Sunday, 15 April 2012

Task 10: Elements of game design, part three: character

Character design isn't something I really think about, this is mainly because the games I tend to play don't rely on good character design to be fun.These are games such as real time strategies and action adventure games. I think the game type I play most however is the first person shooter genre.

While characters are an important part of games they are often over looked in the genres I play, especially first person shooters, meaning there aren't very many characters that have stood out to me as memorable over recent years.

I can't see me.
 I think this is mainly due to the fact that you never see the character you play in first person shooters, they don't often talk or interact with the environment so they don't need to be designed or interesting. They are just a shell for the player and we're what gives them character. First person shooter games are often based around 'running and gunning' gameplay which doesn't give much chance or need for interaction with the environment so we never get to see how or feel how our character is relating or fitting into the world. I often find other characters within first person shooters to be some what dull and uninteresting if not unbelievable, they don't normally have a real sense of depth, this may be due to the fact you don't tend to spend any real length of time around other characters during gameplay and they aren't really necessary within the game.

Despite the fact first person shooters tend not to have awesome character design, I still find them enjoyable and fun to play, because the characters don't really make or break the game and you never need a real sense of attachment to any of them in order to enjoy the game.

Other game genres however, such as role playing games, need to have more believable characters that have good design because the way they look, act and interact with us makes more of a difference. Within these games the character we play also has much more design gone into them as the way we connect to them becomes an important part of how much we enjoy the game. Games that are played within the 3rd person perspective also tend to have alot more effort put into the way our characters look, feel and move as we can see every move they make and if it doesn't look realistic we wont believe it and ultimately dislike it.


Character design then is an important part of making a game believable and fun. The challenge is to make characters that are realistic and believable within their given environment and setting of the game. Character design relates to everything about a character, their history, accent, movement, facial expressions and the way they dress. Everything must work together believably in order for the character to make sense and fit within the world so that they don't stand out as wrong.

While some games require characters to be deeply developed to fit, others work well due to strong art design. One of my favourite game characters of all time is 'War' from the game 'Darksiders'. This isn't because his character has a deep back history, emotional connection or sense of humour, its because he looks bad ass.

He looks awesome!

I'm instantly drawn to the Darksiders game and the characters within it because the artistic style of the game is awesome. The way the world and characters are designed isn't realistic but it is all believable in relation to each other which creates a fun game experience. The Darksider's style makes everything within the game bulky, bold and huge, if they had stuck a weedy main character into it like Link, the game would be rubbish. It works because no matter how big the world is or how nasty and huge the enemies are, War looks and feels like he can take it all on, despite being smaller, and that's down to his design. War isn't very deeply designed and he doesn't have a real emotional background but that is also part of his design, we don't really relate to him as a character but he is believable within the Darksiders world and that's why he works.

And he fits!

I think an important part of character design is relating them to the genre and world they are from. There is no point in creating an emotionally deep soldier for an FPS unless it is the point of the game because it would be unnecessary, overlooked and it just wouldn't fit. But it would be equally as bad to find a poorly designed shell of a character in an RPG that we just cant connect to. Characters are an important part of games that help to fill the world within a game and make it believable, but how they are designed needs to work with the game itself. 

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