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NekoKnight

Scripted Deaths for Player Characters

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Fire Emblem has always been a series that draws players in by their lovable cast of characters, often more than even the story itself. One of the most heart-wrenching things to experience while enjoying media is seeing a beloved character die...but only if it's done well. So how has Fire Emblem handled scripted (or story mandated) deaths? Generally it's NPCs, which can certainly have an impact but is it possible to make a impactful death with player controlled characters? Let's look at examples of where this has been done before.

Spoilers for scripted character deaths for SD, SoV, Genealogy, Fates, and TH
 

Spoiler

-In Shadow Dragon, you must choose to sacrifice one of your early units. This adds some more weight to the story but probably not felt so much by the player because they just choose the person they like the least.
-In Shadows of Valentia, you can effectively spare/kill either Sonya or Deen but again, you just choose the person you like the least to die. It's always going to be Deen, guys.
-In Genealogy of the Holy War, most of the first generation die. Definitely a bold story direction.
-In Birthright, Kaze will die if he doesn't have enough support points with Corrin. A decent idea, but there is no guarantee the player will care about Kaze.
-In Revelation Scarlet will die as you are entering Valla. You barely even get to know her.
-In Three Houses: Azure Moon, Dedue will die if you don't complete his paralogue. Happens off screen.

I'd argue that most of these attempts fail to really capitalize on making the player care. If you can choose who dies, you just throw your least liked character under the bus. But if you don't get to choose, then the character gets shafted which sucks for their fans. How could we implement this to make people actually care about a character dying? I have an idea.

What if a character was scripted to die (let's say in chapter 18 of a 25 chapter game) but that character would be selected via a hidden game mechanic. To ensure this is a character people have actually been using/getting personally invested it, they could make it so that the character with the most support points with the lord character will die in some battle, affecting the protagonist in a profound way. The character could get a CG image depicting their death and multiple script changes could be made to accommodate what that person's death meant to the lord. What was their shared past? What dreams did they have? How will the protagonist choose to honor their memory? Things like that.

This death would technically be under the player's control to force, but you could make it difficult if the support points were a hidden value rather than the listed CBA support rank (in the same way that paired endings in Three Houses are determined by invisible support points if multiple pairs have an A ranking). The death could happen to anyone and would probably be someone that the player was close to.

What do you think? Do you never want scripted player character deaths? If they are scripted, should you be able to choose who dies or should an element of randomness be added to keep people on their toes?

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What if i play blind, i am soloing or almost soloing whit that unit and then i lose it on friggin chapter 18 when there is no chance to train everyone else? This is pretty easy to happen if, say i am using mostly the lord and the Jeigan.

In general i am againist playable characters deaths because the hit you take in gameplay is not always justified by the "story improvements", unless you have an expy joining right after like Kratos and Zelos in Tales of Symphonia, but if a random person dies, you have to design at least a sub per class.

It's much better to just kill a predeterminated character and then write them in a compelling way. It's not guaranteed that the player would care, but sometimes the player does not care particoularly about their S rank(case in point, me). And i can already watch the discussion "SPOILER: don't have any support conversation before chapter 18 whit any character except for one you hate".

 

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Personally, I'm all for it from a narrative standpoint but  personally try to collect as many units as I possibly can when playing through so being forced to lose one, no matter who it might be and even if I don't use them, would make me feel very much "Aww, man this sucks." The only exception I can really say I'd approve of it for is if the character canonically survives and returns in a sequel a-la New Mystery.  There is also of course this to consider:

4 minutes ago, Flere210 said:

What if i play blind, i am soloing or almost soloing whit that unit and then i lose it on friggin chapter 18 when there is no chance to train everyone else? This is pretty easy to happen if, say i am using mostly the lord and the Jeigan.

In general i am againist playable characters deaths because the hit you take in gameplay is not always justified by the "story improvements", unless you have an expy joining right after like Kratos and Zelos in Tales of Symphonia, but if a random person dies, you have to design at least a sub per class.

As well as tweaking the dialogue for the character deaths to all thusly be written and portrayed in-character rather than having someone that's a little too self-absorbed go off and potentially sacrifice themselves for example.
 

2 minutes ago, Flere210 said:

It's much better to just kill a predeterminated character and then write them in a compelling way. It's not guaranteed that the player would care, but sometimes the player does not care particoularly about their S rank(case in point, me). And i can already watch the discussion "SPOILER: don't have any support conversation before chapter 18 whit any character except for one you hate".

