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The rise of romance in western RPGs


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#1 Tifa

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 09:08 AM

For the uninitiated, ever since Bioware added the first optional romances in Baldur's Gate 2, they've expanded romance content in their RPGs due to strong fan demand. It has come to the point when the romance options have become one of the most popular features in their games. Each love interest, for male or female characters, has several support threads, each running in posts counts in 4-digit numbers. There are the Facebook groups, the DeviantArt clubs, the fanfiction, the Youtube videos...

People interested in otome rarely talk about how popular romances have become in western games. I think it's a pity, because I think it makes an interesting point of how virtual romance has become more acceptable in western mainstream (relatively speaking) gaming. I don't know if this will affect the popularity of otome games, but at least it makes a point against those who think the genre has no chance in the west because nobody outside of Japan is weird enough to date virtual people!

#2 litewolf

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 01:52 PM

It took me a while but I managed to dig a post I made about this argument here.
Back then I played both Neverwinter NIghts game ("main official" games, no mods but some expansion packs) and you really feel that your main purpose is anything but pursue romance. I'm happy for the success of bioware's titles, but I can't see any good way to remove the stigma out of visual novels because there are many good story driven games out there, be them galge or otome >_> Is making the game main RPG/whatever the only way?

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#3 Tifa

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 03:43 PM

There is probably no way to get rid of the stigma completely as long as there is a stigma attached to romance (and female interests in general). The positive result I could see happening is that romance in games becomes something people get used to seeing, and it won't weird them out anymore. They might also bring in more female gamers who are interested in in-game romances in general.

Even though the romances are a side-story in Bioware games, it seems there is a very large portion of the fan-base which finds the romance to be the most important part of the game experience. I don't know if you've played any Bioware RPGs made after Neverwinter Nights (which have the least romance out of all Bioware RPGs since Baldur's Gate 1), but the romances have become more and more elaborate. It's clear that Bioware has started seeing the romances as a major part of their games.

#4 caddyalan

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:32 AM

I've tried a few western RPGs, but wasn't especially interested. But according to what I've heard, the concept of a romance sidequest started in Baldur's Gate 2, which was published in 2000. Apparently it caught on.

And apparently companies are still having trouble selling eastern RPGs with relationship elements. Right around 2000, Atlus released Thousand Arms, and Konami released Azure Dreams, but neither was a best seller. Years later, the fairly well known game Persona 4 didn't sell well compared with Persona 3. And according to what I've heard, very few people other than me bought the English version of Sakura Wars 5.

That said, there's been only a modest number of visual novels with general audience content available in English. If you know where to look, you can find some interesting sci-fi/fantasy/horror/experimental stories. But some of the few non-romance visual novels were released only through fan translation, or have been obscured because they're freeware or indie games. And non-harem VNs are buried under an awful lot of NSFW games.

#5 Savvy

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:55 AM

Bioware is a very different beast than the rest of the video game industry because of the types of games they make. The ability to play as a girl, as well as the romance heavy content allows their player base to have a much higher percentage of women. It's at about 35% female for them, where the overall hardcore video game community is about 15-20% female. They're proud of that fanbase, because women are typically much more loyal customers than men. Women as a group are more likely to buy merchandise for the game, and won't sell the game off after they beat it. That's a very valuable customer in the marketing world.

Bioware's formula works for them and their fanbase, which is why they keep making the same sort of content for every game. But look at all the other games being released around them and you notice no one else is copying them. Other than sequels to games they originally made (Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights II), no game companies are putting romance options into their games. The "romance is good" mindset is not spreading.

While Bioware's games are lauded and praised and loved, they aren't bank breakers. Mass Effect 2 (which had three romance options per gender and won the DICE game of the year award) only sold something like three million copies. That's nothing compared to the 15 million copies Call of Duty sold. And Call of Duty is the game that most other game developers are copying.

