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ScumRat1

ScumRat1's Theory on Character development

11 posts in this topic

I'd like to preface this with an important note. How characters are developed varies drastically from project to project. For example, and MMO will probably spend no time at all on Character development, and that's because many MMO's want their characters to be consistent throughout your game play. The blacksmith you buy armor from isn't just going to switch careers one day, and decide he wants to be a baker now, because the MMOs need him to constantly be a blacksmith.

 

However strictly speaking in a traditional RPG, you have a decent amount of wiggle room with your character development. It also has the bonus effect of adding tons of content (journals, clues, implied stories from objects) and also lore (The story that content tells) to your game. This can both give your game a bit of replay value, and make your world have a more dynamic and lived in feel. People aren't always the same, people develop and get new hobbies, or new jobs, or lose friends or loved ones. I will provide two examples of how this can be implemented into a game, one good, and one that I consider bad.

 

Example One:

 

Our game takes place in a fantasy world, with monsters. You play as our heroic hero, HeroFace McToughperson, who is a resident of CityTown. Now there is a blacksmith in CityTown named Blacksmith McHorseshoes, he builds the best armor, and weapons in all the land, and gives them to the guard for just the cost of materials. After sneaking into BlackSmith McHorseshoes house you walk by a few pictures of him with a younger man who looks a lot like him. You assume it's probably his son or something,and find it weird that you've never seen him anywhere. Then upon entering one of the side rooms, you notice it's very well kept compared to the rest of the messy house. It looks like no ones been in here in a while. That's when you notice, in the corner of the room, and older looking version of guard armor. Upon inspecting it, it becomes clear that it's of low quality and has a giant hole in the back. So you sneak around the house a bit more, and then leave. Maybe a bit later, you hear a guard talking about his friend, Private McHorseShoes, who he used to guard with, and he mentions how he misses him.

 

Bam suddenly it all clicks, BlackSmith McHorseshoes had a son, who was a town guard, who was killed one night, because his armor was faulty. That is why BlackSmith McHorseshoes gives the guards their armor for so cheap. Suddenly your world has more depth, and BlackSmith McHorseShoes has an entire life that he's lived, and seems much more real.

 

You've also told a much more profound story than you ever could of with dialog, or cutscenes. No one is shouting out exposition, and it almost feels like you shouldn't know that about BlackSmith McHorseshoes. His life has privacy, tragedy, and his son had friends, and fellow guards who are quietly morning his loss. You told that entire story, with a few subtle hints, and one character mentioning missing his friend. (there are obviously a ton of ways to do this without any character mentioning it at all)

 

Example Two:

 

You play as HeroFace McToughPerson, and you go talk to BlackSmith McHorseshoes. The conversation goes something like this.

 

"Hi I'd like to buy some Armor"

 

"Sure I'll sell you armor. I make the best armor in the world. I even give it to the guards for free, because my son was a guard and was killed, and now I feel the need to protect the guards the best I can, because they remind me of my son"

 

"....So I'll take this Shield, and maybe that Dirk?"

 

"My son's name was Dirk"

 

 

These both tell the same story, but one does it waaaay better. This form of story telling can be used to develop histories, and rich full lives for all of your characters, and there's a little check list I use to help develop a more full character.

 

The Check list is as follows:

 

One Major Point of Tragedy: Death of a loved one, traumatic experience, ect.

 

One Minor Point of Tragedy:  End of a romantic relationship, Loss of a friendship, ect.

 

One Major Point of Happiness: Wedding Day, birth of a child, ect.

 

Hobbies: (Minor points of Happiness) Golf, hiking, reading ect.

 

Once they have these, I decide what kind of character i want them to be, and from there the rest is just story telling and world building.

 

 

Thoughts on this process, and my check list?

Edited by ScumRat1
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Example two sounds a lot like the JRPGs translated to English on the NES/SMS (especially the latter).

 

I honestly don't believe that any story has to begin with a point of tragedy, but can shadow one to come or reference one from far back into the past.

