Monday, 18 April 2011

Elements of Game Design Part 3: Character

My preferred character-type is the 'fish out of water'. 

A protagonists tasked with a seemingly impossible quest that takes him on a journey of epic proportions. 

Usually the main character has some abilities that set him/her apart from others, but I enjoy the role more when you are quite vulnerable and inexperienced to begin with. 
It makes the transition from 'zero to hero' more remarkable. 

Like a glass half full, you fill in what is missing. 

Zero to Hero in just 3 films

Marty McFly - Micheal J. Fox
Back To The Future II 1989
Marty McFly takes his destiny in his own hands and steers it towards success. In more than one occasion.


Think about the first episode of 'LOST' - wasn't it compelling? 

A man wakes in a forest, having just survived a plane crash. He stumbles around trying to comprehend the devastation and chaos around him, until his training as a Doctor kicks in and he comes to everyone's rescue. 

Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard

Bad engine!

Having survived a day of emergency he takes a moment to rest in the fading light of day when,  suddenly, a terrifying roar tears through the jungle surrounding the survivors. 

End of episode one. 

"Now what!"
I saw the first episode in a hotel room, in Bath, that I had to share with my brother.
At first we almost turned over, thinking it was an episode of some token American drama, then as soon as Jack makes it onto the beach, the site of the crash, we were like "what the fook!"

The clinch was when a poor unsuspecting passenger gets sucked into the remaining jet engine. 
You just don't expect that sort of thing from a TV show. 

The great thing about that first episode is that it would make a great introduction to a game.

Usually the steps taken to define a video game character is to establish what their job or role in life is. 

Dr. Jack Shephard

Here we have Dr. Jack Shephard - Spinal Surgeon. 
Noble and Self-sacrificing. 
He quickly becomes the leader of the survivors and makes it his mission to get them all saved.

I just wish the show had retained my interest. Sorry Lost fans! 
It really lost steam after seasons 1 - 2.

Bad, bad joke. :p

I felt equally disappointed with the second season of 'TWIN PEAKS'. 
A lot of David Lynch and Mark Frost's ambitions, regarding the plot, were squashed by increasing pressure from the ABC network. 

But what I do love about this show are the characters

Michael Ontkean and Kyle Maclachlan

Agent Dale Cooper played by Kyle Maclachlan

The cast (except Leland Palmer, strange!?)

Every single one of them is extremely eccentric, even when portrayed as mundane. 
The characters all have two aspects to themselves. One secret and the other ordinary. 

Leland Palmer played by Ray Wise
The 'Log Lady' played by Catherine Coulson
Laura Palmer played by Sheryl Lee
Laura Palmer played by Sheryl Lee

The show itself runs half in a dream-like world and the other, a small town America. 
Each 'plane of existence' is foreboding and intriguing due to the amazing theme score by Angelo Badalamenti

Just watch the scene of the traffic light. A simple everyday object takes on a very sinister meaning.

"All these crimes took place at night..."
One important part of Lynch's approach to the series and how the story/script played out was to leave in a lot of happy accidents, unscripted moments.

In the first episode when Agent Cooper is examining the body of Laura Palmer he asks the attendant to leave but the actor mishears the line, responding with his own name. "Jim!"

Its a great scene. Even the bad lighting, caused by a faulty fluorescent tube was left unaltered.

This scene from the prequel film 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me', really freaked me out. 
The camera cuts in so close you have no escape. And it all happens so fast. Very unnerving. 
 Looking at this frame now is giving me shivers. 

:'( ...........sob!


The Prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 1992

Your introduction to Agent Cooper is a humorous one. 
He talks constantly into a dicta-phone leaving messages to an individual called 'Diane'. 
Every aspect of his journey is documented and analysed with boyish wonder. 

He's quirky but capable. Efficient in his work but captivated by his new surroundings.

This is a great method of warming the viewer to the protagonist. You can tell he's the good guy. 
The same can be said of Sheriff Truman, he's a straight arrow. Instantly likeable.

I think what has attracted me to these two shows, in particular, has been the mystery that needs to be solved. 

Everyone loves a good mystery. We all love trying to solve it in between the episodes. 
A great topic of conversation that we can share, even with total strangers.

And the more attached you become to the characters the more we will watch/play. 

(I'm instantly reminded of Aerith's Death in Final Fantasy VII, which really shocked me)
(A very clever use of our emotional investment in the characters. We were all fond of Aerith)

I urge everyone to watch Twin Peaks. It has permeated our Popular Culture and influenced many more talented individuals. 

I'm sure I played 'Alan Wake' with an expression of half scared and half amusement (which must have looked scary in itself). 
But it was a pleasant reminder of what watching Twin Peaks was like.

And as I mentioned before, you have to rebuild Alan's character to be able to survive. 
He truly is a glass half full. He has no recollection of what is going on.


When it comes to the appearance speaking for a character, for example, the 'tough guy'. 
He needs to effuse a feeling of strength, respect and attitude. 

Clint Eastwood - "Don't F***K with me, punk!"

He should be able to walk into a room full of bad-asses and everyone of them simultaneously craps themselves.

Clint Eastwood - The Outlaw Josey Wales 1976

Making them look grim and a little rough around the edges helps too.

Concept Sam Fisher - Splinter Cell

Sam Fisher - Splinter Cell
Sam can dish out serious beatings as a form of interrogation
check out this video by Ubisoft -

This can just as easily be applied to the opposite sex - 
Rubi Malone - WET
Rubi Malone voiced by Eliza Dushku

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider

The New Lara, well, the genesis of Lara

Nariko - Heavenly Sword - voiced by Anna Torv
I only just played Heavenly Sword, so I was surprised to hear Actress Anna Torv as the main character 'Nariko'
She has made a name for herself in the awesome TV show 'FRINGE', playing FBI Agent Olivia Dunham. 

The game revolves around the character Nariko and the choices she must make to save her clan from an invading army led by Andy Serkis's character 'King Bohan'

Andy Serkis - King Bohan

The game begins by presenting Nariko as having a flawed personality. 
Having made a bad decision. She pleads out her case to us, the viewer. 

Obviously we are compelled to find out exactly what she has done to bring her so low. 
We need to step into her shoes to solve this mystery. 

I won't go into too much detail, it may spoil the story for others, it is a very rich game in terms of character performance. I'm not describing the gameplay, I mean actual acting. 

The whole cast of this game are pretty well respected actors. And they really spice up the game. 
It is a visually spectacular product to say the least. 
But the cast have really ramped up my appreciation of the whole project. 

I particularly enjoyed Steven Berkoff's portrayal of 'General Flying Fox

Concept Designs for Flying Fox
Just in case you were curious to who Steven Berkoff is, his creative work has reached our very doorstep -

other people may remember him for this role - 

Lt. Col. Podovsky - Rambo: FB Pt.II

Not the best way to get a shave.
He's damn versatile! :)

Kai and Nariko

All the characters have a degree of depth that I have only seen glimpses of before in past titles. 
You either really want to hate them or are driven to save them.

My main observation on Heavenly Sword is that you are compelled to somehow avert this tragedy, that in some way you must find the answer that will change the course of events. 

You wonder when playing "will it turn out the same?" "Do your actions affect the script?" 

Andy Serkis - King Bohan
I guess you'll have to find out..............................................

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