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Article - 'Realistic Characters II' by fitz_tayo

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Mar 14, 2004

Blurb

A guide to creating realism for the allies in your game.

Body

Realistic Characters Part II – Cliché allies come to the rescue.

This is Fitz Tayo with his second article on character realism. In part I, I covered over used heroes and some more realistic twists on the clichés. This time I’ll be doing it for your allies. I will cover the overused types of character and how they affect the game.

When making your main hero’s allies in the game, you have to get everything into 4 characters because of course you cannot be bothered to make a Character Change System, or you claim that you want only four playable characters. Wrong! When making your characters, if you only have four, chose the personalities that tie in with the game and you personally want them to act like. Don’t cram so much into few characters because you think your game will be unpopular if you don’t have a character that happens to be really slow and strong. But keep in mind, keep it realistic. A party of white mages without any attacking spells will probably have a smaller chance at beating an Ultra Demon Lord than a bunch of barbarians. Don’t think I’m uh… White Magist… or something. That seemed to have little to do with allies and their personalities, it just happens to be the ramblings of a crazed teenager. So here’s a list or the over used ally personalities and what you should do with them.

The calm smart one – These are characters that have seen the world, and are very knowledgeable. They tend to act as a leader to the group who is guiding them on a certain journey (e.g. Auron from Final Fantasy X). Strangely, these characters are always smarter than the hero, and the hero never pulls one over the smart ones eyes or surprises them. I think these are quite over used, and they always end up dying one way or another at some point in the game. This is realistic, but just annoying, because they happened to take the last bit of information about the Last Bosses weak spot to the grave with them. Oh darn, now the heroes have to head out on another quest. A good way to lengthen your game, but doing things like this a lot can aggravate the player. Another point I want to make about these characters, they usually are Black/White Mages or some fighter with amazing sword abilities. And what’s really annoying is when the character has traveled the world and gained amazing strength, but starts a few levels higher than the hero did, and the hero will be at that level by the end of the first dungeon. How realistic, one good aspect you can use, whether the smart guy is going to be a permanent character at the end of the game or not. Make them a lot stronger than the hero and make him join the hero early on the make the user more accustomed to the battles and game. Then have the smart guy leave and come back later when the hero is at a similar level. I know this is very unrealistic, but being realistic with this would make the game too easy. If it was realistic, the strong person would stay with the hero for ages, and if they did leave and come back later, they are bound to be twice as strong as they were. I’ve blabbed on about this character for long enough so just as a last comment, this character is over used way too much, but is a very good addition to any game because it gives the hero the opportunity to learn how to play the game without going to a black screen and having a moogle explain it.

The Cocky one – These are those characters that are arrogant, but not usually as great as they say. For some reason when ever a game stars a thief, this happens to be their personality. Except in Three the Hard Way (Great Game!). Usually these characters learn a moral lesson before the end of the game and end up being nice and friendly but this rarely happens in real life, just In TV shows. There are two types of this character, the one who is really actually good, but probably an utter ass hole, these are very realistic, or there is the one who just wants to be that great, who are usually ass holes too in my experience. If you are going to star this character as a thief, remember, most thieves are quiet, sly and actually good at what they do. Not some arrogant loud mouth who fails to steal from an enemy most of the time, and who never steals from passers by or from shops. Be realistic, if you have a cocky character in your game; make them actually good at what they do, otherwise the other party members would get rid of them at some point. Even if your party is one of those, we need all the help we can get, a total useless idiot who annoys them and probably the player as well isn’t even going to end up joining that squad of monster busters are they? Have these in your game, but try to make them actually good at something or as NPCs or the villain. But you have to have this type of character somewhere in the game. Unless your characters live in a world devoid of cockiness in those who aren’t almighty villains.

The Innocent one – These are those innocent, naïve people who have a crush on the hero, which is very realistic (I like! I like!). Seeing as these are usually girls, they are either the heroin, who refuses to be with the hero, then some miracle happens and they fall in love, or they are the younger girls who fall in love with the hero at first sight, but learn that the hero and heroin are becoming an item. Another point to add this character being the heroin that refuses the heroes advances (If any), they are usually some princess or some person with higher authority over the hero. On the few occasions this character is a boy, they are usually a young black mage or summoner (Why do I never see male summoners in games?). A good example is Vivi from Final Fantasy IX (I’m a big Final Fantasy Fan, that’s why lots of examples are from Final Fantasy Games), he is a young, naïve boy with a tendency to trip over. These are already realistic points, the naive characters are usually young, or older but in a place of authority so they are ignorant of the outside world. The characters could even be isolated somehow. Being already realistic it’s hard for me to say much on them, they are rarely seen in games, save for the naïve princess or noble which is becoming overly cliché. But for the younger naïve characters, who seem to always be black or white mages, unless they are a certain species that can learn certain magic faster than others, older and more experienced characters have a better chance of learning Ultima than the black mage. To make these characters join the party, they need a damn good reason, why would two swordsmen and a monk who deal 500 damage a turn want a puny naïve black mage who deals 150 damage with a low fire spell? To make it more realistic, make the characters become forced to work together or have VERY similar goals. Another great idea is the have a while of the game played as a black mage weak against the magical attacks, and a while of it played as the hero’s party (Unless your hero is a black mage). Later, when the mage has better spells, have the two teams meet and join forces.

