Official Codex Discord Server

  1. Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.
    Dismiss Notice

Development Info Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter Update #40: Chris Avellone Companion Design Guide, Part One

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, Aug 24, 2017.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    85,400
    Grab the Codex by the pussy Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: Chris Avellone; Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

    After a couple of fairly uninteresting Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter updates this month, Owlcat Games decided to ask Chris Avellone to write an update about his work on the game's companions. As usual, he outdid himself, producing a lengthy multi-part editorial about his companion design methodology. With a bit of cleaning up, it could easily be its own article unrelated to Kingmaker. The first part of the editorial is about companion balance - the fine art of tweaking companions to ensure that they're all maximally worthwhile and useful to the player. Here's an excerpt:

    I understand math is the worst subject for any ex-English Major to discuss with any authority, I know, but “the maths” have so much to do with companion design and companion arcs that it deserves some explanation. Or, in this case, a lot of explanation. Because you know us writers, we love them words.

    That said, here’s a list of system questions we ask about each companion for the sake of math – and why it’s important for narrative to take these mathematics into account when constructing a companion.

    - How does the character systematically fit into this party – does the companion showcase one of the range of races the game offers, especially ones unique to the game and franchise? (Goblins in Pathfinder, for example, exemplified by the companion Nok-Nok in Kingmaker.)

    - Class is important narratively as well – not only for franchise-specific classes (hey, here’s a sample of one of the unique professions in the world), but also because you can’t divorce character class from a character’s backstory or their personality – a druid is likely to have a much different upbringing outlook on the world than a rogue, for example, and you need to know what “career” the companion fell into/choose in order to backtrack through their life to build the reasons they chose it – or why the class chose them.

    - Is the companion progression done in such a way where the introduction makes sense (ex: you don’t want 2 fighter companions at the outset of the game, but you might want 1, and perhaps also a cleric for healing because giving the player a tank or healer early on as a companion is a great idea – even if the player is a member of both classes). In Planescape: Torment, we introduced Morte first, not just for narrative reasons, but because he is a floating shield that can take a lot of damage, can intercept enemies for you (or lure them to you), carry your stuff (he’s a floating backpack), and inform you about the world.

    - Be careful on how you build the companion’s attributes and skill set – they need to follow the exact same rules as the player, and you want to build them in such a way that you don’t make them so specific they can’t make use of certain items in the game (extreme example – but if the paladin companion isn’t built in such a way that she can make use of the best paladin sword in the game, then you’re going to have some angry players – also, it goes without saying, that if the PC is a paladin, the PC gets the best paladin sword).

    - It’s an excellent idea to give companions unique traits, unique inventory items, but take care that the companion is not “built” incorrectly (ex: he has higher attributes than the player would be allowed to have) – it’s irritating for a PC to traverse a game with a companion who has the same class as they do but they happen to have an unfair rack of stats, which means the player ends up being second fiddle, math-wise. And players will calculate each point and do comparisons, it’s a given. So mind the rules, even if you’d like to move points around.

    - A dash of systemic spice is always welcome. What I mean by this is that the companion may have some item, trait, ability, or twist on their skills that complement their personality. It can be a diary or a space hamster. It can be a unique weapon only they can use (just don’t make it better than any other weapon a player can get, and try to give it room to grow).

    - Be careful in assigning skills and attribute points to companions so that you’re not dumping points in skills and attributes they can’t even use. Example: Some games don’t allow companions to “speak,” which often means that giving them Charisma bonuses or adding to their Charisma is useless because it doesn’t do anything – if that’s the case, you might want to expand any attribute or ability that only the player can use but the attribute is shared by both the player and companion (this can be solved in other ways depending on the game design – either never allowing Charisma to be added to, or re-designing the dialogue interface – what I call “Tony Evans style” – so everyone can participate in a conversation and each one can use their stats).

    - Balance the placement of the companion so that they are introduced in an area where they systemically shine (not just narratively, but combat, exploration, and tools-wise). Make sure that when the companion is gained, he’s useful immediately and if possible, he’s awesome in the immediate environment. Example – during your adventure, you might be trapped in a field of explosive spells and deadly traps, and Nok-Nok suddenly walks up (perhaps walking across the mine field in his own special trap-detecting way). Perfect. You have your own goblin mine-detector (one way or the other).

    - But don’t solely have the placement be something that is a challenge or obstacle, introduce reward with it that the companion can help you reach (you may have encountered a locked chest you couldn’t open earlier in the map, or have a chance to unlock doors and cages in a mage’s storeroom). Maybe you’re a fighter who just found a wicked dagger called The Onyx Vertebrae which happens to be a dagger +2, +4 with Backstab – it’s a good weapon, but you already have a better sword. Still, when Nok-Nok appears, you know exactly who to give it to. After you teach him not to hold it by the blade.

    - It’s to your benefit not to let the player get too comfortable with their roster if you’re introducing a lot of companions or introducing companions late in the game. Some players “lock-in” their party and are resistant to change depending on when you introduce a companion (this is why Final Fantasy games often have specific intros for each companion where you are forced to journey with them long enough to get used to them, then they’d be free to be removed from your party – it’s more like forced exposure, but it’s done with the purpose of showcasing that companion).

    - Even death involves math – an extreme example, but the tragedy of having decide to save one of two companions is made cheaper when one has a skill set that nobody else. And it’s worse if that same skill grants the player the ability to gain special items, access to more chests, or access to secrets and bonus areas vs. the generic “fighter”. The choice then becomes less a role-playing a choice vs. “well, if I lose him, I’d lose my ability to pick locks anywhere in the world.”

