Dating mechanics

I’ve posted a bunch about the coding process of this game, and a bunch of WIP stuff for art and music, but I haven’t really yet talked about the game itself and its underlying mechanics.

One of the more interesting parts to design and build, to me, was the actual gameplay behind the four* different dateable guys, and I want to talk a bit about their paths, requirements, and how their characterizations impact their reactions to your decisions. 

Spoilers follow, of course, and I really recommend playing the game at least once without spoiling anything about the characters beforehand, because getting to know everyone is part of the point. Follow the cut to continue.

* Four?

The four dateable guys, in roughly increasing order of difficulty, are Jake, Dan, Juan, and James.

The first three are fairly straightforward to date, as long as you just make sure to spend time with them at every available opportunity. However, each has a few specific mechanisms at play.

The first important mechanic to note is that your character has five different personality traits. These traits influence your character’s actions during the week “interludes” (the portions of the game where you just get a summary of the week’s events with no ability to make choices; usually Monday through Thursday). For example, if you’re shy, you’ll react more favorably to Jake’s reluctance for physical affection. If you’re more fearless, you’ll react more favorably to Dan’s interest in public sex. Reacting favorably in these interludes increases the affection of the appropriate guy after you’re dating. It’s worth noting that Juan’s stats are not affected by your personality, but rather only by your decisions within the game.

These personality traits are determined by your actions and choices in the first couple in-game weeks of the game; mostly by how you react when you meet other people. After that point, they become mostly fixed (the idea being that your character’s personality is now established). A few in-game choices are also influenced by these, but their primary purpose is to influence affections of the four guys.

As far as individual character mechanics. Jake is the most straightforward to date. You get a major boost to his affection early on if you manage to come out to him (of which there are two opportunities), with the idea being that his crush on Nikhil is lessened as he spends time with you and realizes that he actually has a chance with you. Otherwise, he values your patience and likes when you, too, are reluctant to be affectionate in public.

Dan is probably the second easiest character. He’s driven both by a love of sex, but also of friendships. In particular, he likes it when you’re inclusive of others, especially during sex. Meeting him earlier in the game gives you more opportunities to get on his good side, but it really doesn’t matter if you keep hooking up.

Juan has a requirement other than simply getting on his good side: He has to realize he likes you, freak out about it, and come to terms with that interest. There are four points in the game where this can happen, if you’ve grown close enough: If you go swimming alone with him (when he borrows your shorts), if you’re left alone in the movie theatre, if the two of you go running together, and at the frat house after the party.  If you manage to avoid these four “freak out” points, but get close enough to him, he’ll come out to you earlier in the game instead. (Also, amusingly, if he does freak out but you start dating Jake before he works up the courage to ask you out, Adam will panic over the whole situation. There’s a collectible associated with that.) Otherwise, he generally values your patience with him and puts a great deal of weight on public appearances, in particular with his frat brothers. He reacts more strongly to your in-game decisions than the other guys.

James is the hardest to romance, which seemed appropriate. There are two non-obvious scenes you can miss with him, and you must hit at least one of them to be able to date him: The first requires you to have explored campus earlier in the game (and therefore know where the building he wants to meet you at is located), and the second requires you to talk to Janet over IM (so you’re around to respond when he messages you). But even after dating, James is also the hardest to impress. Whereas conversations with the other guys always have “good” choices that increase their affections, James has a few mandatory conversations where the best outcome is a net change of 0 (and you can instead lose dozens of affection points based on your choices). However, James also has the easiest requirements for personality. (Basically, as long as you weren’t a dick at the beginning of the game, that part will be fine.)

As you’ve probably assumed, there is also a fifth, hidden dateable guy. I don’t want to spoil any of that now, but some of the above mechanics information is extremely important to this path. 🙂

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