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Hegemon

Switching between characters

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Hi, I've been working on a story-drive space action game lately and thought about switching the player's character for storytelling purposes during the game. I'd like your oppinion on how and if to do that. The player primarily takes control of the main character, but as the story progresses I thought of short excursion with NPCs to elaborate on their background, character and style. These excursions should usually be short (~1 hour in a 50 hour game) and limited to 3-4 times. In one scene for example, the main character and a dear NPC part ways to investigate on their own. The idea here was to switch from the main character, who the player has been for several hours now, to the NPC's storyline in which's end she get's captured. There we switch back to the main character. Now my questions/problems: Would switching characters mid-game be a good idea at all? How to handle time? Do we switch back to the scene where the two part and go down the main character's path or would this work better as a flashback when the PC finds out about her being captured? Could this style also work with a villain? Your input would be much appreciated, thanks.

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resident evil has done character switching quite alot.
Typically it would be a situation where your main character is incapacitated or contained and you must get the medicine or find a key.

If the main character is able and continuing the story while you contol an alt character i reckon you want to inform the player of what is happening to the main character at well selected intervals. You dont want your player beome attached to the alt character as it would make everything after that seam worse. Dont significantly enhance the gameplay for the alt character.

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Ever play Mega Man X7? Well, there you can switch characters on the fly. You could also do the same in one of the Castlevania's. TMNT: The Movie game, as well.

Problem with switching characters is that, I feel it weakens the credibility of the story-- as to why you can switch a character just like that, and where he was while I was doing other things. I personally hate the whole "tag-team" bit.

The tag team gameplay is normally for games that you need to use each character's individual skill to move forward, so you are forced to switch.

Personally, I like the way the above user describe it with Resident Evil. Make it where there are points where you NEED to switch. And maybe later on give them the option of which character to hold on to and progress the story with, until the next check-point where they can switch, again.

Basically, I'm against "on the fly" switching. Unless it's the same character with Jeckyl/Hyde attribute, much like Bloody Roar.

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I think it depends on how you want to show your story. If you want that defining character such as Master Chief (Halo) or Solid Snake (Metal Gear) I'd suggest sticking with one defining playable character. Both Halo 2 and Metal Gear Solid 2 had amazingly-dedicated fans loyal to the main characters due to Halo 1 and MGS but in 2, they both had you change and play as a different character. It's been said in Halo 2 they wanted you to play as the Arbiter to understand what the Elites were going through. In MGS2, Kojima said the project was to show Solid Snake from an outsiders perspective. Fans lashed out at both these games for not sticking to the characters the players loved.

Certain games absolutely work with it though. Currently I just started Broken Sword 3 where you are playing two different characters that are related but are on 2 different sides of the globe researching different things. Indigo Prophecy was a great game that featured 3 playable characters, exposing all 3 stories.

I think it works well when you say from the start, "Ok, you'll play as this a little while, then this, then back to this, and again to this". I don't think it works if you say "Here's this great hero!" and an hour later you play as the hero's sidekick for the rest of the game. Either go all out with it, or consider not implementing it.

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Indigo Prophecy has you playing the whole game by switching between a few characters. The guy trying to get away from the police, and the 2 cops chasing him. It works well.

Don't worry about blanket statements like "It won't work if you blah blah blah" or "You have to do it like blah blah blah". If you want to switch characters, just ask yourself some questions.

Why do I want the player to switch characters?
What can all the different characters offer?
What does my game require for this to work well?

And then design around that. It will be fine as long as it's not a tacked on gimmick.

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I have seen it done, and I think it can be successful. Depending on how immersed the player is in the "main" character, it may hurt their feelings if he does cool stuff while they're off with some other member of the team, but if you write the game with the character switching system in mind, you should be able to avoid that sort of narrative pitfall.

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