The BioWare Romance Trap

Amaror

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Venatio said:
Not all games approach romance the same way. Games like Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Mount & Blade: Warband have a purely marriage based system based more on player choice or bonuses than story. Lots of games have the odd brothel you can saunter into for a riveting fade to black scene. And then there is the Witcher... lets move on.
I am so sick and tired of posts like this. Please. Tell me. What exactly is wrong with the romance in The Witcher 3. I would love to hear it. And no, "I heard from a friend of a friend that lots of characters get their tits out", is not a valid criticism. Tell me exact examples of romance plots in the Witcher 3 that were done badly. I really want to hear it, because i sure as hell can't find any. The only major romance plots are with Triss and Yennefer and both of them are really well done. In fact their done in the same way that "good romances" were described in this very article.
They happen naturally during the sidequests of the specific character.
 

Gordon_4_v1legacy

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K12 said:
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.
I loved Fem!Shep and Liara's romance to death but because of the direction they took with the character, and her elevated position in the plot, the had to keep hitting the reset button and it became kind of grating. I liked Traynor's, especially some of the stuff in Citadel, but due to being introduced in the third act it lacks the meat of the others. I feel the strongest was Fem!Shep and Garrus - that one was just beautiful down to it's bones.
 

zinho73

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immortalfrieza said:
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.
... 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.
In videogames you are always evolving from something, that´s obvious. Fallout already had a solid foundation, it didn't need to copy Bioware to add to it. Bioware didn't need to emulate an MMO in Dragon Age Inquisition and so on.

The Binding of Isaac Rebirth is a remake of an already existing game, but with some creativity, they manage to add more new and interesting stuff than any DLC of most triple A games.

Darkest Dungeon is conceptually XCOM with dungeons, but is implemented in a completely different way with tons of differences and additions.

Instead of using what they had to jump ahead, triple A titles are bloating their games and losing focus, pasting old stuff on top of the good foundation. Sometimes the result is even good, but never great -and you can do it just so many times before it gets stale.

Worse, by copying from one another, their games blend together and lose what made them unique in the first place.
 

JemothSkarii

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I love Romances in things. Throw a romance in something and it grips me harder. That said, not everything needs a romance. For example, one of my favorite games of all times is Fallout 2. Did that have a romance?
No, unless you count a shotgun wedding with hilarious leadups and aftermaths.
Many optional romances do feel... tacked on. Doesn't feel like they particularly make themselves memorable or just satisfying. Made me sad watching Fallout 4 go all Bioware-y.
One of the better ways I've seen it done was with Mana Khemia, which gave a different ending based on what character you built up your relationship with - Sometimes romance, sometimes friendship.
So yeah, I agree that the romance is generally better if it's a part of the story. As somebody mentioned, look at Jackie and Jenny in The Darkness, that was well done.
 

Kahani

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Shamus Young said:
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. I don't think anyone is in the wrong here. Everyone is just saying what they would personally like from the game
And that is exactly why everyone involved is to blame. The problem with the people saying what they would personally like from the game is that the vast majority of them simply do not have the slightest clue what they're talking about. They are not writers or game designers, and they don't actually know what it is they like or why. All they know is that they enjoyed some game that happened to do something, and therefore demand that same thing is done in every other game as well. But without knowing why that thing worked, how it fit in with the rest of the game, or even if that was actually the thing they really enjoyed (see things like the Skinner box for how easy it is to confuse people between why they think they're doing something and the psychology behind why they actually are), those demands are just uninformed nonsense. People might think they want more romance, more choice, more whatever, but most of the time that's not what they would actually enjoy; they just happen to have seen a romance done well in one situation.

But BioWare are also to blame because they're supposed to be the ones who do know what they're doing. They actually are writers, designers, and so on. They shouldn't necessarily ignore their customers entirely, but they should absolutely be able to recognise when demands are stupid and would interfere with actually writing a decent game.

To give an analogy, how does a restaurant work? You order a meal, and the chef cooks it. You can maybe give some minor advice like how well done you want the meat or to leave out the mushrooms, but for the most part you leave it to the person who is actually employed professionally to do the job you've asked them to. Imagine if instead every person in the restaurant, none of whom have ever cooked a meal in their life, shouted poorly thought out, barely coherent instructions based on how they think a meal they ate last month in a different restaurant might have been cooked. And imagine if the chef actually listened to them. Who would be to blame for the inedible mush you ended up with? Every single person involved; both those who demanded they be listened to despite not having a clue what they were saying, and those who actually listed to them despite knowing better.

