Agents controlled by the game system that follow and help players as they move through the game environment.
Like in other endeavors, it may be easily to succeed in games if one has help. While these may be other people, games can also provide characters and other entities, commonly called Companions, that follow the players progress and try to help. They may be gained and lost during gameplay or may be incorporeal presences only giving advice, but provide players support in overcoming problems or offer new ways of trying to do so.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Using the pattern
- 3 Consequences
- 4 Relations
- 5 History
- 6 References
- 7 Acknowledgments
Many roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS allow players to get trained animals, hirelings, mercenaries, etc. with their game masters permission. The control of these are typically shared in some way, with game masters having the final authority but doing as the players' order as long as it is does not clash with the Companions' natures.
The side-scrolling arcade game Shadow Dancer provides players with a canine Companion that can help attack enemies that are otherwise difficult to get to. The action-adventures Fable II and Torchlight also provide players with a pet that accompany them in their adventures. They can help in combats as well as provide some additional support, such as identifying treasures and being able to exit dungeons to sell loot respectively.
The games of the Fallout series allow players to convince various inhabitants of the post-apocalyptic world to join them in their quests (how many and which depending on what game in the series). These companions provide different types of competences, will only agree to collaborate with the players if they behave in certain ways, and do for some of the games have their own story lines and quests.
The advisors present in the Civiliation series can be seen as a form of Companions. Like the player, they have no direct manifestation within the game world but they do follow players' progress throughout the ages and provide tips and tricks.
Using the pattern
Designing Companions consists of selecting characteristics for Avatars, Characters, or Units so that they can function as Helpers to players. To do this, they need to have either Mutual Goals or Continuous Goals and Supporting Goals with a player. They may be able to work towards these through having the same Abilities as the players' Focus Loci have, or have different ones to fill different Functional Roles - especially so if these are Privileged Abilities. For Companions with anything else than a trivial internal state, i.e. those making use of the Characters pattern, one also has design choices regarding which Equipment and Skills to provide them with.
Companions are often Non-Player Characters with all design choices this infers. However, since they often are in Cooperation with players it is more likely that they support Transferable Items than is the case for other Non-Player Characters. Since these are likely to be interacted with more than other NPCs, it may be more important than otherwise to make them into believable Agents. This includes creating Dialogues, considering questions of Loyalty (in both directions) and Internal Rivalry (especially when one can have more than one Companion, introducing memberships in different Factions, and deciding to which degree, if any, they should have an Open Destiny. Own Agenda is appropriate as well although it can conflict with being a willing follower - this may be solved by instantiating it through Companion Quests that are Optional Goals (see Fallout: New Vegas and the Dragon Age series for examples of this). Besides other ways their fates can be unfolded, Companions may turn out to be Traitors and Enemies to create Surprises and Tension. Regardless of the specific ways that Companions can behave towards the player's Character or Avatar, how he or she behaves to them can easily be made into Character Defining Actions (examples of this can be found in the Mass Effect series and the Witcher series) and affect future behavior of the Companions.
Companions provided with computer-based Algorithmic Agents are able to constantly react to the players' actions but they can also be controlled by Game Masters. The latter provides more flexibility to support Never Ending Stories and handle unexpected situations so that Awareness of Surroundings, Context Dependent Reactions, and Open Destiny can be maintained and one can avoid breaking Diegetic Consistency.
Companions are not players per se, since their definitions is that they should accompany a player. Even if they may be more powerful than players in some areas, so that different Functional Roles can be filled, players do need to have some Privileged Abilities in relation to the Companions. These abilities may at a minimum be to have the power of actually completing goals and controlling the group's Movement (so the game doesn't play itself and players can become Spectators) but typically include many other abilities so players have an Exaggerated Perception of Influence compared to the Companions. For these reasons, Companions differ from AI Players used to fill Teams. Although Companions could be used to help players from states of Helplessness, this is not solution seen often in game designs.
Gaining Companions can be as simple as striking up a Dialogue with them or being part of a Predetermined Story Structure that is enforced through an Ultra-Powerful Event (see the Mass Effect series for the latter). It may also be a Reward for completing Quests (see for example Fallout: New Vegas) or an Investment if paid for with Resources. If players have to choice which Companions to have due to the number of Companions being limited or due to hostile opinions between them, they are a form of Resource. This is also the case if they can die and the pool of possible Companions are a Non-Renewable Resources - allowing Friendly Fire on Companions can make this more of a problem and thereby provide more Challenging Gameplay. Some roleplaying games, e.g. GURPS allow players to create Companions as part of creating their Player Characters, this make the Companions an example of Player-Created Characters. While gaining Companions can provide players with access to their Privileged Abilities, the Fallout series takes this one step further by awarding specific Privileged Abilities through perks that are added when Companions are gained.
As Agents noticing player behavior, Companions are well-suited to provide instructions and comments about how to perform actions in the game (see for example The Legend of Zelda series). Although this may break Diegetic Consistency it may can provide Smooth Learning Curves without ruining Engrossment in the Game World.
An Secondary Interface Screen is typically required if players are to be able to give Companions instructions on how they should behave or trade Equipment with them (e.g. the 'companion wheel' in Fallout: New Vegas).
As Non-Player Characters which have a reason to be in close proximity to players' Characters or Avatars, they provide a natural focus for Predetermined Story Structures. These can be part of the main storyline of a game or as Sidequests (see Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas for examples of this).
Having Companions leave Parties due to players' Actions Having Diegetically Social Consequences is a way to both modulate how Parties work and create events which are likely to be main events of the overall game story.
Companions are Helpers to players' Avatars or Characters in Game Worlds, and may make up supporting members in players' Parties. The use of them when they are controlled by Algorithmic Agents can be seen as a way of creating Cooperation and Teams although there is only one player in the Teams. As Companions often are partly defined as Characters, they are also often examples of Non-Player Characters and can often be used to fill the Functional Roles than that players' Avatars or Characters do not fill. When this is done by having specific Abilities the player doesn't have, this is an instance of providing New Abilities or Privileged Abilities by proxy. By providing help, they can be seen as a form of Handicap Systems (especially if they are connected to a system for Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment) and can support Casual Gameplay. They also provide a target for players' Emotional Engrossment besides the Player Characters themselves.
Since players are more powerful than their Companions, even if this is only through their control of these Companions, the use of the pattern is one way of providing an Exaggerated Perception of Influence compared to other inhabitants in a Game World. They are often needed for, and modulated by, a game's Thematic Consistency.
Agents, Casual Gameplay, Enemies, Emotional Engrossment, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Functional Roles, Handicap Systems, Helpers, Investments, Loyalty, New Abilities, Non-Player Characters, Parties, Privileged Abilities, Predetermined Story Structures, Resources, Rewards, Smooth Learning Curves, Surprises, Tension, Thematic Consistency
with Algorithmic Agents
Can Be Instantiated By
Can Be Modulated By
Abilities, Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Character Defining Actions, Companion Quests, Dialogues, Equipment, Factions, Game Masters, Internal Rivalry, Non-Renewable Resources, Loyalty, Open Destiny, Own Agenda, Player-Created Characters, Privileged Abilities, Quests, Secondary Interface Screens, Skills, Sidequests, Testing Achievements, Thematic Consistency, Traitors, Transferable Items
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
New pattern created in this wiki.