Mask of the Rose is a game about love – and one of the first things you can define about your character is whether you’re looking for long-term romance, shorter connections, friendship, or found family.
So why write a game about love and then let the player opt out of romancing anyone?
Right now we’re craving stories not just about love or romance, but about all kinds of friendship. The surprise mutual understanding with someone from a very different background. The loyalty and support of a close friend who is more like a sibling. The attraction that can’t lead to anything permanent, but is nonetheless a source of joy.
In Mask of the Rose, achieving a trustworthy, enduring friendship can be a final gameplay goal – which gives us more room to illustrate the complexities of those relationships.
We want to establish a clear understanding with the player from the outset.
Asking the player what they’re looking for right up front means the player knows what kinds of opportunities to expect while playing, and they have a commitment from us about what we’re not putting in front of them.
Meanwhile, we have a steer on how to understand the player’s intent. That opens up some room for roleplaying that can sometimes be hard to achieve in a dialogue tree – like letting a player have playful or teasing dialogue lines without being misunderstood as flirting.
We want Mask of the Rose to acknowledge ace and aromantic experiences.
We’ve had years of feedback on romance storylines in our previous games, and we’re drawing on what we learned from those. Not everyone experiences attraction, or experiences it in the same way; not everyone is looking for a romantic connection. And some players simply prefer not to play romantic storylines.
If Mask of the Rose were simply a romance simulator, it might not be possible to build it in a way that would speak to those players. But it is a game about love, which is a different beast – and we have a lot of kinds of love story to tell.
By building the game this way from the ground up, we hope to ensure that the experience feels complete and satisfying for players regardless of which set of options they play.
We want to write about characters with their own agency.
Romance game plots and mechanics sometimes imply that the other characters are just waiting around for the opportunity to date the protagonist. That’s especially a risk in games (like ours!) where all the romance-able characters are open to dating the PC, regardless of the PC’s gender.
We wanted to avoid a story where the other characters seemed too passive or too dependent on the PC, while at the same time offering players the widest range of possible romance options.
So every major romance character in the game has at least one alternative relationship line that doesn’t involve the player character – a story that lets them connect with someone else and find a different kind of happiness. None of your friends has an easy road to love, and as the player, you can help or hinder their relationships. But you can’t control where they fall in love in the first place.
More pairings means more opportunities to show characters in interesting ways.
The extra romance storylines – the ones where the player is playing matchmaker or clearing away difficulties – let us show the characters in fuller depth, as their other relationships expose new sides of their personalities. And every possible pairing in Mask of the Rose is an achievement in its own right.