I’d like to see more different kind of stuff, so this idea of replaying as different characters is interesting to me. And one thing in particular is that I don’t agree with the judgment that there always ought to be one story with one character (not that anyone said that, exactly). It can be interesting to explore a world with different characters, or see how different characters fulfill a quest with basically the same shape, which is what Heroes seems to do (at least at first). It seems to me that there are a few different things you can do with a choice of PC:
–Use preset characters to change up some of the puzzles because the characters have different physical abilities. One character may be big enough not to need to climb on anything to reach the high shelf, but they also can’t fit through the confined space, or cross the rickety bridge, or something. Or there could be more general techniques available to one character or another, if it’s that kind of game (thinking of a combat-based game as we were talking about earlier). This is more like what Ron said about character classes, but not necessarily invalid for that.
–Use preset characters to change up some of the puzzles or interactions because NPCs react to the characters differently because of who they are. I just played through a little of Heroes – one quest and a bit of another – and one of the guards who was completely faceless to one character was known to another character, and someone he could talk to. I’m assuming that will have a big effect on how the game moves forward. Or, in my I-0/Rameses example, I imagine playing as Tracy Valencia would open up different solutions to the quite difficult “telling these jerks where to stick it” puzzle (actually I never solved that).
–Use preset characters to change some of the available paths, because there are some things the PC just won’t do. This can be tricky – having the PC flat out refuse to do something can be annoying – but if the character and world are well-defined enough it could be motivated. For instance, in Kevin Jackson-Mead’s “Waker” from the IntroComp (spoilered because I give away the solution to the entire intro),
Maybe you could play either as Vel or the high priest. The high priest is so bound by tradition that he would never smash the cryosleep coffin, but he knows the combination so he doesn’t need to. But his code of tradition could become more restrictive later.
And in that case the different codes of conduct would be part of exploring a world. Or imagine solving a mystery as a straight-arrow cop who would never do certain underhanded things, or a seedy private detective who has no such scruples but who also doesn’t have the badge that’ll get him through certain locked doors.
All these seem like they could increase replayability, in that you can wind up doing things over again with a few different challenges, and maybe gain new insight into the world of the IF. Though this isn’t going to make things as replayable as in games where you can go through a new set of random encounters with a completely different skill tree.
–Use a dynamic sense of how the player plays to restrict options. I don’t like the idea of using a predetermined character to lock the player out of solutions they might consider immoral (or the opposite, as Hertz seemed to suggest); if you have multiple paths and they’re well hinted enough, players will try to find the path they want to. But you could try and highlight solutions that are in accord with the way the player’s been playing so far. Another, trickier thing to do would be to have the gameworld evolve so as to close off some solutions – after you shoot someone who’s running away, people react so as to keep you from using the straight-arrow solutions.
–Just change the reactions the PC gets from NPCs, and the way things are described, and the way the PC does things, in a way that doesn’t necessarily change the puzzles but might affect how the player sees them. Imagine a game like Galatea where you have several different PCs that can talk to your NPC, which each of them coming up with more or less tactful ways of framing their quips, or coming up with different information when they tell her things, or just eliciting different reactions because she perceives them differently. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Anyway, I can see a concern that these things would be a lot of effort which might best be put into other areas. But I like the idea of using different characters to explore a world as another way of using IF, in addition to having stories driven by a particular character.