Sunday, 15 April 2012

Elements of Game Design part three: Character

Mitsurugi (Soul Blade)
When I think back to my favourite characters I think back to the time when I was a kid. Since I was brought up playing video games and not as much on cartoons and TV, it’s only natural that I would think to video game characters and not TV or Film characters. Playing on games such as Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Soul Blade and Zelda at a young age helped shape the character I was through school, high school and college. As I grew older, many more memorable game characters would in a way mould me into the person I am today.

I don't need to tell you who this is...
I also watched cartoons and films such as Batman. There are many others but I chose Batman as he is one of my most memorable characters as a child. He is a good example of character design in my personal opinion. He is cool, strong, clever, dark and a hero. One of the biggest reasons we are able to connect with him is because we all know his real identity in which he conceals even to his allies (with a few exceptions).

Characters in games are representatives of you and the inhabitants of the in game world. He/she/it would have to be likeable, interesting and cool to play as! But these days, enhanced visuals are not enough for the player to be fully immersed within the gaming world. Mainly, with the story of the game, most of the time the game character’s back story and personality will be fleshed out as the game progresses. 
Every detail of the character must be considered, from the way he moves and acts, to the way he speaks and reacts. 
Solid Snake

A good example of a character design would be Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. For me he is a character that I can believe in his world. The way he speaks with a gruff voice, the way thinks as a soldier and the way he smokes on stealth missions says a lot about him as a character already. He has a ton of backstory and history bridging from the older games that all link together. The stories often unveil more about his past and his connections to other characters, provoking the player’s interest in Solid Snake’s mysterious past events. Characters in the game all have a have a different view of Snake and react to him in different manners such as Meryl treating him as a war hero and Grey Fox treating him as a mortal enemy.

In a 3rd person or top down view, the character you play is your avatar and your connection to the game world. A character that is likeable keeps me interested in playing the game as I can really connect to that character’s personality and want to play their role within the game. In fighting games, character design is also very important, but there will be the majority that will choose characters on their ease of use and tier list. 
In first person shooters like Call of Duty, there isn’t anything that generally makes you connect with your character; it is just a shell that portrays you as a player on the battlefield. In the multiplayer however, I find that the way you as a character is defined to other players is you play style and load out choice.

Saints Row III - Indepth customisation
It seems that these days, customisation is getting big and a predetermined visual look of your character isn’t as important. For example, Saints Row III lets you customise you character completely from skin colour to voice and gender. Even with an extremely large amount of customisation choices, the backstory of your character is already determined within the beginning of the story at least. You get to customise your gangs and cars and even your taunts.

Character design in multiplayer games is all about the customisation these days. It’s popular among many gamers that they bring in their character into the single player.
I personally love customisation within game characters and would love to see it expanded upon in the future. 
However, I also love many characters in the past and even in recent games which have impacted my life and mannerisms in some way. I wouldn’t like to see original characters created by designers trashed in favour of pure customisation. But there really isn’t any worry for me about that stuff yet!

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