(This blog post was originally posted to the Heaven's Vault dev blog on Tumblr.)
We were asked on Twitter last week “will Heaven’s Vault include any romance?” We wanted to answer, yes, beautiful, glorious, subtle ones - like Vitti or Goland in 80 Days, like Flanker (if you went there) in Sorcery!…
… but the truth is, right now, we don’t know for sure.
In most games, “romance” is a codeword for “achievement”. How romantic! A platter of persons is served for your delectation and desire; and so long as you lob enough attention their way, you’ll get the sloppy ending you were promised.
Our romances aren’t like that. They tend to emerge more cautiously, a part of the writing process. A remark here, a charming aside there, a meaningful glance, that grows into something more…
(Goland was only “romanceable” because I fell in love with one of Meg’s incidental characters while editing, so much so that I wrote in the extra path. Vitti was Meg’s revenge, balancing out the genders. And Flanker was never intended to be a lover at all, but enough players speculated that we gave it a spin. The “true” run-through of Sorcery! is now, of course, the one that sees you dancing with Flanker right before your love overcomes the mind-altering powers of the Crown of Kings, but don’t tell anyone who read the books that.)
With its 3D art and hand-drawn characters, Heaven’s Vault can’t afford to be quite so fast and loose with its affections - but with the ink script underneath, a cinematographer system above, and no voice acting, we still have the crucial ability to go off on interesting tangents at the last minute.
So waiting in the wings are several potential romances. The unfortunate librarian, the untrustworthy bartender, the mechanicist, the thief. All are tentative right now, waiting to be invited to step a little closer. Some may never be called up. Some may be beautiful. Some merely advantageous. Some may prove to be quite unwise.
One thing that fascinates me as an interactive writer is the way that, although the protagonist might be naive, the player never is. The player has a freedom to be fickle that is never afforded to those who meet-cute on Hollywood screens.
At any moment, you might spin that bad romance to your benefit - you might run Flanker through and take the Crown for yourself. You might be cruel and play your admirer for a fool. Or less cynically, you might commit to following your heart across the Steppes at the cost of Fogg’s paltry bet.
Unlike two characters trapped in a rom-com, whatever you choose, you choose. Something is gained and something is lost - so perhaps you really meant what you said.
There’s so much to explore here. Hopefully El won’t be too busy digging up broken pots to notice.