Romance is a part of life, but as a part of gaming, it's still very niche and seen as an oddity by companies other than Bioware. I hate to be super negative here, since I hope that Bioware's influence one day expands to other companies, but the rising cost of game development means that most publishers don't care about the niche audiences, and only want the dudebros who will buy over ten million copies of their games. Maybe that will change one day. For now, I just thank goodness for Bioware.

#6 Tifa

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 07:39 AM

And apparently companies are still having trouble selling eastern RPGs with relationship elements. Right around 2000, Atlus released Thousand Arms, and Konami released Azure Dreams, but neither was a best seller. Years later, the fairly well known game Persona 4 didn't sell well compared with Persona 3. And according to what I've heard, very few people other than me bought the English version of Sakura Wars 5.


I think the problem with those games has been that they have been fairly obscure titles in a fairly obscure genre. Besides, the Persona series did well, much better than expected. I've been disappointed that more JRPGs haven't tried to include optional romances.

Bioware's formula works for them and their fanbase, which is why they keep making the same sort of content for every game. But look at all the other games being released around them and you notice no one else is copying them. Other than sequels to games they originally made (Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights II), no game companies are putting romance options into their games. The "romance is good" mindset is not spreading.


Truth be told, nobody else is really doing games where romance would be a comfortable fit. Looking at the other western RPGs, you are controlling a single character and there are no party members. I have a feeling, though, that if someone would make a party-based western RPG, there would be a strong push from the fan base to include romance.

While Bioware's games are lauded and praised and loved, they aren't bank breakers. Mass Effect 2 (which had three romance options per gender and won the DICE game of the year award) only sold something like three million copies. That's nothing compared to the 15 million copies Call of Duty sold.


Well, everything is relative. An RPG won't ever reach the sales of games like Call of Duty, but they can still do well on their own right. The Mass Effect series has sold over 7 million copies, and while it's not exceptional, it's still very, very well. There's even a movie coming up.

I find it interesting how unbashedly people talk about their love towards the Bioware love interests:

My Mass Effect 2 Romantic Arc
Alistair and Infidelity
A Post Dedicated to My Bioware Boyfriends
Guilty Pleasures: More Fictional Men to Love On Your Gaming Console
Someone has even written a paper on Bioware romances!

#7 litewolf

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:56 PM

Even though the romances are a side-story in Bioware games, it seems there is a very large portion of the fan-base which finds the romance to be the most important part of the game experience. I don't know if you've played any Bioware RPGs made after Neverwinter Nights (which have the least romance out of all Bioware RPGs since Baldur's Gate 1), but the romances have become more and more elaborate. It's clear that Bioware has started seeing the romances as a major part of their games.

I didn't, but downloaded the demo of Dragon Age 2 today. I was a bit turned off by the forced human race, but I started to love it once the 'choices' part came out. That is very well done and I'll go look into more now one thing I hate of Infamous, other than my sucking at such games, is that the good and bad choices are badly done

Romance is a part of life, but as a part of gaming, it's still very niche and seen as an oddity by companies other than Bioware. I hate to be super negative here, since I hope that Bioware's influence one day expands to other companies, but the rising cost of game development means that most publishers don't care about the niche audiences, and only want the dudebros who will buy over ten million copies of their games. Maybe that will change one day. For now, I just thank goodness for Bioware.

I wouldn't be too strongly against such policies if the games were at least more original. Wish I could find again that article about modern character design of male heroes where they went as far as to try overlay the pictures (and some matched). I'm willing to put away the romance for a while longer, but female character too? Come on, most stories don't really require a male one >_>

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#8 Tifa

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:07 PM

I didn't, but downloaded the demo of Dragon Age 2 today. I was a bit turned off by the forced human race, but I started to love it once the 'choices' part came out. That is very well done and I'll go look into more now one thing I hate of Infamous, other than my sucking at such games, is that the good and bad choices are badly done


I'd recommend starting with Dragon Age: Origins. You can choose your race and the game is generally considered better than the sequel. You can probably pick up the Game of the Year edition pretty cheap too.

