The BioWare Romance Trap

Padwolf

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I saw the title and thought we were going to have a discussion on how impossible it is to NOT romance Alitair... or maybe I'm just obsessed with Dragon Age.

I adore romance in adventure games, I truly do. I adore romance in video games in any way I can get it. And to be honest, if a game does not give a romance, I have to invent one in my head for the world to feel a little bit more, well, more. I love Bioware's take on this. It's my favourite by far. They definitely should never be dumped entirely. I love the stories of friendship, the romances and seeing how they have an affect on the world. It's fantastic.
 

Scow2

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ProfMcStevie said:
You know, if I was the 2% as I am in certain tastes, I really shouldn't be surprised in an all encompassing game or what have you the options are limited. Yes, Straight is the most common. It will likely always be. If I was that miffed I'd go to something more targeted to my taste. Yes as a straight person in an all homosexual game I'd be bored romantically. Boo hoo, it is my turn to feel the same way the tiny minority feels in many only straight games. Can't appeal to all, you simply can't.
And the response that gets a condescending 'boo-hoo' from you is enough discouragement to prevent a lot of game companies from not targetting straight people.

"Something more targeted to my taste" for non-majority (or extremely fucking loud minority) people options tend to be restricted to terrible indy games and shoddy flash junk.
 

Aiddon_v1legacy

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And this is why I prefer Japan's approach to romance. I have encountered all of ONE love story in Western gaming I bought and that was Jackie and Jennie in The Darkness which is why the events that happens in those games are such a sucker punch. Other than that, most of it is just typical "we must have romances in gaming because of some odd notion of copying D&D verbatim." In terms of actual relationships I buy into, Japan wins in that category by a landslide not just in quantity but quality, whether it be Gwendolyn and Oswald or Velvet and Cornelius in Odin Sphere, Lenneth Valkyrie and Lucian in Valyrie Profile, Luna and Alex in Lunar: The Silver Star, Aeron and Elena in Pandora's Tower, Tifa and Cloud in FFVII, or of course Fei and Elly in Xenogears.

The thing is, this is a problem that needs to stop. I don't really feel for a lot of relationships people try to write, mostly because they are completely superfluous. In Bioware games for instance, they come off more like fanfiction fodder than a logical relationship between two people.
 

BarkBarker

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Scow2 said:
ProfMcStevie said:
You know, if I was the 2% as I am in certain tastes, I really shouldn't be surprised in an all encompassing game or what have you the options are limited. Yes, Straight is the most common. It will likely always be. If I was that miffed I'd go to something more targeted to my taste. Yes as a straight person in an all homosexual game I'd be bored romantically. Boo hoo, it is my turn to feel the same way the tiny minority feels in many only straight games. Can't appeal to all, you simply can't.
And the response that gets a condescending 'boo-hoo' from you is enough discouragement to prevent a lot of game companies from not targetting straight people.

"Something more targeted to my taste" for non-majority (or extremely fucking loud minority) people options tend to be restricted to terrible indy games and shoddy flash junk.
It's still a miniscule boo hoo to people who don't know what it is like to not be able to be the person you want as a reflection of yourself as freely as a straight person can. People complain, people will always complain. The fact that some people find merely that discouraging should if anything give you some reason to put it in small stuff and work up or something. Being discouraged that easily should be rather questioning of the developer, have you SEEN how fucking petty and trivial people are to different things, even if it probably is better? try fucking with a kids breakfast patterns. Go ahead. I'll wait.

I am fully aware that it is mostly bad indies and horrible flash junk, for my particular like I end up going to the fucking cesspools of flash game gifs and rummaging through hellish mistreatment of people to try and find one that doesn't make me hate myself a little bit. There is a lot of trash, as there is in all things. There will always be those that will happily create content for the tiniest, microscopic demographic. Being straight may give me more options, a lot of them are still usually shit though.
 

