Mass Affect: BioWare On Why It Won’t Give Up Romances

By Nathan Grayson on January 24th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

My heart will always belong to Thane.

Romance in videogames is weird. For one, it’s often handled in ways that range from awkward to downright offensive, and let’s not even start on how deep the uncanny valley suddenly becomes when plasticine mannequin men/women start making goo-goo eyes at each other. But romance, relationships, and sex are fundamental parts of the human experience. They make and break people, peel back layers of personality and reveal us at our most vulnerable. So I’m glad to see that BioWare has no intention of quitting romance, but I sure do wish they did it better.

Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider broached the topic of romance on his blog, noting that while the idea of dropping romance altogether is “tempting,” they won’t be going anywhere in the near future.

“I can easily imagine a time when the romances in Inquisition are revealed. There will be an inevitable reaction from people who are disappointed they couldn’t romance someone with their character of choice, and some of them will rant at length as to how they were only deprived of said romance because of some agenda. We took away that romance because we’re mean, or because we’re boring and couldn’t we see that the romance they wanted would be so much more interesting? And that romance we actually put in is not only terrible but is homophobic/biphobic/racist/pedophilia/etc., which their romance pairing would not be.”

“To me, the thing that BioWare does best is not story but characters – I think our characters are done to a level that few other games even attempt, with an element of agency that strikes a chord in our players. Romances have been a natural outgrowth of that. Sure we could stop, but that would be turning our backs on something we do which almost no-one else does. The question would be: ‘why?’ And what do we replace it with?”

He further noted that he’s well aware that BioWare makes mistakes, and that the RPG mega-studio could well decide to remove romances from a new IP in the future. But for now, he said that even the most vocal opponents of BioWare pairings obviously care, even if they choose to express it through outrage and vitriol.

And that’s true, I think. Also, it’s worth noting that BioWare’s romance options have improved markedly over time, especially in terms of variety/sexuality/preferences. But even then, I wish they would take things further, and not just in terms of sensitivity toward problematic elements. I actually really liked how Liara was handled in Mass Effect 2/3, at least conceptually speaking. Instead of being a trophy you nudged and nuzzled until sex fell out before the credits rolled, she was (if you pursued a relationship with her in Mass Effect 1) a long-distance pseudo-relationship and then, in ME 3, one with a lot of baggage. There were ups, downs, moments where you could chose whether or not to be faithful (if you considered your Shepard monogamous), and so on and so forth. It wasn’t cut-and-dry like so many other BioWare romances. I think that’s a step in the right direction.

Really though, relationships are insanely complex, multifaceted things. I personally view BioWare’s attempts as more akin to Hollywood blockbusters than anything truly accurate, in-depth, or horizon-broadening. For that, I think more focus is needed. A number of Twine games and some of the more experimental visual novels put human relationships directly in their crosshairs, and that often leads to more interesting, personal results. The Pulse-Pounding, Heart-Stopping Dating Sim Jam also produced some wonderful stuff.

But I appreciate what BioWare does within the triple-A spectrum, and I hope it continues to push at the outer walls of its relatively tiny box. Its games have helped a lot of people grow, change, learn, and express sides of themselves sadly inhibited otherwise. Credit where credit’s due.

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206 Comments »

  1. sinister agent says:

    I’ll be happy as long as they retain an option where you can express concern and interest in a person without everyone interpreting it as WE MUST DO THE SEXES YES. No Liara, I don’t fancy you, I am just asking if you are okay after nearly being murdered. Stop trying to fucking nuzzle me, what are you, a puppy? And Kaidan, you dead git, no you are not detecting “signals” from me, you are detecting a simple conversation with someone whose life could be in your hands at any moment. Christ. Doesn’t anyone on this ship take their job seriously? I’ve half a mind to fire the lot of you, ship in some Geth or something instead. Least they can bloody focus.

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      Shockeh says:

      Shepard-Commander orders us to statistically probable death an average of 2.73 instances per day. Rounded down.

    • physicalist says:

      That’s the way humans tick. Seriously.

      • sinister agent says:

        If I wanted to fuck everyone I was nice to, my legs would never work again.

        • 00000 says:

          I’d give up my legs for that.

        • physicalist says:

          Just because you want to doesn’t mean you can or will.

        • Syra says:

          You need to work on your leg-to-desire control matrix.

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          aleander says:

          I guess I’m a sentient Brussels sprout then.

        • Unclepauly says:

          My legs still seem to work. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY

        • Dezmiatu says:

          That makes me think you use your limbs instead of your genitals. Like a jackhammer you wear away at your partners until your legs are worn down to nubs. A selfless sacrifice that goes unsung.

          It’s so beautiful that the option should be available in a Bioware game.

        • Flopper says:

          Or you could just stop skipping leg day and have the strength to carry on. Do you even lift?

    • SRTie4k says:

      It’s a problem I’ve had with BioWare ‘s approach to dialogue for decades now. I recall as far back as KOTOR where you’d respond to an inquiry/proposition with a verb/disposition that didn’t seem exceptionally edgy, yet your actual response ends up being way over the top. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground for apprehension in BioWare games.

      • sinister agent says:

        It’s not just them to be fair. I gave up on LA Noire about five minutes into the first investigation as the dialogue – y’know, the core feature of the game – was so arbitrary. Want to express doubt that the witness is telling you everything about her working day? “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU! YOU LIE! I’LL THROW YOU IN THE SLAMMER! I’LL EAT YOUR GODDAMN EYES FUCKER LIES! LIES! LIES!”

        And then she clams up. Oddly.

        • Durrok says:

          She clams up because doubt was the wrong option, you could have said “Puppy sprinkles pancake” to her as far as the game is concerned. What he says and tone doesn’t matter to the game mechanics, although I could understand why you didn’t like the mismatch of tone to your intent.

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          Stellar Duck says:

          The best example of that was the girl who was raped.

          I had a feeling she was holding something back, which all things considered, I could perfectly understand. She was in a tough spot and there were a lot of things going through her head I imagine. Guilt, shame, sorrow, trauma and what not. So, in order to perhaps make her tell me a bit more I selected ‘Doubt’ as that was what I was doing. I was doubting her explanation as it didn’t really match up with what I knew.

          Then Phelps goes completely mad and starts yelling at a poor traumatized girl in a hospital bed. It was then I realised I was playing a complete arsehole.

        • Jools says:

          The reason you guys are complaining about “doubt” is because it was originally “force.” They changed it because, I don’t know, I guess the idea of a cop forcing a confession was a little too real and distasteful? “Lies” is actually a lot closer to what a normal human being would interpret the “doubt” option to actually mean. It was a really shitty change, and the game becomes worlds easier and less nonsensical if you just mentally replace “doubt” with “force.”

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            Stellar Duck says:

            That makes a hell of a lot of sense. And it explains why Doubt seemed to trigger every anger issue Phelps ever had in his life.

            It might even make me go back and finish the game.

          • Jumwa says:

            Whoa, I’m with Stellar Duck. That changes everything.

            Makes me actually wanna go back to the game again. Though I probably won’t, because of how clunky and awkward the game was to play on PC. A half-arsed console port through and through, in grand Rockstar tradition.