Kaze only requires an A Rank though.

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Now THIS... This is a topic I really wish was more explored. That said, it would be hard to pull off. What if people don't care for the lill-off character? What if they just support to kill off a fodder?

What I LOVE is the concept of the dialogue changing based on who dieWhile it was explored with Tellius, and Echoes had mourning dialogue, I honestly feel like death is something the other characters should have more of a reaction to- ESPECIALLY if the dying character is a good chapter 1 unit who fought valiantly with the hero till the end. I never liked how other games were like, "Oh, Kent died? Whatever, continue the mission." I get that it's a war game, but in this case, Lyn, Eliwood and even Sain are treating the fallen soldier like he was just a faceless mook tather than an actual person, ignoring his death entirely.

Edited by GlitchWarrior

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Shadow Dragon's one was the best, really forced you to make a painful choice. Shame it's in the prologue, the only narratively interesting part of the game.

I believe they originally wanted Jagen to die at some point in the original game but they decided against it. Honestly, killing the Jagen would work great for a FE game. Kick the crutch from under the player and see if they can walk. Great way to make an impact on the player, both in story and gameplay. Langrisser 1 did this quite well imo.

I guess they sort of did that with Gunter but that happened way too early and he wasn't that useful in the first place.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, DukeBox said:

Shadow Dragon's one was the best, really forced you to make a painful choice. Shame it's in the prologue, the only narratively interesting part of the game.

I believe they originally wanted Jagen to die at some point in the original game but they decided against it. Honestly, killing the Jagen would work great for a FE game. Kick the crutch from under the player and see if they can walk. Great way to make an impact on the player, both in story and gameplay. Langrisser 1 did this quite well imo.

I guess they sort of did that with Gunter but that happened way too early and he wasn't that useful in the first place.

 

 

The first Langrisser killed the Jeigan at 25% of the game, just in time for when the lord get good. I used to not used him at all because "wasted exp" but the latest time i tried to play more efficiently and he was actually very good at setting up kills for the other characters. While that game is a mess, i still considered it one of the best iterations of the Jeigan archetype.

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This is one of those things that works better in a novel than a video game. How many people use Flayn in their Crimson Flower runs? Killing off a party member, especially if there's no way to avoid it, is just a good way to make sure players don't invest in that character. And on the blind run when you don't know that character is going to die... well, you're just gonna get pissed you lost all of that experience.

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On 10/17/2019 at 11:03 AM, NekoKnight said:

In Shadow Dragon, you must choose to sacrifice one of your early units.

Only on Normal. If you play on H1-H5, Frey gets chosen for you without you even realising it.

Quote

Do you never want scripted player character deaths?

Yes, because it's a dick move on the game designers part. "Oh, you spent the time and effort to train up Bob? Well, the joke's on you because we're just going to kill him off in a cutscene, and there's nothing you can do about it!" Ha! Ha! Ha!

Edited by NinjaMonkey

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Seems like the consensus is that people don't want to pay the price in gameplay for a narrative pay off. Fair enough.

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Nobody has brought up TearRing Saga? Because it really should be, even if it is solely a gameplay death.

TRS gameplay spoilers:

Spoiler

Zieg is a playable character who can be recruited in Chapter 5. This game has 40 chapters total, even if the number of mandatory fights is actually a bit higher. The greater half of these chapters belong to the lord Runan, but the lesser half is given to the co-lord with a wholly separate army (barring several points where you can swap characters and inventory between teams) named Holmes.

Zieg has:

  • A horse, in a game with dismounting
  • He can use Lances and Axes while mounted, losing the Axes when he dismounts.
    • Zieg comes with the cursed Devil Lance, whose 73 uses and nice stats practically belong to him, because he is immune to the possible damage backfire.
  • Zieg has great bases, comparable or better than what everyone else is having at the moment.
  • His non-HP/Mov growths range from 30 to 55s in Str/Skl/Spd. These are ABSURD in a game where most characters would be satisfied to have a 35% growth in a core stat. Multiple 50s is absolutely unheard of.
  • He 5 starting Skills: Nihil, Frontier Fighter, Adept, Wrath, and Paragon. Plus he learns Canto for moving after attacking while mounted. Most characters would be happy with eventually getting three good skills, Paragon and TRS's bonkers Wrath are extraordinary in a base kit in itself.

 

Zieg is playable through Chapter 8, at which point Runan meets Holmes and the two split their forces. Zieg can be placed with either. The game then alternates between Runan and Holmes until the completion of Chapter 23.

