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What makes an interesting companion? Lore vessels and the past vs reactive dynamics and the present

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"the joinable companions should be the focus o' developing the story o' a crpg. the companions can grow, and player choices can change the ways in which they grow, but the motivations and personality o' the joinables is not so dynamic as to hinder quality writing.  the essential qualities o' the companions (and major npcs such as the game's Ultimate Bad Guy) is known qualities that a writer can use as a foundation for story development.  
 

I would suggest that this can be detrimental to the narrative, if implemented wrong. While I agree that joinables need to have crisis points and visible growth, I think Dragon Age Inquisition proved how fixating on companions  can lead to a weaker story.

Inquisition has great companions, and bioware spent a load of time building their importance to the PC, and there are many great moments where you feel connected to the companions: Dorian's meeting with his father, when all your companions get drunk together in the tavern...

however, the overall story of Inquisition is weak, and it lacks any of the great moments that really made Dragon Age Origins so wonderful. I may have written this already but:

In Origins, I chose whether or not to father a child infused with the power of an old god, whether to defile the ashes of the messiah character (Andraste), whether I would free the tormented soul of some dwarf trapped in a golem body, and whether or not to have sex with a desire demon inside the mind of a possessed child.

 

in Inquisition, I think there was pool that maybe I could corrupt?

 

point is- it seems like all the thought went into creating this vivid companions, which resulted in a fairly bland fantasy plot, that relied on a recycled villain, and an antagonistic force that was essentially just the blight by a different name.

 

while it's clear the companions need to function differently from POE, granting them more agency along the prime narrative, and also presenting your character with contrasting and affirming view points, it can't come at the expense of the story.

At least, that's what I think

 

Also, agree that Kreia was an excellent character, often overlooked

 

I am surprised that you found interesting characters in DAI.I liked only two Cassandra and the elf fellow, the rest were forgettable at best,only ting that remember about them is that there was like 3 gays or something.Two dudes tried to sleep with me and some communist didn't wanted to sleep with me because she liked women.Btw i agree  with you and love Kreia :)

Edited by dark___devil

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This thread needs more Steven Heck!

am admitted more likely to use ravel and kreia as examples, but no doubt we can work some ap references into the mix.

 

am sad to say we ain't played tyranny yet, so am gonna be complete lost with any reference to obsidian's most recent rpg title.  we almost always wait six months before purchasing a new title.  crowdfunding projects being notable exceptions.

 

HA! Good Fun!


"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."--Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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I think we will see a similar theme in this game that the companions will adhere to. It seems Eothas is a bit enraged, and that is odd for the God of Redemption. This would also tie him somewhat into the concept of forgiveness, potentially. I could definitely be wrong here.

 

Eder - trying to redeem himself from not switching sides with his brother during the Saint's War, and forgiving himself that mistake.

 

Pallegina - probably finding redemption in some capacity with the Vailian Republics.

 

Aloth - he has family issues, and they could be moved into the forefront of this game.

 

These are just potential examples, and they may vary based on our decisions in PoE1. That could be problematic for the devs. We will see. As for Eothas? I have no clue, but I haven't had coffee yet.

 

I agree that tying the companions to the theme really is good for both the companions and the over all narrative. It makes the story more cohesive, and I won't go into issues that DAI has.

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This thread needs more Steven Heck!

am admitted more likely to use ravel and kreia as examples, but no doubt we can work some ap references into the mix.

 

am sad to say we ain't played tyranny yet, so am gonna be complete lost with any reference to obsidian's most recent rpg title.  we almost always wait six months before purchasing a new title.  crowdfunding projects being notable exceptions.

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

 

Well, aside from being a fun game, it exemplifies what obsidian can do with smaller companion casts; the successes and the pitfalls. i feel like it's a good indication of some of the changes going into POE 2, though i don't know who is working on POE 2 that worked on Tyranny.

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I must say I found that there were indeed interesting companions in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The companions were the strengths of the game and to me they showed that there still is some part of old Bioware in modern Bioware.

 

But as was pointed out already while the companions were well done the main story lacked very much in quality.

 

My favorite companion in DA:I was Cole, hands down!