        • fish99 says:

          I managed to complete the first interview in LA Noire only by trial and error (and never touched the game again after that). I consider myself good at reading body language, but holy cow that interview system was nonsensical. Also they’d already setup by that point that the main character was likely to turn out an asshole, plus the gameplay wasn’t so great, so not much incentive to keep playing.

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        skalpadda says:

        KotOR didn’t have a voice acted PC and the lines were written in full, or did you mean that the responses from NPCs didn’t match the tone of the lines you chose?

        It’s certainly rampant in more recent Bioware games though, so I see what you mean, and it’s one of several reasons I prefer dialogue where the player character isn’t voiced.

      • HadToLogin says:

        It started with Mass Effect, not KotOR.

        And yeah, they should just go with “Try to get paragon points” “No points for sure” and “Try to get renegade points”, and those left options to be “Get paragon points for sure” and “Get renegade points for sure” – that’s how I mostly played ME games, no reading my options, just clicking whether I want to be nice or not and reading what they will say…

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      Colonel J says:

      The other way to do it is Saints Row IV where the ‘romance’ dialogue options with Kinsey and Keith David on the spaceship are just perfect.

      Press X to romance Kinsey
      ‘OK let’s f**k’”
      No cut-scene. straight on with the game.

      • LionsPhil says:

        That cracked me up. I was expecting some kind of “seriously?” joke response, and instead it’s just *POW* *glomp*

      • pepperfez says:

        I read your paragraphs in reverse order, so I naturally assumed you were talking about romancing Alfred Kinsey. It really made perfect sense.

      • Pundabaya says:

        Yeah, the Saints Row IV ones were brilliant.

    • Lemming says:

      Yup. I’d appreciate at least an ‘Asexual’ option in their games. You can’t be a paragon in Mass Effect without everyone wanting to jump your bones. Also, there’s no dialogue option for ‘look, can we just save the universe without you being offended that your tits/cock/tentacles are being declined?’, so subsequently a ‘no thanks’ gets characters giving you the fucking hump.

    • Wulfram says:

      That’s why DA2 had hearts on romance dialogue.

      • Emeraude says:

        But it often failed to offer non-romance, perfectly amiable and emphatic conversation choices.As noted in the thread, generally it goes: nice = romance, cool/uncaring, bastard. The lack of nuance kills it.

        If anything, the problem with Bioware’s romances is not that they exist, but the execution.

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      X_kot says:

      Playing Persona 4 really brought this game-narrative trope to light for me. I was really close to finishing Rise’s social link when my wife happened to be watching. During one of the events, Rise starts crying, and you have the option of either a) standing there or b) holding her. My wife was watching when I got to this part, and she said, “She’s sad – you should hug her.” I agreed, so I did…and that made Rise a love interest.

      Lesson: providing emotional comfort = wanting to bone. :(

      • Haplo says:

        Yeah, I remember this. It’s incredibly frustrating because P4′s options explicitly for the ‘romance or not’ options can sometimes be incredibly dickish. The Rise one is just one example- and the most painful because oh my god why aren’t you giving her a hug?

        That said, I’m honestly not sure how much of it is just GameStuff and how much of it is general Japanese reservedness about physical touching, though. It’s a little more nebulous with that facet.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Yeah, but I do understand that they wanted to choice to flow, rather than just be like hug/don’t hug, followed by another scene where you could say “Hey, let’s be platonic okay?” Though maybe they should have worked it in with kissing instead of hugging, since that is actually for sure a romantic option.

          It’s only really like that with the social links though, right? In P3 you had the option of hugging Yukari when she was upset and it didn’t lead to romance. Of course then again, P3 was even worse because you didn’t have any option of non-romance links with girls. Or boys if you’re playing portable (Which I wish I owned).

      • toxic avenger says:

        And isn’t this gal’s complaint with many “nice guys”, let alone men? The video game industry really knows how to “craft” its fantasies for its market demographic…People wonder why not everyone takes gamers seriously or why Ebert doesn’t think games are art. This is why.

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      aleander says:

      Yeah, the game really needed a “I don’t date co-workers, especially the high-mortality kind of co-workers”.

      Furthermore, while I think romance in games can be interesting, there is something about being an AAA title that makes it impossible for them to write anything involving or even suggesting sex in a way that doesn’t make me cringe. Same thing with almost all genre writes (especially SF writers of a dudely disposition should pay some sort of a tax for sex scenes, until morale improves).

    • Carr0t says:

      I don’t think it was their intention, but you could take it to show that the people involved are just bad at reading signals, or have unexplored issues of some kind. I’ve got a couple of friends who, for various reasons occurring during childhood, have a tendency to fall a bit head-over-heels and get overly sexual overly soon with anyone who shows interest in them or indication that their wellbeing is cared about.

      We already know Liara didn’t get on with her Mum and apparently didn’t get much in the way of love and attention growing up ;)

    • toxic avenger says:

      A fucking men. This, among other things, breaks the suspension of disbelief for the narrative for me. This is why I don’t pursue relationships in Bio ware games outside of morbid curiosity.

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    daphne says:

    Heh, Gaider. I do hope the hack never rises to a position where he’s able to call the shots beyond Dragon Age. As you say, Mass Effect’s romances were quite okay. Gaider had nothing to do with.

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    Shockeh says:

    It’s laudable that BioWare are so inclusive, but I also don’t want us to fall into the ‘PC-Friendly’ trap, where every story must have your Straight/LGBT/Furry/Inanimate Object option because otherwise “Abloo Abloo you’re being discriminatory”

    No, your taste just happens to have not featured in this story. Because that’s what it is, a story.

    Having more of them is an improvement, but that doesn’t mean they MUST be mandatory to every game. And I mean that in every direction, if someone makes a character with only gay tendencies, I’ll be just as disappointed when the posts about ‘majority discrimination’ appear.

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      daphne says:

      I’m usually all for the distaste of excessive political correctness (yes, I realize “excessive” isn’t PC) but this is not one of them. If you’re making a game about player choice, branching storylines, narrative customization and all that good stuff, then you’re already being very inclusive of the player, and such inclusiveness should extend to concepts like sexuality and relationships and the multple facets they possess.

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        Shockeh says:

        Oh, that’s a perfectly valid line of reasoning, for sure.

        Maybe BioWare can throw in a meta-troll, where there’s an option for your your Dragon Age character is ‘Golemexual’, but there’s no Golems in the setting. You got to choose, that doesn’t mean there MUST be someone for you!

      • arisian says:

        The issue here is one that’s at the heart of a lot of the problems with relationships in video games, and it comes down to the tension between the player-as-actor and the player-as-writer. On the one hand, RPGs (and to an extent, all games) are supposed to be about the player taking on a “role” in much the way an actor might in a play or film. But the actor doesn’t normally get to decide what lines to say, or what actions to take; those are controled by the writer (and director). In games, the player gets to sometimes behave like a writer (deciding what the player-character should say, for example), but other times is expected to behave like an actor (whenever the player can’t do something he or she wants to; cutscenes are an extreme form of this).

