The last news post has had quite a bit of activity, and I've been responding more often than usual myself... though unfortunately my responses may have come across as dismissive or stubborn or something like that, which doesn't bring me any joy...
I've spent several days though planning the plot in detail, and there's a whole load of it that I can't describe in news posts like this or the last because otherwise I'd be spoiling the whole story. I built the plot from the middle; the end bits are meant to be a conclusion of the middle bits, and the start is meant to build up to and foreshadow parts of the middle (and of course the end).
Keeping that in mind, I managed to narrow down the possibilities for the starting bit to two that would fit with the rest of the plot that's to come...
But when presented with an option A and an option B, it seems that many people took the chance to suggest 'option C, this thing I just thought up now without knowledge of the rest of the plot'.
While I suppose there's some value in fresh ideas in a general sense, it's somewhat frustrating hearing people just write about whatever comes to mind like that because, well, I *have* spent days devotedly planning, coming up with loads of ideas build on the backs of others and dismissing many in the process, and it's sort of like people feel that their spontaneous ideas will instantly be of equal value or something like that... when they don't really fit with the rest of the plot.
I don't want to dismiss anyone's efforts or contributions as if they're completely worthless or unwanted or anything, and I appreciate that you all commented at all, if you did, but... well, I suppose I just don't like having to say 'no, I can't do that' over and over again when people suggest things that can't actually fit because they didn't know enough about the future events when coming up with their ideas... It's not pleasant to be dismissive, but I wouldn't like to lie and say that I 'will consider it' or something like, and it's also difficult integrating ideas that, uh, sort of weren't asked for and which don't fit with the rest of the stuff that's to come... I don't like disappointing people though! D:
Anyway, I'll give you examples of what I mean:
One common suggestion was a compromise between the two ideas where you play as Francis, but you can choose his sex (I suppose you'd be Francis or... Francesca or something?!/1). It seems like a neat and obvious solution to the problem, but it can't really work because Francis's planned personality and lines are written from a male standpoint; you can't just transplant words from a man into a woman's mouth and expect them to sound just as fitting. But more importantly, there's a load of plot stuff that specifically requires for him to be male for any of it to work... and it's sort of integral to the later events so it couldn't be changed without ripping apart my plans, which took a while to get where they are now so I don't want to do that.
Another suggestion was playing as Francis, but having a battle earlier on, in the middle of or before all the rambling dialogue. This couldn't work either though because Francis hates monsters and has *never* trained them, ever; he couldn't remember a past when he ever did and he wouldn't just spontaneously decide to start before someone had taken quite a bit of time to convince him (and if a situation came up where he'd need to fight, he'd just flee instead; any 'unavoidable fight' situations wouldn't fit with the plot). Changing it so that he DID train them wouldn't make sense; the tragic accident that prevented him from ever training them happened when he was in the process of designing the machine that clones them, so it was impossible for anyone train monsters before that.
Flashbacks were suggested too; I could put Francis right into the action and then cut back to the earlier stuff at a later time. While I like flashbacks as a narrative device - chapter 2 contains an extended 'flashback' of sorts - they can't just be used willy-nilly... or at least I don't feel that they can, anyway. They work best for certain kinds of characters or situations, like when someone's on the run or something or has some kind of troubling past that led them to where they are; they don't work too well with the 'starting a new adventure' kind of setting. Then of course there's the matter of knowing what monsters you'd even have if you started from a later point; it'd be like starting from Pewter City in Pokemon... Which starter would you have? What party would you have? And so on.
So basically, uh, the two options that I presented were the result of a lot of work, constructing things from the rest of the plot that I'd written, rather than just random ideas I'd spontaneously thought up and which were interchangeable with any other ideas...
I think I've grown to realise also that I may have actually started the news post and poll in the first place just to get reinforcement... I think I'd subconsciously chosen one of the two options even though I said I was open to either, and was just hoping for comments that would say that I was right in doing so, without directly being asked if it was a good decision, or something... y'know?!?
Obviously that isn't a good idea, but as I say, it was subconscious; I didn't deliberately intend to do things that 'dishonestly'.
The one I was considering most, I suppose, was the idea of playing as a silent 'rookie archaeologist'... so it's a shame that it seems that the older idea is more popular, though I can understand why it is; it is quite novel while the other's more generic.
I still feel like I might not have explained myself clearly though; I still wonder if people thought that the silent protagonist option would result in less plot or dialogue, when it really wouldn't; there'd be just as much, but it'd just be presented slightly differently. It's just that your character would be a silent watcher rather than one of the key characters in each scene.
Anyway, there are a few reasons why I'd be more inclined to go with 'option B', so I'll mention a few.