The Different One – These are usually the silly ones which are a different race from every one else in your party, or they are an idiot. They usually have speaking impediments and are stupid or ignorant and unable to learn, though it could offend some people who actually know someone like this or is someone with a mental incapability, many people find these really funny. And though it is really harsh, if your game is comical, one of these is pretty much a must do. These are mainly for comic value, and are defiantly not bad at all, but if you want your game to be taken more seriously, I wouldn’t add one of these, maybe an NPC one that you encounter several times, but not a PC. Though very realistic, I get annoyed sometimes because people say a stupid character was put in the game for comic value, yet it’s very realistic, I know some people who are VERY physically capable, yet are quite slow. Why, I ask, why there is never a serious person with incapability as a hero or heroin. The reason is because, unless it’s for comic value, gamers would rather play as a generally cool person, but never an idiot. So if you want to have some very original characters, have a mentally slow person as a main character who is serious, not comical. I have played no games where this has happened. Though I do get offended it’s hard not to find these funny because they always say the right things at the right time to annoy or question someone and their motives. These people are actually a lot smarter than we think, they are simple minded, like a small child somewhat, and children and mentally incapable people have a simpler view on life. They never understand why someone kills, or why people fight, and in a midst of a war say, why don’t they just stop, which is a damn good philosophy, they are only fighting over land, leave it they way it was or split the difference. Very smart, and all others say, you don’t understand, they can’t stop, and when they ask why, the wiser person claims they just can’t. Using this in a game will raise awareness of this wise philosophy thought up by children or the mentally incapable. And people will like the character if they manage to stop a war through shear logic, even if they are mentally challenged. I hope someone does this in a game, to help spread this thought, it may not be realistic for a child to stop a war, but it will make a point that the logic they hold is a lot smarter than people who think carefully about strategy or math do.

The Quiet One – These characters are either one of two things, quiet and calm, they are sometimes the wise one, but usually aren’t. If they are the calm sort, they are usually knowledgeable but not as much as the wise one. Another use of this is the sort of quiet, I don’t care type. The loners of the game. They usually join the party for some crap reason, where the better choice if having to pay them to stay in the party. This is very realistic and a great way to make your game less linear. If you don’t pay them for different parts of the game, they will appear later and you can get them then, and only if you pay at some points and don’t pay at others could you find out more of the plot. Though to do this you need to give the player more reason to loose hard earned money just to find out more of the story, make the hirable character a good one in battle, or give the characters some side quests to earn some more money from them if they are a mercenary for hire. As for realism within a calm quiet one, if you already have someone like this who is important to the plot, I wouldn’t have another. I want to see this mercenary business in a game, because it would be really, really a great aspect of the game, but the players may get annoyed loosing all their money, so give them chances to earn it back. Please put a hirable mercenary in your game please.

The Rash one – Usually a fighter or knight, this character sort of comes in with the cocky one, though they are generally not thieves at all, otherwise they’d be a suck ass thief. This isn’t used all that much, but there is usually one character in the game who want to go off and do something stupid in a rush of anger. There is not much to say about realism in this because there aren’t many opportunities to see a person running off to kill someone because they hurt some one close to them in real life. Though about this character, if you want a less linear game, this gives you more option. Have the main character end up with the choice of whether you’re going to barge into the enemy’s or sneak in through the sewage pipes. Another example is Final Fantasy VII when infiltrating the Shinra Headquarters, you have the option to sneak up some stairs that are conveniently placed near the entrance (No realism there at all) or barge in and bust open some heads and take a lift. Though this doesn’t affect the game too much, you can make these decisions affect yours considerably. This is also good for making an attraction system, where if you take one choice, the person who suggested it’s attraction towards the hero goes up, and the person against its attraction goes down. These are the only reasons to have one of these characters in your game, unless they tie in with the story you just want one of these for some comic value of rashness or to make your game less linear.