After Chapter 23 however, when Holmes meets with Runan again, Zieg suddenly stops being playable. Forever.

However, that does not mean you shouldn't use Zieg. Zieg is a great clutch unit while he is around, putting him with Runan is an excellent idea. And by the time Zieg leaves, you should have a bunch of units trained or can be trained (Holmes has limited use of skirmishes and a world map for grinding).

  • At the very least, Runan's last fight before he reunites with Holmes is Chapter 19, and in this fight, he can easily recruit Raphael, a Royal Knight with poor growths. But...:
    • He has a mount, and maps where he must dismount are fairly rare until you get to the very end
    • While mounted, he can use Swords, Lances, Axes, and Bows- all the physical weapons
    • He has great bases: 41 HP, 17 Str, 16 Skl, 13 Spd, 12 Lck, 13 Def. All in game where 22-25 is are the non HP/Lck/Mov caps.
    • And, Raphael starts the skills:
      • Pavise: chance of +20 Def when attacked 
      • Urbanite: +1 Mov and +10 Hit/Evade on maps classified as "urban".
      • And he has that crazy-good Wrath. Which to explain, means if Raphael is dropped to 30 HP, he is getting a 26 Crit boost, 51 at 20 HP, 75 at 10 HP. As long as your current HP is less than 100%, you get some Crit.

Therefore, you'll be able to survive without Zieg. Nobody can quite match his insanity, but you should have good enough substitutes. Unless you want additional challenge/don't like the guy/are obsessed with every drop of EXP, you can totally use him a bunch to make things easier on yourself.

 

 

-------

Katri also stops being playable at a certain point, but she was only a staffbot (and semi-Manakete), which won't be too bad a loss if you recruited enough of the game's other staffers and distributed them properly. Albeit, I can actually see the player missing most of them.

 

Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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It’s certainly something in concept that’s cool but frustrating in exucution. Maybe just removing your Jagen at a certain point (maybe when they’re falling off in use or they’re supposed to clearly be your best unit intentionally) and actually kill them it would be fairly impactful.

I think I heard a certain game in the series almost does it but I’m not entirely sure. 

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2 hours ago, SubwayBossEmmett said:

It’s certainly something in concept that’s cool but frustrating in exucution. Maybe just removing your Jagen at a certain point (maybe when they’re falling off in use or they’re supposed to clearly be your best unit intentionally) and actually kill them it would be fairly impactful.

I think I heard a certain game in the series almost does it but I’m not entirely sure. 

I agree that it should probably happen to the Jeigan. But they also need to go to more effort to make that Jeigan likeable. They're usually pretty boring. 

 

I think from a narrative perspective, the best time to do this would have been with Sothe in Radiant Dawn. He's undergone this dramatic character transformation. He's damn near essential for clearing Act 1. He has a strong and romantic bond with his lord, including a built in A support. Ripping him away from the player, perhaps by having him defend Micaiah from Ike (or vice versa), would have been emotionally devastating and would have made Micaiah's actions more relatable. 

Edited by Etheus

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42 minutes ago, Etheus said:

I agree that it should probably happen to the Jeigan. But they also need to go to more effort to make that Jeigan likeable. They're usually pretty boring. 

 

I think from a narrative perspective, the best time to do this would have been with Sothe in Radiant Dawn. He's undergone this dramatic character transformation. He's damn near essential for clearing Act 1. He has a strong and romantic bond with his lord, including a built in A support. Ripping him away from the player, perhaps by having him defend Ike from Micaiah, would have been emotionally devastating and would have made Micaiah's actions more relatable. 

And my reaction to this would have been "thank GOD they're not forcing me to use one of my least favorite PoR characters anymore".

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All I can think of here is Aeris in FF7. Can anyone say they played that when it was new and didn't know it would happen, and how they reacted? I think if FE were to do this it would get the same reactions.

Also OOF at that Sothe idea.

Edited by Dragoncat

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9 minutes ago, Dragoncat said:

All I can think of here is Aeris in FF7. Can anyone say they played that when it was new and didn't know it would happen, and how they reacted? I think if FE were to do this it would get the same reactions.

Also OOF at that Sothe idea.

The fact that the idea elicited an OOF from you really goes to show that it would have the emotional impact on someone.

 

(It certainly would on me. I love RD Sothe).