Of course, this is a problem far from unique to Bioware. Hell, The Simpsons already covered this with Homer designing a car. The joke there wasn't that Homer is stupid, it was that taking orders from a random uneducated person who doesn't actually know what they want from a car or know how cars work is stupid. That applies just as much whether you're talking about cars, food, video games, or anything else.
 
Jan 12, 2012
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Casual Shinji said:
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.
Fair enough. Personally I didn't really see/notice the rails on my first time through, because it felt like I could make a difference without being the pivot upon which the city turned. Sometimes the Arishok needs to stand up and fight despite Hawke's attempts to broker peace because Kirkwall as a whole didn't want peace. Sometimes a crazy blood mage will go after your mom not because of who you are, but who she is. Sometimes you can try to support your allies and lead them on the right path, but fear of oppression/magic rocks will make them do crazy things. I didn't have the responsibilities of being the Chosen One, but I also didn't have that power.

I definitely acknowledge that's a personal preference; I play a lot of tabletop games like Apocalypse World where there are other people pushing for things to be decided as they want it, and the best you can do is mitigate some of the damage to you and yours. I really like working out compromises and seeing how you stand after you take a hit, but I know that's not what a lot of people want to do with their free time.

zinho73 said:
In videogames you are always evolving from something, that´s obvious. Fallout already had a solid foundation, it didn't need to copy Bioware to add to it.
[...]
Worse, by copying from one another, their games blend together and lose what made them unique in the first place.
I very much agree. The new Fallouts are already strongly influenced by the Elder Scrolls in terms of game design, but they made enough differences that I was OK with it. I don't want to have another game of "collect resources to build structures at your home base, have a small group of people you send on 15-minute raids to get more supplies, repeat." Let the Brotherhood and whoever do the boring details in the post-post-apocalypse, I want to explore the world as a free agent and see what they have wrought.
 

hazydawn

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zinho73 said:
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.
I realized the restrictions, yes. But especially for Bioware games it would make sense in my not so humble opinion. What does Tali gain character wise from being exclusive to male Shep? Absolutely nothing. Most characters don't talk about their sexual preferences. We "know" Tali is straight because she will only go with male Shep. And if they did talk about it, you could change that part based on the player character's sex. But you are right. It is restricting and not every game needs to be the same.
 

SilverUchiha

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Couldn't agree more. romancing options are fine, but there doesn't seem to be much value or point to them when they don't connect to the story. But having options where you can emotionally connect with characters seems like a worthwhile idea and always felt like a thing that most bethesda games seemed lacking. I mean, come on, you're a lone adventurer most of the time and you're telling me you don't go seeking some form of companionship? (/off topic rant).

As for Bioware games or any game with romance options, would definitely like to see the number of options trimmed down to fit the characters, situation, story, and gameplay more. Having them there so we can end up with whichever alien/character we want to see naked (pseudo naked) is kind of a waste and ultimately pointless if it doesn't provide any gameplay or narrative benefit.
 

teamcharlie

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"Personally I'd gladly give up romance options aimed at me if it meant that we could return to the days of having romance plots that meaningfully connected with the main story, but I know I'm in the minority."

Except, you're not in the minority. Everybody wants to have the romances they prefer in video games get more writing-related love. But because you're sexually in the majority, your preferred romances are much more likely to get this kinda treatment. In effect, you're risking a very infrequent instance in which companies like Bioware cut gay romances that don't interest you for the very likely occurrence of them improving romances that DO interest you but leave romances that interest people of less mainstream sexual orientations on the cutting room floor.

Sounds like a step backwards to me. Given that many games already do this (albeit not usually with as solid a writing team as Bioware's), it doesn't seem necessary. Also, what's so special about the main storyline? They have good sidequests. Those sidequests have storylines. Some of those storylines contain boning. For me at least, that's just fine.
 

Noblemartel

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K12 said:
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.
Actually in regards to the Ruthless being locked in thing I liked the way they handled it. Because the option is a defining moment in your characters career people do talk about it and you can have many different reactions to it. For instance one time I had my shephard have the ruthless option just to see what it was like and I was actually able to have her feel guilty about happened, but she felt that it was necessary at the time. They lessened this a bit in the later games but I still liked that they gave that option.
 

