Plot:Design:Main Character and Companions
One important factor of a good story is that the protagonist undergoes a transformation as the story progresses. In terms of an RPG, this not only means the gaining of experience and increase of Character Stats, but more importantly also the growth in character and spirit itself. The ways to achieve this are twofold:
- Revealing History and Background. Through the course of the game, players should be able to learn about the past of companions and, where fitting, of the main character as well. This will help to develop feelings for those characters and aid in displaying a lively and immersive game world, where things happen without the player being present. However, since the past cannot be influenced by the player, it only can serve as a starting point for further character development. As such, the more it is related to main plot or side quests, the better.
- Shaping Character through Decisions. The actual character development should happen while playing, of course. To allow players to identify themselves with the main character, a certain amount of freedom is required. We've already seen how the main plot should allow different paths through the game and ideally, those paths coincide with developing the character in various directions. Conversely, after a certain amount of development, some of the paths might get blocked as they no longer fit the character. Outside of the main plot and side quests, membership in certain Factions would also be a way to depict a character's spirit.
It is highly desirable that development of the main character and progress of the main plot are intertwined, so that one can drive the other.
To give live to main character and companions and to portrait character development, interaction is a necessary means. It occurs on three levels at least:
- With the Game World This covers the reaction of the world towards the main character and companions as well as vice versa. Former will manifest itself in the available quests and path through the main plot, but also in the way NPCs address and treat the player. Latter might be depicted in the tone of dialogue or comments that companions offer about certain places. These might represent their knowledge of the world ("If we leave the road here, we can take a shortcut through the forest") or their feelings ("Do you really expect me to enter this stinking den of evil!?").
- Between Main Character and Companions To give companions a mind of their own, it should not always be up to the player to initiate interaction. This would include simple dialogue, but it might also trigger quests that would reveal more about a companions personality, history or motives. They might further question the character's way through the game, offer advice and details about NPCs or places, develop feelings for the player, etc. ... . Should their alignment differ too much from the players, they might complain and ultimately leave the group.
- Between Companions Each companion has his own ideals and motivation to join forces with the main character. They might belong to opposing factions or have racial differences and this should be expressed in dialogues or remarks they make. Too great differences might also result in companions starting a fight. However, as the group around the player masters difficulties and grows together, this should show in the way they treat each other. Initial differences might turn into respect or friendship.
Altogether, the player should be enabled to "get to know" his companions and chose between them not purely based on their abilities and skills but also based on their behavior and motives.