Adamantium93

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Am I the only one who doesn't like the KotOR romances precisely because they seem so forced? You can say "They rise from the plot" but the fact that they both fall for you regardless of who you are seems wrong. I hate Bastilla, call her out whenever I can, act as a dark side jacknife and...she still falls head over heals for me. That simply doesn't make sense.

Furthermore, if you don't like either and decide not to pursue them, it feels like the game hates you for it. You obviously are supposed to romance them, so Carth's "YOUBETRAYEDME!" and Bastilla's "I will seduce you to join the dark side!" acts don't carry the same weight when you haven't been particularly close to them. It feels like I'm mising a key part of the plot becaue I don't like the one love interest I'm destined to choose (both of whom are pretty uninteresting compared to the other characters in the game).

I'd rather not have the romances tied into the main plot for that very reason: the plot falls apart if you don't pursue them.

Instead, I'd like to see more depth in the romances, with the main plot effecting them rather than requiring them.

Mass Effect 3 actually falls victim to this exact problem. Despite the myriad of options in ME3, the game quite clearly wants you to romance Liara. Every scene between Shep and Liara, especially their last one, has an undercurrent of romance. If you don't romance Liara, it just feels creepy. She seriously feels like the unrequited lover who just won't go away, but the game gives you no way to acknowledge that.

Rather than have the romance drive the plot, it SHOULD be secondary. The plot should effect the romance, not the other way around, and the romance should effect the character you're romancing. If the romance is only there because the plot demands it, it feels shoe-horned rather than a bonus for people willing to put in the time (and suffer through awful romantic dialogue).

Romancing Merril in DA:2 or Blackwall in DA:I felt much more rewarding than romancing Carth or Bastilla because of how Merril and Blackwall's personal quests effect your relationship and force you to evaluate how much you care about them vs how much their behavior tests your ability to forgive, not because the game developer tokd me "Your character really loves Merril because...um...she's the only one in the party that will let you in their pants?"


Rather than just forcing one romance on the player, Bioware should work on developing deeper and more realistic ones.
 

Susurrus

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Shamus Young said:
The BioWare Romance Trap

While it's easy to blame BioWare for this mess, it's worth noting that they got here simply by giving fans what they asked for.

Read Full Article
I disagree. Bioware's romances since at least Mass Effect 1 were always designed to garner publicity. They used the "we're being inclusive" badge to promote their games to people with orientations which had to date been overlooked in videogames, and to gain a lot of free publicity from every gaming news source out there in the process. I have never been able to see that as anything other than a cynical marketing ploy (let's leave aside the point that it almost certainly did have a positive effect on gaming in general) - and by marketing themselves as producing inclusive games, they were always opening themselves up for criticism that they had not successfully made a game which was inclusive for everyone.

Another way of going about it might have been to include fewer romances, which advanced the plot of the actual story; and in doing so they were free to choose the gender/orientation of their characters and have that have a meaningful effect on the plot/deepen the characters. Instead, they've ended up with their characters' orientation effectively being a meaningless, whilst at the same time a defining feature of the characters.
 

Jeyl

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I love romances...

.>

Ok, the female/female options, but seriously. When Fallout 4 was announced that there would be romance in the game, I was all giddy! I think an element of the romances when it comes to BioWare games is not so much how it integrates with the story, but how it affects your character. In Mass Effect 3, the romances served no purpose at all for even your own character. If you want to dial up the pathos involving Shepard chasing a boy who is alone in the woods, don't follow it up with Shepard waking up naked next to their lover. Don't do both!

