Giving Personality to Characters

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This is an archived Game Theory Discussion started on 01 Sep 2003. Please do not edit it except to add to the end.

Original Discussion

By Goldmund

This topic has been dealt with several times on the forums, but it never got the full scope it deserves. It's rather basic, but I thought it would be nice to start from simple things - who knows, maybe we'll make a Designer's Compendium thanks to those threads? Shall you find this topic not interesting, I still have several good subjects in plans.


1) WHY?

The first question that needs to be answered is: Do characters need personality? It seems rather silly, but one should be always suspicious about things taken for granted. So, do deep characters enrich our enjoyment of a game, do they make the gameplay more interesting?


One can argue that when the protagonist is a persona too specified in his/her tastes, traits, ideas etc. it is harder for the player to identify with him/her, simply because of differences that may arise (political beliefs, sexual preferences etc). Also, when the protagonist's personality is unrevealed players are more likely to impose own ideas about his/her psyche.

Let's take it as a matter of personal preference, then. I must say that although I enjoyed Pleurghburg: Dark Ages I was absolutely indifferent to the fate of Jake McUrk (this game may be considered a negative example in this debate, it paradoxically being both the well-deserved classic of amateur adventure games and a game with extremely bland protagonist at the same time). Whether it was caused by the fact that no signs of his personality were provided, or I simply failed to impose any imagined ones on the character, may be disputed. I'm far from saying that a protagonist with no personality ruins a game. Dreamweb was a great experience and at the same time gave us a character with no personality at all - its atmosphere was enough. Mourir En Mer, on the other hand, with its introduction of a unique (handicapped) protagonist instanly caught my attention from the first room right to the (very moving) ending, all this thanks to the protagonist's personal history and dreams. All in all, whether protagonists need personality seems to be a matter of preference. Personally, I think that even a game with simplistic plot is much better when the protagonist is an interesting person.


NPCs in an adventure game absolutely need personality. This kind of games is story-driven and there is no story without characters. Simplistic NPCs make plot simplistic. It seems that it is easier for designers to make NPCs interesting persons than to do the same with the protagonist. For example, the (mad?) inventor in P:DA was a much more interesting person than the protagonist - he had a passion, lived in recluse etc. I feel that the reason for this is that a) it is HARDER to weave a story around a person who has very specified personality (same in films: all those sidekick characters - Notting Hill being the first example that comes to my mind - are much more interesting than the protagonist); b) when writing a story, people tend to make protagonist similar to them - and as they know themselves very well, they also know that no person is THIS and not THAT, that inside we aren't a TYPE at all; thus, no strong (ie: a bit simplified) personality is given to protagonists.

2. WHAT?

So, what constitutes a character's personality?

a) biography

What is the background history of the character. Childhood, love affairs, jobs (or lack of them), social class, education. This information is disclosed through look messages (if the protagonist knows the person), dialogues, monologues, reading diaries, and in the case of the protagonist's biography it may be provided straightforward (introductory message, his/her thoughts).

b) behaviour (broad sense)

Way of speaking, temper. Makes characters different. May be psychologically deduced from the biography. Characters may be naive, agressive, calm, introvertic, brave, lazy - this is the meat of their personality. The temper manifests itself through dialogues (consider those "bye" messages: "Fare well!", "See you!", "Finally!") and reactions to game's events. Generally, this is the most important aspect of characters' personality, as it is immediately experienced by the player through interacting with them.


In this section I'll take a look at the means with which the personality is manifested in games. The reason for this list is that one should remember to make characters differ in those aspects.

a) look messages and text responses

This is the way through which we get to know the protagonist. "This is a door" will not do, unless we're playing Terminator. "Beyond this door lies the best of worlds" whereas in truth what lies beyond the door is a dirty street of crime, or "This door reminds me of my brother - won't shut if you don't kick it" tells us much more about the protagonist. In first example we see that he/she is a bitter person, not devoid of some sort of black humour. The second one tells us that he/she has a brother, he/she is rather cruel and doesn't like the mentioned sibling - and enjoys smart-ass comments. Usually, the more multi-level information is fit into a line of text, the more interesting the line becomes. Designers should work with language because when the player reads text that has something more to it than immediate information about the state of reality - that this is a door - then his/her intelligence is at work and we give him/her a more rewarding experience.