        Having a wide variety of options (including, but not limited to, romance options) generally lets the player do a more satisfying job of being a writer. Having options that are restricted tends to force the player to be an actor (but sometimes make the player-as-actor role more satisfying if they are done well). So, for example, an “actor” doesn’t get to decide the sexual preferences of the other characters, where a “writer” does. Having everybody be pan-sexual seems silly and unrealistic, if you take the perspective of an actor. But if you take the perspective of a writer (and implement it correctly), what you get is not a bunch of pan-sexual characters, so much as a bunch of characters whos sexuality can be assigned by the player-as-writer at run-time. Again, this doesn’t make sense for the player-as-actor, but it does make sense for the player-as-writer.

        Which style you prefer depends on how much you value the player-as-writer role. Of course, all games have some level of this, even if it’s just “oops, I don’t like how the story just went (because I died), I’ll re-write that last bit (by loading a savegame)”. The tricky part is finding a way to handle switching between the two player roles without causing problems (this is a common source of luddnarrative dissonance).

        • Kitsunin says:

          I think you hit the nail on the head for reasoning here. I also think inclusiveness is really the only big option we have for AAA games. Do you think Bioware is going to release a game where you have to be gay and can only pursue romance with men? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. So, we should be happy that we are at least being given inclusion in the form of choice, and as you say, because we are being given the role of writer.

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          psepho says:

          This is a really incisive comment. I hadn’t thought about that tension before. It is a very illuminating way of thinking about player agency.

      • Tams80 says:

        These are options though and the larger the game, the more work each option requires. With the resources they have, I think developers should be free to focus on providing options where they wish. I don’t think there should be expectations that an equal weight of options be available for all topics. Otherwise, where is my tentacle, bisexual threese option?!

      • hungrycookpot says:

        But you’re also generally not given the option to murder all your companions in their sleep and switch to the enemy side, so that you can play as the final boss either, for people of a murderous/evil disposition. I’m going to agree with above poster and say that it’s a story, and you can’t include all angles.

      • MartinWisse says:

        I agree. In a novel or movie there’s no room to explore all options, but in a game where the gamer’s choices stand central, you can’t just throw away part of the audience because you want your character to be straight or male.

        • ViktorBerg says:

          Where do we draw borders on player choice? You can’t include EVERYTHING, because otherwise where’s all the BDSM and other fetishes, where’s sexual interactions with – hum – illegal elements? Where’s the option to turn evil, like the guy above you said? The only game that I know of where you have the CHOICE of turning evil and betraying everything you fought for is Arcanum, at the very end.

    • physicalist says:

      There is a market for same sex relationships. Some studios might not address this market, but that doesn’t make them right. Some gamers might not like that such a market exists, but again, this doesn’t make them right. You complain about having options in a video game? Seriously?!

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        Shockeh says:

        It doesn’t automatically make them ‘wrong’ or ‘bad people’ not to, either, is my point. I’m perfectly happy with what BioWare are doing, and I’m not ‘complaining’ about it in any capacity.

        And to reiterate, that applies for inclusiveness in general; I’m well aware how over-subscribed the entertainment market for the straight white male 18-40 is.

    • dnorm says:

      Anyone else think of Wilson while reading that? No? Just me then…

    • pepperfez says:

      That’s not political correctness, it’s fanservice. Which, I agree, gets in the way of good storytelling.

      • thrawn says:

        To a point, it’s ok. I think including relationships of all kinds in an expansive RPG makes sense, and not just for PC ones or thin the case of sexual preference. I like there to be the options of doomed relationships, poisonous ones, promiscuous ones, chaste ones. You know, give the player more opportunity to flesh out the character. Maybe the character is promiscuous, maybe he/she isn’t.

        It becomes a problem, though when rather than having NPCs available in the world, they make the few well-established NPCs availible for all options. That sacrifices their character depth for fanservice. In life, some people are just not going to be interested. It is, of course a fine line… and I do think that for all their problems, Bioware does better than most.

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      jrodman says:

      Describing orientation as personal taste is a bit distasteful

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        Not when you’re describing a preference for what kind of character you want to play though. One’s real-life orientation doesn’t limit what orientations they might want to roleplay. Or do you think the majority of people roleplaying gay female characters are actually gay women? :)

    • Delixe says:

      It really depends on the story being told. With something like The Witcher, everyone expects Geralt to be chasing the ladies because that’s who he is. If you are crafting a story around a character then a part of that character is their sexuality. However if you take the blank slate approach as Bioware have done with Dragon Age and Mass Effect then it makes sense to give players the options to craft them into their own version of The Warden/Shepard and again that includes their sexuality.

      One of the many issues Dragon Age 2 had was that now infamous conversation with Anders. Not because Anders was gay but because there was no way to finish that conversation with him without either romancing him or pissing him off. A glaring oversight that I hope Bioware don’t repeat in future games.

      • Emeraude says:

        but because there was no way to finish that conversation with him without either romancing him or pissing him off

        Even that would have been interesting if it had been self-aware and meant to be this way – sometimes there is just no way to dance around those issues without breaking things. Sometimes people don’t take well to rejection.
        But in the context of a game that is built around constant ego-stroking of the player, it felt like like the unwanted accidental byproduct of a tool unable to process anything more complex than a binary situation more than anything. Especially given the game did not present you with significant conversation options that would make that dealing with rejection a set of interactions to be explored .

    • dropbear81 says:

      I don’t think that games are making it mandatory to include all options in their games. In fact, before mass effect came along, only a few games have even touched on romance occurring outside of the male/female dalliances. To run about crying that games are getting all PC on you, is akin to saying restaurants are now making everyone eat gluten and dairy free, because of “choices”.

      I for one enjoy the fact I can choose to finally play a character that reflects me on a personal level, and then I can go back and play it as a straight white male if I feel like it. I don’t think its a slippery slope into PC land. Plus, there are plenty of games that don’t even think women and the gays exist. I don’t want them to change every game from now on to include other romance options, but options are nice and make for a more well-rounded world to enjoy.

  4. SupahSpankeh says:

    Romance is awesome.

    Sex is awesome.

    Games are awesome.

    Romantic sex games are shit.

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      Cinek says:

      Someone should stick that to every door, window, and screen in Bioware offices.

    • pepperfez says:

      RSG are awful, but they don’t need to be. Being terrible at all three, I don’t have any advice, but I’m all for more experiments to figure it out.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      This is genius. When Bioware gets closed down by EA I hope this is what they put on its tombstone.

  5. Orija says:

    It’s not the romances that are the problem, but the fact that there implementation is complete and utter shit. And I don’t see them improving as long as Gaider sticks around. Romance right now is choosing the dialogue option on the upper right for a couple of times, and then watching a couple rutting in their underwear.

    Anyway, Bioware has had its three strikes with DA II, ME 3, and TOR. I’ll go for DA 3 only after a few months, once it’s confirmed that it isn’t a part of Bioware’s decline.

    • physicalist says:

      ME3 is actually pretty good and certainly better than ME2 in a lot of ways. It’s simply the ending that’s not that good compared to the rest. Stop blowing things out of proportion.

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        Cinek says:

        Some people have such a low requirements for not calling stuff “shit” when shit it is.

    • Nameless_1 says:

      This.

  6. Discopanda says:

    THE PEOPLE WANT ROMANCEABLE HANAR. Why can’t they just listen to the wisdom of the crowds for once >_>

    • Nikita "Hot Stuff" Khrushchev says:

      The Mass Effect games would definitely become more popular with a certain Japanese audience if they included a Hanar love interest.

