When you are creating a game, the first thing that might come to your mind is the gameplay or the game's story itself. While these two are really important in any game, there is also something else that I feel will affect the game's experience.
Before diving in...
Do you have a friend that you have known for many years? Did both of you know each other in the past as well as now? I am betting that it wasn't like so in the beginning. When both of you met each other for the first time, you were total strangers.
The second meeting wasn't as bad as the first. The awkwardness should mostly or at the minimum be reduced as compared to before. Move on to the third and fourth meeting and you find out that both of you have similar interests and keep talking about them.
So what really happened there? Well surprisingly, the more time you spent with your friend, the better the relationship between both of you became.
Does that have anything to do with game design and gameplay? Definitely! For example, when you play a shooting game, and if the game's physics allows it, shooting at a barrel next to a group of enemies will send them flying via the resulting explosion.
In this case, the barrel had an established relationship with its surrounding objects. If in the scenario that it explodes, any objects around or near it will be send flying.
Now think of any game that you know of that has a female character as the main heroine. Does that make any difference if a male character was the main hero instead? Indeed it does! The relationship between the main and the other characters will set different tones for the game, depending on the gender of the main character!
To illustrate it even better, here is an example of an equipment in the world of Small Chronicles, a strategy JRPG that I have been making.
Notice that there is a "Lv. 1" at the end of the equipment's name?
Take a look at the equipment named "Volunteer's Guard" again. Notice that it is now at Lv. 2? This is something unique called equipment growing which you can find in Small Chronicles.
When equipped, your equipment gains experience and levels along with your character. So in essence, the more you use an item, the stronger and better it becomes! Doesn't that sound awfully similar to building relationships?
It's all linked
What does that mean for the game world that you are creating? Well for one, building relationships between the different characters, items and even areas creates an immersive gameplay experience for your players.
In fact, the entire game world that you are creating exists because of the underlying relationships between all of its citizens. Characters build relationships with whom they interact with, with the items they use and with the places they travel to.
Depending on their purpose and nature, items have an inherent relationship with characters via the way they affect them. For example, a health potion has a relationship with characters in the way it restores their health.
On the other hand, areas or places in a game's world could possibly have relationships with characters in the way they affect them. For example, a field in the arctic zone could mean that monsters there are weaker to fire-based attacks. A playable character stepping on magma in a volcanic zone could also have his or her health gradually reduced.
Looking at the underlying relationships between the game world's various citizens could possibly create a more immersive gameplay experience for the player. Just like a relationship with friends, these relationships could affect how all of them exist and/or coexist in the same world.
So what do you think? Do you feel that building relationships in a game's world is important?