RM Skill: Skilled
Well, after seeing one of the worst character design additives, I decided to actually do a -real- tutorial. Being in the game design field, and loving character design, I'm going to go through a method that -MAY- work for you.
)()(NOTE: This method will not work for everyone, nor do I claim this method to work for everyone; however there are quite a lot of things that I've picked up that will help you regardless of the method)()(
Part One: Lets Start
First off, are we making this character for a game, an online RPG (such as on the forums, or an IM program), a story, or even a little animation? What you're building your character for will have a lot to do with your character's background, heritage, and other such variables that need to be implemented to make your character feel real. Even the weakest characters (side characters that don't really do much) have a good amount of detail to them.
The Animation character will more than likely have the least amount of background. Take “Rocko's Modern Life” for a great example. We know all of the characters' background to a point, anything that's irrelevant is never pointed out: “When was 'Flecko' born? What's Grandpa's life like? Does Rocko have grandparents? How did Rocko suddenly get his house?” These questions are never answered, but also, no one really cares. All that matters is that it's entertaining. The Animation characters have 1 extra nitch though, you can see them, hear them, and know their quirks just by watching them do what they do.
The RPG character that you usually make for online games are the next link. These characters are a lot more in depth, because if something doesn't make sense, you need to have it make sense. Your character no longer has a house, why? Your character was shunned by his or her parents, why? Your character doesn't come from the realm of the game that you're playing only because he or she fell into a wormhole that appeared in the sidewalk for a long enough period to only suck him or her in... Wha? Just because you have a reason doesn't mean it can't make sense, it MUST make sense! Your character may not have a novel-length of background to it, but you need enough to have enough to set that character into that game.
The Video Game Character is the second-to-hardest one to come up with. Why? Because you won't always have the background to your character because it is part of another game that was created 10 years ago. In the beginning, characters didn't need backgrounds, but because most didn't have a story either (Save the princess! Ok). Despite missing a storyline, the games did a great job because they provided a challenge. Video games had an introduction, a plot (stop DK because he's taking the princess to the top of the skyscraper), and an ending (You saved her, good job). I'll get more into Character Development later because that's what this tutorial is about.
The Story character is the hardest to come up with in my opinion. The more in-depth your character is, the more your reader relates to him or her. If your character is 2500 years old (using my character Kyoko Silvers as the reference), you would need a good 50 major events that happened in that character's life. If that same character never referenced their past, you would need a good reason, or that character would be extremely flat. Not to mention that you don't have a visual reference of these characters either, you need to describe everything, word by word. Not only that, but you can't spend 100 pages describing that character either!
Now, off of that stuff, lets get to the nitty-gritty. If we have a game already designed (it's in this universe with this stuff), it makes character creation even easier, because then you're not trying to match a game you've never created before with that character. However if you create the character and you don't have a game, you -may- have a tough time deciding when to use it (a problem I have). In my opinion, creating a character without any skills is the best start. I like to start by making a rough sketch of them and go from there (ok, I like that... I like that... Eh... don't like that... lets try that... hey that turned out good... etc.); Not everyone's good at drawing, but I find it easier to pull from pictures than to create something from nothing. So lets say we have a 6' robot that has feelings (a little cliché, I know XP), but is designed to kill everything that it sees. We would need a background to it; why would this robot have feelings, why designed to kill? This is considered internal conflict, or Me vs. Me (the character versus himself/herself).
So lets design a quick character; pulling things out of my butt, I'm going to throw out a voluptuous female ninja, average youngish-adult age (23-28) blue hair, and ruby-red eyes. Ok, this girl is pretty, but has these unusual features, but why? Now lets explain: The Blue hair is from a hint of pigmentation that forces the sun's reflection to give it a blue hue; it is actually black hair. The red eyes are a slight color mutation of the brown pigmentation giving a startling color. Now do we need to explain that to our players? No. But it gives some backstory to this character. But there's a problem here. We have a FEMALE NINJA. One, Ninjas come from Japan, so if we have this game set in medieval Europe (or anything fantasy revolving around that), it won't fit. And two, females in Japan were considered items, not people. Therefore females would NOT be allowed to do anything the males could do (this includes the rebellious ninjas).
Part Two: Giving our character some more depth
Culture clashes are a great thing to include in a game, as it's something NEW and EXCITING! LIKE TYPING IN ALL CAPS, AMIRITE? Not all the time, as a culture clash can also provide problems to characters and game themes, alike. If we wanted our fantasy world, completely away from Japan, we cannot call that female character a Ninja, we would need to consider her as an “assassin”. That is, if we want to keep the full character. Also, what would a female ninja/assassin be doing during this time? Running from the law? Doing pole dances for knights (Bad image, oh god no)? Or doing what she's good at doing? What you decide actually becomes part of your plot.
Now, the plot doesn't need to follow only ONE character (when concerning RPG Games). If your plot follows one character, and then shifts over to another character because there's some importance to it, that will make your game great. Chrono Trigger is a prime example of that. The game follows the lifelines of all of the characters (except for Magus as he really wasn't meant to be a story-driven character. Read the original game's Manual, Magus doesn't exist). Robo and the cultivation project, Lucca and her scientific findings, Marle and her royal bloodline, Ayla and her passion to become stronger; all of these characters have a story that you follow for part or all of the game! Plot twists are great, as long as they don't become overly complicated “I freed you from jail, now you die sending you to hell where you need to go to heaven to come back to life, then you have to fly into space to a new world to find your lost heart which turns out to have turned into this crazy monster that you need to defeat, but it therefore kills you again...” It's too crazy already and adding more is just ludicrous.