I wouldn't be too strongly against such policies if the games were at least more original. Wish I could find again that article about modern character design of male heroes where they went as far as to try overlay the pictures (and some matched). I'm willing to put away the romance for a while longer, but female character too? Come on, most stories don't really require a male one >_>


That's why I love it how you can play a kick-ass female main character in western RPGs!

#9 Savvy

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 05:18 PM

Truth be told, nobody else is really doing games where romance would be a comfortable fit. Looking at the other western RPGs, you are controlling a single character and there are no party members. I have a feeling, though, that if someone would make a party-based western RPG, there would be a strong push from the fan base to include romance.


Fallout New Vegas had a pretty strong party foundation, and the fandom most certainly wished romance were involved, but not every company is as actively involved with pleasing their fanbase as Bioware is. Chris Avelone is the lead writer at Obsidian (they did KotOR 2, NWN 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Alpha Protocol), and he has gone on record to state that he dislikes romances in games and would rather not include them. So when romance was expected because the game was a sequel to a game that included romance, (KotOR 2, NWN 2) it resulted in loads of cut content, lack of resolution, and generally a big middle finger to the players who bought the games in the first place because of the romance. Gamers such as myself.

Other games such as Alpha Protocol and CDProjekt's The Witcher are RPGs that only allow you to play as a guy, and in lieu of romance the player can simply sleep with as many women as possible. The Fable series, in which you can play as a girl, lets you romance and get married to NPCs, but the process is short and superficial, and despite how many people complained about the shallowness of that aspect, Lionhead actually made it even simpler for Fable 3. Not exactly Bioware quality stuff.

My point is... even if fans do prefer a certain romantic aspect in their games, and show it both by voting with their money and being vocal on the internet... developers are still going to make the games they want to make, and most just aren't interested in romance. Bioware has David Gaider as a lead writer, a stout feminist who understands the weight romance can bring to a tale. He wrote characters like Alistair in Dragon Age Origins, perhaps the most well developed romantic interest in a game ever. But there aren't many David Gaiders in the industry, and misogyny even on the development side of things is more common than any interest at all in what female players want.

At least, not as long as female buying power remains significantly weaker than your average straight white male. Until then, you can bet EA would rather have Mass Effect be a multiplayer shooter.

Well, everything is relative. An RPG won't ever reach the sales of games like Call of Duty, but they can still do well on their own right. The Mass Effect series has sold over 7 million copies, and while it's not exceptional, it's still very, very well. There's even a movie coming up.


Well currently the heavy lifter amongst western RPGs is the Fallout series, though I expect the upcoming Skyrim may have something to say about that. Fallout 3 alone sold over 7 million copies, not including digital distribution. It's no Call of Duty, but it's still more than the entire Mass Effect series to date. Bethesda knows they don't need to put romance in their RPGs to make truckloads of money, so why would they make the effort?

Bioware does it because it's expected of them, and fosters customer loyalty. It's a wonderful signature, and inadvertently lead to me discovering Ren'ai and otome games, and I fanatically buy every game Bioware makes because of it. But Bioware is unique, and not indicative of the overall state of the gaming industry. If Bioware's many successes could have paved the way for overall acceptance of romance in games then we should have been seeing repercussions by now. Instead, the only people really paying homage to Baldur's Gate 2 is Bioware themselves.

Wish I could find again that article about modern character design of male heroes where they went as far as to try overlay the pictures (and some matched).


I believe this image demonstrates the phenomenon you're referring to...


Spoiler


#10 Tifa

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 05:22 PM

Fallout New Vegas had a pretty strong party foundation, and the fandom most certainly wished romance were involved, but not every company is as actively involved with pleasing their fanbase as Bioware is. Chris Avelone is the lead writer at Obsidian (they did KotOR 2, NWN 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Alpha Protocol), and he has gone on record to state that he dislikes romances in games and would rather not include them. So when romance was expected because the game was a sequel to a game that included romance, (KotOR 2, NWN 2) it resulted in loads of cut content, lack of resolution, and generally a big middle finger to the players who bought the games in the first place because of the romance. Gamers such as myself.


