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998606 Posts in 39169 Topics- by 30582 Members - Latest Member: luisfelipeart

April 20, 2014, 05:20:01 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeWritingThe Player / Character relationship
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Evan Balster
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2013, 08:19:24 PM »

I guess the thinking is that if Freeman expresses himself, that's undermining the agency of the player and the fantasy they undertake as him.  We don't know whether Gordon is humble or proud, gentle or stern, self-interested or heroic.  So we make those decisions based on our own feelings and there's nothing to undermine them.

Personally I don't care for it, though.  As far am I'm concerned it's more interesting to fantasize I'm someone different than a powered-up, repercussion-free version of myself.
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2013, 06:13:06 AM »

Balster, your work is similar to mine. I'm working on a body language system too, dynamic conversations etc. etc.

I don't like the "canvas" character though. Expressive actions without mechanical relevance bother me. In Mario you can duck-jump without need but the situation still plays out differently. Looking different in LPB is just aesthetic; making faces is the same.

Westman, companies don't focus on AI because AI is hard. The situation is that simple. We don't approach the problem right yet. AIs are super iterative. They also require a complete harmony between technical implementation and the understanding of a person, or how a person acts. These things are opposites.

Malice, complex code isn't required to solve these problems, just well designed code. You don't need a complex painting to have a beautiful one. Minecraft is enormously simple. Look at its depth. The process for reaching this code however is complex.

Westman, even better if the NPCs react to player decisions that are rooted in core mechanics. For example, in Skyrim the player runs around town and explores. NPCs never react to this. They react to dialog decisions, though clearly the choice of what mission to do next, where to explore next, are the most revealing ones (of the player's personality). NPCs should react to that. You can do a lot with NPC reactions.

I like non-silent protagonists because I need either an action to express myself through or a character to do it for me. Gordon Freeman fought, but I didn't imagine a personality behind it, not outside of the fighting. That's just me.

Freeman was silent because of game design. Same thing with Link, who just make noises. Link is called Link because he is a link to the player, the player's proxy in the world.

The silent protagonist thing hits home for people who fill in the story naturally for themselves. I'm not crazy for it either, but that's because I find filling in a character without in-game tools very difficult.

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« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2013, 03:49:20 AM »

We don't know whether Gordon is humble or proud, gentle or stern, self-interested or heroic.  So we make those decisions based on our own feelings and there's nothing to undermine them.
yeah that's valve's reasoning but tbh i don't buy it. or rather i should say it doesn't work for me because 1. half life is completely linear and there's no player agency to speak of, and 2. in plot terms, gordon is basically a silent goon who does what other people tell him. i can "imagine" how he feels about being a goon, but doesn't change anything about it.

also i guess why it doesn't work for me as immersion is that i generally don't think about videogames in terms of "this is me, i'm doing this."

so yeah basically i think the gordon freeman-style silent goon protagonist is an often awkward storytelling device and i agree with rinku's point that it essentially reduces the protagonist to a passive entity who needs other (actual) characters give them some kind of motivation.

the funny thing about this is that valve is aware of these problems and even parodies them in portal (tho ofc that sort of thing dates back to at least system shock)
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Graham.
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« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2013, 04:03:04 AM »

Yeah this is true. At least Link has some personality. He makes noises, animates etc.

I think maybe if you're less used to it you'll think like a character. I played Skyrim with my step-siblings - children. They loved the character creation part. I knew like, you never see your model, or only from behind, so details like barely matter. But when you don't know you pour yourself in.

You move Gordon around and you're like, "this is me, I am doing things!" You are unused to the experience of controlling a guy in a universe. Though on the other hand reviewers project into Skyrim characters. Though they are paid to find the fun in games. We just move on to different ones.

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SundownKid
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« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2013, 06:29:34 AM »

I prefer it far more if the protagonist has an actual personality. Silent protagonists are just a crutch for not being able to write the main character so that they don't come off as annoying. It takes you out of the story and destroys any semblance of realism when you can't talk to the supporting cast, it feels like the MC is just your "cursor" in the game world and not a legitimate character.

Self inserts are not a very good storytelling device in a linear game, they make me feel like a powerless servant of whoever wants to boss me around. When someone talks and I can't, I don't imagine myself talking, I just take it as fact that they didn't say anything because they're wimpy. It wouldn't have made someone like Gordon or Crono any worse if they said a few lines at times, just more interesting to play as.

You can always combine the "Blank Slate" and the "Actor" by giving them a personality and changing their appearance, see also Commander Shepard.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 06:37:03 AM by SundownKid » Logged

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« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2013, 06:49:30 AM »

You can always combine the "Blank Slate" and the "Actor" by giving them a personality and changing their appearance, see also Commander Shepard.
i think player-created characters in RPGs are very different from "blank slates"
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« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2013, 07:11:00 AM »

Yeah I feel like that blank slate is a cop-out, like the story that is entirely up to you to explore. Make some decisions devs. What should I think about and what shouldn't I? I have blank sheets of paper at home. I don't need more.
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« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2013, 04:54:29 PM »

Yeah I feel like that blank slate is a cop-out, like the story that is entirely up to you to explore.
im not talking about that either, and i would argue that an "explorable" story that has enough hooks to actually make me WANT to explore it is actually good storytelling and plays to the so-called "strengths of the medium".

but i digress. what i mean is its awkward when the story is told in a conventional way but the protagonist is somehow mysteriously mute and needs other ppl to speak for him. it just creates a lot of odd situations dialog-wise and like i said its strange to play someone who's supposedly a "hero" but has no real agency in the plot.

o btw, another pet peeve is games with voice acting where you can name your character and the dialog has to be constructed in such a way that the protagonist's name is never mentioned (ex: final fantasy 10).
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Evan Balster
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« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2013, 05:37:32 PM »

Haha, yeah.  There's an interesting connection there, between giving a character a personality and giving them a fixed name.
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« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2013, 07:47:53 PM »

err... I know it's not what you meant. I was making the connection.

