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Ok so Alignment, Character Creation, and Relationships...

AlignmentRomance Character Creation Reputation NPC Reactions Comeliness

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#1
Karkarov

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Ok so I have been thinking about this a long time. I wanted to wait to post for a number of reasons, some to do with wanting the board to dilute down to only the serious forum visitors, others because I wanted to wait until it was all fleshed out and maybe some other threads had touched on things.

So what is the post/topic about exactly? Namely Character Creation, more specifically how many games do it wrong. Secondly it is about Alignment, how many games do it wrong, why it matters and should be in game, how to do it right, how it relates to character creation, and lastly how it should effect npc interactions in a fairly simple way. Lastly it is about "romance" but more specifically NPC relationships in general.

Before you proceed I am warning you now. This post.... it will be long.

First before I go into anything we need to touch on the idea of "Comeliness". Specifically the idea of a statistical number representing how attractive your character is. For a number of reasons I think this is important to good RPG's of all types and should exist in P:E. No it should not be a simple "stat" derived from your other character statistics.

You might wonder "Kark why does this matter and why the heck are you mentioning it at all?" For a couple reasons. First, I don't know about you, but in the real world it is my experience that appearance not only forms a large portion of a persons first impression but it can also be deceiving. For believable and immersive NPC interactions you need to make certain inroads to allow for a partially realistic approach. Part of that is making NPC's react based on things that make sense and are logical. Example: How many times have you been wandering through the woods, follow a road, and get ambushed by some bandits who demand a toll be paid? Isn't it kinda silly that they don't bother noticing you are armed to the teeth? You have dude wearing archmage robes with a staff pulsing with power behind you but they don't care? It takes you out of the game because there are no rules to account for your appearance.

"But Kark WAIT! Wouldn't simply having them do a level check count too?" Well yeah.... but I did say appearances can be deceiving right? Who is to say your current mode of dress or appearance is an accurate representation of your power? Forton looks like a psycho crack head but I bet he could beat the crap out of an average bandit. Here comes Zaotaichi the Blind Masseuse who kills people like it is going out of style. By looks he is just some blind dude with a cane in shabby clothing. Sure he could kill you easy, but he doesn't "look" like he could.

So we can agree appearance is important to NPC interaction. Whether you are trying to woo the Baroness into the bedroom, intimidate a thug, smooth talk your way to discounted good from a merchant, or inspire a group of town guards with a speech as the goblins attack appearance can have an effect on this.

A large part of that is "Comeliness". After all the Baroness is not going to get it on with someone who looks like they took a hoof to the face then got chewed on afterwards. Likewise though is the veteran town guard sergeant going to relate to a pretty boy Adonis as well as he would a guy who looks like he could be found at the pub? So this isn't a one way street. Beauty is after all in the eyes of the beholder. So this is important to relationships with NPCS for a number of reasons because it can help form an initial reaction as well as a guidepost for certain entry requirements for relationships if they are in game. Of course gear and such can also have an effect on this. You can hate the games all you want but titles like Saint's Row and Fable for example are actually pretty good at this and serve as great examples of how gear should effect NPC reactions.

So you need two "measures" for appearance. 1: Comeliness. 2: Gear or clothing. Combine them and you have a general idea of what your character looks like and how people will react at first glance. This is nice because it also gives a valid excuse for those who like the idea of "town clothes".

So clothing is pretty obvious. How do you get a "Comeliness" score if it isn't just a stat (which it shouldn't be)? Thus we enter..... Character Creation.

Blank slate characters SUCK. Don't get me wrong, I love the new Fallout games like New Vegas. I put over 200 hours in Skyrim. For me though they are not "blank slate" games because regardless of whether the game realizes it or works with it or not I create my own backstory for these characters. Just like I did in Icewind Dale, just like I do in Baldur's Gate with the caveat that Imoen is my friend "maybe" and Gorion raised me.

How do you avoid the blank slate but still leave the character up to the player. Well you take a dash of Mount and Blade, a pinch of Ultima, a sprinkle of sweet roll crumbs Morrowind, a peppering of the old 16 bit original Ogre Battle game, melt it all down, and pour it all over a cake made from the character creator options in Dragon Age Origins.

Meaning...