 

Oh yes: And for most interesting banters, you should always have Cole and Solas in a party!

Edited by Fluffle

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Certainly, though, this is a product of the character being written as well as narrative needs? A companion who sees their best days behind them will always contextualize the events of the present into their view of their past achievements, while a companion who is looking to make a better future will always contextualize the events of the present with their hope for enacting change in the future. The former may materialize in telling stories of past exploits, the other in praising or criticizing the PC for how their choices align with the NPC's goal.

 Good and valid point. I have the feeling though that there is a certain tendency to "balance" all the available companions to make them all "deep" in a way that ends up with all of them offering tons of information. My core point is not that you can't or shouldn't look in the past for motivation or explanation of personal beliefs and agendas. There are certain types of people (like Durance) for which their past is core to their actions in the present, I fully agree with that. But - in my feeling - too often "depth" in CRPGs is mistaken for "writing more text" and good companion writing is mistaken for offering as much backstory as possible. But that's imo the wrong way of building a character in a CRPG, especially when you're pretty constrained by limited funds. You should first look what makes your character tick and then try to convey that message in as least words as possible! Of course there can be deviations from that, for example if you want to write a very talkative (maybe even to annoying degrees) character on purpose. But the "less is more" mantra is imo essential to video game writing, especially if you consider that video games offer a lot of other ways to present a character (audio and visuals). Sometimes writers seem to be so obsessive with their texts that information is transported in redundant forms, for example by writing about the look of a character while at the same time the portrait of the respective character is visually presented. Torment, by the way, is even much more guilty of that than Pillars. Torment is marketed by its internal word count, just think about that. It's well known in literature that a long books isn't necessarily a good book and the same is true for video game writing, even to a bigger degree imo.

 

I even have a suggestion for future companions, a suggestion that could perhaps serve as a compromise between the desires of writers and the needs and wishes of players: Writers could/should write an external short story about each companion, without being constricted by ingame design, different dialogue branches, the overall ingame storyline or players being able to skip certain elements of this backstory - and therefore also being of less hassle for the writer which should result in faster outputs.

That way every player who is interested in extensive backstories and deeper information about the lore of their companions could read the short story before playing. For the game itself that would result in a streamlined conversation situation (no downtimes anymore in which you have or are supposed to read line after line of background information about the lore of a character at certain points in the game) with companions who only shortly refer to their psst - if necessary for understanding their present action or comment - while concentrating to give reactive and proactive input to the the PC's decision and to the current events in the game.

 

And either may need to give some setting or history information about a town, a faction, an event because the developers can't rely on having the player stumble across it in a book so they can make an informed decision as a simple narrative function.

I don't know, really. I personally think there are often better ways to give information about lore and setting than by abusing companions for that transportation of pure background information. Sometimes it happens naturally and it's well suited within the context of a quest or a personal dialogue but too often it's all too obvious that some dialogue has the sole purpose of well, giving background information. For me, that's bad writing - or maybe even worse - underestimating either the own skill to transport an important message by non-text means or by underestimating the players to get the meaning.

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I think we will see a similar theme in this game that the companions will adhere to. It seems Eothas is a bit enraged, and that is odd for the God of Redemption. This would also tie him somewhat into the concept of forgiveness, potentially. I could definitely be wrong here.

 

 

redemption as the thematic focus sounds like a viable and laudable option for the poe2 story.  faith were at the core o' poe, and redemption is gonna be new enough so as not to be repetitive.  at same time, redemption is close tied to faith so writers can build 'pon previous game rather than simple abandoning thematic threads from the first title. 

 

'course we got no idea what obsidian is actual gonna do, so...

 

HA! Good Fun!

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"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."--Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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A companion who sees their best days behind them will always contextualize the events of the present into their view of their past achievements, while a companion who is looking to make a better future will always contextualize the events of the present with their hope for enacting change in the future. The former may materialize in telling stories of past exploits, the other in praising or criticizing the PC for how their choices align with the NPC's goal.  

 

And either may need to give some setting or history information about a town, a faction, an event because the developers can't rely on having the player stumble across it in a book so they can make an informed decision as a simple narrative function.

