Friday, 25 March 2011

Characters - Creating a loving relationship between player and pixels.

A character in a game has to be someone you can relate to, the player gets attached to the character and the player suspends their disbelief for longer. Characters in games are different from that of books and film as you actually become them walking the game world and choosing what to level up in most cases. Take FFX for example (sorry you’re probably sick of me talking about FFX) you can play as one of 6 characters and through a levelling up system you can choose multiple paths for the player to take them down the root of magic, strength, focus…etc. I went through every character and made them learn every ability that was available not because I needed to in order to complete the game but because I wanted to. I know I always played as Yuna, Tidus and Lulu most of the time but I always levelled up my other characters as well. I remember at the end of the game where you have to defeat all the aeons you tried so hard to get in the first place it was actually very heart breaking. I had formed bonds with the aeons as well as the characters and I sat for 30 minutes looking at the screen that said I had to destroy them and refused to play any further. Of course I ended up doing it because it was my duty in the game. Very little games these days offer the immersion that I got from playing FFX and even fewer make me feel any connection to the characters. Take Halo for example, how am I to connect to a character who I don’t even know what his/her face looks like.

Also if you look at the new final fantasy, even though I love final fantasy the characters in that are balls and completely annoying. I can’t express how annoying vanilla who I have named Flannel because she’s as useful as one. Characters don’t have to have perfect skin or extremely bubbly in order for us to relate to them, I love the characters who are quirky in their little weird ways because I am and most people are, we all have our quirks.
*cut cut cut* Shut up Flannel you annoying B****

In saying that you create more of a relationship between games characters than you do with characters in books is wrong. I find it much easier to immerse myself into my imagination when I read books that when I play games. Games have the world made out for you, the characters are there you just have to get from A to B. Books are different, and I try and read a lot of Sci-fi books because you have to create a whole new world from just a set of words. I love that the world is constantly changing in books and if you get something wrong it can be erased and made again, although if you have a brain like mine it will take a lot of effort to remake a world once it’s been built. Books can be quiet vague sometimes which is a good thing but also a bad thing. It’s bad because you have to create everything yourself and usually they will make the character enter a room without describing it and then later on when you have formulated an idea, then they finally tell you what the room looks like meaning you have to create the room again. I read a book a couple of years ago and it described the outside of the house a little…suburban quiet village but it didn’t mention the inside, when books do this I picture my brother’s house and I’m not sure why. My brother’s house has been in about 5 books I have read because of the lack of descriptions.  In saying that vague descriptions can also be good as you get to picture what you want without the author dictating every move, for example  read the passage below in your head, go slowly and try to imagine the words;

“The white square room was filled with white boxes, one piled up on top of each other creating cardboard skyscrapers. The height of the room was astounding it seems to go on forever my neck and eyes strained trying to focus. Something red was on the ceiling… a light possibly but my eyes were too out of focus to make out anything but a blurred silhouette. I returned my gaze back to the horizon line and made my way through the boxes making sure I didn’t bump into them.”

Right a short story wrote by myself as you can tell with my crap writing skills but who did you picture in the white room. Most likely yourself, I didn’t provide a description of the character to emphasise that your brain uses the most recognisable thing to the reader,  that is you. Now If I reversed that and gave a description of the character in 3rd person you would have focused on the character but would have created an environment to be in, even if that just is a white backdrop.

I forget where I was going with this point but I have immersed myself in more books probably than games but with both it is easy to get lost. I was talking to the interview students the other day and a parent admitted to me that she was addicted to tomb raider. What a legend is she, what she said was that she would play it and totally gets lost in the world and be up until 3 O’clock playing the game. This parent works as a dentist and it goes to show you that doesn’t matter what age or occupation you are in we are all affected the same ways. Of course there are exceptions; I know for one that my dad has never read a book in his life because when he was growing up he didn’t like reading and so neglected it for years, his duty was to his family and running the farm. Also he’s a technophobe and can barely work a television never mind a playing a game.
I think a lot of character development in games is about the way they look, how they move and even the voice acting. I got heavenly sword not that long ago and I was astounded at the quality of the lip syncing, the voices matched the characters and the facial animation was excellent. Below is a link to a cut scene, unfortunately it is youtube and not that great quality;

Also Mike I know you’re probably not the biggest fan of heavy rain but they cast real actors and used their voices and faces for the game to make it more believable and immersive. The video is of them casting the actors for the jobs. I know Sai said to me that you didn’t find it heavy rain that impressive is because it uses motion capture for its scenes but it is the most realistic game out there in the market. It’s a cross of film and game so why can’t it use both industries technologies. I still think it’s an awesome game and even though it uses motion capture you do get to play as the character and interact with the environment so it has to be rigged and rigged well.

The more realistic the industry strives to be then technically the more immersive games should get, so immersive in fact that we will one day do it matrix style. Plug ourselves into an alternate reality which will provide risks like all the movies suggest. If our brain thinks we are getting hurt then it will simulate a reaction to it. A lot of precautions will have to be made when that day comes.

The fact is you can’t please everyone and you won’t be able to create a character who will relate to everyone. But you can at least make the game flow from start to finish, this way you’ll hold the audience for much longer than if you are just switching between random environments, characters and storylines. Keep it simple don’t overcomplicate a storyline because the player just won’t pay attention and grow bored of listening to big words and complicated sub plots. Characters should not be flawless, have excitable personalities also don’t want them to be emo either. They should also be unique and relatable. The game should also have a good story with strong gameplay to tie into the game with awesome stylisation and colour range.  If you do all this, I will buy your game and so will thousands of others.

*note that I will not be inserting an amusing picture at the end of this blog post as I am currently not on my laptop filled with stupid pictures and so I will just bid you farewell.

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