    • Pich says:

      I WANT TO BE A HANAR. There’s a galaxy full of crazy aliens and we’ve to stick with the bipedals with funny hair.

      • Pich says:

        ALSO I WANT TO BE AN ELCOR. THEY HAVE SHOULDER-MOUNTED TURRETS

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          With disdain: I know you Hu-Mans mock us but someday we will have a bigger embassy on the Presidium!

    • thrawn says:

      I wanted my Femshep to be able to do Blasto, but noooooo….

      Actually, I was a little disappointed in that scene. I couldn’t ever find a way to actually avoid insulting him, and I wanted to be a fan because I thought the whole thing was hilarious.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Obtain a firm grip on your reproductive anatomy!

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        Jackablade says:

        Wait, you actually meet Blasto somewhere in Mass Effect? How did I miss that?

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      jrodman says:

      I will romance the Orz.

  7. Tei says:

    I played both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 withouth romanzing anyonw. … I was just too busy saving the galaxy. That make me very sad :(

    I like that stuff, and I like that game can contain that stuff.

  8. Artea says:

    It still baffles me how Bioware was – and still is – widely regarded as the best writers in the industry.

    Obligatory: http://www.somethingawful.com/weekend-web/bioware-social-forums/1/

    • SRTie4k says:

      That distinction applied a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when Baulder’s Gate and KOTOR were relevant.

      • Artea says:

        Both those games have pretty weak stories.

        • sinister agent says:

          But decent character writing.

          • Artea says:

            I should’ve been more clear – when I said ‘stories’, I meant everything, including characters. I’ve always found Bioware characters to be either generic/forgettable or creepy /pandering

          • Yglorba says:

            Honestly, I’m going to have to agree with the poster above — I think Bioware’s characters tend to be flat and uninteresting and mostly give trite generic lines, and the only reason they get attention is because the bar is set so low by everyone else.

    • dropbear81 says:

      One day, someone will make a game that has a wonderful script, that doesn’t make me cringe at least once while playing it. One day.

  9. dnorm says:

    Alright let me toss out a wild and crazy idea…

    How cool could it be if we could create a standardized web based format/repository for romance stories. So say Bioware could flag a character as a specific type, then we could go to the repository and pick based on rating author etc… So maybe you want Liara to be your romance throughout the game, but don’t like the stock convo’s, you go to said repository and find the set you want to try and BAM, you get a longer more intense relationship.

    I always thought something like that would be cool in an MMO, where you could have an NPC “partner” and add a little depth and flavor. Just brain storming a little.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      That’s more of an organized, mechanical sort of idea…

      In any case I guarantee you do not want to play a romance written by an aspiring internet video sex author.

      • dnorm says:

        True enough, I mistakenly read a fanfic on pinterest the other day and wanted to wash my brain. But would be interesting to have options both official and unofficial when dealing with romance. Mayhaps some sort of randomizer?

        Let’s face it any man with a wife (hi hunny I love you!) knows that each conversation option should depend on the day, time, when the last meal was, and whether or not you have presented chocolate before attempting said romance. You would also need to roll based on charisma and previous chocolate offers to see if you were currently in or out of the friendzone.

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      jrodman says:

      This makes me imagine a back-to-front sort of game design. A dating sim where the computer has some clunky AI-concept of how dating works and you poke at the machine to see what happens.

      There’s a few ways it could be implemented, basically one would be a mini-SIMS focused on short romantic scenarios where things always get wildly out of hand. Another would be some kind of slashfic generator on acid.

      I’m not sure this seed idea can work, but I so want it to.

    • Koozer says:

      I was absolutely positive you were talking about fanfiction sites for a while there.

  10. Bostec says:

    I made love to a game once. She told me to hit Escape as soon as I bashed Insert. That was the End of me. I went Home.

    • Velko says:

      Here, I think this is your coat.

      • Bostec says:

        Thanks. Its the right one, the one without a hood. Its raining outside, i’ll be on my way.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      My keyboard tilted, can’t handles so many buttons pressed at the same time.

    • thrawn says:

      Kudos for getting through that without referencing the D key.

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      MajorManiac says:

      Talk about a ‘Quick Time Event’

  11. Snargelfargen says:

    The Shadow Broker DLC contains my favourite game romance interaction of all time, wherein a testy Liara gives Shephard shit for boning another crewmember (She isn’t present for most of ME2, and not knowing if she would be in the next game, I had flirted with Miranda). I was genuinely in doubt as to whether the relationship was salvageable, a rare thing in video games.
    Even the Miranda relationship was neat in a way, the ubermensch thing she had going made me uncomfortable so I broke it off before it went too far.

    Relationships can be messy but that’s also interesting. More of that please.

    Edit: Should note that I think I lucked out with those choices. The Jack romance sounds particularly creepy and the Jacob romance is unintentionally hilarious.

    • sinister agent says:

      I don’t think anyone who got close to Miranda is “lucky”. She’s by far the most vile person in the series.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Exactly! Discovering a justifiable dislike for her was a neat experience.

      • Tritagonist says:

        I actually pursued the ‘romance’ with Miranda in my Male Shepard playthrough of the series. I can certainly see Miranda being a dislikeable person, but vile? She seemed more tragic than anything else, to me. It reminds me of that line in the 2001 movie Enemy at the Gates, when the Soviet commissar Danilov laments: ‘Man will always be a man. There is no new man. (…) there’s always something to envy. A smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to appropriate.’ Miranda might ‘have it all’, but she has none of the things that define most people’s lives. She has no family to speak of, she has no friends, she will never have children, and even her delusions of superiority were brushed aside by Shepard’s human – real human – social and physical abilities. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it seems BioWare was trying to combine both that tragic side with the ‘omg sexy bitchy femme fatale’ stereotype, and perhaps didn’t really succeed at doing so. When I talked about this with a friend who has also played the ME games, she said: ‘The girl just needs a hug’, which I think sums it up nicely.

    • Pich says:

      but the priize

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      I especially like how that DLC portrayed Liara as having established an identity separate from Shepard and co. She’s done a lot of things since ME1, and she has different priorities than she did when she was younger.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Ironically, that brings up a plot hole.
        Liara was >1000 years as a child but two years after leaving the Normandy is an adult?

        • sinister agent says:

          That only adds to how incredibly, incredibly unconvincing that development was. Batgarrus worked, King Wrex worked, even Badass Tali worked because she was only a little inexperienced rather than chronically naive and kind of clueless. But kingpin Liara? Nooope. Not buying it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Bookbuster says:

            It actually does work for Liara, if you think about it, and have an understanding of some of the strange ways people behave when they’re grieving.

            If we take some of the things that were said about her mother as canon, she probably grew up simultaneously being very sheltered and in the public eye, with a constant security detail – like the US presidents kids, or a Prime Minister’s. She escapes all that, and then goes on to have a crazy adventure with Shepard. In the process, she loses her mother, the only family she thought she had, in absolutely horrible circumstances, and also sees her mother’s legacy utterly destroyed. Then she loses Shepard (who, even if you don’t romance her, she seems to genuinely love) and her replacement family – the Normandy crew – breaks up and leaves her alone again. She does some terrible and dangerous things to get Shepard’s body back so she can bury it properly and have some personal closure, and then does another horrible thing in giving that body over to Cerberus in the miniscule hope that they can bring Shepard back. Effectively, she loses her innocence in a very painful fashion.