The point with Durance and GM, however, was that they didn't contextualise present events in most of their dialogue.

 

They suffered much, I think, from the fact that their personal quest was exploring their past through dialogue. Now, in theory that's not eintirely a bad thing, and Avellone should be commended for trying to do something else than the usual companion quest. The concept needs work, though, for getting better at being a quest.

So they had lots of dialogue that was completely separated from the rest of the game. They didn't respond to anything you did, they reacted to the passing of time. And while Durance's ramblings were somewhat relevant to the main plot (by giving more information about nuking Eothas), the GM's story was basically self-contained.

 

Which means that in this case, several unfortunate decisions came together to create a showcase of lore-dump NPCs. The other NPCs are a lot better at this.

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Χριστός ἀνέστη!

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I think we will see a similar theme in this game that the companions will adhere to. It seems Eothas is a bit enraged, and that is odd for the God of Redemption. This would also tie him somewhat into the concept of forgiveness, potentially. I could definitely be wrong here.

 

redemption as the thematic focus sounds like a viable and laudable option for the poe2 story.  faith were at the core o' poe, and redemption is gonna be new enough so as not to be repetitive.  at same time, redemption is close tied to faith so writers can build 'pon previous game rather than simple abandoning thematic threads from the first title. 

 

'course we got no idea what obsidian is actual gonna do, so...

 

HA! Good Fun!

Agreed, and Eder's story was very pointed in that direction at the end of his arc, and both Aloth and Pallegina have the potential to go there as well. I like the idea of a redemption theme, personally.

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I think we will see a similar theme in this game that the companions will adhere to. It seems Eothas is a bit enraged, and that is odd for the God of Redemption. This would also tie him somewhat into the concept of forgiveness, potentially. I could definitely be wrong here.

 

Eder - trying to redeem himself from not switching sides with his brother during the Saint's War, and forgiving himself that mistake.

 

Pallegina - probably finding redemption in some capacity with the Vailian Republics.

 

Aloth - he has family issues, and they could be moved into the forefront of this game.

 

These are just potential examples, and they may vary based on our decisions in PoE1. That could be problematic for the devs. We will see. As for Eothas? I have no clue, but I haven't had coffee yet.

 

I agree that tying the companions to the theme really is good for both the companions and the over all narrative. It makes the story more cohesive, and I won't go into issues that DAI has.

 

agree in principal.

All three retuning characters are going to share this specific event (Eothas return) with the character, and thus how they react can be less lore-drop (as this thread is honing in on) and more reaction and conversation by which the player and PC conceptualize this event.

Eder, who held onto his faith in a very pure, personal, and benevolent way (as opposed to Durance), now has to realize that his god, who he quietly considered more kind than the other gods (and also, i kind of thought that too from the ending of the first game, and the WM content), now has to realize that Eothas is the same self-serving fiery creature of vengeance.

Palegina- my assumption is that she will look at the atrocities of the Valian Trading Company and realize that she has given her life to something oppressive in nature

Aloth- no idea. Honestly, he never struck me as that interesting. I just keep him around because mages are so versatile. hopefully, Isylmr will take over and create havok and ruin!

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This thread needs more Steven Heck!

EVERYTHING needs more Steven Heck, at all times!  

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"That rabbit's dynamite!" - King Arthur, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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While we're at overall themes and concepts: Maybe it's not the best idea to establish an overall theme and make every other element just a mere representation of that theme. I think it's true that each companion had issues with faith or tackled faith in PoE, reflecting the overall theme of the main narrative, but that's in no way a good thing imo. On the opposite, "intentional storytelling" of that kind is imo a flawed concept, abusing characters for the exploration of externally injected and superficial concepts. I guess that's also a problem I had with the writing in PoE in general. It didn't feel very natural and organic and it was too much focused on exploring themes that very likely are of much bigger interest for their writers than for the ingame protagonists and characters. A lot of people accused Baldur's Gate of being "overly serious" and they have a point. But PoE was even more guilty of that imo. There were some more "down-to-earth" characters like Eder who felt more natural in their behaviour while others felt like they were written with the overall theme of faith in mind - instead of being just thrown into a setting in which this topic becomes important somewhat durnig the journey. Personally, I wish PoE2 to be less intentional and less dominated by central narrative themes, especially in the field of character writing. And not every character needs to be super complex, super troubled or super involved in philosophial questions. The whole game should offer a more down-to-earth story that is dominated by relationships and human behaviour and less by big superficial concepts. The core of every good and intriguing story is imo a personal tale, not a philosophical one.