Obsidian has always had trouble in delivering finished products, and the romance component is not the only one that has suffered. NWN 2 did have romances (though not as well developed as the Bioware ones) and KotOR 2 was supposed to have romance, but they got cut. Those games were practically unfinished in so many ways that I'm not surprised the romances were axed. I think it says something that even though the lead writer himself has stated he doesn't want romances, they were going to include them anyway.

(BTW, did you know NWN2 has a fan-made romance mod? I haven't tested it myself yet, but I've tried Baldur's Gate romance mods by the same modders, and they are really good. Berelinde's Gavin mod for BG1 is my personal favorite of all game romances.)

Other games such as Alpha Protocol and CDProjekt's The Witcher are RPGs that only allow you to play as a guy, and in lieu of romance the player can simply sleep with as many women as possible. The Fable series, in which you can play as a girl, lets you romance and get married to NPCs, but the process is short and superficial, and despite how many people complained about the shallowness of that aspect, Lionhead actually made it even simpler for Fable 3. Not exactly Bioware quality stuff.


The Witcher 2 supposedly has more developed romances due to fan feedback. The Fable series is just a different kind of animal. The character interaction is more like in The Sims, not in a Bioware-like character-driven drama.

My point is... even if fans do prefer a certain romantic aspect in their games, and show it both by voting with their money and being vocal on the internet... developers are still going to make the games they want to make, and most just aren't interested in romance. Bioware has David Gaider as a lead writer, a stout feminist who understands the weight romance can bring to a tale. He wrote characters like Alistair in Dragon Age Origins, perhaps the most well developed romantic interest in a game ever. But there aren't many David Gaiders in the industry, and misogyny even on the development side of things is more common than any interest at all in what female players want.


I guess I'm just trying to see the glass half-full. ;-) I see your point, but still I'd like to say: give it some time! The industry has been slow to react to the rapidly growing female gamer base, but times are starting to change. While the traditional game companies are having increasingly hard times, companies like Big Fish and Pop Cap are rising, and they don't shy away from admitting that most of their customers are women. There are so many of us now that it's increasingly hard to pretend we are not here.

#11 Savvy

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 08:47 PM

Obsidian has always had trouble in delivering finished products, and the romance component is not the only one that has suffered. NWN 2 did have romances (though not as well developed as the Bioware ones) and KotOR 2 was supposed to have romance, but they got cut. Those games were practically unfinished in so many ways that I'm not surprised the romances were axed. I think it says something that even though the lead writer himself has stated he doesn't want romances, they were going to include them anyway.

(BTW, did you know NWN2 has a fan-made romance mod? I haven't tested it myself yet, but I've tried Baldur's Gate romance mods by the same modders, and they are really good. Berelinde's Gavin mod for BG1 is my personal favorite of all game romances.)


I played a Bishop's romance mod, and wasn't a fan. Hearing Bishop's dialog read by someone else's voice ruined it for me. I can however, highly recommend TSL Restored Content Mode for KotOR 2, for which I made the animations. /shameless self promotion

Obsidian has gradually improved with each release as far as cut content goes, but the worst part of cutting romance is that they're always the first to go, as they are deemed relatively unimportant. It's a terrible shame, because Obsidian and their spiritual successor BlackIsle have always been good at writing complex characters, and a well developed romance from them could be fantastic if they cared about the same demographics that Bioware did.


The Witcher 2 supposedly has more developed romances due to fan feedback. The Fable series is just a different kind of animal. The character interaction is more like in The Sims, not in a Bioware-like character-driven drama.


