David Gaider, Senior Writer at BioWare and a major creative force behind the Dragon Age franchise, recently posted a frank essay on romance sub-plots in RPGs on his blog . The manifesto, spotted by Eurogamer , explores the issues romanceable party members present, and explains why he doesn't advocate too much openness when it comes to who can get with whom.
"I dislike the idea of every character being sexually available to the player," Gaider admitted. "Not that it cheapens them, necessarily, but it would lend itself towards their objectification. Take the first Witcher game, for instance—I enjoyed many things about that game, but the collectible sex card mechanic? Ultimately it rendered every female character in the game into a puzzle to be solved ... As soon as the player is aware it's possible, you are in fact encouraging them towards a certain type of behavior."
Despite this, he expressed his openness to exploring greater variety in romances through other methods.
"Adding an element of failure, for instance, or by having not all characters be available to all player characters (they're attracted only to certain types, for instance)," he wrote. "Adding different types of romance: tragic romances, romances where your partner cheats on you, romances where the character is already involved in another relationship, characters that don't know how to relate to someone else on a romantic level or aren't interested in such."
Warning: Mass Effect 3 spoilers beyond this point.
"Would doing romances in that way actually be popular? Probably not," Gaider concluded. "Take the resolution of the Thane romance arc in ME3, for instance. There are people who did (and still do) think that, having selected Thane as their romance, they should have been able to cure him of his illness and make everything better. Why? Because he's their romance, and they're entitled to have it be a happy one. Regardless of whether you think they are justified in feeling so, they do. I don't think plausibility is really what they're looking for.
"So that would leave us at an impasse… some might appreciate such an approach, and some might even enjoy the stories, but I suspect many who are looking for romance in their story are hoping for something more fulfilling… and would likely be put out if their choice ended up getting the short end of the stick (from their point of view) compared to some of the other romances."
We'll probably have to wait until Dragon Age 3 to find out just how this musing may affect the way BioWare romances are written. Until then, I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic about a certain red-headed Orlesian bard who lives about a 20 GB download away.