b) dialogues

Way of speaking and treating others. This works "better" with NPCs, or: we have more control over this with NPCs, because usually the player may choose dialogue options for the protagonist, thus deciding of his/her dialogue preferences. Still, the designer has impact on the options provided for the protagonist and their language. Slang or high-brow, swearing or not, intelligence or dumbness, political views - this all may be conveyed through dialogues, but if the language you're making your game with is not your native language, this is the hardest part to do well. Biographical information can also be disclosed through dialogues, but we should avoid everyone telling the protagonist stories about their childhood - it's better to use elipsis, slips of tongue, allussions. "Wow, jacuzzi!"

"Yeah, when me and my brothers wanted jacuzzi we farted in our bathtub."

works better than:

"Wow, jacuzzi!"

"We didn't have jacuzzi, because we were very poor".

The first example, apart from conveying the same information as the latter, manifests the temper of the character and gives the same information in a more interesting way (here: a joke). The second one, however, also has one strength: it is very simple and may be considered more moving.

Usually, you have to remember that when you talk about something hard and painful, it's better to use simple words, as it's more powerful. "My heart is broken, my tears flow every night because my wife has departed me and left me on this plane of pain" is absolutely beaten in emotional impact by "My wife is dead."

c) physical appearance, actions

Or, the graphical representation. The basest trait, as we are talking about graphic adventures. It is simply what the character looks like and basing on that, players imagine his/her personality. A person in black leather jacket and sunglasses instantly and stereotypically gets this "tough" image (of course, we can - and should - play with these stereotypes; on that I'll write in a later section).

The actions that don't need words also fit here. A character starts to cry. Runs away. Walks funny. Drinks alcohol. All reactions without words may tell us a lot about characters, but it is also the hardest aspect for amateur designers - doing this right demands lots of good animation frames.

4. HOW?

In this section I'll try and finally provide a draft of the list of guidelines for giving personality to designers. Please try and give own ideas.

a) consistency

All work may be lost if you don't keep your character's personality consistent. If a person suddenly starts to swear, be sure to know WHY he/she does so. Don't make a heart-broken girl strike a wild and krazy pun just because you find it funny; of course, the girl may try to be humorous to overcome her sadness, but you have to know this and make sure players will know this as well. For example, make the pun really lame (shouldn't be hard, most puns are).

b) mystery

Sometimes, a mystery in the protagonist's past is a great incentive for players. In the opening scene of Dark Hero Demo, the protagonist stands on a roof and tears a photo of a girl without saying a word. This very powerful scene instantly makes us try and guess what is the photo's story, of course unhappy love affair instantly comes to mind, but you may also play on that and reveal it to be something else later on. An NPC also can be mysterious - a person who shows here and there and the player knows nothing about them awakens the interest, but to make it work the designer should give info about other characters - otherwise the mysterious person would be just another lazily-designed NPC.

c) peripheral information

Characters aren't computers (well, most of them aren't) and they aren't supposed to provide information without any sign of affect. You really have to do better than "Bring me the cheese, and I will give you the key" or "I am a priest." Try and fit into a text more than just immediate information needed to finish the game. "Who are you?" "My father always wanted to have a priest in the family. Keeps down the cost on marriages, you see."

d) unneccessary (???)stuff

Well, the point is that it IS neccessary to try and make characters do something MORE than is needed by the plot. If you need to interrogate a woman suspect, instead of going to her flat and talking with her sitting on a sofa, make her tend flowers in a glasshouse. The protagonist of Dark Hero didn't really and pragmatically need to walk onto the roof to tear the photo; neither the plot of Mourir En Mer needed the protagonist to be afraid of a toy horse in his loft - the horse didn't play any role in the plot nor puzzles, yet this brilliant touch added TONS of emotional impact on the player.