Dragon Age Inquisition I thought handled the romance pretty well. I romanced Sera on my first go through and really appreciated how they left the ending scene between you and the character you romanced. It may not be integral to the story, but it's important for the character and that can be enough.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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I would have like it if they didn't hit the Relationship Reset Switch at the start of every game, it would have made a much more engaging story if you and the same person were able to work at staying together over the course.
 

hazydawn

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Just make every romance option available to our hero then. That wouldn't even neccesarily mean that everyone romance option is bisexual if you merely look at your storyline, except if the character express they are. Hell they could be open for both female and male players and still claim in either storyline to be 100% straight or gay.
But I'm sure people can't have that, way too reasonable.
 

gargantual

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how bout they try with a couple that knows each other, has growing pains and rekindles or recommits to each other, or learns more about each other instead of the always at first sight stuff. They can still be beautiful, but just have some time in.

You can get more natural dialogue from the get go, when characters dont always have to acquaint themselves, and familiarize with each others habits.

Or depending on the game, look at Brothers: Tale of two sons. Dependent mechanics can facilitate artificial bonding through struggle too. Thats a symbolic way of communication, in a mostly adventure and combat driven scenario.
 

zinho73

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hazydawn said:
Just make every romance option available to our hero then. That wouldn't even neccesarily mean that everyone romance option is bisexual if you merely look at your storyline, except if the character express they are. Hell they could be open for both female and male players and still claim in either storyline to be 100% straight or gay.
But I'm sure people can't have that, way too reasonable.
This can easily lead to weak characters. Characters usually have much more depth when fully realized, sexuality included. You can fully integrate with the story a strong gay character, or bi or straight or asexual or whatever. A character that can be any of those things can end up being bland.

Of course, not all games need to have the same formula. The ideal is not have the issue "resolved" - the ideal is an enormous variety of quality titles with several different approaches (including no romance at all and story-based unique relationship) without people freaking out because they wanted an option to romance Dandelion in The Witcher 3.

This notion that every RPG must have the same features is terrible. Fallout 4 might be an excellent game, but I keep thinking that it could be something truly special if they pursued fresh ideas instead of copying Bioware and Minecraft.

I understand that you have to be successful commercially, but those big companies are piratically making the same game now, just mixing and matching a couple of templates.
 

Karadalis

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Rose tinted glasses im afraid.

Besides KOTOR maybe all romances in any RPG made by bioware where completly seperated from the plot. In baldursgate 2 when the concept was first explored the romances didnt really feature into the plot, at all. It didnt matter in the grand schemes of things if it was Aerie, Viconia or jaheira that you romanced. All it could do is mess up your group when the bitchfight over the main character reached its screaming finale because you where to much of a player to make your intentions clear to them from the beginning. (still viconia telling Aerie to F off was still pretty funny)

As with all things in the free market the people at bioware should look at their audience and decide accordingly to whom actually plays their game.

You cannot please everyone, and any attempt at doing this will actually have a negative effect on the product. As can be seen by the ever increasingly cheesy romances, their insignificance to the main story arc and the ever increasing number of bisexual "i dont care aslong as its the main protagonist im boinking" characters
 

ghalleon0915

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As someone who doesn't really care about the "romance options" in a game, I'm kinda glad it is peripheral ( or at least not directly tied to the main story) and have their own little side-stories to tell. Having said that, it would be kinda cool if, for example, someone you were involved in was in danger and you faced the option of either saving them or saving the king ( or whatever the main story is about) then facing the repercussions.

I guess that's why I like jrpg's since they tend to follow a linear progression and why I dislike open world/ sandbox games. As much as I enjoyed Skyrim I didn't play that game for the plot but to wander around and fall off mountains. Same reason I didn't bother with romancing anyone in ME 1-3, just wanted to form a bad ass group ( well hello Krogan and Garrus).

I will say though, in DA:Inquisition I ended up pursuing Cassie just because her interaction with you is hilarious. How much better would it have been if say she disagreed with your choices and ended up putting the Chantry against you? Now there's some weight to your choices. Doing that for all characters though would be a headache and time consuming, perhaps if they weren't so numerous or your options were more limited. But then I'm sure people would complain about being limited.

Interesting read, I've enjoyed the last few articles from you Shamus keep it up.
 