Edited by LordCrash

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A companion who sees their best days behind them will always contextualize the events of the present into their view of their past achievements, while a companion who is looking to make a better future will always contextualize the events of the present with their hope for enacting change in the future. The former may materialize in telling stories of past exploits, the other in praising or criticizing the PC for how their choices align with the NPC's goal.  

 

And either may need to give some setting or history information about a town, a faction, an event because the developers can't rely on having the player stumble across it in a book so they can make an informed decision as a simple narrative function.

The point with Durance and GM, however, was that they didn't contextualise present events in most of their dialogue.

 

They suffered much, I think, from the fact that their personal quest was exploring their past through dialogue. Now, in theory that's not eintirely a bad thing,

am disagreeing a bit.  where the lore from durance and gm were largely incidental to the exploration o' their personal quest, we had no complaint.  exploring the past o' a character  being required to advance a companion quest were not, in our estimation, problematic. as amentep observes, the demands o' the narrative is gonna alter the degree to which such background info is necessary and vital. explore nature o' hollowborn were necessary for us to appreciate the choices gm made, yes?  

 

am gonna note that regardless o' fact the narrative makes it plausible to have deep (and tedious) explorations o' a companion's past through dialogue, it don't mean a writer must needs utilize such an option.  we still prefer show, don't tell.  use events and encounters as 'posed to dialogue chains to explore past would be best even if it is taking more effort. use companions as a way to provide lore beyond what is emotional evocative is gonna be resulting in a severe diminished return on writer investment.  the dialogue-focused lore exposition should be kept to a minimum.  if a dialogue don't contribute to emotional impact o' character's story, then consider cutting it.

 

HA! Good Fun!

Edited by Gromnir

"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."--Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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While we're at overall themes and concepts: Maybe it's not the best idea to establish an overall theme and make every other element just a mere representation of that theme. I think it's true that each companion had issues with faith or tackled faith in PoE, reflecting the overall theme of the main narrative, but that's in no way a good thing imo. On the opposite, "intentional storytelling" of that kind is imo a flawed concept, abusing characters for the exploration of externally injected and superficial concepts. I guess that's also a problem I had with the writing in PoE in general. It didn't feel very natural and organic and it was too much focused on exploring themes that very likely are of much bigger interest for their writers than for the ingame protagonists and characters. A lot of people accused Baldur's Gate of being "overly serious" and they have a point. But PoE was even more guilty of that imo. There were some more "down-to-earth" characters like Eder who felt more natural in their behaviour while others felt like they were written with the overall theme of faith in mind - instead of being just thrown into a setting in which this topic becomes important somewhat durnig the journey. Personally, I wish PoE2 to be less intentional and less dominated by central narrative themes, especially in the field of character writing. And not every character needs to be super complex, super troubled or super involved in philosophial questions. The whole game should offer a more down-to-earth story that is dominated by relationships and human behaviour and less by big superficial concepts. The core of every good and intriguing story is imo a personal tale, not a philosophical one.

 

not to disagree with some good points, but Torment is all theme driven, and it created some interesting characters, while managing to avoid substantive lore drops from those characters, and to relay relevant past character interactions through the events---thinking specifically of the skull guy---

 

however they do have the plot device of memory loss.

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Themes are important to writing. They give stories meaning beyond the tale itself, and that's why the stories that stick with us do so. To give a relatively modern example: LOTR has a great theme that the smallest of creatures can have the potential for great change. All four hobbits exhibit this too one extent or another.