            In ME2, she’s grieving without any real hope of closure, alone, afraid, self-loathing and really, really angry about being all of that. And that lead to her fixating on the Shadow Broker as the source of all of that, and working to hurt him as she’s hurting. I don’t see what’s so unbelievable about that.

            Also, Garrus is not Space!Batman. Garrus is Space!Punisher. There’s an important difference.

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            @Bookbuster Plot hole averted. Screw Gaider, hire this person!

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Why the fuck is that picture on the Daily Fail site?

    • Asurmen says:

      What was wrong with the Jack romance? :(

  12. araczynski says:

    personally, i think they should build a mini game around the whole endeavor. where sheperd gets to run around the whole ship and poke whoever/whatever he wants and they can’t say no, because they’d all be afraid of losing their precious jobs or ‘accidentally’ slipping into the engine, the crew of course could do the same to anyone else on the ship, and sheperd would walk in on people from time to time. it’d be like a roman orgy.

    then there should be some funny smack talk against sheperd during combat about the recent ‘incidents’.

    don’t know about you, but i’d be laughing my ass off the whole game.

  13. vecordae says:

    I like having romance options in RPGs, even if they aren’t pursued. I hate the way they are typically implemented. It is easy to criticize, however, so I will offer a different way of approaching them that might not suck so bad.

    Step 1) Designate some subset of companion characters as potential romance options. 8 is a good, arbitrary number.

    Step 2) At the start of each new play-through, have the game randomly select, say, two of them. These are the companion characters that are actually interested in your player and can actually be romanced this go-round.

    Step 3) Add a third option that may “come around” if the player character consistently acts in a manner they like.

    Step 4) Offer no abstract metric by which the player can determine romantic interest from the companion characters. Instead, make the player ask. Make them suffer the occasional rejection.

    Step 5) Add an “awkwardness” metric that goes up when the player makes unwelcome advances towards disinterested characters and, if it gets high enough, will cause the companions to leave.

    Now, these all strip away player agency (though I feel that appropriate), so I’ll offer:

    Optional Step 6) The player starts the game married/romanced to a character of their own creation. This character is not a companion and doesn’t have a significant impact on the main plot, but can be there for the romantic-type bits and may be say nice, lovey-dovey things to the player character from time to time. Keep them to a limited voice set and offer the player a few personality archetypes to choose from (three’s a good number) and there you go. Player agency restored.

    I’d also like to see the romance interests pursue the player character from time to time. Make some of them get kind of creepy about it if the player rejects them.

    This should eliminate most of the really offensive bits (the “give gifts, say pleasant things, get guaranteed sex”) from bioware’s romance mechanics while simultaneously offering the player some mystery and excitement. Well, except for the last bit. Romance is hard.

    • Yosharian says:

      8 romances… jesus christ. You realise how much work goes into these things? Even the ME series rarely approaches that number. I love this casual dropping of 8 romance options like it’s no big thing. Developers are shitting their pants reading this kind of statement.

      • vecordae says:

        Of course I know how much effort is involved: Exactly as much as the game devs want to spare. Eight was simply a number I threw out there. Even if the base set is 3 and the player only gets one of them at random as an option during any given play through, the concept still applies.

        • Yglorba says:

          But you understand why (even if it was just two romances and the game dropped one at random) no dev would ever remotely consider this for an AAA game, right? Making a significant amount of content that will randomly be unavailable to players (many of whom will only play through the game once) purely to make a statement is a waste of time and money.

          A much simpler solution is to simply have some characters that can never be romanced, but add dialog options to attempt to romance them. That avoids wasting effort fleshing out dialog for options that the PC may never have. And for most players — playing through the game only once — it will have the exact same effect.

          • APerson says:

            You’re confusing games as a business and games as an art form here. Absolutely, the realities of making a AAA game preclude many forms of genuine artistic development. However, that doesn’t even remotely mean that proposed ways of developing a game so as to be better able to express some idea or experience in a relatable way should be avoided/condemned. This is a problem with the current realities of business in general and the games industry in particular, not a problem with the implementability of cool ideas in actual games.

  14. derbefrier says:

    Romance in games has always been terrible and forced and unatural just like it is in the movies when buff action hero dude porks scared pretty girl. They always feel like they are there for the sake of it and most video game romances like action movie romances lack any substance and are just their to get teenagers excited at a little side boob.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      That’s exactly why they’re there. Big Studio Exec thinks you need to tick the “female audience box”. Only way they can think of is “women like love stories right? Put a love story in.” Doesn’t matter if it’s completely out of place or hurts the movie/game – big studio exec says it has to be there, so it has to be there.

      So many movies/games would be improved by simply cutting the generic directionless main character-romance they shoehorned in.

    • Yosharian says:

      Absolute bullshit.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        One example of a game where romance isn’t shit, please.
        And as it was proven – Bioware doesn’t have any to show.

        • Yosharian says:

          Baldur’s Gate 2.

          • Sharlie Shaplin says:

            BG2 was definitely Biowares best to date for me, the relationships were kinda like real life, confusing. I think it’s mainly because they had a lot more ingame time to develop character relationships, as the game took longer to playthrough. Their recent games however are all a lot shorter, so it often feels like you meet a character, and 5 minutes later they are jumping on you because you asked them if they are ok.

          • Yosharian says:

            I’d agree with that. I think the ‘game’ has been taken out of romances. You don’t really have to work at them, or put any effort in. They just fall into your lap. Sometimes, with Viconia, I’d be scratching my head and thinking ‘what the fuck? did I do the right thing?’. In fact that was the default feeling with her, haha.

  15. Shooop says:

    Too bad Bioware is one of the last companies you should trust to be able to handle the topic with any tact. Their dialogue system is “choose the option on the right side when you talk to this character until the scene plays”.

    • Grapeykins says:

      I have good news for you! Dragon Age 2 defied that formula. You could basically enter one of two possible kinds of romantic relationships: one lovey-dovey, one more adverserial. And to make matters even better, sexing didn’t serve as the romantic climax!

      • HadToLogin says:

        Yeah, DA2 had quite a lot of nice stuff. Too bad they decided to release it at least one year too soon.

      • Shooop says:

        That’s only just a little bit better. I don’t think games have reached the point where they can handle a topic as insanely complicated and sometimes downright uncomprehensible as romance. Many books and movies can’t even do it.

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          Hell, even real life is playing catchup, for a large segment of the population.

  16. Yosharian says:

    There’s nothing wrong with the concept of romances, even Bioware romances. BG2 still has some of the best written romances in the genre. It’s not the approach that’s at fault but the execution.

    • Mondaik says:

      Calling them romances isn’t quite right. Having sex with an vulnerable party member after briefly “solving” their daddy issues doesn’t cut it for my definition of the word. I’ve had one night stands with more romance and depth. That’s just something Bioware fans have hijacked to seem less creepy when they want to fuck Bioware’s cardboard cut-outs with their shepurd.