You do more than just say "Yhat sex are you? What race? What's your Class? What are your skills/special powers? GO!" You start with the basic stuff like male or female and what race. Then you pick your class. Heck let's even roll our stats now. Then you get to the part that matters. What subrace are you? Meaning are you a Elf from those woods to the east? Or are you one of those Elves who live in that swamp to the north? Make a social class be chosen, what did you do for fun as a kid, so when you got older did you take up a job or go to some school, ever have a important someone, yada yada yada.

You ask a specific series of questions that pin down (in general) where you grew up, what your status was socially, why that was your status (did you get solid into slavery or was your parents a merchant etc), how were you raised, what did you choose to do when you became a adult, and so on. This gives a general framework for your character. NPC's can now make comments about your accent, you can be given flavor text about how you visited a place once, basically the game has a set of general info that it can use to more immerse you in the game while allowing you to have actual control of who and what you want to be. You could (but don't have to) even use this to determine what sort of starting scenario your character plays out ala Dragon Age Origins just better. Depending on how far you want to take it these answers could even effect your stats in slight ways or your options come actual character customization.

Third we go into the morality spiel. Maybe you aren't the Avatar and I am not a Gypsy in some wagon but this is important anyway. Once we get to the point where "you are an adult and you found yourself at X point" part of the questionnaire we redirect and put the player in a scenario based on previous answers. Now you get the morality questions that range through different topics and scenarios. Straight forward right?

Lastly we finally get to actually customize our character maybe with facial models, body type, hair style, skin, eye, and hair color, yada yada. Whats neat is the options you have right now are based on your race, your sex, and the choices you made leading to this point. You might get stuck with a scar on your right eye no matter what because of how you answered the questions. So on so forth. In the end we are done and the character is created.

Why did it have to be that complex, well I am glad you asked, because it diluted down into what I call the "Big 4". They are....

1: Comeliness: Little did you know while customizing your character look in the background you are being assigned a score on how attractive you are based on the options you chose. Go figure that a ratty afro is not as sexy as long flowing full hair like Fabio.

2: Style: Simply put how intimidating/crude you appear versus how stylish and debonaire you are. That scar on your right eye may not actually make you uglier, but it certainly makes you look a lot scarier and brutish. So a guy with a low score is Sarevok on a bad day while a high scorer is James Bond.

3: Perception: This is primarily scored by the first half of the questions you got asked. It is in a nutshell how society in general sees your character. Are you a law abiding member of the upper social graces or a dirty roguish thug with no respect for authority? This is broken into two sub categories. Society and Morality. Society being the Law versus Chaos dichotomy and Morality being plain old good versus evil.

4: Alignment: Guess what this is? It is exactly the same as Perception, except instead of it being what society "thinks" of you it is the cold hard reality of your character. Society may have looked at you as a lawless scum of low morals for stealing food from the castle kitchens, but in reality you did it to feed your starving friend who would have died to illness without food. So while you might not respect laws, it is not to the degree society likely thinks, and while society considers theft evil, you did it for a moral reason. Get where I am going with this?

The most important thing is that all four of these "stats" are 100% hidden. You simply don't see them or know they are being created. Thus character creation is about making the character you want, while giving the game the tools to understand and work around that character in an immersive way. Why do you need two separate "alignment" stats? Because one is what people will think of you the first time you meet, when coupled with appearance you get a base starter "reaction score". IE: How much does this character like me? As you interact with that character the "Perception" score is slowly over time changed by the "Alignment" score. They no longer base their opinion on what they "hear" it is now based on what they "saw".

Lastly, and probably the most important, these things tie into important NPC interactions in a key way. Like I said, why would the Baroness hop in bed with a ugly dude? This can effect everything from what NPC's will refuse to join you as companions, to who will be romance-able (sorry Jaheira and Viconia now have different preferences instead of just wanting to get with you cause you are the main character and a dude), how major story npcs will relate to you (turns out the leader of the thieves guild was a better friend than the King), and it may even effect the story itself in some ways.

The whole point is it allows for "blank slate" design in that you can be any character you want, while also creating a system that allows the game itself to react to that character in a reasonable and believable way. End result is NPC's that feel more real, a character that is unique to the player, and a story and world that you care more about.