So, don't be overly practical with your characters' behaviour. People are crazy.

e) aesthetical preferences

Wandering around people's houses gives great opportunity to show the aesthetical likes and dislikes of the protagonist. "What is it with morons and Van Gogh's sunflowers?", says Donna. Pictures, fancy chairs, music records - these tell a lot about inhabitants and also a lot about protagonist through reaction to "look" commands.

f) flaws

Aye, Joker was so much more interesting and fun to watch than the stupid Batman. People are imperfect and it is so dead boring to watch an ideal Avatar do his lofty deeds. Gabriel Knight, Larry Laffer, Manny, April Ryan... notice how all the famous protagonists had some funny quirks, weaknesses - some had to be overcome to fulfill their quest, some were simply there to give them a more human feel.

g) aim and incentive

This is one of the iron principles of screenwriting; when we were giving our scripts to the tutors at the film school, the first question was: what the protagonist wants to achieve? Now, I don't agree that it's neccessary in movies, but as games demand some kind of action and plot - protagonists must have an aim and some damn good reasons to pursue this aim. Must, ya hear me?

Don't expect the player to feel for the protagonist who is a plumber, enters a house, sees an unknown person lying in a pool of blood and then he sets on a quest to find a murderer! There are lots of aims and incentives to choose from. Fame and fortune, revenge, some peace at last, need to know the truth, staying alive, getting THE boy or THE girl...

h) inner change

This is a neat device to make the player feel he/she just played through a story with some importance. Characters change throughout the course of the game. McCoy learns how to pity his prey. Gabriel Knight sees that there's more to life than chasing skirts. Manny finds the ability to love someone again.

Again, an example from film industry: it is said that there was a producer who only watched the beginning and the ending of a film to say if the product's good or not. He simply checked whether the protagonist changed him/herself.

i) contrast, surprise

There are some things that people take for granted. When they see a hell's angel they suspect that he's a manly bloke, who cherishes mainly football, farting and fornication. Surprise them! It's a great way to keep the interest in the plot. Let the hell's angel paint in secrecy. Let the good police commissioner take dope. Let the nun be a great kung-fu fighter (she studied it before joining the convent and suddenly in a dangerous situation she shows her abilities).

Just don't get TOO absurd. Remember that if the players feel there is reason behind everything you offer, then they know you treat them with respect and gave them a thought-out, polished, good, deep, interesting ADVENTURE GAME.

That's it from me. Please add your own ideas for guidelines or comment on mine!


Archangel (aka SoupDragon

Jesus christ Goldmund, do you realise you just posted nearly 2500 words!

I didn't have time to read much of what you said, but I will say my two cents: you say in your opening post that you found the character Jake Macurk in P:DA to be lacking. I would disagree with that for one reason: at one point in the game Jake's boss has to nearly beg him to give up the case for a day and go home. I thought, "wow, what a great guy. All this bad stuff's going down around him and all he can think about is getting to the bottom of this case and saving the day". From that point on I warmed to his character a lot more.


Wow!! Thanks goldmund!!! I just finished reading it all, and after reading I can sure say, that this will help me alot making better games!! I just have a few additions to it.

dialogs and atmosphere

It's very important that you adjust your dialogs, comments to the current atmosphere. Say that you are for example in a haunted house in a dark room, where every moment something can happen, then don't start making jokes like "Oh crap why didn't I bring my light saber?" or "This game would be alot easier if you'd adjusted your monitor brightness!". Ofcourse that might be funny, but at such a moment where you want to create a dark, suspence, fearing atmosphere, you must also set your dialogs to this atmosphere! like this "Anyone there? Can someone here me" or "I think I heard some footsteps behind me!". In my opinion you can make even a better atmosphere, in textadventures, because the player must then imagine the whole area himself. I created this text-adventure Albino Virus, wich gets at a certain moment in a forest pretty terryfying. I just putted the text "Suddenly everything around you is quiet, and fear is filling you, in middle of the dark forest."

Well that was my addition! Again... thanks alot goldmund!