 

The point of happiness, I also believe doesn't have to be there, and can be a simple event or memory that invokes a reason to move forward, 'happy' or otherwise.

 

Hobbies can also be excluded if it distracts from the main point, and I say if it is distracting and de-centralizing, then don't mention it unless the player asks about it.

 

Of course, I say story, when that can apply easily as a character's story, a location's story, and so on.

 

As an example, the main of Project: False is falsely accused of horrendous crimes, so unmentionable that even the main has no idea what they are. The main only learns as they spend time incarcerated, and eventually makes an escape.

 

As far as MMO games go, character development should still exist. It is just that every player must know about it at a moment's notice OR make it a quest-based thing (and this is something that does happen often - like in the Adventure Quest games for example).

 

I think that character development is crucial, that is, unless you're playing a game designed to be played out like a written novel.

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Oh this isn't necessary for a story I think knowing these things about your characters is necessary for their character development. Story development while a similar process, is taking the characters you've created (You knowing their hobbies, fears, wishes, goals, ect.) and placing them into situations that have a beginning, middle, climax, and resolve.

 

It's very similar, and I should have been a bit more descriptive by what I meant exactly. Now my reasoning behind making sure every character has at least one of each of my list, is due to my theory that everyone has at some point in their life, experienced both large, and small forms of  tragedy. It doesn't necessarily have to be death, Losing a business can be a tragic experience for some people, or a nasty break up, anything that causes suffering, destruction or grief. Not to be morbid but it's almost safe to say most people have at some point experienced that. Also it's safe to say most people have experienced some form of happiness, it could be any memory that the character would hold fondly. Also everyone has a hobby, and a persons hobby can say a lot about what type of person they are. For example a if our character was a game maker, we could assume they had some creative skills, or perhaps enjoyed technology to some extent. This would help craft them.

 

The examples I gave, were merely just ways you can introduce that story without an exposition dump.

 

I also agree that stories don't require tragedy at all. I have a few characters who have experienced tragedy but it's never once hinted at during the game, it's more for me to understand who my characters are a bit more, then if I feel the player should have the chance to get to know more about my character (or I'd like to add more flesh to the world) I'll introduce a scenario similar to my example story, to introduce the lore of that character to the player.

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First of all, before talking about character development, we should separate two aspects of it (at least): how we see that certain character, and (2) how this character appears in our game, how he/she connects with story.  (I believe, that's what TC says in his second post). Of course, the second part is just an iceberg top, and allowing player to feel what there is much more in the depth is important part. As I say, rather "feel" it, cause not every player will be willing go and explore all the small parts of puzzle, but having that feeling of ''depth' is pretty cool. It adds unique atmosphere of "real life" to your game.

 

You make a very good point that there should be some character development in place, but i think not many games goes as in your 1 example. It requires much more thinking (and not only on creator's part) and and not always as rewarding. There  r different types of players, as I mentioned before, and developers usually try to target some average player from their auditory (or at least I think, in most cases they do). 

 

I believe, the most important part of character design is not just stuff character with some traits (tragedy - check, minor tragedy - check, happiness - check) but create consistent and good looking character. In reality, character created is tightly coupled with your story and I think you cannot work on one without another in mind (We are creating whole full game, after all, not just some glossary). So story should reveal important parts of your character and help create some internal connection with hero (right now i'm talking about main hero, bot in some parts this apples to other NPC's characters too). I remember how one interesting game developer said in her stream, that story you tell player should help him/her make right decision. For example, there is two races fairies and gnomes, and player presented with choice help one or another. If player doesn't know anything about them, he will likely just make his choice by random. But if you'll tell each story first, player will develop some connection with one or another, get some knowledge about them and based on that he will be able to make decision. For example, in this regard, such game as Life is Strange failed to present good backstory for one of final choices (save bay) and in reality all the game story leads us to another choice (save bae)

But in most part yes, I agree with your examples :P  Thing is it's much easy to concentrate on game story parts that player will go through anyway, and avoid some parts that likely will remain unexplored. That's why, for example, there is no many examples of "possible deaths" of main characters (who would want to spend large amount of time developing some story line, which player may not even play?)

