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AG Theme of the Week 17- The More the Merrier

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For this week’s theme, I will be discussing games that have multiple playable characters.
These games are particularly interesting because they can enable the designers to introduce new gameplay and design mechanics, as well as different ways to tell a story.
I will give examples of 3 very different games in this category, and how they use the multiple characters to introduce fresh and new ideas.

Day of the Tentacle

In Day of the Tentacle, you play as one of 3 characters. The whole game takes place in the same physical space (the mansion from The Maniac Mansion prequel), but each character is stuck in a different time period. Bernard is in the present, Hoagie is stuck 200 years in the past, and Laverne is sent 200 years into the future.
All three characters need to work together to go back to the current time and save the day. What is cool about this system is that each of the characters has their own inventory, so they don’t have access to the FULL inventory of items in the game. This makes the game much more difficult, because the solution for a puzzle in the past might need an item from the future or vice versa, and the characters need to be constantly exchanging inventory items. Another really neat idea introduced in the game is tied to the different time periods. Because the game takes place in the same space, sometimes a solution to a puzzle in the present or the future involves a puzzle that manipulates the mansion in the past. (Think Back to the Future)

Botanicula

In Botanicula, you play as 5 creatures who are brought together to stop dark creatures from destroying their tree. In this case, each character has a different ability and some puzzles involve trying the ability of each character to get to the solution.

Heavy Rain

In Heavy Rain, multiple characters are brought together in a serial killer story. Each of these character has a different role to play in the story. You get to control each of the characters during different parts of the game, and their stories intertwine, so you get to experience the story unfold from their different perspectives. Also one neat thing is that any of the characters can die in the game, and the game continues and takes a different path without that character in it.

There are many other games with multiple playable characters that I haven’t mentioned, like Broken Sword, Thimbleweed Park, or The Book of Unwritten Tales just to name a few. What are your favorite “multiple player character” adventures? And how do they make use of the multiple characters to introduce new gameplay or story telling (if at all)?

     

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I have been thinking about Botanicula many times and I have reached the conclusion that you do not play multiple characters. Most of the actions in the game do not represent an extension of the abilities of one or more character, but an omnipotent power of nature. For example, clicking on a leaf to make it fall or clicking a toad to make it sing - it is not the character who does this.

I would therefore say that while you are following a particular group of characters, the character you are playing is actually God or the power of Nature. It makes more sense to think of The Will of Nature helping the characters seen to reach a goal rather than the characters themselves doing it.

     
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I’ve enjoyed most of the multi-player games I’ve played (as far as I can remember) but amongst my favourites are:
Puzzle Bots about 5 tiny robots who escape their habitat to go walkabout in the factory they were created in. To overcome obstacles & progress it is necessary to switch between the bots to utilise each of their abilities i.e. Bomchelle can blow things up, Kelvin can set things on fire with his flame thrower, Ibi can swim & tow objects, Hero can carry & place items & UltraBot can push things.

Resonance in which four switchable protagonists work together to prevent research falling into the wrong hands. Unlike those in Puzzle Bots the different professions of the characters are for the most part more advantageous than perhaps individual skills i.e. Anna being a nurse is able to access patient charts & medication in the hospital, Bennet the detective has some access to records in the police station, Abbot as a journalist has useful contacts plus a gadget that he can use to hack into computers & Eddings as a lab assistant has some knowledge of the research & more technical aspects of a lab computer. 

Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island again a game with switchable characters each playing through a separate scenario but in this game they can telepathically? ask each other for advice i.e. Papa Doc knows all about Vooju if e.g. another character comes across Vooju symbols, Jane knows how to tie knots & I can’t remember what info you can get from Blue Belly!   

