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How do you kill a hero?

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I like the discussion of how to bring back a villian in another thread, and I want to flip it around. How do you kill a hero? I''m talking about midgame not at the end. The death of an ally or hero can be a powerful and emotional element to the story, but how can you kill off a character that the player likes and has been developing. For example, while playing FF7 I used Aeris frequently and obtained her final limit break. When she was killed (in one of the most shocking moments in CRPG history) I lost all of her abilities and all of the work I had put into leveling her up. So my question is: how can you kill a player character and not leave the player feeling that they have lost more than a friend? I have some ideas here, but I wanted to see what others think of this.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
The spirit rises up from the dead body and now inhabits the rusty sword of the farmboy in the party. Suddenly, he''s got a really bad-ass weapon :-)

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Alastor, Ifrit, Sparda. Have them inhabit a weapon, as stated by the Anonymous Poster.

Or, have all their abilities transferred to another character. This would work better if you have two main heroes, or a hero and a secondary hero, and the secondary hero was the one who died.

You could have the secondary character sacrifice himself for something. For instance, you have your group fighting a major boss for something you desperately need, beit to get more powerful or a weapon or to save someone. The secondary would sacrifice himself for the betterment of the group.

Also, I''m glad my post could influence another. ^_~

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In Chrono Cross at one point the Hero switches places with the villain, including their elemental alignment, and you lose control of several previously allied characters. It''s not death, but it''s certainly an example of some of the investment you''ve put into the characters and their equipage being lost because of a change in the main character.

Personally I would just avoid killing playable characters in my stories, but if you particularly wanted to do it for some reason... hmm. I do like the spirit-into-a-weapon idea. If one of the other characters was the sibling or best friend of lover of the one who got killed, the survivor might suddenly become motivated to seek vengance and their motivation would make them a better fighter. Or the dying character might bless all the others, giving them some sort of stat bonuses.

A playable character''s death would also be an excellent thing for the player to be able to change when they play the game+, if your design has one; make them able to save the life they couldn''t the first time around, the player would feel really heroic after that. ^_^

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In Final Fantasy 5, this old guy in your party dies protecting you, and all his powers--including levels, etc.--are transferred to his granddaughter, who until then had been an NPC. The game continues, and the only thing that really changes, from a gameplay perspective, is the name and sprite for that character.

In one of the Highlander movies, Duncan McLeod is killed by his brother, Connor, for the express purpose of combining their power to beat another immortal. It''s dependent upon the metaphysic of the world, of course, but from a video game perspective, you get to mourn for a character while retaining all the experience and strength that he had amassed.

In many modern RPGs, characters cycle out of the party on a regular basis. In each instance, all skills they might have had are lost, and often it costs you whatever equipment they carried at the time. This can be irritating, but it''s not unforgivable. Killing someone is just a little more dramatic, is all.

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Let them feel like they''ve lost more than a friend. That will give your story more depth. That was a defining moment in FFVII, and fans would have it no other way. Sure when it happens you''re angry and annoyed and sad. This is what you''re trying to do in a story; evoke emotions.

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Don't ever kill your character off as a "sacrifice" while fighting a "huge boss" unless you make that boss truly unbeatable.

In SW:Knights of the Old Republic, you're on a ship fighting the lead Sith guy, Malak. Anyways, you fight him alone for a bit and before you hit zero HP, your light jedi companion Bastilla sacrifices herself to give you time to escape.

HOWEVER... If you've built your character right, you can actually just OWN Malak solo and when HE reaches 0 HP, Bastilla "sacrifices" herself. Its just really, really stupid to have a character "sacrifice" themself, when you're infact dominating the engagement.

[edited by - GroZZleR on December 13, 2003 3:21:20 PM]

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Of course, for all of this to have any meaning at all (as long as you retain the characters'' value to the party) you need the lost character to build a strong relationship not (only) to the rest of the party but actually to the player.

In Wing Commander 3 - one of the best storylines in non-RPGs IMHO -, Angel, a main character that was part of the game since part 1, dies. Even sooner, there is Spirits'' death in WC2. Both deaths were without any but the most momentary "mechanical" influence on the game itself but impacted the players personally due to the characters having been built up for an entire games'' storyline. On second thought, the Wing Commander games up to the fourth were very good at least in that regard.

If you look at the Freespace games, you have wingmen without personalities that die with an impact on the rest of the mission. You almost always lose an important element of finishing a mission when another friendly ship blows up, but you almost never have any hard feelings about it.