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There are two constants in a character that changes them. The thing that they want​ and the thing they need.

 

They try and get the thing they want but this keeps them conflicting with themselves. They eventually go through a crisis where they realize the thing they want is useless/gone. They then learn the truth about the thing they need, and they turn towards the thing they need. This ends the conflict and the story.

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There are two constants in a character that changes them. The thing that they want​ and the thing they need.

 

They try and get the thing they want but this keeps them conflicting with themselves. They eventually go through a crisis where they realize the thing they want is useless/gone. They then learn the truth about the thing they need, and they turn towards the thing they need. This ends the conflict and the story.

That's an important part of placing your characters into that story, but the point I'm making is that for me, it helps to know a lot about my characters history, and then place them into that situation. Writing them becomes far easier, and more believable, and it also provides constancy while allowing for character growth.

Edited by ScumRat1
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First of all, before talking about character development, we should separate two aspects of it (at least): how we see that certain character, and (2) how this character appears in our game, how he/she connects with story.  (I believe, that's what TC says in his second post). Of course, the second part is just an iceberg top, and allowing player to feel what there is much more in the depth is important part. As I say, rather "feel" it, cause not every player will be willing go and explore all the small parts of puzzle, but having that feeling of ''depth' is pretty cool. It adds unique atmosphere of "real life" to your game.

 

You make a very good point that there should be some character development in place, but i think not many games goes as in your 1 example. It requires much more thinking (and not only on creator's part) and and not always as rewarding. There  r different types of players, as I mentioned before, and developers usually try to target some average player from their auditory (or at least I think, in most cases they do). 

 

I believe, the most important part of character design is not just stuff character with some traits (tragedy - check, minor tragedy - check, happiness - check) but create consistent and good looking character. In reality, character created is tightly coupled with your story and I think you cannot work on one without another in mind (We are creating whole full game, after all, not just some glossary). So story should reveal important parts of your character and help create some internal connection with hero (right now i'm talking about main hero, bot in some parts this apples to other NPC's characters too). I remember how one interesting game developer said in her stream, that story you tell player should help him/her make right decision. For example, there is two races fairies and gnomes, and player presented with choice help one or another. If player doesn't know anything about them, he will likely just make his choice by random. But if you'll tell each story first, player will develop some connection with one or another, get some knowledge about them and based on that he will be able to make decision. For example, in this regard, such game as Life is Strange failed to present good backstory for one of final choices (save bay) and in reality all the game story leads us to another choice (save bae)

 

But in most part yes, I agree with your examples :P  Thing is it's much easy to concentrate on game story parts that player will go through anyway, and avoid some parts that likely will remain unexplored. That's why, for example, there is no many examples of "possible deaths" of main characters (who would want to spend large amount of time developing some story line, which player may not even play?)

 

Well I would want to spend that time developing the story line of a character the player may never even meet. "Was this character a good person? What did they do for a living, what things do they hate, love, ect." Then I would go from there to my check list, then I would go to a short paragraph about their early life, then a paragraph on how they interacted with someone of the characters the player will meet, then their death. From there I would probably leave some form of item, or journal in the game that leaves clues as to what kind of person they were, and what happened to them.

 

I'm a firm believer that the time you put into your story, and your characters makes your story, and your characters better.

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Aha If I want to make character I would think where the Character come from like did this character born to world

What happen to his early life until present (I usually keep this secret until mid of the game)

What changed character, like point of tragedy or happiness, (Most of this will cause much problem)

I rare call it hobby I more like call it bad habit (Usually I use these to make a character look different than others)

But I put more at personality than anything above, since this part is most crucial and can change what do you feel about the game.

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Here's another caveat on character development, from a fan fiction artist's perspective.

 

Often times, that character already has a well-established development, and to change that in any way would potentially put players off, unless the changes made some sort of sense.

