I always like your posts, Sharp, even when I don't agree with them. You make good arguments and don't peddle in nonsense. (I do peddle in nonsense sometimes, but I still like people who don't.) You bring up lots of good points here, and I don't have much in the way of specific counters to what you've said. Yet I still don't agree with your conclusion (that playersexual companions need to be undone).
Thanks! For what its worth, I like your posts as well :P
You talk a lot here about realism, it's kind of your central thesis as I can tell. But I don't know that we need realism in a fantasy video game.
For reference, when I talk about realism, what I really mean is narrative consistency, or verisimilitude. I don't mean the world needs to be ultra realistic, otherwise I would take issue with magic existing in the first place, but I mean that every effect needs to have a plausible cause. The world needs to "make sense." And yes, even in a fantasy setting this is important. Pretty much all of the best fantasy writers will tell you that it is an important concept. Brandon Sanderson for example has a youtube series on writing and its one of the topics he covers, if you are curious, I can find a link to it. Its incidentally why I think most RPGs have awful writing (including the divinity games), because in many cases they ignore this entirely, when it should be something which is taken into account. I am perfectly fine with ignoring the story and just playing the game for the combat, but I would obviously prefer it if the writing was also good :P
Just because the setting is fantasy, doesn't mean it is allowed to be implausible within the context of that world, otherwise it ruins the suspension of disbelief. Even fantasy worlds need to have rules and within those rules what happens need to be consistent. Once your setting has established rules, you had better make sure everything operates within them.
I dunno about you, but in my fantasies, everyone I'm attracted to is also attracted to me. I don't sit and fantasize about someone saying, "Sorry, I'm not into you." Also video game. Which is a form of entertainment, right? So when you say the purpose of "people" in the "world" is not to please you, I think maybe it kind of is? In a video game? Now of course different people will be "pleased" by different things, and it's impossible to please everyone. So I think they have to try to assess which option pleases more people. And I don't know which one it is. But it might be playersexual characters, mightn't it?
This here has less to do with my point about narrative realism and more to do with my point about how you view the creative process. There are 2 main arguments, the first is, that the creator should make things to please their audience (for example, if an artist is commissioned to make a painting, their job is to please the person who commissioned them). The second is, the creator should try to make their own vision. The story they should make is the story they want to tell. I personally hold the second point of view, I do not believe that the artist should compromise on their vision for the audience, even if it means that their art does not sell. Not a very practical perspective, I know, but you could say in some ways I am an idealist.
For those of us who hold the second view point, it doesn't matter if someone wants to romance a certain companion and they can't, we aren't making the game to please them, we are making the game to tell our own story. If people do not like that story, it is ok, there is no problem with that, because it isn't their story, it is ours. In some ways you could say it is selfish to think this way, but in my opinion, the only way you can truly see what an artist is capable of, is if you give them free reign to create the piece that they want to create. And yes, the means I am perfectly fine with the game having decisions in them which were made purely to please the artist which I do not agree with, there are plenty of those I can think of :P
You could treat video games as just a form of entertainment and that is fine, but I believe they have a potential to be a form of art as well. I would rather see the genre elevated to the level of high art, than just treated as cheap entertainment.
I don't find your statement about Astarion very convincing, either. So you have this group of six people, and Astarion doesn't show attraction to two of the men, but he can show attraction to the third man. You think he needs a "pretty damn convincing reason" for this? Couldn't he, like, just not be attracted to Gale and Wyll? Maybe he's attracted to the PC because you're the leader, because you're calling the shots and he thinks that's hot. Maybe he's actually just trying to manipulate the PC via sexuality, that would very much fit his personality and backstory, I think. Vampires gonna seduce, when there's a possible benefit in it for them.
That would be a convincing argument - provided that making passes at companions is the only time sex comes up with Astarion. He also talks about girls back in Baldur's Gate. When he is talking about his attraction towards characters which are not even present, he only talks about women. Almost everything about Astarion suggests that he is interested in women and there is very little that suggests he is interested in men. He is a very sexually overt character. Even then of course, this does not entirely rule out the fact that he may bisexual, he might just be afraid of the way people would view him if he admitted it and so does not talk about it overtly (if the world of Faerun was similarly prejudiced as the real world), but if this is the case, it should be something brought up!