One big one is that it's the newer idea. The idea of playing as Francis is something that I've been working with for months now, and the fact that it wasn't working out as well as it could is what made me even think of changing things at all... I mean, I have a lot of experience with actually playing through the game as him (though there's not a lot of plot stuff in it at the moment), and it just doesn't feel right somehow...
The newer idea is built on the old, taking what worked and pruning away what didn't, while the old idea was, well, raw and unrefined. Or something.
There's also something rather *personal* about a monster-catching game... I mean, there's a good reason why most of them would have silent protagonists. It's because it's your team rather than your character that is important, and they reflect your personality, which might not fit with a more defined character's appearance or mannerisms. It'd be like having a cold, hardened, misanthropic assassin who talked about how bitter he was all the time, and you played as him and made him train things like female Jigglypuff and Skitty and so on. (Did you know that the plural of any Pokemon's name is the same as the singular? I learned this recently! So you'd have 'one Pikachu' and 'two Pikachu' rather than 'two Pikachus'. Isn't that interesting?!? o_O)
It'd be *amusing*, but it just wouldn't fit... Similarly, Francis's personality would make him more inclined to train some monsters over others, but the gameplay obviously wouldn't reflect that.
Being a 'generic avatar' puts more focus on your party, in a way, and this IS a monster catching game at its heart so that's probably important.
I prefer the intro part I've come up with for the rookie archaeologist, since it's obviously more dynamic, but I can't use Francis for the same intro bit without redefining a whole lot of stuff about him and ripping other parts of the plot to shreds, which I don't want to do. If I'm to use Francis as a protagonist, he'd 'need' to start off as a hermit who's gradually convinced to go on an adventure, and before he is convinced, there's no way he'd do any monster battling. If I use Francis as an NPC, however, he doesn't even need to do any monster battling, and I can shed his 'tragic past' or present it in a different way. So Francis as a PC would have no business being in some ruins at the beginning, while a rookie archaeologist would. Yes. No other things make the sort of coherent sense that I want the plot to make, again because of future events that I can't describe here.
I don't want to put females off playing the game. There are precious few girls here as it is, as the recent polls will attest, but the Pokemon community seems to have quite a few... so some of those might find Miasmon and be put off by it if they have to play as a crotchety old man. The feature in Pokemon Crystal to play as a girl probably brought many females to the series, or at least pleased many who were already fans, so I'd rather try to cater to them if I can by letting you play as a female protagonist. It must be annoying being a girl and having to play overly masculine games all the time.
Obviously the pacing is better at the start if you're a young rookie exploring a ruin, and you can pick up on some crucial plot stuff in a more intriguing way. It would make the game longer, too. As I've said, I can't just transplant the same events into Francis' story because it wouldn't work without completely redefining what he IS, which I am not comfortable about doing.
It's probably much easier to write dialogue for a character who's meant to be sort of clueless, wet behind the ears. Things can get sort of contrived when a character has to explain obvious information to an old man who was the one who came up with that information in the first place; it'd be like playing as Einstein and having people explain how E=mc2 to him or something, which would be awkward.
The reason that a character who is some kind of rookie or newbie is so popular is because it directly reflects what the player is at that time; it is a useful device.
Of course, Francis would be the one explaining it to others, but there'd be no need for him to do so; I'm specifically thinking of archaeology-related stuff that makes up much of the plot, and since most of the characters are archaeologists, they wouldn't need to tell eachother basic stuff all the time; it'd be assumed knowledge. And I've never been a fan of the sort of exposition that's meant to seem like some casual reminder rather than an explanation ("as we all know, the ancients liked egg-based meals and worshipped a spider in the sky, so I thought..."); it always seems clumsy and awkward to me. It'd be like two Biblical scholars talking amongst eachother and bringing up the fact that Jesus was crucified in enough detail to make it clear to non-experts what they were talking about, even though no non-experts were present... or something. o_O
There are many other reasons too while the 'young rookie' idea is better... but I think I've gone over enough of them here to make a case.
I still haven't 100% decided to go down this route yet, but it is what I am moving towards... which makes me feel very awkward because I've basically just asked for your opinion then said 'I don't care, I'm doing what I want anyway even if it seems you don't want it!!'
I'm really sorry about that, since it seems like a horrible thing to do and I take no pleasure in it, but I do think that from a technical standpoint, it would make the most sense... and I suppose I have a different vantage point for assessing each idea's worth than you all do. Or something. Sorry again anyway!
I'll still be including all the stuff that my games are known for though, like plot and character development and such, so don't worry; just because you won't be playing as Francis doesn't mean that you won't find out his story or anything!
(Hmm, I'm saying all this now, but don't expect it to be the final word on the matter; I could change my mind again after experimenting with this idea and coming to the conclusion that I preferred the other... Only time will tell what will happen. o_O)