 

PST was heavy handed in its philosophical tones for a video game, and it's considered one of the best game narratives around by many. Particularly on these forums. However, I would say the crisis of faith theme went over most players heads. It was subtle enough that people that enjoy writing noticed, and those that wanted a good game but aren't as big into story telling didn't. This world is more serious than BG, and I hope that doesn't change. I've also never heard anyone say BG was too serious. It had an Evil wizard with no internal monologue capabilities that constantly insulted you to your face (who was turned into a female in the second game) without realizing it, and a Ranger with a mental deficiency that talked in the third person while constantly referencing his hamster. These are not terribly serious characters, and one is the poster child of BG's companions (Minsc).

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While we're at overall themes and concepts: Maybe it's not the best idea to establish an overall theme and make every other element just a mere representation of that theme. I think it's true that each companion had issues with faith or tackled faith in PoE, reflecting the overall theme of the main narrative, but that's in no way a good thing imo. On the opposite, "intentional storytelling" of that kind is imo a flawed concept, abusing characters for the exploration of externally injected and superficial concepts. I guess that's also a problem I had with the writing in PoE in general. It didn't feel very natural and organic and it was too much focused on exploring themes that very likely are of much bigger interest for their writers than for the ingame protagonists and characters. A lot of people accused Baldur's Gate of being "overly serious" and they have a point. But PoE was even more guilty of that imo. There were some more "down-to-earth" characters like Eder who felt more natural in their behaviour while others felt like they were written with the overall theme of faith in mind - instead of being just thrown into a setting in which this topic becomes important somewhat durnig the journey. Personally, I wish PoE2 to be less intentional and less dominated by central narrative themes, especially in the field of character writing. And not every character needs to be super complex, super troubled or super involved in philosophial questions. The whole game should offer a more down-to-earth story that is dominated by relationships and human behaviour and less by big superficial concepts. The core of every good and intriguing story is imo a personal tale, not a philosophical one.

 

not to disagree with some good points, but Torment is all theme driven, and it created some interesting characters, while managing to avoid substantive lore drops from those characters, and to relay relevant past character interactions through the events---thinking specifically of the skull guy---

 

however they do have the plot device of memory loss.

 

Well yes, but Torment is by its very vision all about "high concept themes". And yet, there is some justification to call it pompous and superficial as well. But that's of course always up to discussion.

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Games which obsidian/black isle has created with smaller number o' companions is the ones best received by the fanbase.

I ... Don't think much more than this needs to be said, really.
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Themes are important to writing. They give stories meaning beyond the tale itself, and that's why the stories that stick with us do so. To give a relatively modern example: LOTR has a great theme that the smallest of creatures can have the potential for great change. All four hobbits exhibit this too one extent or another.

That's not the only message of LOTR imo. It's maybe the less people and relationship focused message of LOTR, that might be true. Other messages are all connected with the relationship between characters like for example that you're only strong when you are united, that trusting your friends is a virtue as is personal sacrifice, that racial differences aren't important, that love is bigger than everything that stands between (even eternity), that friendship is at the core of a successful journey and so on...

 

So yes, of course every story has themes and concepts and rightfully so. But PoE has ONE concept - and a concept that couldn't be much more heavy handed and philosophical, way above every more down-to-earth approach that includes relationships between people. The point with PoE (compared with LOTR) is that every topic on a personal level seems way less important and fleshed out than this overall high and heavy handed concept of faith. And that has a certain effect as well. The theme in LOTR that even the smallest of creatures can have the potential for great change is important, true, but it's imo not the core theme that made so many people loving this story and there is a reason for that. This message is an educational one, a philosophical one but it bears little to no emotional meaning because it lacks every inter-personal dimension. It's a completely different story if you look at friendship in LOTR. There is the extremely important friendship between Sam and Frodo but also the freindship between Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn. Their mutual trust and the willingness to fight and sacrifice for each other is not only a central philosophical message but also an emotional one. It's one of these message that can make us emotionally attached to the characters and that's why most people remember the tale so well. It's by the way a psychological fact that people remember emotions much better than the actual stuff that happened. You might not even know exactly what happened in a situation long ago but if you know anything it's how you felt or how it made you feeling.