Will this make it into PE? Probably not. Will you write in exactly detail how you could do all this? I don't have all week so probably not again though I could go into some detail if I had to. I am posting this because I want to share my thoughts on these issues and how they can be addressed and done right, that's all.

Feel free to share thoughts and or flame as you feel needed.
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#2
jivex5k

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I'd love a creation system this deep.
And having the world react accordingly to your appearance is a big plus as well.
It seems incredibly complex, but I hope PE can at least take some of your ideas and implement them.

#3
TMTVL

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I'm into guys with a more... Slim physique and long thin muscles instead of short big muscles. In women I tend to focus more on the face than the rest of the body, I kinda like a rounder face and don't like the breasts and behind to be too large. On the other hand there are people who are into muscle men. There are people who like women with big breasts. Women with large behinds. Men with beards. Men without beards. Women without beards. Long hair, short hair, dark hair, fair hair, dark eyes, bright eyes, jutting cheeckbones, protracted cheeckbones, small noses, big noses.

There is a term in programming, "oversimulation". Shamus Young has a post a bit about it, if you're interested. In general I'd say it's something that has to be avoided. I can't help but feel that designing some kind of "beauty gauge" is one of the lowest posible priorities in any program, only slightly above creating a simulation of your character's digestive system.
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#4
Karkarov

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I'm into guys with a more... Slim physique and long thin muscles instead of short big muscles. In women I tend to focus more on the face than the rest of the body, I kinda like a rounder face and don't like the breasts and behind to be too large. On the other hand there are people who are into muscle men. There are people who like women with big breasts. Women with large behinds. Men with beards. Men without beards. Women without beards. Long hair, short hair, dark hair, fair hair, dark eyes, bright eyes, jutting cheeckbones, protracted cheeckbones, small noses, big noses.

There is a term in programming, "oversimulation". Shamus Young has a post a bit about it, if you're interested. In general I'd say it's something that has to be avoided. I can't help but feel that designing some kind of "beauty gauge" is one of the lowest posible priorities in any program, only slightly above creating a simulation of your character's digestive system.

Actually it is no where near that complex as your first paragraph seems to suggest. In math terms it is more like "this character won't enter romance with someone who isn't at least a 60 on a 0-100 score on this meter and a 10-40 on this one. Also they have to be male and any race other than dwarf or gnome. If you aren't in those ranges or are a dwarf or gnome those text options simply never show up.

The point is a character generation system that gives the game data it can use to make the world in and of itself treat your character in a more "specific" way. This isn't over simulation, it is a simple checks and balances where at key moments a NPC will do stuff like have an extra dialog or say Nashkel instead of Bereghost. Or Edwin will not join your party cause you are a super nice guy and he is an evil jerk wad, but will later cause you started going evil half way through the game.

#5
KaineParker

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I'm neutral on the complex character creation with hidden values that determine NPC reaction, but I love the idea that the PC has "Public Perception of Alignment" and "Actual Alignment". The one thing I would try to do is make sure that "Actual Alignment" is not no restrictive, "Lawful Good" can mean wildly different things after all.

#6
Agelastos

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Something like the Background questionnaire from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall would be awesome.

Edit: Also, separate Appearance and Charisma attributes, like in Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines (this way, it's possible to be ugly/scary-looking while being charming and debonair at the same time, or beautiful/handsome but socially inept - something that isn't possible in most cRPGs). Gear could still factor in to the equation.

Edited by Agelastos, 30 November 2012 - 11:32 PM.

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#7
Odglok

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I like it. But I'm not sure that implementing this degree of depth would benefit a game like PE enough to be worth the resources. The game is primarily about adventuring, not politicking. Now I'd love to play an RPG where dialogue was the focal point and social maneuvering was the main challenge, with combat taking a backseat like it did to stealth in the Thief games, but I don't believe Project Eternity is being designed for that.
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#8
Nanakamado

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General idea is nice. I like such a complexity, but I don't like idea of stats being hidden. Also I think it's really important for aligment to be changing during the game.