I had heard that that the Witcher 2 had beefed up the romances, but considering the player character, it's still made just for the guys. Since the Witcher games are RPGs very much in the Bioware style, and even uses Bioware's game engine, the fact that they completely disregard the female audience suggests that they don't quite get the appeal romance has for lady gamers the way Bioware does. They probably didn't even stop to think for a minute that maybe the reason Bioware is successful is because of their cross-gender appeal.

Fable III had a more fleshed out character that functioned like a typical Bioware romance that the player can marry, but they abandoned it halfway through the game and he just ends up as another gabby NPC once you're married. It's like they saw the appeal of having a real character to romance and threw it in as lip service, but didn't bother actually working on it. Just another example of romance being low priority for developers I guess.


I guess I'm just trying to see the glass half-full. ;-) I see your point, but still I'd like to say: give it some time! The industry has been slow to react to the rapidly growing female gamer base, but times are starting to change. While the traditional game companies are having increasingly hard times, companies like Big Fish and Pop Cap are rising, and they don't shy away from admitting that most of their customers are women. There are so many of us now that it's increasingly hard to pretend we are not here.


I definitely prefer to think positive, and things are actually looking up since otome games are finally making their way to North America courtesy of Aksys. I only really argue otherwise because I used to think the exact same way. But I made that post years ago, and after a few years of working in the American gaming industry and watching development cycles come and go, I've seen attitudes toward women games get worse, not better. Hardcore gamers and developers alike are nowadays utterly vitriolic towards casual games and the female players that make them popular. As if spending any sort of money at all on casual gaming women is taking money away from their hardcore titles, and ruining gaming for everyone. Bioware is currently one of the few hardcore gaming companies that doesn't see women's money as dirty.

#12 Tifa

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 09:25 PM

I played a Bishop's romance mod, and wasn't a fan. Hearing Bishop's dialog read by someone else's voice ruined it for me.


Oh, well. They're still expanding the romances, BTW. There's a Sand romance coming up.

I can however, highly recommend TSL Restored Content Mode for KotOR 2, for which I made the animations. /shameless self promotion


Wow, really?! I did play it last year, actually. :-) I enjoyed it a lot, until a game-stopping bug made me stop near the end.

I had heard that that the Witcher 2 had beefed up the romances, but considering the player character, it's still made just for the guys. Since the Witcher games are RPGs very much in the Bioware style, and even uses Bioware's game engine, the fact that they completely disregard the female audience suggests that they don't quite get the appeal romance has for lady gamers the way Bioware does. They probably didn't even stop to think for a minute that maybe the reason Bioware is successful is because of their cross-gender appeal.


Well, The Witcher is a license game, so it makes sense why you can't choose the main character's gender. The Geraldt from the books is also a womanizer so at least it's being true to the source material.

I've kinda been hoping the developer would make a non-Witcher RPG, but since the first game was such a success, they're probably going to keep milking that cow...

Fable III had a more fleshed out character that functioned like a typical Bioware romance that the player can marry, but they abandoned it halfway through the game and he just ends up as another gabby NPC once you're married. It's like they saw the appeal of having a real character to romance and threw it in as lip service, but didn't bother actually working on it. Just another example of romance being low priority for developers I guess.


I see it as an example of how Peter Molyneyx games work. They're supposed to have a lot of stuff, most of it ends up in the cutting room floor. ;-)

I definitely prefer to think positive, and things are actually looking up since otome games are finally making their way to North America courtesy of Aksys. I only really argue otherwise because I used to think the exact same way. But I made that post years ago, and after a few years of working in the American gaming industry and watching development cycles come and go, I've seen attitudes toward women games get worse, not better. Hardcore gamers and developers alike are nowadays utterly vitriolic towards casual games and the female players that make them popular. As if spending any sort of money at all on casual gaming women is taking money away from their hardcore titles, and ruining gaming for everyone. Bioware is currently one of the few hardcore gaming companies that doesn't see women's money as dirty.