IndieGinge

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Thunderous Cacophony said:
Well, they tried it with Dragon Age II, giving you a smaller and more personal story, and people roasted them for it. On a side note, I found that game the most engaging in terms of inter-party relationships, because the party felt much more active and 3d than usual. I still remember walking into the tavern and seeing Varric and Isabella sitting around and having drinks, not because there was some big plot thing they needed to deal with, but because they both live there, they both like to drink, and they both like company.
I think this is why DA2 (despite its vast number of flaws) remains my favorite in the series, and probably in my top 3 Bioware games in general. I personally think their character writing was in peak form for it. The party, including Hawke, was a group of fully realized characters, not cookie-cutter archetypes or flat characters. I found the Mass Effect companions and romances to be rather hit or miss, and while perhaps it's just a result of not caring too much for many of the characters, they seemed rather dull. Liara frankly felt wildly inconsistent in personality, Jacob James Kaidan and Ashley were utterly dull, while Jack felt like a facsimile of a human being made out of depressing and edgy sci-fi tropes. I feel the same way about 1/3 of the party in DA:O, though for the most part I found them a little more interesting than the boring companions of Mass Effect.

Perhaps my memory is failing me, but the party members of DA2 seemed to have more meaningful interactions with Hawke and each other during quests or while wandering around Kirkwall than most other Bioware games. They also had definitive character arcs that you could influence, but remained true to their personality with more emotional payoff than say, Oghren's attempt to hookup with his ex, or Wynne's spirit subquest. The fact that Anders comes onto you when you meet him, and is demonstrably hurt if you shut him down was an interesting change in the usual character dynamics of these kinds of games, and the fact that he acts independently of you as often as he does was something that I thought was really cool. At least that's the kind of stuff I found most compelling about DA2, if only the rest of the game was as fully realized as the character writing. I still think if it had been given time to get finished it would've been one of Bioware's crown jewels for actually breaking their formula and trying something new. Instead we got a turd of a game surrounding the diamond of potential it had. Alas, combining unfinished environments with terrible pacing issues caused by the massive timeskips and the rushed finale that threw away almost all the interesting writing in favor of a railroad seems to have soured everyone's opinion of the direction the game was going. Which is too bad, the intimate stories smaller scale RPGs tell have always been more appealing to me, if they could've gotten a AAA game that pulled that off we might see more of them.
 

immortalfrieza

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zinho73 said:
This notion that every RPG must have the same features is terrible. Fallout 4 might be an excellent game, but I keep thinking that it could be something truly special if they pursued fresh ideas instead of copying Bioware and Minecraft.

I understand that you have to be successful commercially, but those big companies are piratically making the same game now, just mixing and matching a couple of templates.
I strongly disagree. Ideally of course, all developers should take as many cues from the most positively received features and mechanics as possible of other games in the intended genre and especially series if it has one and improve upon those to the best of their ability, anything fresh and new being added on top of that. The reason being that while it sounds good in theory and what so many ask for, the vast majority of the time games that try to come up with and make extensive use of "fresh" ideas end up coming up with and using terrible ideas and thus being crap. Fresh ideas need to build upon a solid foundation of old but good ideas to work the bugs out of first, otherwise they won't live up to their potential.
 

Politrukk

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Shamus Young said:
The BioWare Romance Trap

A romance story with no adventure can be dull and talky. An adventure with no romance can feel emotionally empty. By blending the two, both ideas get the extra punch

Read Full Article
Shamus I wondered whilst reading this article if you ever bothered to consider that a heterosexual male may actualy play a female lesbian shepherd, or a female straight shepherd, heck perhaps for that fun one timer a gay shepherd just for the bromance and the like?


Not that I don't see what you're getting at with your article but you sort of seem to disregard this notion.

(PS: this works the other way around too ofcourse).

Seeing as I'm a straight dude who always played a lesbian Shepherd I feel like I'm a missed demographic here haha.