Personally, I think that the death of a party member, especially in a RPG, should be terminal with very rare exceptions. If you artificially try to reduce impact on game mechanics, you lose credibility which is important even in the most f***ed up worlds. Read the sentence "El''Drynn dies but his belongings are easily recovered and his abilities are furthermore available through his brother Rakor" and try to find the absolute horror of just having lost a friend.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
There are quite a few endings in KOTOR, and Bastilla does not have to sacrifice herself at all. It''s just you made some choices in the last level that made sacrifice herself. The first and second time I played the game, Bastilla did not sacrifice herself.

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well if the character not die properly this is not an emotional moment or shock, then the telling became soft, bad bad bad
the purpose of letting level up a character and kill him is to ceate a strong feeling, isn''t that a great trick?? but it have to make sense in the story (feel of a great loss) which is good for the meaning of therest of the story (the player must be rewards in some unexpected way for the loss, but not a replacement of the did character >>> too bad)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
be good
be evil
but do it WELL
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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quote:
Original post by DesCr
Let them feel like they''ve lost more than a friend.



You can''t answer a question by repeating a question, just ask you can''t define a word with the word you''re defining.

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For heroes dying, you either have to script it into the game or somehow prevent the player from just going back to the last save and doing it over again. Or just let them do it again.

I remember in Tactics Ogre, all the important characters had little phrases they''d say as they died, usually an apology or a farewell. I generally reached for the RESET button when I got a main character whacked. I almost wish I was unable to. There are times when letting a character die is sort of good. If you let your sister, the princess, die under specific circumstances, you will become heir and attain the excellent "Lord" class, which kicks a substantial amount of butt.

For non-hero characters, like wingmen or sidekicks or party members, they should have an impact on the game, and their death should likewise affect what you can and cannot do. Imagine if the Marines in Halo had skills other than shooting. You''d have to keep the engineer alive, so he could open the Truth & Reconciliation''s docking bay to let in a Pelican with reinforcements. If he''s dead, you are on your own. In a limited context, that could add depth to the game, and has indeed been done before. Star Fox 64 assigned the three AI pilots "skills" that they''d employ in boss fights. Falco actually hurt the boss, Peppy told you where to hit it, and Slippy showed its energy meter on-screen. If a character had been damaged and forced to retreat, that feature would be disabled.

For purely plot-related deaths, FFVII had it right: Whack them in a cutscene, play some dramatic music, and switch to the next disc. maybe let the player keep their skills somehow, maybe not, but if it''s just to further the story, go crazy with drama, foreshadowing, and CGI.

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Technically, when a hero is killed before the goal is reached, that hero is not a hero but an antihero, which is a different dramatic treatment altogether.

Otherwise, it looks like the answers you have been getting are about how to resurrect a hero.

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My question is how can you kill a playable character (and keep him dead) and not leave the player feeling ripped off. Some of the ideas posted about transferring abilities to other characters are kind of what I had in mind, but if it''s not done right it will feel weak and contrived. The idea of passing on the abilities to a brand new character is pretty much how I was thinking. My goal was to have the hero of the game turn into the villain about a third of the way through. He had inherited his abilities from his father, and after his conversion his father would join the quest to save his son. This way the player would still have those abilities and I would have removed my hero.

______________________________________________________________
"We shouldn''t punish Victor for bringing Sparky back to life."

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quote:
Original post by grahamfr0
My question is how can you kill a playable character (and keep him dead) and not leave the player feeling ripped off. Some of the ideas posted about transferring abilities to other characters are kind of what I had in mind, but if it''s not done right it will feel weak and contrived. The idea of passing on the abilities to a brand new character is pretty much how I was thinking. My goal was to have the hero of the game turn into the villain about a third of the way through. He had inherited his abilities from his father, and after his conversion his father would join the quest to save his son. This way the player would still have those abilities and I would have removed my hero.

______________________________________________________________
"We shouldn''t punish Victor for bringing Sparky back to life."




Well, there''s nothing that isn''t contrived for the most part. It''s the sincerity, emotion and method of killing off a character that permits the audience/player from not being bothered about the degree or noticeability of the contrivance. This is sometimes based on the setup for the character''s actions in relationship to the plot.


It will really be dependent on the way you design your plot. Because that is going to give you the high and low points of when, where and whom achieves what or which goals in relationship to the advancement of the plot aka the achievement of the goal.

