Secret Sunday: Congruence in Character relations

I should be nearing up on completing most quests in Transylvania now although the completion will include going back and forth a bit as I skipped some in the earlier areas prematurely. I also want to read all the npcs in the main cities which will include creating characters on the other 2 secret societies which will probably keep me busy in game for another month at least, hopefully in time and ready for the new zone.

There are some amazing characters throughout Transylvania, some of my favourites now as well and it’s good to see the quality of the writing and depth of the characters has continued all the way through. Not that I doubted them at all but I have seen the quality of writing and design taper off in the higher zones of others games like by then they run out of ideas. Right now I’m just looking forward to filling out my knowledge on them and maybe collecting all the lore. I never really bothered looking for the lore so that little goal should take me some time. From what I have read so far on the lore pieces which actually isn’t much, they are quite well done and explain a lot of the setting in new interesting ways.So much amazing story and so little time to absorb it, sometimes I wish it was all written down in pdf or paperback form so I could but alas.

There is one niggly little point during my play through on Sunday that just felt a little off, that wasn’t exactly as well thought out as the other scenes involving my character and the relationship they have with others. Often times I have felt like this relationship with others was a little constricted by how inactive the character was but this was entirely different. This time It was an action that broke my sense of immersion as it felt like I, or more to say my character wouldn’t have put themselves in that situation. But there I was seeing actions that weren’t my own being played out. I always thought I was kind of the one pulling the strings on my puppet at least in my imagination but I was completely out of control here and it was rather jarring.

It happened with Rada Nataste in Carpathian Fang about the mission Cabin Fever. At first it seemed like she was trying to gain a little solace from another and maybe letting go a little in regards to her situation. It is entirely heartbreaking hearing her story and decent into the clutches of the Morninglight, it seems simple enough but her tone belies so much hurt, fear, and hopelessness that my heart truly goes out to her. However during this cinematic she approaches you in a certain way that made me feel uncomfortable. I was tasked with consoling her in a different way then I had thought, one that I was not prepared for as my own.

The approach, the closeness of her, the eye contact and dancing all spoke of a much closer relationship between the 2 characters then was appropriate. The non verbals of the situation and the way she approached the relationship was also where my character was given the masculine role which didn’t feel right. And then there is her outright saying “what should I tell him when referring to my character.

Rada Nataste

I was approached like a male, not in a sexual way but the connotation was there. Her actions were a way of reliving moments from her past youth, to be wooed, to feel pretty again, to share her sorrow and forget it all in the embrace of another. I am not saying such an event would not happen, Funcom has an innate ability in creating well thought out characters and dialogue, but here they forgot about the person behind the character. I can see sitting together on a couch talking or even a hug but these were actions intended for a male character and not my own.

I can understand why story runs the path of a single set scene, cutscenes are far more resource intensive then the written quest text we have had for a long while so it is understandable to have little variation, anything else would be nigh impossible for an mmo development team to produce and have to constantly update. Funcom have usually opted for these cutscenes to be a general overview of the story and events, a what’s happening for the person in this area and the world. I believe it was a good choice considering and one which at times feels more natural then that of ToR or GW2.

I consider constricted choice to be a waste, meaningless in terms of character development as most times you just have to put up with conversation choices you would never say or do, or options that don’t suit the character. There are so many nuances of language that relate to personality and morality that including enough options to appease the masses and convey the right message just isn’t plausible. It is a case of once you start giving choice it is an all or nothing approach otherwise the result will be worse then if you were completely mute.

It is a rather good approach to developing characters and their relationship with others for a large audience and where developer resources are limited but when you designing a scene for the entirety of your audience any sort of gendered nuisances really need to be forgotten or very carefully used. I thought the Dragon initiation scene was the extent of the developers forgetting that they actually have a female demographic and yet here I am again.

Rada Nataste

Rada Nataste

Usually the relationship between characters is far more androgynous, a scene that could suit either a male or female character. Then with no other information about your character bar the dialogue of an NPC you are free to mold them as you wish, free of conflicting information but it is an uneasy balance and one that is easy to break.. and once it breaks you lose all sense of immersion.

There is a part of me now upon thinking about the neutral nature of NPC’s that this approach kind of hinders character development and the growth of your relationship with these people. Having an androgynous approach serves as a barrier to any real relations occurring, it hinders relationship building in a way because there will always be a distance caused by the language and actions. It is an inhuman way to treat humans since we are inherently gendered.

This is where I think the choice of actions could have performed a greater impact in TSW and our relations with the worlds inhabitants. Actions are more important then words in many circumstances, are more direct, are easier to understand, and can mostly be designated as do or don’t scenarios. They are also easier to plan for and implement and less likely to break immersion then having none or simplistic dialogue options.

The choices we do make are powerful regardless of our lack of conversation and it would have been amazing to have a certain amount of choice involved in our relations with others. To dance or keep your distance would have been an easy choice to design for in this scene, she could have just danced alone while saying her piece. There are a few other circumstances that could be fixed like this but I don’t see why many others couldn’t get a certain amount of choice in your actions to make the relationship you have with them more meaningful.

It’s a big ask in terms of development since it involves creating extra scenes and such but I think the benefit would be huge. The best part about TSW is the amazing characters you meet and what could be better then being able to build a better relationship and a certain rapore with them. It would greatly enhance the experience as it would feel more congruent with your own feelings and you would not just be watching the story but be apart of it.

*this is kind of a concise version of my original ramblings.. I was writing it from last week and it involved a lot more talk about having gendered characters and working that into dialogue, actions and choice but I thought that was a bit too much word spam. There was also a rambling inside about providing more action orientated choice in mmo’s instead of a reliance on language which may come later. Anywho… more inane ramblings about TSW so I hope you enjoyed.