 

Like, in my case, as a shipper of various 'couplings' in the Final Fantasy games, one must actually take into account what happens within the established storyline, before one can even delve into fan fiction.

 

Okay, I'll leave some classic examples, and whether or not they would work, as well as why.

 

Kain Highwind x Cecil Harvey (FFIV): Maybe

 

In all due honesty, the yaoi realm surrounding the shipping of these two is a bit over the top because there is a lot of character development altering involved, but if I brought it back to the original characters, I could see these two as a couple, but I cannot speak on how well it would work out, and that is leaving out Rosa as Cecil's wife as part of the equation.

 

Edge x Rydia (FFIV): Hell Yeah (I absolutely ship them)

 

Honestly, this is about as explosively dynamic as relationships could get! Yeah I know, she's fifteen or something, but Edge isn't even twenty yet so...raging hormones, one night of romance and BOOM! (FTR, it probably doesn't help that I see these two as musicians in the off-scene)

 

Bartz Klauser x Reina Taikun/Sarisa Taikun/Kuryle (FFV): No/No/No

 

Bartz, first off, has serious issues, setting aside acrophobia for now, which includes separation anxiety, and I don't seriously see him getting anywhere with anyone, especially royalty. I mean, his best friend is a riding flightless avian for heaven's sake. He also never really shows any sort of interest in that regard, to anyone, let alone A) a confused young woman whose parents are now both gone, or B) a woman raised as a boy by a band of pirates who has likely taken to the allure of other women (in other words, Sarisa is very likely a lesbian), or C) a tween bop bratty kid who suddenly becomes the sole heiress to the throne because she loses everyone in her family and hasn't even turned thirteen yet. Really, people!? Oh, and then the mystery woman in Lika who shows some sort of romantic feelings for Bartz but we never get to see what comes of that...I honestly ship them and would encourage others to the same.

 

Terra Branford x Edgar Figaro (FFVI): HELL NO

 

From the getgo, Terra plain as day expresses how creeped out she is by Edgar's advances, and to be honest, even though they may become friendly with one another, I don't think for a second that she would be able to stand a single date with him, especially if he's ogling other women the whole time, let alone to actually be married to him...but I do have someone who would most likely be incredibly compatible with him, even if she is NOT a Final Fantasy character...

 

Speaking of the above...

 

Edgar Figaro x Satsuki Kiryuuin (FFVI, Kiru Ra Kiru): Yes (Definitely shipped)

 

Edgar drops subtle hints about being into some really kinky shit, and one thing I know about Satsuki is that she definitely one to show off her abilities as a dominatrix. Of course, that aside, the two have a lot in common, and I can almost say for certain that the two would hit it off, despite Edgar being a flirt (Satsuki can be quite the flirt also).

 

Celes Chere x Setzer Gabbiani (FFVI): Maybe

 

As antisocial as Setzer tends to be, around Celes he's almost like Edgar in that he's very complimentary of her (if only because she's Maria's doppelganger), but closer to the end, Setzer is very, very warm towards her (as well as Terra but one can say that Setzer has grown very fond of Celes). Now, would they be a good coupling? It could work, but Celes' heart really belongs to another, well two others. You know which two.

 

Terra Branford x Setzer Gabbiani (FFVI): No

 

First off, these two hardly know one another, because they're both fairly silent and avoidant. Yes, I'm sure these are qualities people would think would work well together, but not really. I wouldn't see a marriage lasting a year.

 

Terra Branford x Celes Chere (FFVI): Yes (I ship them too)

 

Honestly, the somewhat untold backstory does have these two together quite often, alone, and definitely where interruption is scarce. Why? Well, Celes' warmness towards both Locke and Terra is a clear sign that she is at the very least, bisexual, if not homoflexible. Anyway, this works because the two have very conflicting personalities, and one can see Celes being the supportive, even motherly type while Terra would be the one looked after. These two definitely would have a long and lasting relationship.