      • Yosharian says:

        “Having sex with an vulnerable party member after briefly “solving” their daddy issues doesn’t cut it for my definition of the word.”

        Doesn’t describe any romance in BG2, and is hardly fair to most romances in the other games. Hyperbole is still hyperbole.

  17. Geebs says:

    Hell, even Bioware romances are preferable to a constant diet of “socially awkward person jerks off while flipping the bird at some imagined archetype of normality” indie self-indulgence.

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      I dunno. As a socially awkward indie developer I can’t honestly say that playing a romance option in a Bioware game necessarily beats having a wank.

  18. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    The one thing I’d like more of is the development of proper platonic bonds (ooer) like my shepard had with garrus. Honestly how many games do you develop that kind of ‘I’d walk over hot coals for you’ relationship with a character? Especially with a character of the opposite gender. Would love to see more of that and less of the ‘you clicked the right buttons and now we’ll fuck’ sorta thing.

    • sinister agent says:

      I want more Wrex friendships. That big old hunk of sarcastic, angry, clever bastard Wrex. Cruise around the galaxy with my buddy Wrex, shootin’ dudes and bickering with each other, with no hint of tedious adolescent romance. I bought ME2 only for Wrex. Wrex.

    • Low Life says:

      My Shepard’s relationship with Garrus also had the sex stuff, but I still thought it was quite well handled. That may be because the first game didn’t have him as a romance option, and so it felt more like an intimate relationship forming almost by accident which is how these things often happen. It also helped that it was the funniest dialogue in the second game (read: I like stupid interspecies sex jokes).

    • jalf says:

      Yeah, romance options are fine, but I hate how they tend to encroach on everything, to the extent that you as the player become terrified of saying something nice to anyone else because “it’ll probably initiate a romance”. I really wish for more non-romance options, to be honest. Not at the expense of romance options, just in addition to them.

      Garrus was such a breath of fresh air because you could just be really close friends, without going the romance route.

    • Tritagonist says:

      Agreed. Looking back on the Mass Effect trilogy, which I played both as a female and male Shepard, Garrus and Wrex stand out as far as relations with Shepard are concerned. There are characters who are more interesting/friendly/noble/etc. for sure, but their relations are believable and usually stay clear of the over-dramatic stuff that – apparently – makes BioWare ‘the most amazing romance writers of all time’. Eh… ok.

  19. Premium User Badge

    melnificent says:

    Hopefully they’ll start to branch out from just basically swapping the models from the hetro relationships and saying, Tada “Same-sex relationship”… there is more to it than that. Starting with discreetly finding out if the other person is gay/lesbian without offending them if they aren’t.
    Trans* would be even more involving as it’s something that tends to be disclosed to a love interest early on, to give the prospective partner full-disclosure and then it’s back to the “usual” gay/straight questions.

    Sometimes I wish my love life was like Mass Effect, it would make dating so much easier.

  20. Jason Moyer says:

    Bioware’s romances being awful is just a side-effect of how awful their writing tends to be in general, at least when it comes to interactivity. Even outside of romance, in ME3 way too many of the big choice&consequence moments from the series ended up with “oh, so and so died, so here’s a nearly identical replacement to serve the same purpose in this scene”.

    You just have to look across the aisle at Black Isle/Obsidian to see that romance in games can be done well if it’s handled by competent writers. And has anyone handled alternative sexuality better than they did in FO:New Vegas? Nearly every major character in that game was gay and it basically had no impact whatsoever on the game’s overall quality or your relationship with various NPC’s.

    • Yosharian says:

      FONV is hardly a demonstration of how to do romances.

      You’re spot on with ME3, obviously. It’s a pile of shit.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        I wasn’t using FONV as an example of how to handle relationships, rather as an example of how to handle alternative lifestyles. And the way they handle it, basically, is by having a pile of gay characters who are defined by who they are rather than by who they want to sleep with.

        • Yosharian says:

          There are no ‘relationships’ in FONV.

          • Jason Moyer says:

            I never said there were. I think you’re reading something into what I posted that isn’t there.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Nearly every major character in that game was gay

      Uhm. No?

    • Premium User Badge

      Jackablade says:

      There are relationships in New Vegas? What I get for sticking with the one party member for the entire game I suppose.

  21. Premium User Badge

    ffordesoon says:

    I find Bioware romances awkward in the extreme, and I wish to God they would let you be friends with a character without them thinking, “Let’s fly into the Bone Zone!”

    That said, I believe it is vitally important to the growth of the medium for there to be nonviolent interactions in games, especially if they’re coded in at a systemic level.* I refuse to condemn Bioware for putting in the effort, even though I find their implementation sorely lacking.

    * – I realize this isn’t the case with Bioware games – or at least, it’s barely the case. I was expressing a general preference here, not talking about Bioware specifically. Which, uh, may not be a necessary clarification, but whatever.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Obviously you need to do what Bioware did – brainwash yourself in front of TV till you are certain that there’s no such thing as “friendship” but rather every relationship needs to end up in bed. Or at least: can end up in bed.

      • pepperfez says:

        there’s no such thing as ‘friendship’
        This one is right up there with my least favorite sexist ideas about society. I want more media of every kind about men and women being pals and going on adventures.

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          But then in the sequel they will always change the pals into a love interest. :-(

          • Koozer says:

            Unless of course they end up as love interests at the end of the first film, then in the second they have split so the Mr. Manly main character can fall for the new Token Womans.

        • Premium User Badge

          JamesTheNumberless says:

          It’s sad isn’t it. We only ever seem to get this when the protagonists are kids. But even then, if there are enough episodes/sequels to see them grow up we inevitably see them pairing up (or at least having flings) as the writers run out of good ideas.

          However, this kind of does happen in real life!

          • Premium User Badge

            Cinek says:

            Sure it does.
            And just to be clear – not only to gays. (which is another idiotic stereotype from mass media: If man is a fried to a woman – he most certainly is a gay)

            Sometimes I have a very strong impression that people who write scenarios or books got really f**** up life if they’re unable to become friend with an opposite sex without either making it pure sex-relationship or romance.

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            Of course! Friendships between people of different sexes are frowned upon IRL, so it makes “sense” that games inherited this views.

    • kament says:

      They actually do let you be friends with a character without it ending up in bed. But then there’s usually a shitstorm “y u no let me romance varric/aveline/javik/vega/etc”.

  22. djim says:

    I like having Romance in games, especially RPG’s. It adds to the immersion. Obviously a lot of time they are very poorly implemented, but they will not get better by not doing any.

    Gaider is not very good at this though.

  23. Jenks says:

    Yeah Bioware romance stories are so awful robble robble robble.

    They should hire Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson and do a quality romance story worthy of cinema.

  24. TheBarringGaffner says:

    Yes BioWare, your anime cliches are such good human characters.

    Seriously though, I don’t mind that the romances in these games are self indulgent schlock, Garrus is the hottest. I just wish they wouldn’t act like they’re anything more than that.

