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Ketchaval

Cold, bleak, evil characters and worlds

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I was playing Silent Hill 2, and a character said "you don''t care about me do you, all you care about is your dead wife". This made me think, well that reflects the player/gameplay - they are trying to get to a goal (ie. the end). Also, (arguably) games don''t do a good job of creating believable characters. So how about making games which take advantage of these current weaknesses, and make characters that you -don''t care about, landscapes which aren''t about humanity warmth and life, but dark and bleak. Thoughts? Do you think this approach has potential?

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I am DMing a Pen&Paper group in a Dark Sun scenario. It''s pretty much that style, the landscape pretty much all inhabitants are (have to be) purely goal oriented. When working on some supporting NPCs, I realized that this world can be played pretty much in an extremely capitalistic - and modern - way, without all the thees and thous, with just a "whaddayawant?" attitude.

Characters in this world have the goal to get other peoples'' goods (and sometimes life) without getting into anything resembling a relationship since that would come with responsibilites which in turn may lead to some work. It''s the literal world "in which friends are hard to come by".

For additional references, the "Fallout" games and Mad Max scenarios are IMO good material to study "dark and bleak" worlds. At least the games demonstrated that such a setting has quite some potential. If you want a more present time or futuristic setting, have a look at the "Beneath a Steel Sky" game which is available for free and also features a not really huggy-feely world.

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I''m all for making dismal game worlds. The player doesn''t need to be treated like a child, and he doesn''t always need to be the shining hero of some happy little Japanese village.

But I don''t know, I''m mainly talking about some sort of role playing games here, where a lot of people just want to escape reality. I don''t know what you mean when you ask if the idea has potential, but I''m sure some people like those kind of games. Better not expect to get rich by selling them, though.

I myself enjoy it when people don''t try to become my friends, or act like I''m their chum already. I also enjoy dark scenery, but most games have these candy textures because most people find them pleasing to the eye. I think Soulbringer got it right. But then again, I didn''t really see all that much talk about it. I also think Diablo 2 had a nice atmosphere in the first act. The coarse graphics had much to do with this, but unfortunately other people failed to see this, and so they demanded higher resolutions, 3-D models and all that stuff.

Try Gothic and Soulbringer (as mentioned before) for some ideas. You could also play Gothic II, but I think it''s happier and friendlier than the original. Gothic is good for meeting unfriendly NPCs, while Soulbringer is good for walking around in dreary surroundings.

Anyway, there isn''t all that much to be said here, just play the games and you''ll see.
On a side note, this post was all about dark worlds and not strictly believable characters.

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This is long, and it might be a little off topic, but this thread got me thinking about second-order stories, that is, stories in which the characters directly address the medium.

There are a couple ways to do this. One is the fairly cheesy tongue-in-cheek version epitomized by "Duck Amok", where Daffy Duck is erased and redrawn throughout the course of the cartoon. Hilarious. Conker''s Bad Fur Day ended with the game "freezing", and Conker having a snide conversation with the "programmer" via a command line interface. That sort of thing is easy, but cheap.

Metal Gear Solid featured a villain, "Psycho Mantis" or something, who started the fight by changing the visual settings of your TV (fake, but clever), did a quick psychoanalysis of the player based on how frequently he had saved and what other games were on his memory card, and finally "tapped into" your controller so that he could anticipate Snake''s moves by intercepting the player''s inputs. You eventually had to plug your controller into the second player''s port to "break his link" and defeat him.

But maybe you can go even deeper than that, and build the entire story around the presence and inevitable mindset of a video game player.

There was a run of Animal Man comics in the 80s that were extremely good, and one of the critical elements in the story was the whimsical "God" who was writing the comic. Through the course of the story, Animal Man eventually met the writer, and they talked about how horrible it was that Animal Man''s family had to die, and ultimately the character blamed the author (rightly) for all his suffering and tribulation.

What if you designed a video game in which the NPCs eventually noticed that there was something weird about this "hero" guy. He runs into a lot of walls, for an invincible warrior, he always asks the same dumb questions, and when you think he''s dead, he just shows up again fifteen minutes later, usually stronger. His behavior shifts wildly from looking in every pot and rooting through people''s houses to sprinting through town without even waving at you. He''s incapable of complex conversations. It''s like he''s possessed by some whimsical spirit that controls his actions... but what sort of horrible cosmic force could take control of a man, using him like a puppet to complete menial tasks and sending him unflinching to his death time after time, only to resurrect him and torment him further? The Player could be exposed as a perverted demon, torturing the poor character for weeks on end. Tireless, merciless, and soulless, the Player runs this tragic figure ragged until He grows bored and goes to get a sandwich.

How would NPCs view this character? Would he be pitied? Feared? Exiled? I don''t know that it would make for a good game, but it''s a neat idea.

=============

Oh, here''s a different way to do it: How about a game that takes place in a series of "blackouts"? The character wakes up (in a cutscene), rubs his head, and wonders what he''s doing in a public restroom. He shakes his head and remembers... Then you play level 1, which terminates at the beginning of the first cut-scene. It flashes back to the character, who has just finished "remembering" that scene. "Why the Hell did I do that?" he wonders, "It doesn''t seem like something I would do." Then he gets light-headed, and wakes up in a different place.

Again, he''s overcome with a headache and amnesia, and again the memories flood back as a playable level. Over the course of the game, it''s revealed that he "blacks out" when the Player takes control of him, and he regains his consciousness in the cut-scenes between levels. He has a personality and a character, but during gameplay he might do strange things. The more out-of-character your behavior is, the crazier he gets in his moments of lucidity. With a branching story, you could have all kinds of horrible things happen to him. Spooky. It''s like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario, with the player taking the role of Mr. Hyde.

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Little off topic but in regards to the last post. I think that it would helarious if it some in the game the character became aware of the cursor, I just have visions of them freaking out because of a floating arrow is chasing them.


The problem is if the player doesn''t care about the main character then, the writer isn''t doing their job. The player should care to some degree about the characters in the game otherwise part of the reason for playing is gone.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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oh I remeber that, it was all 3 games. The best Warcraft 1 where if you clicked on a peon 3 times they would yell out " Stop poking me!!" and I think in warcraft 2 you could cause sheep to explode by repeatidly clicking on them.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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Max Payne had an "Avatar Awareness" scene (well, actually two) when Max first thought he was a comic book figure and then realized the weapon choice dropdown menus, slow motion and other "weird" things.

Also, that last idea about premonitions that mark the outcome of a section of the game are not unheard of. The movie Memento used the technique quite successfully and Max Payne 2 features that scheme in a very mixed up way. In a game, I think it''s more of a device to "hide" a linear plot, but then again, showing a big bad evil dragon at the beginning of an RPG does more or less the same

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