 

That's the reason why some philosophical, high-placed concepts like faith shouldn't dominate a tale, especially not if it's not centered around the cast and its relationships. What PoE lacked at its very core was the focus on human behaviour and a proper way to turn its serious concepts into a tale that allowed the player to become easily bond to the cast and the journey. It's not enough to fight against something and for some high principle. That's too superficial. Real and deep motivation always stems from relationships (or, in some cases, often "evil" ones, the lack of them)...

 

PST was heavy handed in its philosophical tones for a video game, and it's considered one of the best game narratives around by many.

Which is not that surprising given the fact how poorly most video game narratives are created.

 

If I make pizza and it doesn't taste so well I can always say: "Hey, it's at least the best pizza in town." That doesn't change the fact that the pizza doesn't taste that well. ;)

 

However, I would say the crisis of faith theme went over most players heads. It was subtle enough that people that enjoy writing noticed, and those that wanted a good game but aren't as big into story telling didn't. This world is more serious than BG, and I hope that doesn't change.

 

I've also never heard anyone say BG was too serious. It had an Evil wizard with no internal monologue capabilities that constantly insulted you to your face (who was turned into a female in the second game) without realizing it, and a Ranger with a mental deficiency that talked in the third person while constantly referencing his hamster. These are not terribly serious characters, and one is the poster child of BG's companions (Minsc).

The point is that the game took itself too seriously although there were definitely elements that weren't (like you pointed out above). That's what I meant with "overly serious".

 

And I honestly think that even a game like PoE with all its high concepts and seriousness needs elements that put it down to earth again and that includes a much bigger "human factor". Seriousness alone isn't the problem here, it's the lack of making it count.

 

 

 

 

Games which obsidian/black isle has created with smaller number o' companions is the ones best received by the fanbase.

I ... Don't think much more than this needs to be said, really.

 

Nope, not at all. It's actually a pretty pointless statement. Obsidian is a company with changing employees and writers. It's ridiculous to compare a game from about 15 or 10 years ago with a game today if most of the people working on these two games differ. Hell, there even worked some different people on PoE than now on PoE2. Apart from that this comparison only works if you assume that change or improvement is impossible which is also pretty baseless. And in the end, I would question the whole statement in general. Obsidian's PoE was in no way better received "by the fanbase" (whomever that is, but well, let's assume we know) than Black Isle's Baldur's Gate 2 although BG2 had twice the available companions.

 

And I still try to understand how your opinion that the less companions the better is directly connected with this thread in which I asked the question whether more effort should put into lore and backstory exposition or in reactive behaviour. I don't see how you answered that in any meaningful way so yeah, I think there needs to be said more than this. ;)

Edited by LordCrash

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Obsidian (and Black Isle previously) has always been a bit more serious than Bioware was during the BG era. Fallout being the exception.

 

I know there are more examples of themes in LotR, but it was the first one that popped in my head.

 

I also don't see redemption as too high minded. Most people, at some point in their life, struggle with redemption. You hurt your significant other and need to make amends, you have grown apart from family, you have made a bad decision, etc. it's much more grounded a concept than I believe you're giving it credit for. It's much more grounded than "What does one life matter" or "What can change the nature of a man?" Those concepts aren't considered by most everyday people, and even when they do think about those concepts they don't think along those terms. They tend to be more defeatist when considering them. "I'm just little ole me. How can I make a difference?" "What can change the nature of a man" is even more obtuse. Not many people consider what their actions do to change the people around them, nor how those people have effected them.

 

BG's companions were the lens the player saw the world through, and there are more than a few silly ones. They can effect the tone of the story because they are always present. I still don't see it as overly serious, but it has great dramatic moments at times. YMMV.

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Nope, not at all. It's actually a pretty pointless statement. Obsidian is a company with changing employees and writers. It's ridiculous to compare a game from about 15 or 10 years ago with a game today if most of the people working on these two games differ. Hell, there even worked some different people on PoE than now on PoE2. Apart from that this comparison only works if you assume that change or improvement is impossible which is also pretty baseless. And in the end, I would question the whole statement in general. Obsidian's PoE was in no way better received "by the fanbase" (whomever that is, but well, let's assume we know) than Black Isle's Baldur's Gate 2 although BG2 had twice the available companions.