The Happy-go-Lucky one – Also can tie in with the cocky one, but rarely does, these are usually thieves or a heroin of some sort who drags the hero out on some date for fun. There is very little to say about these characters, having one of these is a good excuse to drag to hero off to some place, then get in trouble, then it leads to a whole other bunch of fighting and crap. These characters have some realism, but have some major flaws; usually happy-go-lucky people in real life are just faking it or something. I have met some people who rarely care what happens and just go with the flow, but they are far and few between. And in a game with these, they tend to stick around the party for some reason, and get annoyed when the party leaves them behind, not tying in with the characters personality at all. What usually happens is this:

H-G-L(Happy-Go-Lucky): Thanks for saving me back there!
Hero: It was nothing, are you feeling okay
H-G-L: Oh I’ll be fine. I would’ve died if it weren’t for you!
Hero: No problem. Let’s hurry on though; we need to catch up to (Insert Antagonist’s name here)!
H-G-L: Hey wait! I’m a bit tired.
Hero walks off screen.
H-G-L: Hey wait up! (Runs after hero)

When really this is what should happen:

H-G-L: Hmm, that was a close one, oh well.
Hero: You nearly died back there, you okay?
H-G-L: Huh, what me, I’m fine, how you feeling?
Hero: Really, let’s hurry and catch (Insert Antagonist’s Name here)
Hero leaves screen.
H-G-L: Hmmm, I’m slightly tired, I’ll catch up later, I’m gunna go rest.
H-G-L walks off in other direction.

Happy-go-Lucky characters in game that are truly Happy-go-Lucky rarely care if they are left behind. This is a quite smart idea for your game where you have tons of characters available but only end up with say 4 at the end of the game: Have the option to leave the H-G-L behind, and pursue something else, and maybe end up with a different character, and maybe have the H-G-L have their own quest to find extra items for the group and then give the character the option to join the group again later on in the game. Or stay behind and wait for the character and keep them as a character and active a side-quest in a nearby town only available with that character in the party. Rarely realistic in games, if you are going to use this character, have them stick to their personality, don’t make them change randomly in the game and change back in the next scene. Unless a major life changing event takes place to them, don’t change their personality.

The Dark Mysterious one – These are the sort of dark, strange characters with the unknown past, that through side-quests end up viewing a scene of their past that some how leads to them finding an ultimate weapon. For some reason these characters usually are good at magic and only slightly good at attacking, or vise versa. The magical ones are usually strange entities born from demons, half-Wizard half-demon combo. The stronger ones are usually the same, but are human instead of wizards. These characters usually have something wrong with them, they can have diseases, they could be a different race, or they could be some sort of clone or genome or some sort of human experiment gone wrong. If you do choose with this character personality, don’t just make them the only one of their kind. Unless they are a sole-survivor of some sort. If they are a half-demon, make them show up in some demon town, even if they are the sole survivor there would still be town ruins right? Give them more background rather than, they used to work for a scientist, the scientist experimented on them while they slept. They became inhuman and started to lead a secluded life. If this is the case, wouldn’t there be more failed experiments around, and where is that ultimate experiment that worked, also a great idea for one of those one-on-one bosses that aren’t very hard to fight as a group, but one-on-one are a pain in the butt. They could be some sort of optional boss to get that final magic spell or ability. Oops, sorta drifted off onto other subjects there. Anyway, all you need to do to make these characters more realistic is make more of them, there isn’t going to be just one failed- experiment-inhuman-thing living alone in the ENTIRE world, or universe in some science-fiction games.

The Old Wise one – A small variation of The Wise one, these are just the older characters that the player only gets to control for a while, and they always seem to be more powerful than they let on. To the hero’s dislike these characters tend to disagree or rebuke the hero every time they make a mistake. And even worse, they always get killed by the antagonist a small time into the game, but right before they die, they cast some amazing spell that weakens the enemy enough for the heroes to banish them from the game for a short while. This is annoyingly over used and very un-realistic. As these characters are always stronger than they let on, why don’t they help the party out in a particularly hard random battle? We just don’t know, why do they have less HP than every one else, but somehow withstands the enemies death spells and manage to cast Meteo? Because they are REALLY UN-realistic, any game that repeats this mistake I shall brand the maker a complete idiot until they change it. If you are going to have these characters, either do NOT make them cast some amazing spell on their death-bed, or make it possible for them to cast it in a game over situation alongside the message, “I was going to save this for (Insert Antagonist’ name here), but I’ll have to use it now, and end the battle with all characters at 1 HP. This could also change the plot somehow with the hero exclaiming something like “Wow, why didn’t you tell us you could do that?” after the battle. To be really realistic, if you make it so they cast the spell in a random battle, they should die after the battle, or at least drop a few levels because they are so weak. This could vary your story greatly, or not greatly, it’s up to you. But don’t make this character unrealistic any more. It pains me to see idiots making such cliché games.

That’s all for now, next time I shall be writing about the enemies personality and motives alongside realism. That will be Episode III. So look out for it. You will have noticed this is considerably larger than the first one. Well, I spent a lot more time on this, wow 3481 words. That’s a lot of writing, well, seeya soon.

Fitz Tayo.