  25. monstermeal says:

    Oh gosh, do NOT get rid of romances in your games. It’s not for my sake, but my girlfriend. You see, I had never seen her connect with a video game as heavily as she did with Mass Effect and it’s almost single-handedly due to the fact that there is so much drama and romance. She enjoys many kinds of games, but the ability to play a strong female character who has the chance to romance a variety of characters really got her into Mass Effect. She has played through them multiple times just to see how the different romances played out for Femshep.

    basically, if you dropped this from your games she would be crushed :) keep up the great work – apparently she found the writing for these sections quite acceptable.

    • Mondaik says:

      So she played ME for the shallow “romances”? Sounds like something a sexually frustrated creep would do. It’s like watching DS9 for the romance subplots. Why would you do that?

      • kament says:

        Why, it’s because you’re much more smarter and even better person than she is. It’s quite obvious, isn’t it?

        • Mondaik says:

          Not smarter, just more sensible. It’s like reading novels for the pretty pictures or ordering a whole roasted pig just for the apple in its mouth, I don’t get it. There are mediums which does romance well, gaming just isn’t one of them.

  26. Runs With Foxes says:

    Literally the most boring thing related to videogames.

  27. Mondaik says:

    “And that’s true, I think. Also, it’s worth noting that BioWare’s romance options have improved markedly over time, especially in terms of variety/sexuality/preferences.”
    I’m not sure I would call the addition of bestiality an improvement, but whatever floats your boat I guess.

  28. Shodex says:

    I’ve always liked the romancing in Mass Effect. I really liked the characters and from the first game really liked Liara. Despite romancing Liara in ME2′s Shadow Broker DLC, I took a tumble in the engine room with Miranda which lead to some rather awkward chats with Miranda in ME3 that I genuinely felt bad over. Despite being a walking talking sex doll, I felt guilty for treating her as one.

    Then in ME3 I went back with Liara and at the end (oooh, the end of ME3, everybody flip out) when you were saying your possibly final goodbyes to your squad members I teared up a little when Liara had our talk. Well, I would have if I wasn’t all out of tears after talking to Garrus.

    Seriously, Garrus is the best companion character in any game ever. I fucking love that guy, no homo. I felt really happy for him when I caught him hooked up with Tali, also because it means I didn’t have to feel bad about not returning Tali’s attention.

    Maybe I’m a softie, maybe it’s just because Mass Effect’s characters really hit me the right way, but I never felt the romance in Mass Effect to be poor. Dragon Age is a different story but I blame that mostly on DA: Origins having an emotionless mute android as a main character, and Hawke being an annoying bellend.

    Commander Shepshep is a great character, both in his bad assery through games 1-3 but in the weakness that really starts to show in 3. When the weight of his mission finally begins to drag him down. I love Mass Effect.

    • Shodex says:

      I should add that an example of really bad romances in games is The Witcher 1. I somehow haven’t played Witcher 2 so I don’t know if it’s changed.

      But in the original, oh lordy lord. It’s a collectible system basically. I gave a woman a flower, a single fucking flower, when I first met her and we boned. I didn’t even get her name, what I did get was a collectible pornographic card to add to my deck.

      As somebody who loved The Witcher books, I was expecting Geralt to be a little lecherous but this took it to a whole new level. At least Bioware treats you to a little PG-13 action too, in The Witcher you get a really blurry cutscene and then your collectible porn card.

      • Emeraude says:

        I don’t really think you can talk about romance in the Witcher 1 in the specific case of most cards: that’s just (casual) sex.

        The only “romance” bit with Geralt concern Triss and Shani. I don’t find those particularly well done either, but that’s another matter.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        Witcher 2 is MUCH better in that, but out there relationship with Triss is in a very background, and there are… 3? or 4 moments where they really devoted some time to it. But in general it does feel quite ok, nothing like BS from the first Witcher.
        I’d actually argue that Witcher 2 got one of the most adult approaches to the relationships in any game released during last 10 years.

  29. The Random One says:

    Bioware’s romances are absolutely perfect for the sorty of pulpy, Mary-Suey stories their games usually are. The problem is not that they exist; the problem is that they’re the best romance in AAA games, and this is not praise for them, it’s a damnation for romances in AAA games.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      This, all along. Bioware stories are pretty, pretty bad if you measure them against literature that isn’t in the same shelf as Twilight; if you write or like such books it’s perfectly OK, but the problem is that writers like Gaider and many fans treat the material with a reverence and a seriousness that is utterly laughable because it does not befit its quality. The worst part of it all is that yes, this is the best we have in terms of AAA games, a bunch of representations of relationships that come off as emotionally stunted, mechanized as checklists and achievements, integrating some awful clichés of love and friendship into a set of gaming clichés (whichever came first(?)). The problem is not having romance, the problem is that it’s trivialized at every second by means of mediocre writing / mediocre mini-games.

      • KawaiiDysphoriaWitch says:

        Yeah, I think I’d enjoy BioWare games a lot more if they dropped the pretense of being great writers. They’re basically SNES RPG’s, but with PG sex scenes and the option to be a dick.

      • kament says:

        I think the problem is that videogames simply don’t have anything (much) better storywise. No, really. Don’t get me started with those brilliant games of yore, they simply don’t stand a chance if you compare them with anything that’s not on the same shelf with Twilight. It is what it is: videogames is not art to _that_ extent. Even if you like some of them very much.

  30. ostropol says:

    “Really though, relationships are insanely complex, multifaceted things.”

  31. qutayba7 says:

    The problem with BioWare romances thus far is that they can all be reduced to 1) A declaration of interest someone in the middle of the story, and 2) A sex scene right before the final mission. I guess that roughly follows the romantic subplots of many action movies. But there are so many other options. What about a hero that’s married, or in a steady relationship of some sort from the beginning? Should you only be able to romance squadmates? Aren’t there ways your romance can shape the plot or open up other options in the story? I actually thought Witcher 2 did this well. Other romances (or at least other sex) are possible, but the soulmate connection to Triss shapes many of the decisions of the plot – although you don’t always need to go for the “save princess from the tower” either. It doesn’t need to take over and probably shouldn’t, but I hope that BioWare can get out of its two-note rut when it comes to romance.

  32. Gvaz says:

    THE THING WE DO THAT EVERYONE ELSE RIPS OFF EVEN THOUGH WE DO IT REALLY BADLY AND AWKWARDLY

    Bioware why are you so stupid post KOTOR

  33. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    Who would have thought 20 years ago that it would be the nerds and basement dwellers giving advice on how good romance in video games should work in 2014?

    • APerson says:

      Never underestimate nerds and basement dwellers. They are masters of their domain/s and almost always better at handling problems within their immediate sphere of interest then those who do not “appreciate”(obviously a non-ideal word but no better one in the english language immediately occurs to me.) those same interests.

  34. Syme says:

    I’d like to see the alternate universe version of Mass Effect where Shepard is relieved of duty because of all the sexual harassment lawsuits.

    For all the flak it deservedly gets, I do think Dragon Age 2 actually handled this quite well, where characters don’t just respond to what you say to them in 2 or 3 cut-scenes but how you talk to other characters and how you deal with situations. It means you actually put more thought into your responses than just “what gives me paragon points, and what gives me renegade points”

  35. PedroTheHutt says:

    I can at least applaud Obsidian for coming out and saying that they’re no good at writing romances and trying to avoid them if they at all can. I wish Bioware would do the same.