So lets go back to that female ninja that was an example earlier. Lets keep it in medieval Europe, or at least a variation of it, and lets keep her as a ninja. So why would our ninja heroine go to Europe? That can be your decision, but you would absolutely need a viable reason. My example would be that she had traveled west to explore, ending up in eastern Germany, where she had run out of money. (I'm missing a lot, but this is example-wise). There's still a lot that's missing though, why would our mistress go to Europe?
There are two types of reasons, the good reason, and the real reason. Our good reason for our character going to Europe, was that she was exploring and got there by accident. The real reason? She left Japan due to oppression and decided to go west to find civilizations that are both non-oppressive to women and able to use her skills. The players only need to show the good reason, if it's good enough. If you do explain the good reason, the real reason needs to be exposed eventually. The last thing that's needed is the background, how did this female ninja learn these skills? In this example, maybe she learned them from her father, who was a real ninja, while he didn't know that she was learning them. Again, I'm just going to example so I'm not going to add much else.
Lastly we need a name for our character; I find this as the hardest part and put it last. After you've designed your character from the appearance, skills, personality (yes don't forget their personality and quirks), and past/background; you can easily pick a name for your character. If your character comes from a specific country, go online and look up some names that come from that country. I wouldn't be naming my Japanese female “Shauna”, or “Helga”, but she might have a codename of that (it still wouldn't be her real name). I also wouldn't name my person from Atlantis “LL Cool Jay”. Find a name that fits the culture that your character comes from. If your character comes from a mixed culture (like America) then pick a name that represents your characters' family. Although I like Japanese names, that doesn't mean that I'll name my kid “Kyoko” or “Akira”, when I my family comes mainly from Europe. It just doesn't work (If you do something different like that, usually the kid feels upset about it)
Part Three: Entering the Game
So we have -A- character, but that isn't enough for an RPG (unless you plan on making it more of an action/adventure). RPGs generally have a menagerie of characters, even the townsfolk of your games have a little bit of a character to them. Generic townsfolk are too boring, give them some personality. Even when women were oppressed, they didn't sit there and wait for commands, and slaves don't just work 24/7. There's a thing called off time, and that happens for different people at different times (slaves slept 6-8 hours after work, that's about it). Now I'm not going to go into how to event these characters to do different things at different times in the game, but changing it up really helps. If you go to town A, and there's a Student worried about this big test, wouldn't it be annoying that you come back near the end of the game, and he's saying the same thing? What if that student was doing the last class for his school and now he's off forever, is he working now? What if he's now having fun because it's the game's 'weekend'? Although it doesn't seem like it, time exists in RPGs. What made Pokemon Gold/Silver so popular was that different things happened at different times of the day on different days; it was the biggest thing since the Game Boy!
There are two types of characters, static characters, and dynamic characters. Static characters stay the same throughout an entire game (or story), while dynamic characters change a lot throughout the entire game. Static characters aren't necessarily bad. Chrono Trigger is another prime example. The characters rarely develop, making them static characters. The only dynamic character is Magus, who was good, lost Azela (Dang can't remember her name), turned evil, then has doubts and turns good again (unless you destroy him). Another kind of development involves strength and skills, topping a master, being better physically rather than fighting against an invisible problem. A character that stays 100% the same is boring (unless you look at old GB/NES games)
Now what about other party members? The cliche is that you have your main character and a mirror character. The main character exhibits whatever you want, while your mirror character, or foil character, makes that main character feel or look better or worse. Many people insert this character to make their main character stand out. Do you need it? Not really, but giving your party members completely different looks on life than your main character helps. The other party members don't need to be -as- in-depth as your main character, but they do need a good background.
Now, do your characters go together, or are they just thrown together without much thought? If they're thrown together without much thought, then you won't have an engaging story, and for RPG games, you need that story. Yes, you can point all of those characters towards the same goal, but generally people are selfish and would rather complete their own goals. If all of those characters are pointing towards the same goal in order to complete their own goals, that would make sense, but to have them go towards your main character's goal for no reason makes their thought/logic flawed.
So why worry about thought/logic? If your character loves fluffy critters, would you make fluffy bunnies as your enemies? And if you do, would you even allow that character to attack them? If you do, it would go against their thought and logic. A character's opinions, feelings, ways of life, and decisions matter! Just because you're controlling them doesn't mean they should go against their ways of life. If my character wouldn't hurt fluffy critters, I would add a “fluffy critter” element and anything that character considers cute and fluffy couldn't be touched. If you made him allowed to kill those critters, it would make him insane. Now if it didn't matter, then it didn't matter (and it doesn't change anything), but if it changes the way that character thinks, don't allow it.
So what did we learn? We learned that creating characters takes time, and a lot of in-depth info. If something doesn't make sense on a character, it needs to make sense. If it doesn't and we can't fix it, then we can't use it. We also learned that we should start skeletal-wise (appearance) and build up to personalities, likes, dislikes, and their name. We now know that characters don't end with just the main character, or even the party characters. This also includes town members, the random quirky character here and there. Also that we shouldn't keep things static, as if our story and characters are going through time while the rest of the world stays in the exact same time as the story start. And lastly that we shouldn't break away from the character's thoughts, even if it's novel to gameplay. Character design is an easy practice for some, but not for others. If anything, look at yourself, how you look, how you became the way you are, and start from there.
Sometimes the best character is the character you least suspect, not the character that's completely out of this world.
This post has been edited by admin: Jul 13 2010, 06:58 AM
Been gone for a while, abandoned my original Apprentice Diary project to re-work everything. I'm not a bad person if I scrap ideas I view as junk later, am I? XP
I'm currently writing the story for my next RPG (Although I do have other things I need to do, like work and cleaning up my second book). It may not be visually stunning (I may need to hire some Sprite people later ^_~), but the story will make an impact, just like the end of BOTH of my books :3 (Second one ain't out yet, but it has a great impact)