Sign in to follow this  
Chef Smallfry

are characters or story more important?

Recommended Posts

One last bit... I have a mid-sized cast of (what I assume to be) very interesting and original characters, and an essentially boring and cliche storyline. I'm trying to use the character development to make the storyline a little more interesting, but thus far the story is still the worst part. My question is- What is more important to a game? Good storyline with lots of plot twists and a nice progression, or good characters with personality and development?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you had to choose between the two, from my analysis of current plot-focused games I would pick characters over story.

For example, nearly all RPGs, action-adventures and (fewer but still many) graphical adventure games tend to have at their core the most ridiculous and trite plots you can get. The ones that I see get lauded for their storylines are the ones with the well fleshed out characters that they care about. Admittedly you need to have some good scenes to flesh out those characters, but this can be done in the framework a cliche storyline.

Secondly, if you do not care too much about the overarching storyline, you can wrap it around whatever gameplay you wish.

Thridly, if the game is to be played over multiple sessions (which applies to nearly every story based game) then players may not remember the latest intrices of a convoluted plotline anyway. They will be more focused on the characters in their control.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I second the vote: I definitely believe that characters are more important than stories.

Some games, like Katamari Damacy, do not have a very believeable story. But the characters (particularly the King of the Cosmos) are quite enjoyable.

The same can be said for numerous fighting games. I know a lot of fighting game fans who could care less that there is even some semblence of a story in the game, but are highly defensive of the characters they choose.

So even if your story doesn't stand out too well, if you have interesting character development, I think you can pull it off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why are you willing to settle with "an essentially boring and cliche storyline"? You have some interesting characters, take what makes them interesting and write a story that accentuates those traits that are interesting.

Which one is more important? Neither... if one of them is bad it will hurt the image of the other. Bad characters will kill a good story, and good characters in a generic setting have no room to show their quality.

Remember, a good story doesn't have to be full of "lots of plot twists". That's only one type of storytelling, and truthfully it is overdone in games. Stories can be subtle, if you have beaten Shadow of the Colossus you will see some brilliant but extremely subtle storytelling. Combine a low-key storyline like that with some great characters and you can have something really amazing.

--

Edit: Reworded the last paragraph to make more sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To be honest you can't have one without the other.

Plot is What happens.
Setting is where it happens.
Characters are who it happens to.
And the story is in the details.

Your characters are only as interesting as the interactions that occur between them and the world arounding that happen during the story. Even if you create the most interesting charactes of all time how will anyone know if the story doesn't reflect that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is easier to make a fun game with characters but no story, than the other way around. I think usually, your characters don't even need to be developed. People like Mario just because he is cute and he moves and interacts in interesting ways.



What matters is not the components but the overall presentation. Overused components can be put together and form something interesting.

If this thread is related to the other thread on Bounty Hunters:

"There's a "tough guy" bounty hunter who secretly donates his bounties to an orphanage. He hears about the player's party, defying some evil empire and doing good across the land. Naturally, he goes for the bounty on the player's head. The players fight him at several points throughout the story, until the final encounter when he finally loses once and for all."

I would like to comment that when I read this, the concept did not interest me at all. On the other hand, if you had drew an attractive character, the drawing alone might be much more interesting than the description.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Characters or Story? Stories are about the characters. I would say if you have too many characters to fully flesh them all out, then find a way to remove some from the story, since the story isn't about them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you're finding that your plot is failing even though you have interesting characters, then it's probably because your characters really aren't that interesting or developed. In almost any well-made narrative of any kind, interesting plots flow from interesting actions, and interesting actions flow from well developed characters. If this isn't happening, it's probably a good idea to re-evaluate your characters.

And since any sort of storytelling relies on a connection between the audience and the subject matter, characters are just as important in games as they are in all other types of communication. So don't sacrifice your story just because you believe your characters are interesting enough. Give these great creations a world just as interesting and well developed as they are; they deserve it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by JBourrieRemember, a good story doesn't have to be full of "lots of plot twists". That's only one type of storytelling, and truthfully it is overdone in games. Stories can be subtle, if you have beaten Shadow of the Colossus you will see some brilliant but extremely subtle storytelling. Combine a low-key storyline like that with some great characters and you can have something really amazing.


Well said.


The most important thing to watch out for is how the storyline interacts with the motivations of your characters. I'm sure you can think of a story where one character betrays another for no meaningful reason (such as the movie "Heist"), or something similar.