Reported Character

What you said is true, and very useful. Just another thing - notice in Homer's writings that Helen, the supposed 'most beautiful woman in the world' is not described, not once. So how does it work? Well, the reactions of everyone are displayed. So we know what people think of the person - in many cases in real life, we rely on other people to help form opinions of people. Using this approach works well in adventure games, partially because we can actually use the approach of being told directly 'he's crazy', as well as the regular 'letting slip' and 'peripheral information'. We can bring in the characters of the person talking, and that which is being talked about. Also, as with Helen, the image of the character changes with each person. The same thing could be done with adventure game characters.


Great post, Goldmund!

Hehe, I spent basically no time developing characters or dialog in P:DA, which I regret. With Revenants I'm trying to focus more on that part. But sometimes I think it is suitable to leave some characters rather underdeveloped, or at least very subtley (:p) developed. An example of overdevelopment of a character (which I loathe) is very common in Japanese games, RPGs especially. They create a whole history for basically every character, the problem is, these background stories always sad and tries to be gripping and in the end feels like some low budget american soap opera.

Of course, I'm not saying that character developing is a bad thing. Good character development is obviously very important , but it shouldn't be overdone.

Dave Gilbert

Backstory This is also an important aspect of any character. What were his/her parents like? Grandparents? What happened in your character's past that caused him/her to be where he/she is today? The concept of character family history fascinates me, and I'm spending more time fleshing out my current char's family history and background than I am on the actual game plot itself.

Think of Gabriel Knight. Would he be nearly as interesting if it weren't for his family history?


Amazing post Goldmund! THAT's the way to do it. The only problem is that you've covered everything, and I have very little to add

A few small comments though:

Rebel Without a Clue brought up the concept of other people's reactions to the character. And I think this is a VERY interesting idea, especially in regards to establishing a player character unknown to the player but known to the NPCs. Remember the beginning of Terminator 2 where we see everything from the Terminator's point of view, while he's searching for clothes? Imagine a first person adventure game where you never see the player character. But you could certainly tell the difference between Full Throttle's Ben and Bernard from Day of the Tentacle by the way the bartender in the biker bar treats them. Do others seem afraid of you? Are they being condescending? All these help to define your character and his place in the game world.

Another thing, somewhat related, is the QFG games. We knew next to nothing about the hero. He never even spoke. He had ONE SINGLE CHARACTER TRAIT: He wanted to be a hero! These games a very dependent on the perception of others and what you must do to gain their respect and admiration.

But even more interesting is the games' use of the character as a tabula rasa, an empty slate. It's the existentialist idea that a person is defined by his actions. Obviously this is somewhat the opposite of Goldmunds topic - he's talking about personality as a pre-defined quality to be revealed during gameplay. I think the QFG games mark an interesting borderline between "player as player character" and what I'd like to call "true roleplaying". In both cases it's actually the player who chooses the personality of the character, but while he in the first merely injects his own traits into the character, in the second he himself constructs an imaginary identity for the player character, as different from his own as a character written by others would be. You could call it an identity simulator. It's the idea of what-if: What would it be like to be this kind of person. The character is an unwritten, but in the player's mind well defined, role, and he performs this role in the game world by his choice of (inter-)action (I always found it a flaw that you had to CHOOSE your character class instead of becoming it through your actions.) This was the case with Blade Runner (and the action-adventure BioForge) as well. Your actions defined your true identity - a human or a replicant,

What does this have to do with anything? How could this be used by designers, if the player is actually writing his own part? Well, I think the solution might be in the idea of performance. That THE PLAYER'S INTERACTION WITH THE GAME SHOULD BE THE NATURAL ACTING OUT OF THE ROLE WRITTEN FOR HIM BY THE DESIGNER.

As actions define personality, personality should define interaction. I think this is a point missing from Goldmunds post - the connection between personality and the player's options and limits for interaction.

Quoted from DGMacphee in the first GTD discussion: "As Tim Schafer once described in a magazine the difference between Bernard (DOTT) and Ben (FT) -- Bernard would have to unlock a door using a sandwich by taking apart the beard putting it under the door while using the toothpicks holding the sandwich together to push the key out onto the bread slice (like the old newspaper trick)."


And Ben would just eat the sandwich and kick the door down.

As for personality I agree with everything that's been said here, especially Dave Gilbert's comments on backstory.