 

Locke Cole x Celes Chere (FFVI): Yes (I also ship them)

 

For the love of fuck, these two are wedding bell bound; I mean, if Celes didn't fall head over heels for him within twenty-four hours of their initial meetup! Seriously, the game was almost centered around their struggles as friends, as would-be lovers...all I'm waiting for is for someone to illustrate Locke proposing to Celes, and that seals it.

 

Okay, time to cover these...ugh.

 

Cloud Strife x Tifa Lockhart (FFVII): No, but also Yes

 

Let us get one thing straight. Cloud is so f*cked in the head that the concept of love is too convoluted for him to even remotely grasp. He has passion down, even if the passion is more like a flamethrower powered by plutonium and fueled by nitrous oxide. So, anyway, on to the coupling. Best friends since childhood, but since when is that a precedent for anything? In all due seriousness, I don't think Tifa loves Cloud that much, nor would she ever. As far as Cloud wanting to protect Tifa, she is his longtime best friend, and that's the only connection. So, why is it, that this coupling is no but yes? Quite honestly, as time passes, Cloud becomes more self-aware, and he definitely has eyes for Tifa more, and more...so in time, it could work, but Cloud needs f*cking therapy, and a LOT of it...

 

Cloud Strife x Aeris Gainsborough (FFVII): Yes

 

As with Tifa, there is a connection between these two, which beyond the river Styx, is unbreakable. Fact is, Aeris likes Cloud because he reminds her of Zack, but that is how she felt initially. Knowing she had to die didn't change what her heart had eventually felt, and yes, there is love there. But this would be long past the river Styx before these two ever found themselves in one another's arms...

 

Tifa Lockhart x Aeris Gainsborough (FFVII): Yes

 

In all due honesty, the very simple fact that Tifa and Aeris become quick friends is likely due to attraction, and I can actually see the two of them having a relationship in the background (I don't see either of them being heterosexual because their behaviors are indicative of anything but).

 

Cloud Strife x Yuffie (FFVII): Yes

 

Actually, despite the feud between her and everyone else, she and Cloud are the most likely to get together. Yuffie is likely the most hypersexual late-teens brat I've ever seen, and would definitely be Cloud's perfect opposite. I guess, bigger isn't always better, huh Tifa?

And speaking of that, how did Tifa grow breasts that big, while training in the martial arts no less? That makes a f*ckton of sense, unless she's eating a f*ckton of protein...

 

Zack Fair x Aeris Gainsborough: No

 

Fact is, they were never serious, say Aeris herself. In all due honesty, Zack is likely homosexual, even if he's closeted. A couple where one or both are not interested in the gender of their partner is bound for disaster.

 

Cloud Strife x Barret Williams/Zack Fair/Sephiroth (FFVII): No/No/No

 

Barret is most likely one to have taken an oath of chastity after losing his wife and nearly Marlene as well, so these two would never be. As for Zack, I honestly can see Zack having feelings for Cloud, but Cloud and his f*cked up head would never grasp it. Sephiroth...maybe in a D/s sense, but a relationship? Yeah I get it, enemies/rivals become friends, become lovers, but that is so fantasy novellaire of the Western European sense that it would never make it to the Orient, nor real life for that matter. I won't delve into personality conflicts either because one could write a whole damned BOOK on that alone. Just, it is not a realistic thing, 'kay?

 

Okay, here's this odd one.

 

Firion x Lightning (FFII, FFXIII): Maybe

 

One thing to get straight is the CULTURE SHOCK from either of the two experiencing the other's world, or even more so, the time setting. Though for FFII, this is unclear, I'd hate to be Firion walking across the street when all the sudden a red-light running driver drunk off of cheap-ass beer comes barreling at him at over twice the speed limit...IN A TWO-TON PICKUP POWERED BY A HEMI ENGINE...

 

In all due seriousness, aside from that and a few other things (like Maria as well as Lightning's likely homosexuality), I can see these two hitting it off in a non-life threatening situation very well. I don't know how far it would go but...

 

Oh, why did I mention fan fiction?

