I’m halfway through writing the main gameplay script of Shadowdawn Genesis at this point. The current page count is at 170 mostly including optional dialog between the major characters, so there’s definitely going to be lot of character development for people who like that sort of thing in RPGs. Even if it’s not your thing, the script supports the player having Arashi staying entirely focused on the main story, so enjoy the game how you see fit. 🙂 Expect a lot of humor, drama, and mystery involved in either case!
As far as optional content, I’m taking a bit different approach to how conversations work; because I’m trying to make these characters actual believable personalities, but never take too much control from the player. Sure, Arashi has her own outlook, just like any other character in the game, but the player ultimately decides her character’s personality growth with obvious choices on questions she asks, who to ally with, and who to get closer to, but there are also more subtle choices like merely talking to a particular NPC more often than not, when in the story she talks to them, and others (I don’t want to spoil everything!). All the player’s actions regarding a particular NPC will encourage their friendship to grow, and sometimes NPCs will seek out Arashi for the same purpose based on reputation.
Dragon Age and Persona 3 + 4 have numerical ratings of your relationships to party members and major NPCs, which I personally find adds an unnecessary and exploitable layer of artificiality. Though Persona‘s characters are much deeper and have their own evolving stories, being basically told that you are about to reach the end of a particular side-story or max out a relationship with someone just… bothers me. I’d like the characters of Shadowdawn Genesis to take inspiration from games such as these as far as how well the characters develop, come alive, and build a complex relationship with the player character, but I don’t think the player should be looking at them as checkboxes to complete to really appreciate them. I know there’s a trend to gauge just about every aspect of a character’s progress, but this is one element I can’t get on board with. When I used to play Dungeons & Dragons back in the before days, the RPG heaviest on numbers, the actual role-playing done was volatile by design.
One other experiment in the dialog process is that I don’t believe it’s possible to max out every character’s relationship in a single playthrough. This is probably the most controversial element, as I know for a fact console RPG players have become determined that they have to see absolutely everything in a single playthrough to master the game. Because I want the character development to be more natural, I don’t see how to reconcile these two ideals. Maybe as the Shadowdawn series progresses, the answer will come, I’ll just have to wait to see how people respond to the first game here and work from there.