Backstory drives the psychology of a character, IMO.

For example, in Grim Fandango, although Manny's backstory is never revealed, we learn that he's done something wrong and needs to work off the time.

His backstory creates a goal of redemption and that's one of the things I find so interesting about Manny's personality -- Even if he was bad in the land of the living, he still wants to make things good in the land of the dead.

Even backstory aids smaller details -- Like (also Grim Fandango) the whole mini-story about the Christmas party and the punch-up between Domino and Manny.

Other games with good examples of backstory:

The Gabriel Knight series -- As Dave pointed out, Gabe's family history forms a large part of Gabe's personality.

Season of Sakura -- Yep, it had to come up sooner or later, but the game has a great amount of backstory to the different characters.

The Tex Murphy games -- All the games feature many humourous brushstrokes to paint Tex's character and his relationships to other characters.


Regarding what GarageGothic was saying about the "tabula rasa" player character.... I think it was Naranjas in his uber-protagonist paper who mentioned a few games ( mostly back in the 80's) that asked to player to believe that the Player Character was literally himself. That is, that you, the player, had somehow been magically transported into the game or into a fantastical world. For example, the Ultima games. It's sort of the ultimate expression of the player as the player character. I wonder why nobody does that anymore.


Because its hard to make that in a graphics adventure, and there arent much people making textadventures anymore.


I think going outright and telling the player "This is YOU" is rather corny anyway. I'd take a well-developed character over myself any day.

Las Naranjas

The game I was immedietly thinking of was Myst and it's clones, since it says "You find an old book" etc.

But this was taken to an absolute extreme by Omikron. In that case you are told to accept that you are playing you, which is to say someone at a computer who think's they are playing a computer.

Although that idea has debatable merit, although it's undoubtedly interesting, there were a number of ideas in that game that did have merit that weren't exploited entirely well.

I absolutely loved the comparison of PC's in Gabriel Knight 3 and the wider Uber Prot. that produces, but with the various incarnates available it would be interesting to develop them more, as periphiral entities. You could let them have some degree of consciousness left so they could give their opinions perhaps, but a better idead I think would be to merely leave their life in their apartment.

As it is, most of the incarnates just have different stats and skins. But since many keep keys to their flats on them, I think it'd be great to fill them with artifacts of the life etc. That'd really strike home that you're possessing real characters instead of drones.

One of my favourite parts of BASS is when you go into Reich's apartment. He's just a stupid security guard who get's shot down by an giant eye intially. But inside his flat you just got to see little elements of the man underneath. He likes motorbikes and fish. Who's going to feed those fish now?

This sort of thing also served to flesh out the already good characters in The Last Express as well. Moreover, it lets backstory for periphirial and NPC's be available if the player wants it, but doesn't clog it up like a "...then my 4th step father beat me before being eaten by a dragon which means I'm afraid of living up to my potential as a lacrosse player" techniques criticised before.

Along with the UP, this capacity to have so much extra information, especially in voluntary look messages is one of the greatest unique elements of AG's as texts.

Though taking the Look message into account, for the Omikron apartment thing to work, some sort of protagonist I think would be required. Somesort of overarching soul rather than the direct incarnation of the player. Because I feel that there needs to be some sort of internal assessment of situations, and anyway, a narrative without a protagonist is...


Trap's post reminded me of something I may as well bring up. I don't know if I'm in this attitude to adventure gaming, but I have never thought of myself as "being" the characters in the adventure games. Even though the games are usually described with sentences like "You are Ben, a tough-as-nails biker who's just been double-crossed" (or things to that effect), I have always had the attitude that I am simply facilitating a story in which I am nothing more than an observer. If this were not to be the case, many common facets of adventure games would not make sense. "Meanwhile..." scenes are a prime example, and certainly pop in many adventures. If you truly are "playing" the character, how would you have any idea what's going on anywhere else? In games with a humourous tint (and even in some without), the character will speak directly out from the screen. Who's he/she talking to? I do not interpret this as the character thinking to him/herself; I think it is most certainly the character speaking to the real-life player. There are plenty of other examples, including the ability to see an entire room at once, including areas the character could by no means reasonably see.