    They’re vapid, cringeworthy things, achievements to harvest rather than something with any real meaning. In ME your romance is developed over the course of about four or maybe five conversations. In TOR (and some other Bioware games) once you’ve thrown down your companion of choice and done the deed the romance is never brought up again for the rest of the game. They’re inconsequential.

    And perhaps most damningly, for female player characters as far back as Baldur’s Gate 2 they’ve been getting the worst end of the romance deal. They get fewer options and usually also the least interesting ones (eh Carth Onasi?), and the writing is typically cringeworthy at best if the romance is female PC with a male NPC.

    So either they need to get writers who can actually write romance well, from all sorts of perspectives and for all sorts of preferences, or they should just drop it. Granted, right now they’ve got worse things damaging their reputation than romances of a fanfic level, but hey~

    • Yosharian says:

      I think you are too harsh on Mass Effect. It takes a lot more than 4-5 conversations to build a relationship with, say, Liara.

      I’d agree that BG2 has poor choices for female PCs. Not sure what relevant conclusions can be drawn from that… it’s not really anything to do with this discussion.

      • kament says:

        It takes exactly three conversations to build a relationship with Liara, if you don’t count mandatory “embrace eternity” thing. I think you’re being nostalgic here.

    • kament says:

      On the upside, romances in BioWare games are completely optional. Credit where it’s due and all that.

  36. onodera says:

    Of course BioWare should keep trying, or we’ll never get past “give gifts and compliments to move the slider right, CGI sex”. Even Japanese dating sims are more complicated.
    First of all, it would be nice if friendship, love and sex were treated separately, and not as progressive stages. In ME2 you could have sex with Jack that ended any possibility of being her friend, so that’s a start. People above ask for a way to tell if your words/actions are treated as romantic or purely friendly, but I think this will detract from the experience.
    I understand people were weirded out by the bisexual cast of DA2, where everyone was ready to sleep with you except your sib and the dwarf, but if only some of the NPCs swung that way, being weirded out would be an interesting experience. Or it could happen the other way around, the only person willing to enter into a relationship with you is a terrible human being otherwise.
    Misinterpreting your or the NPCs’ actions would also be nice. What if one of the companions falls in love with you simply because you hugged her once when she was down? Of course there would be a subset of gamers that would all be, “Yay, free sex cutscene!”, but what if she’s not interested in sex or not ready to take it so far so quickly? Do you tell her you just want to be friends? What if she can’t accept that and is getting jealous every time you flirt with that witch, let alone spend the night in her tent? And if you lead her on, get to the cutscene, dump her afterwards and she commits suicide,, what are you going to do?
    Or it could happen the other way around: your companion laughs at your jokes, flirts back at you, agrees to go to your room one pleasant evening, but is upset when you select the romance option. Or even worse, you select the option “place the hand on his crotch” and he is double-shocked, screams at you “why did you even think I was interested in you, no, screw that, why did you even think I was interested in *men*!”, makes a scene, calls you an abomination and leaves. You might reload, but how are you going to treat him now that you know he treats you well because he doesn’t know you’re gay?
    Romance is a minefield that is much more complex than “kill monsters, collect loot”, and we need someone to do it well. Or at least try to do it well, fail, and try harder next time until they do it well.

  37. Iskariot says:

    The romancing thing in Mass Effect or Dragon Age never interested me. They can leave it in as long as it is optional. I hated the aggressiveness of that tattooed girl (jack?) after I refused to do her so much that I would have liked the option to execute her on the spot.
    The private conversations in Mass effect I skipped through as fast as possible. I was only interested in info and facts I could use. I did not care very much for the biographical fiction of Tali’s personal life for example.

    It is not just the Bioware games.
    For example I also avoided the romancing in GTA IV. I only went on the first forced date with that women undercover agent and after that broke off every telephone call immediately. I hated having to listen to her uninteresting ramblings.

  38. Premium User Badge

    JamesTheNumberless says:

    I think if you graph indignation at Bioware romances over actual experience with relationships you get something that looks rather like a bell curve. There’s the initial stage when you’re young and naive and actually find them romantic.

    Then you get a bit wiser and become appalled by how misrepresentative they are of real relationships and embarrassed by how they restrict the potential for games to be art and how they reflect on all that is wrong with society at large, etc, etc.

    Then finally when you’re past the cynical phase comes the realization that actually nobody really understands love or sexuality. But people do understand and appreciate self-indulgent shallow romance stories and that there’s a time and a place for it especially in movies and video games.

    It isn’t really about modelling the nuances of love and relationships because there aren’t too many shared experiences when it comes to that. What is shared, and what resonates with us even when we see it in the most cardboard of characters, is the simple need to be loved. Ultimately that’s easier to convey through the most obvious of romances that it is through other sorts of relationships platonic or otherwise. The plots are almost invariably just guff that’s there in order to get us to those romantic moments that we all either relate to or aspire to.

    Personally I’m somewhere in the middle still, I want romance option characters in games to go and kill themselves quietly in a ditch somewhere and make as little mess as possible in the process.

    EDIT: that last paragraph is either facetious or not, it’s up to the reader.

  39. davemaster says:

    These games need more rape options.

  40. Voronwer says:

    So much hate out there.

    I, for one, am very glad to hear this. I enjoy the romances in ME, DA, KotOR and yes, even TOR very much (though some in TOR heart my brain too). /unpopular opinion

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      I’d be worried on many levels if they vowed to stop doing something because a percentage of their “fans” were vehemently against it. Romance is not the least of these things.

  41. chaosapiant says:

    I like Bioware’s games. All of them pretty much. And I like the romance in Bioware’s games. I don’t pretend they are deep and meaningful. I’m playing a schlock action hero, and the romances fit that. Also, romancing a character allows an attachment that a regular friendship usually can not achieve. I like thinking that my character really feels for a particular person, and maybe this is what keeps them going. Criticizing Bioware’s stories/characters/romance options is like criticizingTwilight for not being a literary masterpiece: it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be fun in a Michael Bay kind of way. I also don’t mind Bioware’s characters being nothing more than walking TV Tropes. They don’t need to be anything more, because I only play video games for escapism and fun, and Bioware delivers that in spades.

    One of the coolest things, to me, about Mass Effect in this regard is how complicated you can actually roleplay a relationship. Such as playing a female character who falls in love with Kaidan, only to have him die on Virmire. Or cheat on a ME1 love interest with someone from ME2. It can be more complex than just boning if you rolepay as much as the limited dialogue system allows. It’s not perfect, and has a long way to go before it becomes deep and meaningful, but it’s fun fantasy-fullfillment and nothing more.

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      This is more or less exactly how I really feel about it. I really get into Bioware’s games when I do play them – and I’m very completionist with RPGs. I don’t have to objectively find something a perfect representation of reality to enjoy it. I have enough imagination to fill the gaps in for myself.

    • kament says:

      Ditto.

  42. Grmp says:

    That would be a whole lot more believable if they had not already backed down to Faux news

  43. kament says:

    My favourite line with Liara is “I like you a lot, Shepard, and I’d… like it very much.” It’s kinda BioWare romances in a nutshell for me: awkward but cute. Yes, very awkward and sometimes not very well written, comparatively (I totally believe they’re a completely tertiary thing for them). But still.