#9
FlintlockJazz

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No alignment. Obsidian have already said they are not going with an alignment system and I agree with them. It is up to me to determine whether my actions are good or evil according to my morals, not the programmer who has programmed this alignment system. It is up to me to decide whether an action is honorable or not, whether I am doing it for society or not. Even if it is hidden, the fact that it is there is basically forcing one person's perspective upon me and is just bollocks really. Big fat no to alignment.
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#10
BetrayTheWorld

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LOTS OF STUFF


Well thought out, overall good post. I like and agree with all of your ideas, except the part about making all the stats hidden. I don't see a need for that.
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#11
Doppelschwert

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Although I appreciate the effort you've put into this, I don't think this is a good idea.
In the end, what you're arguing is to have those stats in a range of values, for example the interval [0,100]. Naturally, that only works for concepts which have some kind of duality.
At the same time, your system tries to describe a lot of personal information. So either you have a lot of variables, or you project alot of different things onto a single axis. If you have alot of variables, I don't think its practical to write dialogues and use every single one stat often enough for them to actually matter/justify the amount of extra work you have to put in. On the other side, if you project them along a single abstract stat, you still have the same problem as before, losing information by abstracting discrete properties into numbers. The questionare even suffers the same problem as the traditionial alignment in the first place:
For example, what your childhood was like does not have to be a direct indicator for what person you become. So at character creation, I may want to pick some answers which I think fits the character concept I had in mind, while in the end its only about how the developer interprets the impact those choices have on the characters live, which may differ greatly what I've thought about.
In the end, you're actually losing what you want to achieve: Abstracting your appearance into a single number implies that your appearance has the exact same value to every npc, which effectively hinders a realistic set of diverse reaction/opinions in the npc world.

I also think it doesn't matter whether the variables are hidden or not. In the end, if they have real consequences, someone is going to deconstruct the game and write a guide about which choice has which effect anyway.

Without losing much of your approach, I think its far easier to just implement dicrete attributes. Those can express your looks and the things you did, like an greatly expanded version of the history feats in NWN2.
So you have decided to burn the dryad grove down instead of helping them get rid of the lumberjacks around. You just store what you did and let people respond to that. Thats realistic as you can assign checks about that to the people that actally care about the dryads/ that area while people on the other side of the continent are able to not care about it in the first place.
Also, this way you can creaty a much broader set of responces, as every npc can have their own set of values. Maybe theres someone who really hates the dryads, but is a really nice guy otherwise. If you encode the information about the quest into some morality bar, your overall alignment may appear "evil" and doesn't reflect that you actually did something the guy feels really positive about, as he general dislikes evil guys. Same thing with "good" characters and the druid around the corner which should be upset about the burning.
Of course, this is not mutually exclusive, and in some way it is a bad example, but I think individual opinions on a small number of issues are sufficient for every npc to get an immersive experience without the kind of overhead you're suggesting. You can always give an armor a feat which makes it intimidating, without having to tuck a numerical score onto it.

TL;DR:
I agree on the general idea of the game being more responsive. But I don't think the way to achieve this is by using a lot of numerical variables but with discrete events npc actually care about, as this makes for more diverse responses. You already used that in your suggestion, but I think it is sufficient if applied consistently.

Edited by Doppelschwert, 01 December 2012 - 02:56 PM.

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#12
Agelastos

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Something like the Background questionnaire from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall would be awesome.

Edit: Also, separate Appearance and Charisma attributes, like in Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines (this way, it's possible to be ugly/scary-looking while being charming and debonair at the same time, or beautiful/handsome but socially inept - something that isn't possible in most cRPGs). Gear could still factor in to the equation.


Appearance could affect NPCs' initial reactions toward your character (Hostile, Neutral, Friendly, etc.),
some dialogue (I hate it when random NPCs call my half-orc blackguard a "pretty boy", just because his Charisma score is above average),
and some persuasion checks (Seduction checks could be 1d20 [just an example] + Persuasion rank +/- your Appearance stat bonus, instead of your Charisma bonus which would still be used for Diplomacy checks, etc. Maybe a negative Appearance score could even grant a bonus instead of a penalty to Intimidation checks).
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#13
Karkarov

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Well thought out, overall good post. I like and agree with all of your ideas, except the part about making all the stats hidden. I don't see a need for that.

The reason I say hidden is because of basically one thing. There are people who play games not to ... play them, but to "game the game" or go after achievements and treat the game they are playing as some sort of weird trophy item. Then there are also people who for whatever reason hate alignment, probably because they only ever see it done wrong.