Story and character are intertwined. The best way to show off your characters is to provide them with interesting decision points in your story. The worst way to show off your characters is to provide them with decision points and then have them take a direction simply for the sake of the story.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd ask for a definition between "Shallow character" and "Deep character".

"Shallow character" is the surface charistics of a character - their aesthetic qualities. Mario's got shallow character.

"Deep character" is the psychological impact of the character - Why are they the way they are? What does it mean to be like them? What do they say about us? Mario has no deep character.

The quality of a plot is dependant on deep character. However, a story isn't just plot, for certain audiences and certain contexts, what can matter most about a story is how aestheticly pleasing it is, rather than its depth and meaning.

So your question SHOULD be: What is more important, shallow character or deep character? The answer is usually fairly obvious when examining the context and your goals for the story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think you can have memorable characters without an engaging story. Sorry to say but I think they go hand and hand. It's kind of a "weakest link" scenario. In my mind they are both equally important, and the lack of quality in one is going to affect the quality of the other.

Of course, you also have to take into account the audience and the type of game you are making. The expectations for a FPS versus an RPG are vastly different.

Assuming the story is locked in place, I think you are doing the best you can do by increasing the quality of your characters. Otherwise I would do all you can to change up the story because it is going to hold back your wonderful characters from being fully appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Chef Smallfry
One last bit...

I have a mid-sized cast of (what I assume to be) very interesting and original characters, and an essentially boring and cliche storyline.



Here's what I dont get.... if you know you have a boring cliche storyline... why put your interesting and original characters into it? Build your story line around your interesting characters... What would this person do in this situation, and how will the other characters react to that. Exploit character flaws and for the love of god dont have them "go on an adventure to destroy the ultimate evil!". I'd rather play a game where the characters go on an adventure and discover they are the ultimate evil, and a group of other heroes fights them at the end.

If you know your story is cliche, then dump that element. If you think its boring, then why would I want to play it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I vote characters.
The story will always turn out great if the player enjoys the characters. You turn a normal picnic into a thrilling expedition if the player has a fondness for the characters you created.

However, just my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just about any professional screenwriter will tell you character is king. Some other writers (such as novelists or short story writers) may disagree, but I'd argue that writing for a game is closest to writing for a film. But if you look at it, more often than not, you'll remember a film more for it's characters, rather than it's plot. The same goes for games. So yeah, don't ignore story, but I'd try to remember that character is king.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Sulphix
Just about any professional screenwriter will tell you character is king. Some other writers (such as novelists or short story writers) may disagree, but I'd argue that writing for a game is closest to writing for a film. But if you look at it, more often than not, you'll remember a film more for it's characters, rather than it's plot. The same goes for games. So yeah, don't ignore story, but I'd try to remember that character is king.


I agree with this, and chose the same answer. Why?

Well take Soap Operas for example. People love them. The story constantly changes, but for the most part, the characters stay the same. To an outsider, who's never watched the soap, the story seems dry and boring, because the person doesn't really know anything about the characters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth


Plot is What happens.
Setting is where it happens.
Characters are who it happens to.
And the story is in the details.



Way to go TechnoGoth! That's all of storytelling in plain english. I'm glad you wrote that. Some people say there are only 7 basic plots, like Christopher Booker who wrote "The Seven Basic Plots" (ISBN-10:0826452094)

They are:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Tragedy
Rebirth


So if he's right, and that's everything, then it takes an equally concise set to fairly summarize storytelling. All else are details--but the devil is in them.


My two cents say, take the most cliche parts of the story, and put them backwards. I assume that's how they made Overlord, though I haven't played it and can't say for sure. It's a quick and dirty fix to any trite story.

Trying to steal something? Why not try to un-steal it? One of your kleptomanic sidekicks took the jewels while you were in the castle and replaced them with a fake, now you have to put the real ones back in secret, because nobody believes that he could have honestly walked up and swiped them as he says he did. Otherwise you could hand them over.

Trying to gain a kingdom? Maybe the hero has fallen in love and is trying to un-gain his kingdom so he can run off and live in the woods with his honey.

Hey, it amuses me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
To be honest you can't have one without the other.

Plot is What happens.
Setting is where it happens.
Characters are who it happens to.
And the story is in the details.

Your characters are only as interesting as the interactions that occur between them and the world arounding that happen during the story. Even if you create the most interesting charactes of all time how will anyone know if the story doesn't reflect that?