What I would likely do, without really taking a look at your plot summary first, is generally advise killing off the character in the obtainment of some important aspect of the plot (a device, magical object, killing off a major boss who would have stopped all advancement at the sacrifice of their life, that kind of thing). It is going to have to be some sort of noble sacrifice of some kind, I would think. Now, if this were a negatively oriented (evil) character, it would be some act of repentance or retribution for being bad after all this time suddenly having a change of heart and embracing good.

The plot design is really going to dictate what will work where and when with whom, and without analysis of that data, I''m thumbnail sketching at best.

Adventuredesign

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Killing off a character is fine if done right. However I''m opposed to just thransfering all the character stats to another new character. Since your negating the whole death all you''ve really done is changed the model. If you kill off the character then keep them dead and whatever they had dies with them.

For instance if your character armed with best most powerful equipment you have get corrupted and joins the enemy then they have lost not only the hero but the equipment they had. It should be done with a great deal of drama and visuls to drive the point home. Or you could just remove resurection item from your game and have when a charater dies thats it there lost forever. That an including a limited number of characters each of which is diffrent with their own strengths, weakness and abilites.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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I'll describe the method used in Fire Emblem 4, it's quite similar to the ideas listed above though:

At about half the game, all your characters will be killed off in a cutscene. Before that, you will have paired your female and male characters up with each other. Before the killing(actually, I'm not sure if anyone died?) the parents will have had a lot of children. The time is advanced 15 years or so. The story of the children begins.

They inherit their parents skills(skills are very important, and you can't learn new ones, except for what you get when 'promoting' your class) and items(the male child will get the father's, and vice versa. Items are also very important, especially the stat boosting items, legendary weapons are nice too ), also they will get some of the parent's holy blood, if avaible.

There is also the possibility that you did not manage to pair up some of the women, in that case you'll get crappy(?) replacement characters.

Oh, and there are more males than females, you'll have to choose the best males.

The level your parents had doesn't matter... I don't really care though, leveling is really fun

--edit--

Oh, and if anyone needs a way of killing of a level 99 character with GOD SWORD and the magic powers of famous Nigerian FATHER DR MR GOD, just have him fall down a set of stairs. Best. Death. Ever.

[edited by - Leffe on December 15, 2003 9:39:56 AM]

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I think the best way to kill off a character would be if the player took a path to kill that character. Like, the game is completely open ended, and some paths lead to other characters being killed. This way, at the end of the game, if the main hero''s best friends have all been killed by the main enemy, it''ll be an amazing 1 on 1 battle since the main hero has found a way to harvest the soul energy of his lost comerades. This wouldn''t necessarily give him/her their magic spells or anything, but it would increase his/her physical abilities based on the other party members abilities. For example, if one character who died was an incredible archer, you would gain his archer skills through his soul energy or something like that. Plus it could also change your character traits. Would make for a very interesting game.

-----------------------------
A world destroyed, a myth rebord. Some truths should remain untold...

Check out NightRise today, coming eventually from DanAvision Software Entertainment.

http://www.danavisiongames.com

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Guest Anonymous Poster
anyone play grandia 2? as marag dies he gives you a seed with all his skill points stored in it that you can share out between the rest of your party.

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I like Magic Card''s idea. A sort of a "Highlander" system, where you can either have an army of forty guys, or kill them down to five heroes (each with the strength of eight men), or compile all their badassitude into one unkillable mensch.

A huge army would have certain advantages and be able to do certain jobs better, like storming a castle or exploring a maze, but that one juggernaut would be a self-contained fury of death, and could infiltrate, assassinate, or just plain beat down anything that comes his way.

If you make it an option, then players could choose how many survive, and so they could decide to play a strategy game, a party-based RPG, or a straight-up kung-fu action game with some RPG elements.

I actually have been toying with a tournament-style action game that starts off with 100 characters, each of whom is possessed of a single super power. Killing one allows you to gain their power, so when there are fifty left, the average ability level will be 2, but it could be one level 51 guy and 49 level 1 guys. That''s naturally unlikely, but it would discourage camping, and could really be included as a multiplay type, reminiscent of Last Man Standing mode. That''s what this idea reminds me of, but on a different scale.

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What if the dead character actually gives the player the ability to explore the world of the dead? That is, he is still playable, but now he''s not with the party, but on the other side of reality.
Another thing I did in Super Ulyanov Brothers (killing the character and later reviving it as a vampire/demon). But I don''t know if it fits the formula of ''keeping him dead''.

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kill them slowly, so the player won''t find it a complete shock.


old age, poison. you get the drift.


If they know in advance that the character is about to plop off, then they won''t be as put off by it.

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