My issue is not with all the companions being bisexual, being bisexual is not the same as being player sexual. You could have a group where everyone was bisexual and it would be a plausible group. The problem is that there is a disconnect between how characters behave in relation to the main character vs how they behave to the rest of the world. If this disconnect did not exist, they would not be player sexual. It makes perfect sense for all the characters to be bisexual from the perspective of trying to sell the game to as many people as possible, but if you want to do this, they need to be written as bisexual to begin with. This is not how they feel. In many cases they feel like straight characters which happen to make an exception to the rule in the case of the main character and that is what makes them player sexual.
Shadowheart should have a strong bias against a Githyanki PC and probably not treat the player as a romance option. Incidentally, as far as I could tell from her writing she does come across as someone who could be bisexual, but she does have other trust issues and to make her a more plausible companion these should be explored within her romance. Astarion should probably be straight, if he is not, he should have a good reason as to why he puts on a difference face to the world at large to the way he behaves towards the PC and it should be explained. You get the idea. The companions should be consistent. A player sexual companion is not a bisexual companion, a player sexual companion is a companion that only behaves the way it does in order to satisfy the player. If the audience for a game was 100% male and they all hated gay and bisexual companions, the player sexual companion would be characters that behave gay to the rest of the world but act straight in relation to the PC.
But the main reason I'm responding to this is to ask you what you think about the idea that Niara talked about in her post. This one: https://forums.larian.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=741951#Post741951
Did you read that one? I'd cheekily call it the Schrödinger's Sexuality
concept. They are potentially
both sexualities, but neither one for certain. The characters aren't necessarily bisexual, it's just that their sexuality is not known
until the player makes their character. Like there are alternate realities for each playthrough, and in some of them, the characters are attracted to men, and in other ones, they are attracted to women.
I did read Niara's post above. I think I answered some of her points in my post above, but I will respond to some things.
Yes; characters in games like kingmaker have that slightly more intricate definition, because those details are defined and become a part of who they are... however, it also causes problems; suppose you are a male-preferring male, in Kingmaker, for example.... What are your options? Who can you pursue attraction to? One character, and one character *Only*, and *only* if you're okay with breaking him up with his current partner first.... Is that satisfying? No, it's not. It's not feasible to cater to all player preferences as well as character type attractions, with hard-defined characters: you'd need a homosexual male academic scholar type, a homosexual female academic scholar type, a heterosexual male academic scholar type, a heterosexual female academic scholar type, a homosexual male roguish fortune-player... etc., etc.,... it's not feasible.
I personally see no issue with the player not having a lot of options in terms of romance, in fact, I am fine with a player having no options at all if it matches the story the writer is trying to tell. If I was to make a game, I would probably not include any romances at all, because I am not sure I could write them well and even if I could I don't think they would fit well within the type of story I was trying to tell. In my opinion, its ok for someone to not be included within the story that an artist is trying to tell. Then it just so happens that that particular person is not the right audience for that particular story and that is fine. I dislike most music, it is very, very rare for me to find music that represents my personal tastes. That doesn't make that music bad, it just means that most music is not for me.
Ultimately, it's about asking who the game is for: is it for the players, or is it for the world-authors?
This is what I dislike about player sexual companions, it is arguing that the purpose of the world should be to please the player, as opposed to what I believe, which is that the world should exist to tell a story and if the story it tells is not one that the player likes, then it is not a story for them. This incidentally is also why I dislike the changing of shadowheart's personality to make people happy, because it is taking the line that, "the player's internal canon is more important than our own."
So my conclusion is that the benefit you get from giving the characters fixed sexualities is smaller than the benefit you get from offering players more options. Your points are all very solid, but I think we just weigh the relative value of realism differently in the context of a fantasy video game. Which is cool. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on what Niara said, mostly.
I am of the opinion that sometimes, less is more. Sometimes by taking away player choices and forcing them into a narrow box, you can tell a better story.