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BahamutKaiser

Staring animal characters.

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I'm personally fascinated with non humanoid characters, especially as the protagonist or playable characters, yet find so few games including or staring such. Typically these characters, if they exist at all, are isolated to juvenile games, or relegated to extras and supporting characters. 

 

I've heard some of the reasons why this is common place, but it's all gotten a bit distant over the years, I was wondering if there are any story writers or students of psychology that could review the difficulties and barriers involved in these types of characters.

 

I'm personally a huge fan of the Okami games, and characters like Dragons are far more interesting to me than humans or humanoids, yet games tend to put poor effort into fantastic characters, or they just fail to earn despite critical acclaim. What's the deal...

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If you happen to be familiar with personality type theory, I think this is the easiest way to explain why some people lack interest in some types of playable characters such as non-humans, or in other cases there are people who like traditional fantasy creatures but reject new mixes.  The personality type S vs. N is the relevant one.  N, which stands for intuitive, corresponds with people who like surprising and exotic things.  They are more interested in the big picture than in details, and are more broadly creative.  These are the kind of people interested in new and different kinds of playable characters, though sometimes they will be strongly in the mood for a particular type of character and reject others.  The other type is S, which stands for Sensing.  These people are known for liking traditional things.  They are more interested in details, and their brand of creativity is mainly aimed at varying details; they may be unwelcoming to big-picture changes.  They have difficulty imagining what it would be like to play an avatar type that they haven't played something similar to it before, and may have difficulty sympathizing with characters who are too far from humans, though they may be fine with familiar animals fantasy creatures, and fantasy races, such as dogs, cats, dragons, and elves.

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I know of a certain hedgehog that did quite well in games....
 
My neighbor two doors down is a father of 3 in his mid thirties, ranked in the top 300 worldwide in EA golf online, a big shooter fan, as well as NBA 2K and madden, and I'll stop by and what's he playing?
 
Sonic.jpg


So, an anthropomorphic/humanoid hedgehog in a juvenile themed game. Nothing against the game, but I'm particularly asking about the representation of non humanoids in mature games.

I mean, Skylanders does exist, it's just kind of trivial and gimmicky, like most games featuring dragons.

If you happen to be familiar with personality type theory, I think this is the easiest way to explain why some people lack interest in some types of playable characters such as non-humans, or in other cases there are people who like traditional fantasy creatures but reject new mixes.  The personality type S vs. N is the relevant one.  N, which stands for intuitive, corresponds with people who like surprising and exotic things.  They are more interested in the big picture than in details, and are more broadly creative.  These are the kind of people interested in new and different kinds of playable characters, though sometimes they will be strongly in the mood for a particular type of character and reject others.  The other type is S, which stands for Sensing.  These people are known for liking traditional things.  They are more interested in details, and their brand of creativity is mainly aimed at varying details; they may be unwelcoming to big-picture changes.  They have difficulty imagining what it would be like to play an avatar type that they haven't played something similar to it before, and may have difficulty sympathizing with characters who are too far from humans, though they may be fine with familiar animals fantasy creatures, and fantasy races, such as dogs, cats, dragons, and elves.


Yeah I'm mostly fascinated with classic monsters and natural beasts, yet outstanding games like Okami fail to earn despite great quality.

Otherwise, you see dragons depicted in many games as mounts, familiar, or transformations of humanoids, it kinda baffles me how something so trivializing has to be attached to something spectacular.

It seems like the only games that really feature creature characters are those with an abundance of characters, like a MOBA or huge MMO, and still they're marginalized terribly.

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There are lots of opportunities for a good mature game where you play as an animal.

A game where you play as a drugs or explosives dog comes to mind, perhaps an explosives dog in a war zone trying to find ied and land mines?

Representing canine senses such as scent and hearing using a computer interface and graphics could be extremely exciting IMHO...

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That sounds functional, but mostly because it sounds like a support feature for a shooter. My qualm with this is that it doesn't have a lot of range as an action adventure or character driven game. As essentially a pet, the characters identity and task are assigned to you by the human counterparts.

Okami did something like this with a talking flea and a warrior child operating as your sidekick, allowing the wolves identity to be reflected by the expression of the talking member without the animal actually talking.

Is not necessary for the creature to be voiceless though. I'm more concerned about enjoying a rich game with a creature character, not tailoring gameplay to fit a creature.

Characters like Red XIII in FFVII didn't need to have some unique role specific to a beast to be a compelling character, in fact, he had perhaps the most emotional story arch.

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the representation of non humanoids in mature games

 

Skyrim

 

werewolf

vampire

lots of different types of elves

orcs

argonian (lizard man)

kajheet (cat people)

 

when it comes to characters, I think its about the coolness factor, combined with the intuition vs sensing personality type.   with sensing more open to "something different".

 

the small amount of research done on personality type vs preferred game type and who makes for a good game designer has yielded some interesting results.

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So, a big part of many games, especially action-adventure games is getting the player to identify with the player character. While there are a lot of techniques to this, one that is often taken for granted is making the main character humanoid, just like the player. Certainly there are diversions from that, as you said, but generally... people see themselves as people, and then because of that, there are considerable resources dedicated to and designed to make playable humanoids possible, and a lot of people in the industry have experience and skills in playable humanoids. Playable, say, quadrupeds? Not so much. In fact, many of the design assumptions you might have, from object interaction, to talking to NPCs to who knows what, all go out the window.

 

I think Okami did something really marvelous, and it worked, psychologically, for two major reasons. 1) It was about the gameplay. Okami would have lost much of its charm in different genres, but as an action puzzler the character is already abstracted to a tool. 2) It was a highly stylized world, and based on a well-known myth, so there was a lot of freedom to explore that concept. 3) It was a canine, and many players are used to humanizing and empathizing with canines (sometimes better than other people). Add to that her cat-like agility, another familiar domesticated animal, and Okami has a familiarity that isn't TOO far off from a humanoid.

 

The other barriers, I suspect are that playable animals are associated with "kids stuff" and if not that, with the "Furry" culture, which is, among other things, overly-sexualized.

 

I mean, I'd be intrigued about a game where you play as a dragon, instead of a guy with a dragon, but what, exactly would be the gameplay? You're not platforming. You're not performing combos. You're not getting ambushed by rival factions. Or are you?

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"Non-humanoid"... kind of excludes anthropomorphs...

 

These aren't mutually exclusive. Any non-humanoid that presents traits such as significant emotion is considered, by definition, an anthropomorphic character.  If you're looking for non-anthropomorphic AND non-humanoid characters - then these are pretty hard to find in stories, as humans tend to not be emotionally invested with things that don't share the same level of emotion that we can convey.

Edited by vertigo_stranded

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Banjo and Khazooie stars an anthro bear, and an arguably non-anthro bird. Ditto for Yooka-Laylee (anthro chameleon, non-anthro bat) made by the same core devs.

 

If you want purely non-anthro, you'll run out really quickly, and have to reach toward indie games like Shelter (or Half-life 1 mod, Cat-Life :lol:).

 

Though, for more mainstream, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has you play roughly half the game as a non-anthro wolf (Link changes back and forth, but is often stuck in wolf form).

 

But this is an issue that is common to most forms of media. I can name on one hand how many books I'm familiar with with non-anthro animals; Jungle Book and Watership Down*, for example - Oh, and Raptor Red, and Redwall Abbey, though I haven't read those two. Now compare that to the tens of thousands of books starring human protagonists; even Jungle Book's protagonist is a human.

 

* Read if you haven't. And if you have, read it again - it's worth it.  :P  

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