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Character Design

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It's my first venture into this forum, so bear with me [smile] So, for my 4E4 entry, I've got some ideas for world and world design, although I have yet to see how they play out. But what I haven't got is any character design, either for the main character or for anyone else. The biggest thing right now is designing the main character. I'm not naturally an artistic sort of person, so this is difficult for me. What should he look like? I know I want a bipedal personified something, but I don't really want a human. Consider something like Jak and Daxter, where the main characters aren't exactly human...but in everything except looks they are completely human. That's the sort of character I'm envisioning. But as to what he should actually be, I'm lost. I don't want a real animal, but that's as much as I can figure. Then, looks aside, who is this guy? Does he talk at all, and if so, what kinds of things does he say? Or is he only talked to, like in Chrono Trigger? Since I certainly won't have voice acting, anything he says needs to convey its full meaning in text, which makes various sorts of humor and irony difficult, to say the least. Along with how he talks is how he behaves. I'm not making a KOTOR style game where you choose your own behavior; the character will have certain tendencies. He should have his own distinct, recognizable persona. I guess I'm a little frustrated with my inability to come up with any ideas for how my character should look, and my inability to make him a person in his own right. Like in Jak and Daxter, or Ratchet and Clank, or any a ton of other games, the main character(s) have something that makes them unique. How do I come up with that something to differentiate the character, and more importantly, to get the player to identify with the character? When you're playing this game, you shouldn't feel like you're telling the guy what to do; you should feel like you are the guy. I'd really appreciate some suggestions for how to deal with these problems.

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I'm probably less experienced at this than you are, but there is one very effective strategy when trying to join human and PC counterparts as one person. That is when the human player gets a glimpse into the PC's past or childhood. Allowing the human to actually take control of some aspect of the player character growing up (or just some part of his past that best defines him) would really help connect them.

For example, the PC's parents murdered as he watches would be a very good reason for the player to be a ruthless character, or even a strong reason to eliminate foes. Where showing the PC grow up happy and playful would be a good way to start a care-free charismatic type character. I think the hardest part about identifying with game player characters is not knowing where they came from. Not knowing why they are so snappy or so friendly.

Just my opinion as a player.

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It depends on the game your going for. In Halflife, the player plays as the Null-Protagonist Gordon Freeman (an average-joe scientist who was in the test chamber when things went straight to hell). Gordon Doesn't say anything, but people talk to him(you) all the time. The players given a brief overview of his profession and sent on his way, so character definition is more situational as the player keeps going.

If you want to build some fairly good character(s), you could start by building your world and premise first. What kind of world is it? Rocky earth type? Barren and Misty? what are the parameters of life? What kind of creatures would evolve in something like that? By that i mean what kind of physical adapatations would they need to survive and get around easily, like enchanced vision, perhalps elongated ears to hear with, or different legs to help get over rocks, etc. What kind of technology/archetecture/tools (if any) would they use? are they made out of bone? or perhalps wood (or whatever resources are available). After that its abit of cultural cooking to make up background/character histories, things involving resources (such as fighting over scarce quantities of water, metal, etc) or emotional conflict (the lust for power, jealousy, exploration, etc), noble/righteous vs the dastardly/evil, whichever.

You could easily take one of the characters you cook up while making your world the player of your game (whether he is someone of significance or not) and go with it.

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Original post by Gyrthok
In Halflife, the player plays as the Null-Protagonist Gordon Freeman (an average-joe scientist...).
I'm not sure if Freeman was portrayed as just an "average-joe scientist", but rather a Ph.D. level MIT grad... and people seemingly took to this portrayal since it very heavily counters the "ex-special forces agent", or "covert ops specialist" characters we've all seen, time and time again. I do agree Freeman is the Null-Protagonist; who would think that a MIT physics Doctor would save the world? :)


Quote:
Gordon Doesn't say anything, but people talk to him(you) all the time.
This approach can be effective in helping the player indentify with his character. And rather than use voice-overs to give the character depth and expression, we learn about Freeman by how NPCs respond to his presence. This may provide the player some room to imagine how his character may sound, etc., thereby prolonging the fantasy and keeping the player interested and attached to the character.

However, adding voice to the character can also be successful in developing a strong human player / computer character relationship. A good example of this is the voice-over work for the character Garrett in the Thief game series (voiced by Stephen Russell). His voice and delivery style fit the part very well, and many players were very drawn to this.

An opposite of this could be the voice of Jack Carver in Far Cry (I don't recall the voice actor's name); some felt his surfer-dude voice style detracted from the seriousness of the game matter.


Quote:
If you want to build some fairly good character(s), you could start by building your world and premise first...You could easily take one of the characters you cook up while making your world the player of your game...
This is an interesting approach. Often times, it seems that the world is shaped around the main character (example, "we already have this [so-and-so] protagonist, so let's present him with an antagonistic setting/event"). But what Gyrthok has suggested could change this to "we already have this [such-and-such] environment, so let's put a character into the environment and see what dynamic it produces".

Thanks for reading,

-Razorguts

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Even though your not doing voice acting, maybe do voice smapling, like zelda, you talk to them and they'll go OOOOHHH, but say something liek there's no mouse here.

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