    - Lastly, the companions should reinforce or interact with the key systems in the game as well – for example, the player’s Kingdom. Having companions or not having certain companions should cause (and does cause) changes in one’s kingdom in Kingmaker, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst – each companion needs to have that “system kingdom arc” spelled out, as when writing them, you’d need to foreshadow and explain personality-wise and dialogue-wise why certain events may occur.

    So let’s take our squat little maniac goblin Nok-Nok as an example and examine his schematics. He’s franchise-specific (goblin), he fulfills a role rarely held by other party members (rogue – a class that I find not many people I know seem to take as their primary character, but every seasoned RPG’er knows they always want a rogue in the party to open stubborn locks and get to places only thieves can go as long as it’s not the player that has to waste the skill points). Furthermore, he’s evil-alignment-friendly and can round out a part of evil characters although arguably his trait of being doggedly loyal means he can bond with other alignments (though they may not appreciate this), and he has a few goblin and personality-specific skills that Owlcat and I have kicked around for him being a goblin – some examples (not set in stone) – he may have the ability to gain ugly pets (goblins have the worst “pets,” but Nok-Nok can help you gain them), or he may gain unusual “trophies” (junk) that bolster his confidence as he regards them as relics, and if possible, he may even have the ability to have a unique trap disarm that uses his body as a shield for the damage – and trap damage resistance as a result of being the victim of this ability once too often.

    Furthermore, his motivations are very much intertwined with the religion of the world and the religion of the goblins – and then takes it a step farther by wanting to be part of the goblin pantheon as their fifth god. He has impacts on your Kingdom (and on this, I can’t give spoilers). So there you go!
    Good stuff. It's still unclear to how much of this game is actually going to be written by Chris, but he's definitely putting a lot of thought into it - and leaving us with a invaluable chronicle of his design philosophy. Coming up next in Part Two, Chris will describe his process for developing narrative outlines and character arcs.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 7
    • Participation Award Participation Award x 3
    • incline incline x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
    ^ Top  
  2. l3loodAngel Proud INTJ Patron Edgy

    l3loodAngel
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,450
    If you want to help an old man - do it for him,
    If you want to help a novice - do it with him,
    If you want to help a master - go away and don't interrupt,
    If you want to help a fool - you're a fool yourself.

    I just wish that more people would just move away and let MCA do the fucking work.
     
    • Fabulously Optimistic Fabulously Optimistic x 1
    • Creative Creative x 1
    ^ Top  
  3. Ravn7 Educated

    Ravn7
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2008
    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    Warsaw, Poland
    I don't like the graphics. The game is made for hardcore RPG fans and looks like a cartoon.

    I'd prefer 16-bit. Couldn't be so damn colorful.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • hopw roewur ne hopw roewur ne x 1
    • retadred retadred x 1
    ^ Top  
  4. Jack Dandy Arcane

    Jack Dandy
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Messages:
    3,028
    Location:
    Israel
    Divinity: Original Sin 2
    Why won't Avellone just be a complete writer on a game instead of an advisor
     
    ^ Top  
  5. Morality Games Arcane Patron

    Morality Games
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    5,060
    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Same reason why Lucas and to a lesser extent Spielberg flipped to the production side of film making. He doesn't like working that hard.
     
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • it is a mystery it is a mystery x 1
    ^ Top  
  6. gulagdandy Novice

    gulagdandy
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2017
    Messages:
    34
    Location:
    Southern Euope (AKA Best Europe)
    This is a good idea in theory, the player is going to interact with the companions more than with any other NPC so if they are each representative of a different race/class it highlights those differences and allows the writers to expose the player to the lore.

    However, it can become pretty heavy handed to the point of being immersion-breaking (for me, at least). In PoE, for example, every companion is a different race, going as far as to give you a
    Show Spoiler
    ”robot”
    companion once they run out of normal races. This might have worked with better writing, but still, it looks like too much of a coincidence and too forcedly diverse. 90% of the NPCs you interact with in the game are humans, but your party is some kind of multi-species Benetton commercial.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
    ^ Top  
  7. molotov. Novice

    molotov.
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2017
    Messages:
    36
    Uh... that is why PoE companions were so dull and boring, none of them followed those "rules" - perhaps only Kana, Durance and GV.

    Well... let's hope that now, after asking 2 million dollars to make ONE companion, they will make a decent job.
     
    • WTF am I reading WTF am I reading x 1
    ^ Top  
  8. Rivmusique Arcane Patron

    Rivmusique
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2011
    Messages:
    3,456
    Location:
    Kangarooland
    Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    People don't go for "skill-god" as their first character?
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • it is a mystery it is a mystery x 1
    ^ Top  
  9. Excidium II Self-Ejected

    Self-Ejected
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,866,260
    Location:
    Third World
    Boycott this game.
     
    • Agree x 2
    • Edgy x 2
    • Brofist x 1
    • Disagree x 1
    • Salute x 1
    • [citation needed] x 1
    ^ Top  
  10. TheSentinel Arcane

    TheSentinel
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2015
    Messages:
    5,355
    Location:
    Ommadawn
    Mr Avellone pls stop being a slut and go be a lead writer again.
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
    • :M :M x 1
    ^ Top  
  11. InspectorRumpole Prophet

    InspectorRumpole
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1,025
    Too late, already backed this.

    U mad bro? :D
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • Rage Rage x 1
    • it is a mystery it is a mystery x 1
    ^ Top  
  12. cherry blossom Arcane

    cherry blossom
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,187
    So has this thing got anything going for it or is it really the real-time shovelware it looks like?
     
    • Edgy Edgy x 1
    • it is a mystery it is a mystery x 1
    ^ Top  
  13. Excidium II Self-Ejected

    Self-Ejected
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,866,260
    Location:
    Third World
    It has respectful representation of queer people.
     
    • Funny Funny x 5
    • :M :M x 1
    ^ Top  

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.