 

Because it is one thing to use character development freely, but it is even more of a challenge to develop characters within an already established storyline. It is not for everyone, but if one can create a new story almost from nothing, one can delve into fan fiction as well...it is most certainly worth the challenge to test your hand and then see what you can implement into your story/game creation from what fan fiction has taught you.

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Not every NPC needs a backstory, but if you're going to give them one you might as well make it interesting. Tragedy works well for backstories. I like that you used the environment (the smiths house) to give context to the story. Being able to actually see slices of the characters lives makes them much deeper. 

 

It should go with out saying that the more major characters need to be developed more than a minor lil' NPC. The more story driven the game is, the more important that character development will be. Your checklist hits most of the points that make characters stand out and become unique. I think conflict should be added to that list. Mainly just for quests. Even the story with the smith can have a point of conflict. Man vs. Self. The blacksmith is all sad about his son so you find some lost possession of the son's as memento to help him feel better. Quests are a great way to expand characters' backstories or create entire side/sub stories. Not always necessary of course. A good balance of dialogue and visual cues go along way on their own.

 

In my game, I like putting a good amount of citizens in my towns and cities. Just having them roaming around makes them feel more alive. Most of them don't give too much backstory into their lives (don't follow that checklist) because there's far too many of them to go that in depth with it. I usually reserve that for the central characters and NPCs with quests. I do put some entertaining dialogue here and there so there's not 100 NPCs commenting on how cloudy it is. A lot of them do bitch about the King and the high taxes and corruption in general, but that's to establish the general mood and state of the nation. Spoiler Alert! It ain't good  :P

 

Anyway, despite that, I think that checklist is a very good way to ensure you're making intriguing characters. I kinda just naturally do it without thinking, but it's a good thing to keep in mind if you feel you're game is becoming stagnant. 

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Eh... This is one of those things I think where having a formula or checklist that applies to all characters always kinda ruins it. There is often so much focus, I think, on giving characters a satisfying 'arc' that it becomes boring and predictable very very quickly. If every character absolutely has to have some tragic backstory or other moment of tragedy, or some given moment in the spotlight to resolve their personal conflict in time to help the party, or some mysterious secret or hidden twist, it gets really old really fast. It's forced at best and just plain bad writing at worst.

 

And yeah, so many games do that kind of thing, even some of my favorite ones like Final Fantasy 7. Here is the thing though: Some of my favorite character moments in Final Fantasy 7 weren't those big dramatic things, but instead the little things. Talking to the Avalanche crew after a job. Climbing the stairs of the Shinra building, even if it takes forever, has some enjoyable banter. The whole thing with Cloud crossdressing to get into a pimp's lair and all the things he needs to do to do it. The gang relaxing and talking about their motivations and feelings. The whole date sequence. Cloud and Tifa staying behind as everyone else takes a break before the final battle. Not that the big dramatic character moments weren't impactful, but so many of them seemed like "Now is the scheduled time we drop everything and do this character's arc!" which seems to get old and annoying, especially since there were quite a few characters I just didn't care about their backstory or whatever. Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith? Yeah, those three are basically at the core of the game's plot. Vincent? He is tangentially related to the story of the villain and does clear up some plot points at least, but doesn't have a huge impact. The others? All sidequest material, even the ones that are needed to be dealt with, and all of them interrupt the story to tell their own mostly unrelated mini story with kind of the same beats to it. And honestly telling a few mini stories dealing with some other character or characters is fine, I just don't like the formulaic nature of it all.

 

Honestly I rather do what Final Fantasy 6 did at one point or what Treasure of the Rudras did throughout (I think there was a psx game that did that too, maybe Wild Arms) and make different storyline segments that happen at the same time if I want to focus on multiple characters, and even then I wouldn't have all my characters have big dramatic things to add to the plot. It's okay to have some Mogs, Gogos, and Umaros too, maybe a few Gaus and Shadows who do have a few optional backstory things but don't derail the plot much.

Edited by KilloZapit
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