 

And I still try to understand how your opinion that the less companions the better is directly connected with this thread in which I asked the question whether more effort should put into lore and backstory exposition or in reactive behaviour. I don't see how you answered that in any meaningful way so yeah, I think there needs to be said more than this. ;)

First of all, I understand that you most likely couldn't care less, but if you want to take that tone with me, I'm out.

 

Secondly, "On the FIG comments I complained about the small number of available companions in PoE2 and that it would be great to have more of them, offering a much bigger choice whom you take along for your adventure." is literally the first sentence in the thread, so while reading your post, I assumed the entire time you're starting with that premise and suggesting that we should get more companions who are also more reactive. I apologize if I misunderstood.

 

And lastly, I still don't think there's all that much to discuss about it TBH. I lean towards the first Gromnir's post that got you so riled up. Pillars of Eternity was heavily leaning towards companions being a bunch of exposition dumps and that was a definite problem, but you'll get the same problem seen from the other side if they don't give you enough exposition to fit their characters - lonely introverts shouldn't really react all that much to social interactions, but they'll tell you a lot about themselves in 1 on 1 conversation, whereas choleric extroverts should jump in to talk with others and will adjust themselves to current situation a lot better, but they'll also get bored talking to PC too much. There's no right way to lean, just don't do too much of one thing and keep the companions varied.

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Obsidian (and Black Isle previously) has always been a bit more serious than Bioware was during the BG era. Fallout being the exception.

 

I know there are more examples of themes in LotR, but it was the first one that popped in my head.

 

I also don't see redemption as too high minded. Most people, at some point in their life, struggle with redemption. You hurt your significant other and need to make amends, you have grown apart from family, you have made a bad decision, etc. it's much more grounded a concept than I believe you're giving it credit for. It's much more grounded than "What does one life matter" or "What can change the nature of a man?" Those concepts aren't considered by most everyday people, and even when they do think about those concepts they don't think along those terms. They tend to be more defeatist when considering them. "I'm just little ole me. How can I make a difference?" "What can change the nature of a man" is even more obtuse. Not many people consider what their actions do to change the people around them, nor how those people have effected them.

 

BG's companions were the lens the player saw the world through, and there are more than a few silly ones. They can effect the tone of the story because they are always present. I still don't see it as overly serious, but it has great dramatic moments at times. YMMV.

Well, yes, I guess every game wins the "Is my storytelling concept less obtuse than the one in Torment:ToN?" challenge. That's hardly something to go by. ;)

 

But you're right, redemption can be a good concept. But it depends how it is integrated into the storytelling and whether it stays in its high spheres or whether it really comes down to peoeple's issues and their relationships. That's the core question, whether they tackle the concept only or mostly in a more philosophical and obtuse way or whether they break it down to the lowest corners of human emotions and behaviour.

 

And then again I'm still no friend of shoving this concept into everything and everybody. It's not necessary that every companion needs a different aspect of redemption (or faith, in PoE) to talk about. As you probably remember not every major character in LOTR was connected with the "small people can reach big things" message, only some were, those for which this message among others was central to their journey and character development and - even more important - for which this message felt natural and organic.


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i think, at this point, it's time to pause to simplify the points we're touching on, so that, if a dev looks at the thread, we have specific problems we'd like to see addressed. And that's not to suggest that they will, or need to, or haven't discussed these issues, but:

(note: i'm just trying to compile what I've read here. Add or change, or refute as desired.)

 

1. a problem with POE joinable companions is the expansive lore and backstory relayed in their dialogue, best exemplified by characters like Durance and Grieving Mother. While their stories were interesting, and run concurrent to the main plot's narrative, the character relationship suffers because we felt like we were being lectured by this or that character.

2. a more responsive set of companions, who react to our decisions and thereby produce lasting and irrevocable consequences, both in relation to our character and to the game's overarching plot, might be a way to improve this dynamic.

3. While we're currently disagreeing on the need for, or extent to which, a larger thematic bond is imperative to creating these reactive, interesting characters, we do agree that we'd like some link that would run through them, which would allow for disagreement, bonding, and other character interactions (which is maybe a redundant statement regarding #2, but does touch on the specific means by which this link is established.)