Anyway, what's the point of all that? I suppose the reason I bring it up is to say that I think character development is indeed a very important part of adventure games, since I do not think adventure characters are intended in any way to be an "extension" of the player. Certainly, there are games like Quest for Glory which allow you to tailor characters and there are non-linear adventures that allow you to somewhat dictate the character's style of actions, but generally I think it is almost entirely the job of the developers of the game to supply backstory and character traits to the player in a natural and not-too-heavyhanded way. One or two other people have brought up Grim Fandango in this thread, and I think that game is a prime example of subtly building a character's past while simultaneously developing the character in the present. Throughout the game, you pick up little hints and clues about Manny's "life" (both while alive and dead), but they are usually presented conversationally and in a way actual people would present them, not in such a way that it seems like a revelation every time we learn another anecdote or quirk. Even little things like Manny's accent help define his character. Don't get me wrong; I'm not implying anything racist here, or saying that all people with a Hispanic accent share some sort of common character trait. However, it does serve to differentiate Manny from all the other adventure protagonists out there. One of the very first things we learn about him is that he is most likely of Hispanic origin, and while not providing any clues to his actual personality, it does hint towards his heritage and thus we automatically know him a little better. I'm not suggesting everyone should go out and put accents on all their protagonists, but it's that kind of touch that helps a player get to know the character. To continue on the speech topic, a character could have some sort of amusing lisp or speech flaw (although that could get annoying after a while). For an example of what I consider a good example of this type of thing from a visual perspective, look at "The Find: The New Percy" by Geoffkhan in the Critic's Lounge. I can already start feel that character's personality just by looking at him. There are a million ways to "develop" a character even before character development has begun, and they don't all have to be the standard adventure-humourous-sarcastic archetype so common to the genre.

In my opinion, this is something that AGS games in general need to work on (although it is by no means a universal problem among the community; don't get me wrong), and it's something I always wished series like King's Quest had more of.

Anyway, I probably repeated a lot of what's been said already, but I wrote more than I started off meaning to write, so I'm sure I rambled a lot.

P.S. Obviously, this only applies to 3rd-person adventures, but in my case those are all I play.


good thread, very helpful. Dialog and character development is what I'm having the biggest problem with at the moment in my 'bear' game. I originally was going for a simple 'down and out' protagonist, who'd double as the comic relief, but soon realised I'd need a seperate character to serve this function.

Comic releif characters (eg glottis, murray, etc) are a strange concept, players invariably want to see more of them, yet they are unweildly as player characters. They often have TOO much personality...

arrrg, gotta go...


There's a set of archetypes used in most narrative fiction that sets the fundamentals of relationship:

  1. The hero/protagonist (or rather "Uber protagonist" in the adventure games) i.e. Manny
  2. The villian/antagonist -- to create conflict i.e. Hector
  3. The sidekick/supplementary/mirror characters -- to reflect/supplement the attitudes of the main character (and, as Duzz says, to provide to comic relief). i.e. Glottis
  4. The object/goal character -- Most of the time a love interest, but not always, as the character symbolises the goal for the protagonist i.e. Meche

There are numerous others, but these are the main four.

Note, I use the term "archetypes" instead of "stereotypes" or "formula characters" -- There is no magic formula that can create deep relationships in adventure games.

It is up to the designer to paint the large gap left by that particular archetype e.g. Manny and Guybrush are both protagonists, but both are very different in their portrayal of their heroism.

And that it the purpose of this particular GTD -- to fill the many blanks of character.


"And the inevitable fifth: the keeper of his conscience, and the keeper of the stone."

Las Naranjas

DG - To specify, Manny for example isn't the UP. He's the Protagonist. The Uber Protagonist is developed between the player and the protagonist, and thus changes depending on the player. It can also be the sub responder if you will.

I thought I should make that clear.


restraint. very important that people restrain themselves, as minimi i believe brought up

nothing can ruin a character more than comedy thrown in for comedy's sake. Like in Mourir En Mer, the game starts off wonderfully, tortured soul with one thing on his mind.