I've never seen the developer side of things, so that's sad to hear.

I really started to appreciate David Gaider several years ago, when I used to visit a forum for female Bioware fans. We were an insignificant (and ofter frustrated, angry and whiny) minority back then, but he still came to talk to us to learn what we wanted in a game romance. The Alistair romance really does have a lot of depth, even more so than the romances for male players. He really does care about the female audience beyond what the job calls for.

Out of curiosity: did the romances make you a Bioware fan, or were you a fan of Bioware before the romances?

#13 Savvy

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 08:36 PM

I've never seen the developer side of things, so that's sad to hear.


I don't want to paint it as some misogynistic wasteland or something because it's not. People still have to be civil in the workplace. It's just that guys will get excited about certain things and make their games accordingly. Most of those guys are making games for themselves, or people like themselves. Until we get more women in the development side of the gaming industry, or at least more men who can think from a different perspective than their own, games are going to keep on in the direction they're going.


I really started to appreciate David Gaider several years ago, when I used to visit a forum for female Bioware fans. We were an insignificant (and ofter frustrated, angry and whiny) minority back then, but he still came to talk to us to learn what we wanted in a game romance. The Alistair romance really does have a lot of depth, even more so than the romances for male players. He really does care about the female audience beyond what the job calls for.


I credit Gaider with a large part of Bioware's success. Not to minimize the importance of the great gameplay they design or expansive worlds they create, but it's the characters that I really remember, and keep me coming back. The Bioware forums for Mass Effect 3 actually has a separate forum now for talking about characters and romances, and romance haters aren't allowed. Characters are key, and Bioware knows it.


Out of curiosity: did the romances make you a Bioware fan, or were you a fan of Bioware before the romances?


Well, my first Bioware game was KotOR, and I had no idea romances were in the game when I first played it. I was interested in it because I really liked the dialogue trees type of gameplay I had seen in the Fallout games, so Carth suddenly laying on the charm was a pleasant surprise.

Since I enjoyed the romance in the game so much, I looked for games with similar content, and ended up discovering ren'ai games in the process, and eventually otome games. I was also led to a fansite for the male romances in all Bioware games up to that point, and decided to play all of them to get my romance fix. So it was definitely the romance that made me a Bioware loyalist, but it wasn't the reason I played in the first place.

I had friends who played Bioware games before I did too, casually enjoying their Baldur's Gate II without suggesting I might enjoy the game myself. As it turns out, they didn't really see the romance as a big part of the game, and didn't realize that I might enjoy it as a girl. Oh boys.

#14 Tifa

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 06:53 PM

I don't want to paint it as some misogynistic wasteland or something because it's not. People still have to be civil in the workplace. It's just that guys will get excited about certain things and make their games accordingly. Most of those guys are making games for themselves, or people like themselves.


Well, I guess I wouldn't want a romance written buy a guy who dislikes romances (I'd buy Harlequin books if I did)...

I credit Gaider with a large part of Bioware's success. Not to minimize the importance of the great gameplay they design or expansive worlds they create, but it's the characters that I really remember, and keep me coming back. The Bioware forums for Mass Effect 3 actually has a separate forum now for talking about characters and romances, and romance haters aren't allowed. Characters are key, and Bioware knows it.


I dunno about that. I think the romance add a wonderful spice to the Bioware games, but I was a fan long before I got into the romances. A matter of perspective, I guess. I remember when Baldur's Gate came out (before Gaider) and how well it compared to the other RPGs of the era. The characters were a big draw since the beginning. I do think it's the characterization where Bioware has pushed the envelope the most. BG1 was the first western RPG where people mainly chose their party depending on the personalities, not only the brute strength.

It does look like the characters are the biggest talking point in the Bioware forums. Especially the romanceable characters. :-)

Well, my first Bioware game was KotOR, and I had no idea romances were in the game when I first played it. I was interested in it because I really liked the dialogue trees type of gameplay I had seen in the Fallout games, so Carth suddenly laying on the charm was a pleasant surprise.