4. Stephen Heck belongs in every Obsidian game.

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First of all, I understand that you most likely couldn't care less, but if you want to take that tone with me, I'm out.

It wasn't my intention to insult you in any way but to stay fair and honest, I wasn't so happy about the tone and intention of your post either. Anyway, I apologize.

 

Secondly, "On the FIG comments I complained about the small number of available companions in PoE2 and that it would be great to have more of them, offering a much bigger choice whom you take along for your adventure." is literally the first sentence in the thread, so while reading your post, I assumed the entire time you're starting with that premise and suggesting that we should get more companions who are also more reactive. I apologize if I misunderstood.

Yeah, ok, no problem, but I wrote a lot more than just the initial passage and I thought it was pretty clear that this topic is more about the question what an interesting companion should be like (it's also pretty well indicated in the headline). My personal wish for more companions only got me into this topic, it's not the core of it.

 

I lean towards the first Gromnir's post that got you so riled up. Pillars of Eternity was heavily leaning towards companions being a bunch of exposition dumps and that was a definite problem, but you'll get the same problem seen from the other side if they don't give you enough exposition to fit their characters - lonely introverts shouldn't really react all that much to social interactions, but they'll tell you a lot about themselves in 1 on 1 conversation, whereas choleric extroverts should jump in to talk with others and will adjust themselves to current situation a lot better, but they'll also get bored talking to PC too much. There's no right way to lean, just don't do too much of one thing and keep the companions varied.

You see, that's a good post contributing to the topic imo. So it's seems you're kind of interested in the topic after all, even though you think that there isn't much to discuss. ;)

 

(one mistake though: I got riled up by Gromnir's first post, you reference his second post.)

Edited by LordCrash

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one aside: poe2 is a game.

 

is seeming obvious but overlooked.  crpg storytelling in a game is gonna be different than novels or movies or graphic novels. ideally, the crpg is gonna be reactive in ways other media is not and the technical demands for telling a crpg story is far different than is faced by the author with a pencil and a blank sheet o' paper. demands on the crpg storyteller is gonna be arguable greater, but limitations will necessarily result in a more narrowed focus.  

 

poe companions, for example, received a fair 'mount o' potential text, but consider the actual number o' times and the ways in which character quests were advanced in-game.  writer gots a half-dozen or so encounters to complete an entire companion story arc?  and each companion story arc will be, with some variation, largely insular. heck, in a novel or movie, the author knows with certainty the cast o' characters.  in a crpg such as poe, is possible the watcher will play solo.  heck, perhaps the watcher will only have aloth and hiravias in party.  imagine how much different a novel o' poe would be written simple by changing the companions o' the watcher. 

 

a crpg is, by no means, an ideal medium with which to tell a compelling and coherent story.  'course as the player is actual a character in the story, there is advantages. more emotional invested at the outset, yes?

 

point is, people often ignore the limitations o' a crpg insofar as storytelling is concerned.  use other medium as examples is not bad, but is rare gonna be complete analogous.  have mentioned on these boards before how we actual have a favorite paragraph from literature.  memorized.  

 

"a few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. it had begun to snow again. he watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. the time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. it was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. it was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. it lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. his soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

 

beautiful prose, but where is you gonna put such in a game such as poe2?  perhaps a bit o' narration?  is bunch o' writers working on poe2 and even if one ' them were a james joyce in disguise, am doubting such writing would have impact if the other contributing writers had a complete different prose style and tone. 

 

making a crpg story is more complex than is writing a novel or even than making a movie.  is collaborative.  is bounded by technical considerations.  is requiring subversion to needs o' gameplay.  is... different.  is our opinion that the storytelling goals in a crpg must be more straightforward than in other media. not need be any less profound, but the elegance and depth possible in other media is gonna  be acheived different in a game. keep focused so a collaborative team o' writers and artists and level designers might all work together to achieve the same goal.  in a game, compelling theme or character is gonna be acheived by depth rather than breadth.

 

different.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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