     
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Shifting perspective can add alot of flavor and HR did it great

Clock tower had multiple protagonists, it also helped alot bending in endings
Danganronpa, cannot say much without spoiling Smile
Same goes for Zeroescape, Japanese AGs love to play with changing leads
Brothers, if it wasnt for two , we would have not felt
LastGuardian , genius way to control both with Joypad

     

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Having multiple protagonists can certainly add a lot to a game IMO.

My personally favourite of how to do this is probably BoUT, at least right now.
Perhaps because the protagonists don’t all meet until relative late in the game, is being dragged into the story in different ways, and allows you to experience elements of the story that wouldn’t feel natural with any of the other characters. Instead of just having a group of characters that all know each other in advance, and really act more like a group than multiple different characters.

One thing I however have noticed about these kind of games, is that they need to be rather large to work. If you have a relative short game, then you simply don’t spend enough time with each character, and it can end up feeling rather forced, instead of something that is natural for the game. In a short game you need to focus more, whereas you can spread out more the larger the game is.

     

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nomadsoul - 11 September 2017 10:06 AM

Shifting perspective can add alot of flavor and HR did it great

Clock tower had multiple protagonists, it also helped alot bending in endings
Danganronpa, cannot say much without spoiling Smile
Same goes for Zeroescape, Japanese AGs love to play with changing leads
Brothers, if it wasnt for two , we would have not felt
LastGuardian , genius way to control both with Joypad

In Brothers
********* BIG SPOILER AHEAD: YOU ARE WARNED *******
I love how when you lose your brother, the controls become more difficult to match the feeling of loss. It’s an amazing way of conveying emotion Smile

Also as far as Japanese playing around with lead changes:
How about the Solid Snake, Raiden switcheroo in MGS 2?

     

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chrissie - 11 September 2017 05:59 AM

Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island again a game with switchable characters each playing through a separate scenario but in this game they can telepathically? ask each other for advice i.e. Papa Doc knows all about Vooju if e.g. another character comes across Vooju symbols, Jane knows how to tie knots & I can’t remember what info you can get from Blue Belly!

I played this one and I liked the idea that all three characters are linked telepathically, and they can ask each other for help. As far as Blue Belly, he is the expert on food and cooking Grin

     

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Its hard to remember all, and i missed some

Until dawn,KZ0 and Edith Finch

I mean comeon, dont need to tell the importance

SoccerDude28 - 12 September 2017 01:32 AM

In Brothers
********* BIG SPOILER AHEAD: YOU ARE WARNED *******
I love how when you lose your brother, the controls become more difficult to match the feeling of loss. It’s an amazing way of conveying emotion Smile

Also as far as Japanese playing around with lead changes:
How about the Solid Snake, Raiden switcheroo in MGS 2?

Immediately after the ending , i hugged my brother for 3 minutes, and he was like wtf?
Mission accomplished
, i think Fares will do something out of the box too in A way Out

I liked it in TLG because you can control both either by ordering while away or sitting on Toriko and basically riding it , considering its an animal adds alot of pathos
I found it later that you can make him more responsive by feeding him extra barrels, removing spears all the time and petting him

     

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SoccerDude28 - 12 September 2017 01:34 AM
chrissie - 11 September 2017 05:59 AM

Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island again a game with switchable characters each playing through a separate scenario but in this game they can telepathically? ask each other for advice i.e. Papa Doc knows all about Vooju if e.g. another character comes across Vooju symbols, Jane knows how to tie knots & I can’t remember what info you can get from Blue Belly!

I played this one and I liked the idea that all three characters are linked telepathically, and they can ask each other for help. As far as Blue Belly, he is the expert on food and cooking Grin

Laughing I should have guessed!

     
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In Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb, the main character, Riff the fox, travels with two other animal characters, but, like in Botanicula, they get used only occasionally.  In The Feeble Files, you can switch off with the robot Sam to accomplish certain things, but the gameplay is mainly with Feeble.

     

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Great theme… I do love change of pace that is brought with multiple protagonists (or really, one protagonist + 1 or more side characters). There’re also games like The Whispered World, that are your “run of the mill” one protagonist games, but feature a sequence where you play as a sidekick that is also a welcome addition.