Since I enjoyed the romance in the game so much, I looked for games with similar content, and ended up discovering ren'ai games in the process, and eventually otome games. I was also led to a fansite for the male romances in all Bioware games up to that point, and decided to play all of them to get my romance fix. So it was definitely the romance that made me a Bioware loyalist, but it wasn't the reason I played in the first place.


It looks like we both got into otome via the same way, which makes me wonder how many others discover otome because of Bioware (or vice versa). I was a fan of Bioware since their first RPG, but it took me until Hordes of the Underdark and Valen until I started to enjoy the romance content. The Sky romance from Jade Empire was the first one I liked so much it became a major point in the game. After that I decided I have to try out the fan romance mods for Baldur's Gate, and at that point... hook, line, sinker. :-)

I had friends who played Bioware games before I did too, casually enjoying their Baldur's Gate II without suggesting I might enjoy the game myself. As it turns out, they didn't really see the romance as a big part of the game, and didn't realize that I might enjoy it as a girl. Oh boys.


But if Anomen would have been your first Bioware romance, would you have even bothered with the rest? ;-)

#15 Ilinox

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 08:05 PM

It looks like we both got into otome via the same way, which makes me wonder how many others discover otome because of Bioware (or vice versa). I was a fan of Bioware since their first RPG, but it took me until Hordes of the Underdark and Valen until I started to enjoy the romance content. The Sky romance from Jade Empire was the first one I liked so much it became a major point in the game. After that I decided I have to try out the fan romance mods for Baldur's Gate, and at that point... hook, line, sinker.


That's actually what happened to me, haha. I never even realized there were games out there that had male romances for females. I knew there were visual novels, since my brother often played them but for some reason it never occurred to me to ask if they made ones for girls. It was after I ended up playing Dragon Age that I was hooked into the whole romance aspect and started fanatically buying all of Bioware's games like the Mass Effect series, Neverwinter series, and Dragon Age series. Then I happened to stumble upon Hakuouki's art, because of the anime that was coming out, and when I was looking for the artist I realized that there was another whole world out there :P.

I'm the optimistic kind of person who hopes that Bioware's success with including fleshed-out and well-developed romance options to please their female gamers will spread throughout the western gaming industry no matter how mild it is. So long as more games decide to include parts of romance it might just be the catalyst to make someone consider making a game that has a more involved romance aspect in it? Maybe. Or maybe I'm being way too optimistic and hopeful there. It's a pretty large step going from a game that has action/RPG/whathaveyou main focus with romance on the sides to having romance as one of the main focuses.

Sometimes I think the the majority of male gamers could care less about the story and just want their pewpew action, haha. I played a few games like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare before, because shooting games is my guilty pleasure apart from romancing bishounen and I have to say that the story isn't engaging at all in any of those games. It's just pure action. Heck, I even played Army of Two which is a shooting game that involves "moral choices" which weren't really interesting, hard, and they didn't seem to affect much of the game at all. At any rate, I hope that companies like AKSYS which has been bringing over games will do well in its sales to set an example.

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#16 Tifa

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:08 AM

I've always had the feeling that there are plenty of guys who like romance more than they would like to admit. In Bioware forums, it's not just us ladies discussing the love interests, it's guys as well and just as much! Tali from Mass Effect seems to be the most popular Bioware love interest of all time. I kinda find it interesting that the most popular romanceable character for males is completely covered and has a realistically sized chest. It goes against the general wisdom that in order to attract guys, female characters must have skimpy attire and a massive chest.