Something that I would actually like to see is something beyond the forced "now kiss" option and instead have the options to grow into best friends or just people who are forced in the same boat to save the world but might kill eachother afterwards because they can't stand the sight of eachother kind of situations.
 

pearcinator

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Let's not beat around the bush; most people are heterosexual and most gamers who are into Mass Effect are male. Heterosexual Men would be the biggest demographic and would therefore have the most options.

You could also argue that Heterosexual Men would be more likely to live out lesbian fantasies (if they play FemShep) so for there to be more Homosexual Female options seems fair to me too. All the whining is done by the vocal minority (whether they be part of the LGBT community or otherwise). I feel that Bioware handled romances well in ME3 and provided all players a number of romance options. Couldn't you add Thane to Hetero-FemShep too (even though he died in ME3)? Add Jacob too while you're at it.

Politrukk said:
Seeing as I'm a straight dude who always played a lesbian Shepherd I feel like I'm a missed demographic here haha.
Same here mate! My FemSheps are lesbian and Male Sheps hetero. I think most gamers would have similar romances.
 

Casual Shinji

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Thunderous Cacophony said:
Casual Shinji said:
I've never known Bioware as anything other than a studio that creates wishfulfillment games. It's not just that you're able to get into almost everyone's pants, you're always the most awesome Choosen One in the universe.
Well, they tried it with Dragon Age II, giving you a smaller and more personal story, and people roasted them for it. On a side note, I found that game the most engaging in terms of inter-party relationships, because the party felt much more active and 3d than usual. I still remember walking into the tavern and seeing Varric and Isabella sitting around and having drinks, not because there was some big plot thing they needed to deal with, but because they both live there, they both like to drink, and they both like company.
I think the real problem there is that the audience expects a Bioware game to give them the feeling that they're actions matter and impact the world, and DA2 didn't have much of that at all. I would've been fine just inhabiting Kirkwall if I could actually change it for the better or the worse, if the decrease in size of the gameworld meant an increase of detail and choice or "simulation". But the whole game felt like me just observing the city going to shit rather than having any sort of say in it. The biggest example obviously being the ending, but also that serial killer subplot, where it's presented to you like it's something you can put a stop to should you wish, but no matter what it's going to play itself out the way the developer wants.

OT: I think the biggest thing Bioware needs to change is in terms of companions is A) don't have more than 5 or 6, and B) make them part of the plot. Both Mass Effect 1 and DA: Origins did this very well. Stop throwing heaps of characters on me, and stop incorporating them into the game like they're on a grocery list.
 

K12

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So basically it's all the gay's fault!

I think the real problem is that people want multiple options for who to romance rather than a will-they won't-they with one character with the possibility of rejecting it or fucking it up. If Kaiden was bisexual then Mass Effect 1 would've already had the right number.

I actually see this as being a symptom of the more over-arching problem of trying to have blank main characters that anyone can project an exact version of themselves on to. Personalising the visual stuff is fine but the character needs a consistent personality and the way other characters react to them should reflect that.

Why didn't choosing Shepard's history also fix their responses to things. If you've already picked the ruthless option then why can't do you have to reaffirm this in every single dialogue. Bioware just chuck stuff in willy-nilly alot of the time. ME2 has 12 fucking squad members!

I played Mass Effect as a lesbian woman despite being a straight man (because Jennifer Hale has a better voice and Kaiden is boring as balls) and Shepard's romance with Liara did genuinely improve my experience but not as much as it could have done.
 

Silence

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Lesbian Shepards high-five!

... wait, I actually did romance Garrus in ME2. Well, my Shep is bi! Garrus was just the best character.

I agree with the article. But it's really hard to do ... for the most part. Witcher 3 came closest to actual relationships I think, but then, there were only two options with lots and lots of backstory.
Someone needs to invent how you can do the three at once: Many choices, meaningful adventures together, and no "pump you full with presents until you sleep with me" Bioware crap.