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Computer Games - Character Design - Fundamentals

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This material has been produced to be used on the BTEC Level 3 Games Development Extended Diploma (formerly National Diploma) course delivery. This resource can be adapted and amended for other relevant courses.

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Computer Games - Character Design - Fundamentals

  1. 1. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Development in Video Games
  2. 2. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Outline •Goals of character design •Relationship between player and avatar •Art-driven character design •Story-driven character design •Putting theory into practice •Summary
  3. 3. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Goals of Character Design •Enhance story •Emotional response •Characters to identify with and care about •“Competently” constructed •Credible within the game style
  4. 4. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Goals of Character Design •Create characters that people •Find intriguing (even if a villain) •Can believe in •Can identify with •Distinctive enough to be memorable
  5. 5. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Avatars •Player- designed •Specific & nonspecific avatars •Control mechanisms •Designing an avatar character
  6. 6. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Avatar •Flexibility differs by genre –Role-playing games usually greatest –Race, sex, hair, physical attributes, etc. •Typically no personality but what is created •Goal is tools for players to create themselves
  7. 7. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Non Specific Avatar •Designer doesn’t specify anything •Text-based adventure games •Allows very tight connection between player and avatar • Dead Space’s Isaac Clarke •Limiting for designer
  8. 8. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Specific Avatar •Goals •Personality of their own •Belong in the game •Begins with visual depiction •Player’s relationship more complex •Identify with, not become •In extreme, avatar can reject player’s guidance •The Longest Journey’s April Ryan
  9. 9. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Semi Specific Avatar •Only partially characterized •Better to make cartoonish •Common with action game avatars •Mario •Lara Croft •“Beyond the bare facts of her biography, her perfect vacuity means we can make Lara Croft into whoever we want her to be.” – Steven Pool, “Lara’s Story”
  10. 10. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Control Mechanisms Indirect (“point and click”) Doesn’t steer avatar, points to where to go. Player as disembodied guide friend More likely specific avatar Direct Player steers avatar through game world, doing a variety of actions as necessary More likely nonspecific or semi- specific
  11. 11. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Designing the Avatar •Nonspecific, semi-specific or specific •Visual, psychological, social •Direct or indirect control •Goal: character the player can identify with qualities they can appreciate
  12. 12. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Visual Design •Realism doesn’t matter, self-consistency does •Pac-Man •Lara Croft •Purely artistic characters tend to be more superficial and one-dimensional •Lets the player impose his own personality
  13. 13. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Physical Types •Humanoids •Non-humanoids •Hybrids
  14. 14. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Defining Attributes •Clothing, weapons, symbolic objects, name •Color palette reflects character’s attitudes or emotional temperament •Superman, upholder of “truth, justice, and the American way”: bright/cheery, American flag •Batman, Dark Knight of Gotham City (grittier, more run-down than Metropolis): somber
  15. 15. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Side Kicks •Most prominent common element in game design •Combine qualities (e.g. tough with cute) to provide variety and comic relief •Benefits •Give player additional moves and actions •Extend emotional range of game •Can give player information they couldn’t get otherwise
  16. 16. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Story Driven Character Design • Starting with the story behind the character and developing his traits and personality before considering his appearance • Character dimensionality • Language & accent • Developing believable characters • Character growth • Character archetypes
  17. 17. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Dimensionality • Zero-dimensional •May display only discrete emotional states • One-dimensional •Have only a single variable to characterize a changing feeling or attitude • Two-dimensional •Have multiple non-conflicting variables that express their impulses • Three-dimensional •Have multiple emotional states that can produce conflicting impulses
  18. 18. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Language & Accent • Key cue to character’s personality ›Vocabulary – age, social class, education ›Grammar and sentence construction – education and class ›Accent – place of origin and social class ›Delivery (speed and tone) – excitement, boredom, anxiety, suspicion, attitude or emotional state ›Vocal quirks – distinguishing • Sound effects also tell about personality ›Confirm player’s command ›Signal injury, damage, death ›Pitch describes
  19. 19. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Believable Characters • Major characters need rich personalities •Answer many questions about them •Where was he/she born? •What is his/her education? •What are his/her favorite activities? •What were his/her biggest triumphs in life? •What are his/her interesting or important possessions? •Etc. •Show through appearance, language, and behavior
  20. 20. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Believable Characters •Attributes – location, health, relationships, etc. •Can change as the player plays the game •Status attributes: change frequently and by large amounts •Characterization attributes: change infrequently and only by small amounts or not at all
  21. 21. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Believable Characters •Three golden guidelines to developing effective, believable characters •Needs to intrigue the player •Needs to get the player to like him •Needs to change and grow according to experience
  22. 22. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Growth •Must include growth to have a meaningful story •Growth varies by genre •Must decide: –Which characters will grow –How they will grow –Implementation in game –Affect on gameplay –Representation to player
  23. 23. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Growth
  24. 24. Story Development Computer Games Analysis//Theory//Production//ScriptWriting Character Archetypes • Hero •Outer problem is aim of game •Inner problem is flaw or dark secret • Mentor •Guide character • Higher self •Hero as he aspires to be • Ally •Meant to aid the hero • Shape shifter • Form changer • Threshold guardian • Progress delayer • Trickster • Mischief maker • Shadow • Ultimate evil • Herald • Used to facilitate change in the story

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