I figured this would come up. "Explorable" is a loose term.

A blank slate is purely explorable. The free-range story you're talking about isn't actually blank, it's suggestive. The environment hints at you and leads you around. It is a well designed playground. A blank slate is something different.

Explore is probably the wrong term for me to use. "Make up" is better. I hate having to make up reasons for why characters are doing things.
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mysteriosum
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« Reply #25 on: March 21, 2013, 09:16:24 AM »

This is a very complex subject, and I'm sure many a scholar in the future will write theses about it...

As an actor, I've learned over and over that actions is what defines a character, not words. Crono has SO much character. He acts on his own once in a while. When his team-mates despair in the year 2300, when they find out the world has already ended and this is our future, Crono says, 'No. This will not come to pass. We can change it.'  Except he says it with his movement and body language instead of words. This makes you respect him on a deeper level than if he had actually said it.

Also, the idea of Link as a silent protagonist has always bothered me. He's not a silent protagonist. He talks to everybody - we just don't see his text. Everybody responds to him. Example:

Zelda: What's your name?
...
...Link?
What a great name!

, or whatever. He just said his name!  It just wasn't displayed as a string of text. It could be considered a cop out, I suppose, but the impact it has for me is that I'm able to fill in the dialog for myself. I can decide what kind of a person Link is. That's my power as consumer. And at any rate, there's no such thing as a 'defined character' whose personality we can't interpret. Hamlet has loads of spoken lines, and yet he's been considered through the years as being depressed, suicidal, insane, brilliant, lazy, or whatever you like. There's no correct response here. Whatever Shakespeare wanted the character to be is irrelevant. It doesn't belong to him, it belongs to us.

I won't use Freeman as an example, because all the supporting characters basically tack on some personality traits for him, and like it's been mentioned, he's just some goon, effectively. You don't use any of your brilliant-scientistness to fight the bad guys...

Bioshock, on the other hand... ripe with player self-expression and interpretation. You have so many choices in that game, that each player playing the game has a different opinion of who the protagonist is. Maybe the guy is a sneaky bastard who likes to kill people from behind with a wrench. Maybe he's a ballsy mofo who's all in your face with a shotgun. Maybe he's a passionate learner, who goes out of his way to re-learn this world he can't remember. Maybe he's heartless (or at least pessimistic) and kills all the little girls that he finds. At any rate, all of the options are there, and it's the player that defines the character as the game goes on - in much the same way as the actor defines who Hamlet is.

Something that's really interesting for me is the player as its own character. Like in Starcraft, where you play 'the Commander' or 'a Cerebrate'. My favourite use of this so far was in Jonas Kyratzes' The Sea Will Claim Everything, in which the characters in the game have actually summoned you from your own room, and built a 'window' through which you see the action. And everyone sees you for what you are, an outsider, but no one judges you for it. And you're the one that rallies the people to fight against the evil Lord. You. The player.

It's so wonderful...
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Evan Balster
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« Reply #26 on: March 21, 2013, 12:27:32 PM »

Jonas Kyratzes is one of my favorite interactive storytellers.  Don't know why I don't bring him up more here.  <3
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Graham.
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« Reply #27 on: March 21, 2013, 02:04:32 PM »

I think the argument that Bioshock provides a lot more character that Half-Life 2 is pretty weak. Bioshock is just in vogue.

I agree it provides a little more character. You are humanized by the terror, other people reacting to you. Your hand animations are also more personal.
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mysteriosum
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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2013, 03:19:12 PM »

The argument is not that Bioshock provides more character, but rather that it provides more opportunity for character. In either case, I'm the one that provides the character. More choice = more self-expression = more of me providing character. Call it a blank slate or a silent protagonist if you like, but in the end, it's me, the player, who provides the character. You can compare it to something like Terra in Final Fantasy, but it's really not a fair comparison. Terra's got a whole lot pre-established, which is hard to tack on your own opinions.

It's like a character in a book versus a character in a play. In these cases, I'm a reader of a book (FF), but an actor in the play (Bioshock). Bioshock is in vogue because it's a great game; I could analyze that shit for years Gentleman
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Graham.
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« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2013, 06:46:19 PM »

I understood what you meant. I am saying that it doesn't provide more opportunity to create character. HL2 is a better selling game than Bioshock, by 3 times.

I think Bioshock provides a strong atmosphere. It doesn't actually give you more choice. It just gives you a richer world. Then you invent your own choices in that world.

The choices you make in HL2 are more tactical. They are less humanized. I don't see Freeman as a goon, but I agree he is less of a person than the Bioshock protagonist. On the other hand the control of Freeman is a lot smoother. As a mechanics-based shooter, HL2 takes the cake, by far IMO. Bioshock is the story game.

You might find this distinction pedantic, but I don't. Bioshock gives character through context, not through choice. Context makes the player invent choice. There is a big difference between these two things. Often designers will struggle to give players more choice when really they want more meaningful choices, as Bioshock provided. So my mental flare went off when I read what you wrote. But mostly I think we're on the same page.

Another distinction: HL2 puts you into the world. Bioshock puts you inside the head of someone else.
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