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Tear Ring Saga has a ton of subplots that may potentially result in a loss of allies. Sometimes you can potentially get them back, sometimes you can't.
On a similar note, in Berwick Saga a large part of the cast works as mercenaries and will only fight if you pay them regularly.
And that's a good thing.
I know the focus of the franchise these days is to suck up to the player in the most blatant and shameless way possible. So in that context, this might be a weird thing to say but: Characters should be actual characters. They shouldn't be unconditionally loyal and throw their live away for someone they have no reason to care about. They should have their own goals and only align themselves to the hero's cause as long as it goes hand in hand with their own objectives. And when that's no longer the case, they should have no trouble leaving.

Edited by BrightBow

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46 minutes ago, Etheus said:

The fact that the idea elicited an OOF from you really goes to show that it would have the emotional impact on someone.

 

(It certainly would on me. I love RD Sothe).

RD Sothe is cool and I like his relationship with Micaiah, although it could be sad.

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3 minutes ago, Fire Brand said:

Well, Eyvel in FE5 is your Jagen who could very likely be removed from your party for the rest of the game. And that worked well, imo. 

How I'd forget the drama of Eyvel (even if she can rejoin for the final fight)? How others had left Eyvel out of here is understandable (Thracia is rough, cruel, and obscure), I should not have.

Thracia does give you two Jagens, but that doesn't stop the Manster Arc from stealing both from you, and hiding Dagdar's re-recruitment behind a finicky timed boss capture.

Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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I don't like the idea, the idea of killing off a major character is better suited to a novel where the author can ensure that the reader invests in the character and gets to know them intimately before they die. J K Rowling does a good job of that in Harry Potter

For video games the player drives the plot and story and the writers taking back that control to do anything does not make me feel anything about the game. The plot of a game should be a case of nudging the player from behind in the direction they (the writers) want to go instead of setting up traps ahead of the player like Dick Dastardly. Killing off a character for plot takes an avenue of control from the player.

Killing off playable characters would either make me stop playing, sacrifice someone I couldn't care less about or shrug my shoulders and carry on. To avoid being cheap such a death would need to be telegraphed meaning I'd not play as them and wouldn't care. Best to keep it in plot like a certain character from FE10

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2 hours ago, Interdimensional Observer said:

How I'd forget the drama of Eyvel (even if she can rejoin for the final fight)? How others had left Eyvel out of here is understandable (Thracia is rough, cruel, and obscure), I should not have.

Thracia does give you two Jagens, but that doesn't stop the Manster Arc from stealing both from you, and hiding Dagdar's re-recruitment behind a finicky timed boss capture.

Thracia take away  your jeigans early when enemies can reasonably be fought with level 1 units and give you like 3 perfectly usable characters right off the bat. The problem is killing later in the game a character that the player may jave relied on for the whole game, leaving no chance to train a replacement.

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14 hours ago, Fire Brand said:

I really like scripted deaths in Fe.

Which is why you have "Keeping units alive is my passion" in your sig... :rolleyes: If you like to keep units alive so much, then why aren't you against this?

Edited by NinjaMonkey

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Just thinking on it for a moment, does a character death mean having to loose everything from that character?

To recall a certain Final Fantasy, somebody playable dies, and immediately afterwards, another person steps in, inheriting that dead character's equipment and Job experience. The character has stats that differ from the one they replace, but that is a very minor thing and barely affects gameplay.

But for Fire Emblem, that doesn't make total sense. Fortunately, there are cases of semi-inheritance.

  • When in the DS version of Final Fantasy IV a character permanently leaves, you can obtain an Augment I think they're called. The Augment is usually related to some skill the character had.
  • And in the entirely unrelated Grandia, the temporary characters when they leave give you items allowing you to transfer their accrued weapon/magic experience to another of your choice. This sounds very feasible for FE to do.
Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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7 hours ago, Dragoncat said:

All I can think of here is Aeris in FF7. Can anyone say they played that when it was new and didn't know it would happen, and how they reacted? I think if FE were to do this it would get the same reactions.

This is a really positive example of what I'm advocating for (more or less, I'm proposing an element of randomness so players won't easier quarantine a doomed character and stopped caring about them because they know they will die). I don't think anyone has ever said "I dropped FF7 because the devs screwed me over by killing a character I liked using".

I suppose if gameplay inconvenience is the main gripe people have with this idea, they could implement a system where you get a replacement soldier with more or less the same abilities. That said, with the number of characters one gets, I don't think it would be impossible to keep playing with the death of one character.

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