Amount of characters to interaction ratio

Which Scenario do you prefer?

  • Many characters with lots of customization!

    Votes: 0 0.0%

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    14

Xenphir

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Hello~ Was just curious what most people preferred with characters and their interactions with each other.

Lets assume for these scenarios the main plot of the main character stays the same, and each character's individual interaction with the world by themselves is the same.

Scenario one: More characters for more party options and customization of battles, but less scenes and plot of the characters interacting with Each Other. Lets say about, 10-12 options for party members in a typical group of 4.

Scenario two: Less characters with less party customization and more calculated battle archetypes but getting more scenes and plot of how the characters interact with each other, possibly developing relationships and close friendships with each other. Probably about 6-8 options for the party.

Scenario three: Exactly enough characters to fill the party limit, which by default is 4, leaving no customizing of the party mechanics. However, each of those characters gets their own in depth plot with the others and most likely their entire own story arc/chapters for in-depth plot.
 

Tai_MT

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Honestly, you need only enough characters that you have stories to tell. See, the reason a player would want a ton of characters is so that they could pick the 3 or 4 they like the best and take them everywhere. But, a player can't like characters in that way unless they're distinct in combat (usually, the most powerful of the Combat Triangle. DPS, Tank, Healer) or you've spent time to flesh out every single character.

So, if you're going for a ton of characters with minimal story, they have to all be unique in Combat and well-balanced against each other. If you're going for a few characters with a lot of story, then you need to flesh those characters out quite a lot, and well, and make them all likeable in their own ways.

Generally, most writers stick with a cast of 2 or 3 protagonists, roughly 2-8 secondary characters, and focus the rest of their efforts on "the audience characters", namely... anyone who exists simply to ensure the story seems realistic (they're essentially props to the narrative... also known as NPC's). Why so few characters? A couple reasons.

1. An audience can easily lose track of a large number of characters and all their names. It makes the story harder to follow. It makes remembering specific people difficult to do.
2. Writers can really only make a few characters at a time "unique" enough to warrant following by a story. Consider if you had to have a 20 page backstory for every NPC in a game. The writer would suffer burn-out very quickly and the quality of writing would suffer as a result. Small amounts of characters make it much easier for a writer to tell their story.

When you get into video games, however, the entertainment value is only half of the plot and characters. The other half is the gameplay. So, you can make more characters... as long as their gameplay is so distinct that they're memorable. But, even in Video Games, you run into those first two points as well. Except you substitute "gameplay" for "story".
 

Xenphir

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1. An audience can easily lose track of a large number of characters and all their names. It makes the story harder to follow. It makes remembering specific people difficult to do.
2. Writers can really only make a few characters at a time "unique" enough to warrant following by a story. Consider if you had to have a 20 page backstory for every NPC in a game. The writer would suffer burn-out very quickly and the quality of writing would suffer as a result. Small amounts of characters make it much easier for a writer to tell their story.

When you get into video games, however, the entertainment value is only half of the plot and characters. The other half is the gameplay. So, you can make more characters... as long as their gameplay is so distinct that they're memorable. But, even in Video Games, you run into those first two points as well. Except you substitute "gameplay" for "story".

Very good point. I started writing about a month ago and this week I was adding a few more characters only to realise I may have added too many. Though it also could be because the way the game is played, the focus was having more characters. So now I am faced with this decision. I do like your point very much. Perhaps I will change some of those playable characters to simply having well thought out quests for them as NPCs.

Also, I forgot about another type. Changing party members. Where your party always has a certain set party, but some characters might leave, and another joins later, not by player choice to change them out, but by the plot flow. Would that also be viable you think, as long as each had their unique characteristics and combat styles?
 

Aesica

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I'd really only recommend lots of playable characters if you plan on somehow having the player utilize all (or most) of them at some point to overcome various puzzles/dungeons/etc. It's pointless to have 8 party members if the player just picks the 4 most powerful ones while ignoring the others. Note that you can still have lots of characters and story arcs without tossing said character into the party.

Some ways to make the entire cast useful is to specialize them a bit. Let's say Bob the Mage has Fire, Wind, Water, and Earth magic, making him a flexible damage dealer, while Jane the Witch only has Lightning spells, but also has a party-wide magic defense barrier. If you're in an area full of things with varying damage immunities, you'd probably want Bob. If you're in an area with lots of magic damage, or where most things are weak to Lightning, you'd probably want Jane instead.
 

Tai_MT

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I think Star Ocean had the "characters leave and others join later" aspect of gameplay. For me, it made it difficult to get invested in any character since the possibility that they'd leave was always an option. It lead me to really only care about the "final party" I'd had and any character I'd gotten and lost between the beginning of the game and there just wasn't "important" enough. After all, they leave.

I had the same problem with the characters from Final Fantasy 4. I found it difficult to care about any of them since most weren't permanent. I think by the end of the game, the only characters I even cared about were Cecil and Rosa, but I'd been playing the vast majority of the game with them in my party.
 

Milennin

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The more options and customisation options, the more I'll care about just the gameplay side of things. When there's a static party of 2-4 people, I prefer to have more interaction between them.
 

XIIIthHarbinger

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I think it really is a question of how the whole story all comes together.

However, I think I should point out two things.

First, I've noticed that there is another option, that no one seems to have focused on. Namely having a large pool of potential party members, but only having a small number that can actually join you. A good example of this would the Elder Scrolls Skyrim. There are a plethora of faction allies & sellswords that can accompany you, but you can only ever take one with you sometimes two depending upon the quest.

This can give you all manner of options from a mechanical & storytelling perspective like permadeath mechanics to adjust how you approach battles, potential followers who won't work with certain factions, potential followers who have issues with each other & so won't work together, etcetera, etcetera. All of this can add replay value to your game, because your game will be very different with a new set of followers.

Second, I've noticed that a lot of people underestimate the value of party banter, as a means to deepen characterization. It doesn't all have to be lengthy cutscenes & drawn out expositional dialogue about the characters background set to melodramatic music. Sometimes less really is more. Subtle exchanges between the party members can be used to explain a great deal about the character, just by the exchanges they have with other characters.

Personally I am working on a "banter" mechanic to be accessed from the menu, that allows you to "listen in" on the exchanges between characters, as well as ask them individually about common reference topics. With answers being determined by Variable RNG & switches. Most of the answers will be no more than a sentence or two; most of the dialogues no more than an exchange or two.

However, those little exchanges add up overtime into a picture of who the characters are, without the risk of being a long drawn out cutscene or expositional speech the player just wants to skip after they've seen it the first time.
 

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