Ceville had quite a nice and unique disposal of three different characters. Day of the Tentacle, like mentioned, is unique in that regard that the three characters were basically at the “same place” in different time, but the interaction between them was huge. I’d like to see more of that, though it’s not easy to come up with the similar design - in reality, most of the multiple characters games have you playing portion of the game with one character, than switch to the other (Broken Sword 3, Gabriel Knight 2...) and that’s fine, but “intersection”, or even interaction between them and switching on the fly is what’s spicing the things up.

     

Recently finished: Four Last Things 4/5, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout 5/5, Chains of Satinav 3,95/5, A Vampyre Story 88, Sam Peters 3/5, Broken Sword 1 4,5/5, Broken Sword 2 4,3/5, Broken Sword 3 85, Broken Sword 5 81, Gray Matter 4/5\nCurrently playing: Broken Sword 4, Keepsake (Let\‘s Play), Callahan\‘s Crosstime Saloon (post-Community Playthrough)\nLooking forward to: A Playwright’s Tale

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Schizm is another game where you play as two team members. I love the game, it is in my top ten favorites, but it has some egregious flaws and the way it handles the two characters is one of those flaws. It is very awkward dragging both characters around so they are both in the same place when needed to cooperate; it is part of the theme of the game so it is not a gimmick but it does feel like that at times.

     
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Like many people it seems, I enjoy having more than one playable character. It gives a feeling of increased freedom, as you can pretend to be not just someone else, but a bunch of someones, which is especially exciting when each of them has a well-defined personality or specific abilities. It’s also nice when a mostly one-character game lets you play as someone else for a while, as it gives you the feeling you discover the world through a new set of eyes.

When pulled out right, it can make for enticing puzzles, with characters working together to get the right item or piece of information. Thimbleweed Park had potential for this kind of collaboration, and some of it was exploited indeed, but it could have been put to better use, with more puzzles involving two or more characters, or simply by not making information automaticaly shared between all of them without any explanation.
In other contexts, it can give us differents pieces of a story that nobody in the universe of the game could hold at the same time, without the characters ever having to meet - like in Still Life, where you alternate between Victoria in 2005 and her grandfather in the 1920s’, or even more so in Dreamfall: Chapters.

However, I’m not a fan of physical puzzles involving several characters - Sherlock Holmes games have several of those, you have to switch between Holmes and Watson to pull levers and lift gates, or to push crates and cross beams. Okay, maybe that’s because I’m not a fan of physical puzzles in general as I’m bad at spatial orientation. But speaking of Sherlock Holmes games, I love the sequences in which you get to play as Toby Laughing .

     
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NickyLarson - 13 September 2017 06:12 PM

in Still Life, where you alternate between Victoria in 2005 and her grandfather in the 1920s’

that was too good to be forgotten

     

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No mention of Gobliiins yet?

Punch, magic, pick up.
3 characters with different skills is a great formula. Also applies to Lost Vikings

     
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wilco - 14 September 2017 04:41 AM

No mention of Gobliiins yet?

No mention of Maniac Mansion either Smile

The much maligned Psychic Detective puts a twist on “multiple characters”. You play a man who is able to jump into the minds of others and see events from their perspective, while the game proceeds in real time. It’s a concept which has interested me and I own the game, but have never been able to get it working.

     

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Now playing: The Journey Down
Recently finished: Last Day of June (7.5/10) The Initiate (5/10) The Wardrobe (4/10) Tacoma (7/10) Darkside Detective (7/10) Aporia: Beyond The Valley (5/10) The Low Road (6/10) The Lion’s Song (6/10) The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker (6.5/10) RiME (6/10) The Fidelio Incident (6.5/10)

(6=good, 7=recommended, 8=must play, 9=classic, 10=masterpiece)

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