Then as soon as he gets out of the house he's using cell phones and walking around and talking to people like he's just another guy, what happened to his tortured soul? why is he putting rats on burgers?

Oh there it is, at the end of the game all of the sudden.

Actually, I don't believe that those puzzles were put in there for comedy's sake, they probably were just puzzles that came to mind when creating it, and it was a MAGs game, no? So it's understandable.

But it still proves a point.

Some of the most interesting characters from a game were probably the people from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. Gorrister being my favourite. These people had fears and physical handicaps that they could NOT overcome easily. The ape man [i forget his name] he could barely walk and could barely manipulate his surroundings. How's that for a character in an adventure game. He can't talk he can't move and he can't pick things up. That's all you do in an adventure game. We learn these character's backstories little by little and sometimes we have no idea at all what is going on. Gorrister pines for his lost wife but we barely know what happened. The doctor's life was full of experiments and tests and crimes against humanity that we will never know, we are just told about them in the game. Even AM and the other computers, we have the smallest hint as to why they were created and what happened but they are strong interesting characters that drive the story on. [can you even turn that damned golem on? i've kissed it like 30 times and i never do that on the first date!]

The restraint in IHNMAIMS creates the characters and makes us interested. There could have been long dialogues and slide shows about the creation of AM and all the problems that happened. It would have been interesting but not have given off the same feeling of being alone and confused in this world, just like the main characters.

Dot.Hack is an RPG where you are told you are playing a MMORPG and interacting with other people playing the same MMORPG and you get email and talk to people and learn that people who are playing this game are getting sucked into it or something, i've never played. I just thought it was interesting that you sitting at your playstation is part of the story. cause you are playing a game.

The same with Uplink, an awesome "hacker" simulator. you sitting at your computer writting down IP addresses and doing repetative tasks and tracking things and deleting your logs is all part of the game. There is no forced character developement in this game but you can choose for yourself to either join the main story or stay out of it and just freelance, and if you join you can be good or bad or neutral and it's all up to you.

i think i digressed my digression

lovely post Goldmund



This is an absolutly excellent post, Goldmund.

Quintaros brought up an intersting point, I think. He quoted Mordchai Richeler's "The Fifth Buisiness," which uses the main players of an opera company as archetypes for the characters. The four main ones are the hero, the love interest, the villain, the sorceress (I'm not positive on that one, but it was some sort of female accomplice) and the fifth buisness. The fifth buisness is the "keeper of his conscience," the hero's best friend. He himself is not important, but we learn a lot about the hero by the way he interacts with the fifth buisness.

Interaction is really the key to understanding a character. I don't know if Chrille meant to do this, but there were clues to Jake McUrk's character thorughout P:DA. For example, if you look at his bookshelf you find he likes to read mysteries. You know he has particular tastes in art, because he always has a comment whenever you look at a painting. You know he isn't very domestically inclined- there were various comments in the kitchen about how underused it was. You know he is a loyal customer- they knew him by name at the store. But there was never a message that popped up saying "You are Jake McUrk, a mystery loving, art criticizing, domesticaly impaired loyal customer." If there was, I would probably ignored it.


Quote from: Dragonrose on 03 Sep 2003, 16:34

This is an absolutly excellent post, Goldmund. Quintaros brought up an intersting point, I think. He quoted Mordchai Richeler's "The Fifth Buisiness," ...

It was Robertson Davies, actually. But both are Canadian authors.



Quote from Quintaros

"And the inevitable fifth: the keeper of his conscience, and the keeper of the stone."

Aye, I forgot the fifth archetype, which I call "The Guru" -- Think of Obi Wan Kenobi or Gandalf as examples.

An example in Grim Fandango would be Sal, as Sal guides Manny through his adventure, acting as a "guru".

Quote from Las Naranjas

DG - To specify, Manny for example isn't the UP. He's the Protagonist. The Uber Protagonist is developed between the player and the protagonist, and thus changes depending on the player. It can also be the sub responder if you will. I thought I should make that clear.

I originally thought the protagonist and uber protagonist differ in that you let your own psyche guide the uber protagonist, while a protagonist is guided by the author.