Ultimately the idea is about allowing the player to create the character they want, giving the game a way of reacting to that character in a "reasonable" way, making npc's slightly more "real", and just helping to immerse you in a game without forcing you to be "Shepard". Sometimes knowing these things are there though can get in the way of that and make you think I need to score XYZ instead of just making you focus on being the character you want. At least for some players.

#14
SqueakyCat

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No alignment. Obsidian have already said they are not going with an alignment system and I agree with them. It is up to me to determine whether my actions are good or evil according to my morals, not the programmer who has programmed this alignment system. It is up to me to decide whether an action is honorable or not, whether I am doing it for society or not. Even if it is hidden, the fact that it is there is basically forcing one person's perspective upon me and is just bollocks really. Big fat no to alignment.


Exactly. As per Sawyer:

I'm not sure what you mean by point and attack system, but we will likely be using a reputation system similar to F:NV in Project Eternity (also, we aren't using "alignment", "karma" or other morality meters). In general, the way we will be approaching the world design and faction development will likely be similar to F:NV. We want the characters to feel like they have believable motivations, reasons for doing what they do.


http://forums.obsidi...60#entry1232166
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#15
BetrayTheWorld

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Well thought out, overall good post. I like and agree with all of your ideas, except the part about making all the stats hidden. I don't see a need for that.

The reason I say hidden is because of basically one thing. There are people who play games not to ... play them, but to "game the game" or go after achievements and treat the game they are playing as some sort of weird trophy item. Then there are also people who for whatever reason hate alignment, probably because they only ever see it done wrong.

Ultimately the idea is about allowing the player to create the character they want, giving the game a way of reacting to that character in a "reasonable" way, making npc's slightly more "real", and just helping to immerse you in a game without forcing you to be "Shepard". Sometimes knowing these things are there though can get in the way of that and make you think I need to score XYZ instead of just making you focus on being the character you want. At least for some players.


I understand, but I still think that hidden values would be less appealing overall than transparent values. So far as your idea for character creation asking a series of questions, there is a MUD called Accursed Lands that did this for their character creation, and it's actually really enjoyable to create a character there. There's normally about 8-10 questions that start out like: "When you're 5 years old, x happens and you're left with a decision, do you do A, B, C, or D?"

The questions aren't the same each time you play either. There is a random element to it, and subsequent questions are reactive to the answers of earlier questions. In general, it's a really immersive character design method that helps people flesh out where their character came from, and what sorts of things happened to them to shape who they become.

Using this sort of thing in character creation doesn't need to be limited to only effecting starting morality or reputation either. It could actually equate into bonuses or penalties in skills and attributes as well, which I think would only add to it's value and enjoyability. I encourage you to connect to Accursed lands and create a character there to see what I mean, if you can stomach a text-based RPG long enough to make a character or two.

Edited by BetrayTheWorld, 02 December 2012 - 02:25 AM.


#16
Jojobobo

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I like the gist, but not necessarily the implementation.

First of all as others have said I don't think an alignment meter is necessary, as morality is completely subjective and not something you should hang a number on - even if it wasn't visible in game it shouldn't even be in the system at all. I think the idea of perceptions or reputation shifting over time is fine, and I suppose it a reflection of your alignment that people's opinions would change - however a follower getting to know you better and your relations improving with them is just a result of them observing more empirical evidence about what they believe is your nature. If a whole town could do the same their perception meter would also shift. Quite possibly appearance/race/background that make you look like a thug/handsome devil could impact on the starting reputation value for a town, but good deeds done for them or bad deeds done against them would shift it in the normal manner.

Too little transparency can also be annoying. People like to be in control of their player and affect them in whatever way they choose. Having too many values off the books makes it more difficult to tune a character to what the player wants them to be. Some values will of course be hidden, but it shouldn't be too many so that accessibility is compromised. For some values it's fine to obscure them if a qualitative as opposed to a quantitive approach is better (as in someone who likes you would have their relationship listed as you being "Liked" by them in your journal as per FO:NV instead of using a value like 5, where 5 is the mechanistic number that corresponds to that reputation).

