So I started on something I was hoping would satisfy the request of someone on webs...
I don't have much of it created yet, but I really like what it is so far. I have heard it sounds like Sakura tree a lil bit. What do you think of it?
So this is a follow up to a prior blog: RPGs and the Age of You
Now that we have covered the basics of storytelling, premise and plot, we're going to dive into the concept of Characters, more specifically, the main character otherwise known as the MC among writers, and the Player among gamers.
There are many ways to create a MC for a game, it goes in line with creating any character, but if you want the Player to invest and enjoy the MC, there are some things to consider. Motivations are key, but in this day and age, it should be left to the Player as to what motivates the MC. In retospect, one can have a scripted no options motivation for any character, but what really gives the Player freedom in a game, is the ability to make decisions, which goes into that discussion on Options as being essential to any game. Careful consideration should be made for Risk vs Reward mechanics. A simple this or that isn't always enough.
Let's consider the following. Say your story is that Bowser has captured the Princess. What truly motivates Mario? Is he her brother, cousin, lover, friend? The relationship of Mario to Toadstool will determine how much Risk he is willing to put in. But if you've seen the movie, you know Mario and Luigi want to marry her. So they are merely admirers, or suitors. But I think that isn't enough of a reason to risk a life, but hey, some people are into head over heals romance.
In writing, to really understand a character, we ignore personality traits at first. We look at what motivates them, their goals and desires. So how does this apply to RPGs?
Well it does. There needs to be a reason why the player is willing to invest and risk their character for some goal. If the reward were say, becoming a Jarl, I think most people would be willing to slay a dragon. Or if the reward was as simple as a lofty amount of gold, that could be used to buy that super special magical armor they need for the final boss, it gives the player a motivation in preserving their character's life, and narrowing the risk involved in getting the ultimate reward.
Motivations should consider the following:
What is the desirable outcome for a story that involves the MC?
What does the Player want to see of their MC?
How can it all be achieved?
Knowing what a Player wants out of a game is really key. Sometimes, a storyline insists on one thing, and the Player comes to a point where they no longer want to see the end of the game because the storyline has interfered with their desires of the game. The ability to make choices is really important for a Player to shape a storyline. So when dealing with what a Player wants to see with their MC, alternative storylines are crucial. This doesn't mean creating an entirely new universe of storylines, it can be as simple as redirecting the Player to a goal with an alternative reward, or changing NPC behavior based on a decision to depart from the default storyline. It takes time to implement, but the Players will have a more catered gaming experience as a result.
Achieving those desires and goals and outcomes are the result of careful planning on the part of the player, and developer. Unfortunately, having choices means more testing on the dev's end. And there needs to be ample provisions for the Player to succeed, if they are willing to explore.
Now, the Player will have a much more rich experience if the NPCs are shaped in a similar manner. Every character in a Novel or short story or whatever, has a motivation, that helps drive the plot. Turning points in a RPG for a NPC can be random, or based on player interactions, or outcomes of events, or if you can think of something else, do it. Turning points prevent our characters from seeming flat, and the Player will naturally make them if the game is well done.
I will continue this at a later time, in the next discussion on RPGs and the Age of You: Items, Weapons, and Armors.
So gaming has really been around since, well, imagination most likely. The first games were simple and involved storytelling. And Storytelling is key to the types of games we are all likely addicted to play or create. It's primitive in nature, and eloquent in design. The real bare bones of a game is in the story, even it's something you put a quarter in to play. Think of all the different types of Pinball games out there; if you've never been to an arcade and have Windows, just think about the pinball on windows 95 and later. Ya, it has a story. And you're always the protagonist.
I haven't seen to many games that had you play the antagonist, but if you think about it, what if Bowser was the Protagonist, and God had told him to capture the princess and prevent Mario (YOU) from impregnating her with the Antichrist.... Ya, it could happen.
To really captivate a player into a game, there must be a few things for any style of game:
Even if it is as simple as a single button and joy stick, Pong gives the player the ability to spin the ball. But we're not really going to delve into those types of games, we're interested in RPGs.
The list above still applies. It doesn't matter what depth you give those options, but number 1 should be something that makes the human player think there is quality in the gaming experience. It should not confuse or dwindle their interest. Now if you've no experience in writing stories, there are plenty of resources available for learning how, such as writing forums, and there are some members here that write stories for fun. I'm going to use some jargon I picked up from the writing world in my endeavors to be a published author.
Any good storyline has an inciting conflict. The way things fell apart. And before that, character driven turn of events which lead to that conflict. A story is massive really, it can be the entirety of all the universe, but for a book or game, we aren't interested in everything. Only what is important to the Plot.
Mostly, the storyline should cover the following:
How did we arrive where we are?
What must be done to prevent or achieve something?
Of all of those, the Premise is all of them, sort of, and the most important of all. So if you need an example of a Premise, Rescue the Princess from Bowser. Simple, right? Your game doesn't have to be complex, but the Premise should be something that hooks the player. I mean, even Pac man had a premise, and everyone has played it once in their lives, either on console, pc, or atari. So make a good hook, and you'll have players for a long time.
The plot is really key to getting the premise out to the player. You know, it holds the hook and all. It should also contain the setting. Mostly, the plot needs to have a few things, which give the player understanding, or should be shaped by the player, if you're going for something like that.
Now, all of those should be answered by the plot. Character driven plots are more rich in my opinion, where a character not going through a turning point determines one if not all of those for a given moment in the plot. But now to the meat of this article.
Players that really enjoy the classics might not like a fully rendered 3d version of the same game, although some do, and the markets reflect that. And not everyone wants to be able to make choices other than when to attack or how to attack, or if they should open a chest. But if you want to make something more complex, that means more investment on the part of the player.
Game design for RPGs have really evolved over the years. The Quest was the first RPG to offer any sort of real storyline to the player, that wasn't basic or primitive, and you got to fight dragons, which has been paramount to the RPG experience for many years. Later we got better graphics, and even more storyline content with Final Fantasy Series on Nintendo and Super Nintendo. Genesis wasn't really one to embark on the RPG experience to my knowledge, but please inform me if that is not true. Now we can create what we look like, and some even offer personalities based on race.
The further we advance, the more input is needed on the part of the player. Hardcore gamers love it. But the old school elites might not. But with engines like MV, or ACE we can offer modern experiences to the Old School crowd.
Now a lot of games offer trophies and achievements through their distributors, such as the PSN or Steam. But I don't see that as necessary to enjoying a game, so much as showing a friend proof that you died to a trap five times in Terraria. Real fun in my opinion is in the character you play as. No one wants to invest in someone they don't like alot. So the character by default should have some good qualities that are relatable to anyone playing your game.
There are more to Options than just how to kill. In my opinion, looks of your character for the game, as well as behavior when interacting should be something to implement, as well as a personal backstory. Now it may be difficult to introduce a way to write a bio for the player that isn't somehow a defaulted experience, but there are ways to introduce customization of the process. Such as having a journal/log of certain things not related to quests or battles, like how the character feels or thoughts about things.
Backstory can be things like prologues and epilogues, as well as histories of the playable characters. Those are really important in making the game convincing. If you want the player to kill a dragon for instance, don't make the backstory something leading us to believe its not possible, or a decision to be made by that character. give it reason and meaning.
Then you have to decide, how to handle skills and abilities. I for one, am a fan of investment style skill trees, or even investment style stats. That just offers so much more for the player to be able to choose their play style, rather than forcing them to play to the style of your game. This leads to longer development stages, and takes a lot more time to work out bugs and balance everything, but the time is worth it.
I will write up a follow up later.
Catch you next star!