I agree with this guy. Both are essential; there can be no story if there are no definite characters. For example, who's going to play a game with no real main characters and everyone known as that guy or this girl. Even if you just name them, without definite personality or defining traits that is exactly what they are: that person.
On the other hand, no one wants to play a game involving in-depth characters if there's no story to revolve around them or the rest of the game. Think about it. If Final Fantasy VII kept all the characters and gotten rid of the story, would anybody really want to play it? Same goes with any game like that. YOu can have the best character development in that game, but without a solid story to support it, the game is worthless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Im not sure what all was written cause I only read the first to comments but BOTH are important! You may have some "interesting characters" to you, but if theyre not doing amazing things in the story people are going to stop playing. Character development and story go hand in hand. Im not sure how you made so many characters without developing a story around them? I would suggest writing the story and seeing where the characters fall into play and what events you can dream up for them to all meet. Please dont pick characters over story, the story should create the characters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Character development IS story. Plot is a recording of how the development takes place. Plot IS story. The are BOTH different ends of looking at the exact same thing.

Let's say you have a cowardly ex-knight, and by the end of the story he becomes a bold savior who saves the kingdom. You have certain key events in your head--key events that develop the character; plot points, so to speak. Plot is the sequence of events which bring out the change in character that is meaningful to the audience.

Let's say in the inciting incident an evil wizard takes over the knight's village, but the knight is too cowardly to act. Enter rival, the bold, brave (albeit arrogant) knight from across the kingdom, who saves the village and sweeps our hero's love interest off her feet. Our hero feels utter jealousy, but also self-hatred, because he knows it's his own fault because he was too cowardly. To make matters worst, his love interest is also his best friend, we'll say. And as wedding preparations are going on, he feels him self boiling inside, and ends up suicidal. Drunk, he goes to his love interest, and makes a heartfelt confession that doesn't go so well. The next day he just leaves the village, never to return--the pain is too much, and he wants to run away from the consequences of it all.

In plot point 2, he reaches a small campy town with a dusty, dingy inn. Inside is a very rowdy crowd, and he keeps to himself. He tries to figure out where he should go next. He can't figure anything out. He's lost and confused. In the end he ends up stark drunk, and is about to jump off a ravine, when a scamp from the bar holds him back. Furious, he swings at the little guy and misses, and ends up collapsing and blacking out. When he wakes up he find out he's in a slave caravan with the scamp. After a bit of bonding and befriending each other, he decides his purpose is to take care of the boy--something about the boy touches him; something related to backstory. Eventually what happens is one day the boy messes up something, and the masters start torturing him. From somewhere deep inside he finds rage and strength and saves the boy and frees all the slaves. They all run off in different directions, and, boy in hand, the knight escapes from the wild dogs chasing them through the forest. When they escape, and the boy is asleep, the knight is just surprised at his actions and strength. He stays up till midnight thinking about it all, and then finally falls asleep. Cue flashback to days of knighthood, when he was still brave, and hint at the underlying core of his cowardice.

...

And the plot points keep progressing his development as a character, from inert and cowardly, to focused and brave. By the end of it, he shall return strong, and slay the army of the undead, and save the kingdom from evil, and face his own greatest inner fears, and return to his love interest and face the consequences, and outdo his rival, who, for irony's sake, becomes cowardly and inert because of his arrogance--perhaps even the same mistake that humiliated our hero in his young days of knighthood and turned him to a coward in the first place.

But the point is, good plot if full of character development, and character development tells you what to do next in plot. It's not one or the other: it's both. They're the same thing viewed from different angles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Any character is a story in itself, which is for some (hopefully good) reasons involved in the actual plot. How do you even differentiate between the two (in the storytelling context)? If you can tell right away where the "character" part ends and "plot" part begins, something is wrong with the whole thing. Usually it means that the character has no real reasons or motives to do what he/she does. Which means that both are bad, or more accurately: the combination is bad.

As for the cliche and "boring" plots - the one thing that people tend to forget is that cliche works. If you're trying to create something original just for the sake of being original, it will most likely be a failure.

Plots (and characters, for that matter) regarded as "cliche" today are actually those that have been filtered out and proven to cause the most powerful emotional response from the recipient. And I mean filtered over centuries, even millenia of human history and artistic creation (starting with the Illiad, for example). There is no reason why you should be running away from them.

What makes the real difference is in details, not the grand picture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this