I do very much agree however a greater level of subtley needs to be given to social interactions. Different cultures will have different preferences as to what they fine visually appealing (so they are more readily persuaded or seduced by a character) and also what they find unappealing (so they are more readily intimidated) - this should be a combination of looks and equipment. Some aspects of appearance you can change (a haircut, scarring) but shouldn't be able to.

How I would like looks to break down is sliders between different values, that once set cannot be changed but both ends of the sliders have different drawbacks and benefits. For example for facial features you could have "Brutish" on one end of a scale and "Defined" on the other. For the most part characters who have a brutish shapeless face will find that most cultures find them intimidating and will react initially poorly to them - but some cultures will find their more lumpen ugly faces more attractive than that of characters who are defined as they associate them with physical weakness or possibly illness. Likewise most cultures will find the defined people with good bone structure and the like to be more attractive and ammenable to get on with, but maybe they come into contact with a hideous race that finds their apperance far more terrifying than the brutish characters. Slap bang in the middle of this you get a character with no real benefits either way - your plain Jane. Possibly some of the classes could alter their appearances through magic for a short time to alter these preconceptions.

I don't know as if intimidation should really be linked to strength in anyway either, I think what equipment you are wearing should be far more important. Someone who is armoured to the teeth but has more of a lithe (read dexterity focused) physique IMO should not be able to intimidate someone any worse than someone with huge muscles and a warhammer.
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#17
Bacon Pancakes

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I'm not too sure about this idea of an 'attractiveness score'. It sounds like it would be very difficult to do right, and if it's done wrong, things could get kind of ridiculous. Like, you make a character who looks like the Elephant Man, but because of the way the score is calculated, everyone acts like he's Adonis. Well, that's an exaggeration. It probably wouldn't be that bad, but you could still end up with a character whose facial features look nice separately, but are freakish when put together.

#18
Agelastos

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I'm not too sure about this idea of an 'attractiveness score'. It sounds like it would be very difficult to do right, and if it's done wrong, things could get kind of ridiculous. Like, you make a character who looks like the Elephant Man, but because of the way the score is calculated, everyone acts like he's Adonis. Well, that's an exaggeration. It probably wouldn't be that bad, but you could still end up with a character whose facial features look nice separately, but are freakish when put together.


Not really a problem in an isometric game, though. I doubt we'll even get facial sliders.

Edited by Agelastos, 02 December 2012 - 03:39 PM.


#19
SGray

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A large part of that is "Comeliness". After all the Baroness is not going to get it on with someone who looks like they took a hoof to the face then got chewed on afterwards. Likewise though is the veteran town guard sergeant going to relate to a pretty boy Adonis as well as he would a guy who looks like he could be found at the pub?

That's wrong. What you're talking about is "Comeliness" and "Badassness", but these aren't polar things. Character could have both - Geralt (Witcher), J. Bond, or neither - some beggar, or man, suffering from some disease.

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AGX-17

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Comeliness? Like as in attractiveness? I've always thought that should be seperate from charisma. You can have a physically unattractive but charismatic leader (Hitler, humor me, was no Adonis, yet charismatic,) or a physically attractive, offensive idiot incapable of leading a party down a linear path. I do not oppose this in the least. Of course, that would just lead to me making my PC a 10/10 on the attractiveness scale every time...


I'm not too sure about this idea of an 'attractiveness score'. It sounds like it would be very difficult to do right, and if it's done wrong, things could get kind of ridiculous. Like, you make a character who looks like the Elephant Man, but because of the way the score is calculated, everyone acts like he's Adonis. Well, that's an exaggeration. It probably wouldn't be that bad, but you could still end up with a character whose facial features look nice separately, but are freakish when put together.


Well, if it's defined as Adonis there's no incongruity there, as Adonis was a Hellenic god of Beauty and Desire belonging to women (meaning worshipped, adored by women.) I don't think we're going to be making our own character faces like in Oblivion, Mass Effect or Fallout 3/NV, so there's no risk of cognitive dissonance/hilarity by having a butt-ugly character with a maxed out physical attractiveness attribute.

Edited by AGX-17, 03 December 2012 - 09:09 PM.

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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: AlignmentRomance, Character Creation, Reputation, NPC Reactions, Comeliness

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