#17 Yoshibb

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 04:31 AM

Bioware's romances have really developed over the years. It's gone from a few conversations to a few conversations with a love scene to something you'd expect to come out of a fantasy romance novel. I'd suggest for romances in Bioware (there are also same sex relationships but I'll just stick to the m/f) -

1) Dragon Age: Origins - two choices for straight females, has a lot of talking and getting to know the person, first kiss, first night together, and more complicated matters after that night. A lot of games just highlight the sex part, but this game goes beyond that and really highlights the relationship. No spoilers but if you choose to romance Alistair, the story just matches up perfectly with the romance.
2) Kotor: One choice for straight females, Lots and lots of conversations. The relationship feels like a deep connection by the end. You have to play the game a couple of times to see them all. One kiss scene.
3) Mass Effect series: I love my ME1 romance, but it's just not as deep as the games above. In the 2nd game, you get to choose from three males or keep the one you had in the 1st. Unfortunately, there isn't much development for the ME1 romance in the 2nd game. However, with the 3rd game coming out, the romances are supposed to carry over. They've promised more serious relationship problems while dealing with galaxy threatening problems. It's not just about the sex scene, and if they keep their promises, this series jumps up to the top for me.
4) Jade Empire: straight females only get one choice in this game, but I like it. I think it interconnects with the story ok but not as good as the others.
5) Dragon Age 2: Two choices, but the story just seems so disconnected from the romances. Plus, it just doesn't make much sense sometimes how the relationship works considering the time skips feel like 2 weeks went by rather than three years. This game was a bit of step back for them.

#18 Tifa

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:06 AM

For anyone who enjoys the Bioware romances, I'd really recommend the Baldur's Gate saga and the fan romance mods. First of all, the games are still great and BG2 is the best Bioware RPG. Secondly, there are so many romance mods for the games and many of them are really good! It's a bit of a pain to install all the mods (you do have to read the readme files and the recommendations for the installation order) but it's all worth it.

#19 Savvy

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 03:50 AM

Sometimes I think the the majority of male gamers could care less about the story and just want their pewpew action, haha.


Back in 2004 one of my most anticipated games was Max Payne 2, a third person shooter with the tagline being "A Film Noir Love Story". EGM had an entire article about how making love, not just sexual content, but an actual mature romance being central to the story was a huge risk for a game aimed at your stereotypical male gamer, and it turned out they were right. I talked to guys at the time who refused to play it because it focused on love, and the game's sales were much weaker than the publisher predicted. Though action games can have good stories, a focus on love is much more likely to pop up in RPGs.


5) Dragon Age 2: Two choices, but the story just seems so disconnected from the romances. Plus, it just doesn't make much sense sometimes how the relationship works considering the time skips feel like 2 weeks went by rather than three years. This game was a bit of step back for them.


*suppresses barely contained rage*
OK, Dragon Age 2 was such a massive disappointment for me, not because it was a bad game, but because it was such a huge downgrade in the romance department. Origins had so much content for the romances, that when Dragon Age 2 comes along and you can't even chat with your companions when you want, it felt like Bioware was shying away from what made the first so great. They did away with the dialogue tree in favor of the conversation wheel, you get like five conversations with your party members, and the companions get to talk to each other more than they can talk to player. It does not inspire in me hope for the rest of the industry if Bioware themselves are even toning down the romance content.

#20 Tifa

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 03:50 PM

*suppresses barely contained rage*
OK, Dragon Age 2 was such a massive disappointment for me, not because it was a bad game, but because it was such a huge downgrade in the romance department. Origins had so much content for the romances, that when Dragon Age 2 comes along and you can't even chat with your companions when you want, it felt like Bioware was shying away from what made the first so great. They did away with the dialogue tree in favor of the conversation wheel, you get like five conversations with your party members, and the companions get to talk to each other more than they can talk to player. It does not inspire in me hope for the rest of the industry if Bioware themselves are even toning down the romance content.


I don't think it was a matter of Bioware wanting to tone down the romance content. DA2 was just a step backwards in a lot of ways, and the whole game was generally a simplified rush job.

Heh, I just realized the old Alistair Facebook fan page got almost 5000 members! That's actually pretty amazing.




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