I wasn't too sure.

So, in other words, is the Uber Protagonist a third entity?

And from your description above, does this mean the UP basically represents the relationship between player and protagonist?


Argh! I knew I'd gotten it wrong. Richler is "Apprenticship of Duddy Kravitz" and "Barney's Version." I should know better, I'm a Canadian English student!

Ugh, I even spelled it wrong!


I think one of the most important tools to create a sense of identification is the character development, which is more or less absent in most ags games, and perhaps most adventure games... of course, to notice the development, one would have to already be familiar with the character's personality, to see it progress or decline or just change.

In rpg:s, you often feel more for the character, because there is a clear progress (most significantly by means of abilities and numbers and so, but still a progress), sometimes - which is very important - you even construct the character yourself, which gives you an immediate relation to the protagonist, who almost becomes your alter ego while you play. RPG:s are also often about direct survival, it's about enduring hardships, it's about striving to reach a very personal goal, etc.

I think the more comical the game get, the less likely is it that the player will really "feel" for the, the protagonist is merely a tool for creating amusement, an instrument to interact in a fun little world of zany puzzles just waiting to be solved.

When it comes to identifying with the protagonist, I think it's more about the protagonist reacting like the player does, and not necessarily already being like the player. I think our main problem is that we're not indifferent to the fate of our main characters...but our main characters are! Most of them just walk along the path you choose for them, rarely expressing their own feelings....the maker has intended that the player will do all the feeling, all the striving for light in the dark tunnel.

I know that was my problem in TW3...I wanted to make the main character really brave and intrepid, and when he got his really tough mission, he just said something like "yeah sure I'll do it".... the player most have wondered "how can you be so bloody sure, Artram?"


By all means go ahead, Jack Nicholson. (eds. note: At this time, DGMacpheehad an avatar of Jack Nicholson)

Hollister Man

I know it wasn't a RPG or a true adventure game, but Ultima 9, for all its faults, did this pretty well. I liked the Avatar. He was a cookie-cutter prettyboy hero, his house filled with stuff from Britannia, no apparent responsibilities, no life. Once he begins his adventure, though, he begins to take shape. You know he has saved Britannia 8 times, helping countless hundreds of people individually along the way. He is the embodiment of good to them, but when he is absent, they begin to lose their goodness. This tortures him, because he knows deep down that he brought them their greatest foe. When he must finally bid farewell to his adopted world, to move on and take away the Guardian, he looks back with regrets that he never knew how some of his past companions there felt, wondering about what might have been.

Another, for instance, is Raven. She's the pirate woman he meets during his quest. At first, neither trusts the other. You slowly learn that she's an orphan, adopted by a wealthy pirate-merchant. Later Samhain reveals that he didn't just adopt her, he really was her father, but her mother made him promise not to tell her. The Avatar falls in love with her (usually a bad move, but even women like a good romance element.) Near the end of the game, she asks 'When this is all over, will we be together?' You have the choice to answer 'I don't know' 'Anywhere I go, I'll take you,' or 'No, I must go alone, and I won't be coming back.' The answer really has no effect, but it was heart wrenching for me to have to tell her that the Avatar (me, in effect) was going away, forever.

Her story was developed enough for me to form an emotional attachment to her, as well as to the Avatar. When the game was over, I wanted more, I have never played a game as emotionally intense. The only one close was the 7th Guest at the end. "Let him go!....Let ME go!" EGO IS the boy! OMG my heart jumped.

Now everone might disagree, of course. That's why Adventure games are cool, they aren't determined entirely by writers. Its like a good book. The writer writes a person, but you get to LIVE him, by reading through his eyes. This was longer than I thought it would be, but maybe you all will get something from it.


Ah, I appreciate this thread because a lot of people ignore the possibility of injecting life into their characters.. just a linear type thing.. I like depth and therefore love it when a character has a past you can identify with, or one so terrible (as for a villian, but who knows) that you just can't stand the person. I always try to instill some sort of personality or whatever.. because otherwise things become too flat and you can't play off of them for later scenes or whatever. Ah well, just my insight on the topic.