a fun "story" thing to have.

 

I enjoyed it in BG2 and KOTOR where there was no particular "numbers omg!" that popped up saying "you got +1 to influence over..." which is something I despised, turning the entire exercise from a roleplaying, story focused decision into a mentality where I needed to get as many "+1's" as I could, because those are like points and the more the better!

 

Having it be a story, and character specific thing, with no explicit, non diegetic indicatation (i.e. an "influence" meter) whatsoever could be fun, if done right. I was impressed by both the end of NWN 2 where Sand betrayed me, well ok not impressed, but surprised and almost impressed with it. Seriously, it still felt somewhat like Sauron just asking "no it's totally cool guys, you should join me instead" and Gandalf doing so because he decided Frodo was a jerk or something.

 

But anyway, I liked the IDEA. And I loved the unexpected character interactions in Dragon Age. Even if it did have the ridiculously stupid influence meter and "this person now likes you +3!" stuff, being chewed out by an NPC for a decision I made was still great. Having your party react to you over time, in a contiguous storylike fashion, in one way or another, is very cool if done well. 

Edited by Frenetic Pony

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So long as the characters retain an identity of their own I'm all for it. I wouldn't want to talk a proud assassin out of a life of murder for hire just because I'm playing a 'good' character. If you had a remorseful assassin that was questioning in his path in life the whole time he's been with you maybe you should be able to influence them a bit. That or if a truly life altering event happens to a character in the game I can see you guiding them a little afterwards.

 

One example of changing a character that I really dislike is the 'hardening' of Leliana in dragon age origins. She was a spy, assassin, thief, etcetera, for her former lover then after being betrayed, tossed in jail, escaping she finds religion and tries to reform herself. Yet through the course of the game you can quiet easily convince her to give up on all that just because you're her party leader. You'd think with her past she'd be a bit hesitant to fall into those old habits for somebody else. I'm not saying that this should be impossible (people in abusive relationships tend to keep going back to them after all) but given the length of time the game seemed to take place over the change was too sudden and easily accomplished and made her feel like she had no identity of her own. I wouldn't like to see anything like this happen again.

I imagine there are points in a person's life where he or she is confronted with their views or other views, a low point in which they might question their beliefs. these are moments when you could influence a characters growth, outside that, not so much.
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Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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