Varis

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Feb 24, 2012
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I like that the romance options are there, it's very captivating. For example my most memorable moments of DA:I is romancing Sera. The rest of the game was more or less fluff, I just wanted to move on with the story to listen to her talk a few more moments.

In Mass Effects, I really enjoyed how they handled romance with Liara, never did other options really, since Liara always was the more endearing character for me.
Also, Lair of the Shadow Broker really added to it, having a full arc with a character definitely contributes more to the story in general, compared to just, what felt like one-night stands with other characters in ME2.
Got a pretty narrow view-point to talk from, since I only just snuggled with Liara, but anyway, she is a well-written character, and that's basically my point. Do it like that if you do romances.
 

Darkness665

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I worked my FemShep's ass off romancing Tali. I got every dialogue option possible from her ... except the payoff. Tali even said she would share her suit environment with FemShep. But that was the end. It wasn't meant to be. Sigh.

Of course, later, I found out that the YouTube video that inspired me was a hack, where they tweaked the game to switch the FemShep romance object to Tali. Bummed out. Nice video, and my FemShep was happy with Liara; raising little blue babies.
 

Darkness665

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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. My default character in any RPG is female. If there are classes then either a thief or archer for either sneaky or ranged.

I have been asked why I don't play men first. Dude, I am a man. I don't have to 'play' one I am one, it is my default condition. A fast but somewhat fragile woman thief? That is always interesting to me. Although, truth be told, they do tend to be a bit of goodie two shoes versus hard-core thieves. Just don't make them mad.
 

Tigerlily Warrior

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I would have to disagree simply because I don't think it pits the fanbase against each other. And the idea of both you and a gay man can enjoy the action aspects but don't both get to romance Tali is moot. The gay man (or I'm assuming you mean a gay Shepard) wouldn't romance Tali to begin with.

I like that with multiple romance choices means multiple playthroughs. My multiple versions of Shepard or the Inquisitor or whatever Bioware hero I'm playing, means each of my heroes is different and sees the world -and people- differently.

For me, it enriches the story and the world that's created. I play as both men and women, as straight and as gay. It just depends on the character, which is why I love RPGs. The romance simply enhances the experience and DOES shape the actions of my heroes.
 

someguy1231

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I've written before how much I hate the depiction of romance in video games, and Bioware is Exhibit A for that. Their attempts at "romance" basically amount to "Press X to Fall in Love". There's just no way you can convincingly portray two characters falling in love in an interactive medium without it coming across as incredibly shallow.
 

CaitSeith

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someguy1231 said:
I've written before how much I hate the depiction of romance in video games, and Bioware is Exhibit A for that. Their attempts at "romance" basically amount to "Press X to Fall in Love". There's just no way you can convincingly portray two characters falling in love in an interactive medium without it coming across as incredibly shallow.
i don't know. The romance between Charr and Ereba wasn't depicted that bad.
 

Sarge034

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Shamus Young said:
Personally I'd gladly give up romance options aimed at me if it meant that we could return to the days of having romance plots that meaningfully connected with the main story, but I know I'm in the minority.
I have to disagree. In Mass Effect 1 I knew I wanted to romance Tali, and was bummed when it wasn't an option but I didn't complain. So I romanced Liara and enjoyed the game. But when I played ME2 and saw Tali became a romance option I did this odd thing called role playing. I stopped playing ME2 on the spot, went back to ME1 and made that love for Tali a part of my character. He didn't link up with anyone in ME1 because he was so smitten with Tali. Was it disconnected from the plot? Yes. Did it change the story in any meaningful way? Nope. But it made that Shepard's story all the more richer (I rp many different Sheps). As for the "minority" getting less options, I just see it as art imitating life. Statically speaking you will find fewer lesbian, gay, and bi folks as you do straight folks. Does it suck when the one you want to romance in a game isn't that orientation? Yep. Does it suck in real life when the person you want to romance isn't that orientation? Yep. I think that's the point of ME, it's not so much about the story as it is the role play. That's why I was pissed at the ending, not because it was shit writing (but it was) but because there was no real way to role play it. Nothing I could do to change anything about it except press a different color. Just give me options to add flavor to it like bringing Liara on the Noveria Rachni mission.

EDIT- In DA-I I fell in love with a character I had no idea was a legit love interest and wasn't that keen to romance anyway. It happened organically and over time as I got to know her. It wasn't connected to the story at all, but damn that's good writing there. If Bioware went back to forcing those types of decisions on you for the sake of the plot then those types of unscripable player interactions will cease to exist.