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Gaming A quick word about character design

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by brumgrunt, 16 Mar 2012.

  1. brumgrunt

    brumgrunt New Member

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  2. Jezcentral

    Jezcentral New Member

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    Maybe the reason protagonists are less identifiable is because they are all in FPS games?
     
  3. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    I think you do pose a good point, memorable characters are not ones who resemble us the most, but ones who stick out the most.

    Case in point, Sheogorath from Oblivion, half the reason that game rocked was the fact that you had someone called the mad god commanding you what to do. Same goes for games where free artistic license is given.

    However in our ultimate dream of realism we have forsaken creativity it seems. On a personal side note, I found that the Monkey Island games had some very memorable villians and allies. Just because they all resonated and stood out. It isn't about how many polygons I guess, but rather more about how human they are.
     
  4. Deders

    Deders New Member

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    Thought provoking article, I did recognise Soap nanoseconds before I noticed the tetris block but I guess He's the one I got emotionally involved with most recently
     
  5. CardJoe

    CardJoe Freelance Journalist

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    I think there are exceptions to the rule obviously - such as the Big Daddy or any of the TF2 characters - but I think it's also important to separate good character design from good branding. Shepard from Mass Effect, for example, is easily recognised and immediately striking without being very well designed - he's just a skinhead in a suit of armour. He's been so well branded and layered into advertising, box art and so on that he's become iconic and recognisable.

    Lara Croft benefits from this to a degree as well, especially considering the constant changes forced upon the character.
     
  6. Jaffo

    Jaffo New Member

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    Plenty of instantly recognisable characters from AAA games: Master Chief, Lara Croft, Marcus Fenix, Nathan Drake, Gordon Freeman (and you never even see him in the game). CoD and it's like have fewer because of the nature of the games where you're often playing a faceless soldier but even these have memorably designed characters such as Captain Price.
     
  7. CardJoe

    CardJoe Freelance Journalist

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    Captain Price is, like Marcus Fenix, not memorably designed - that's another case of branding over character design, I think. I know who Marcus Fenix is because of the amount of times I've seen his character, not because his character itself is particularly memorable. I can't look at him and learn anything about him or get a feel for who he is from seeing him. He's a badly designed character.

    The others you mention help show that fact. You can look at Freeman and learn a lot about him, for example - the a-typical glasses, the slight frame, the fashionable goatee and the bright-but-slim armour all point to a character who is not your usual grunt. You can't tell he's a professor of physics, but you can pick up on his geekiness.

    Master Chief, on the other hand, works well because of how he contrasts against his surroundings. His is a game of weird aliens and tired grunts - and he's this giant robot in the middle of it. The human shape lets you know which side he's on, but the power armour (and the rarity of that) make it clear that he is not just another soldier - he's some sort of secret weapon. At the same time, the relative simplicity of his suit, the colour scheme and the lack of aggressive excesses (What, no shoulder-mounted cannon?) make it clear he's not just a killing machine either.

    Lara and Nathan benefit from being so branded, but I think it's clear that they are athletic, roguish adventurers too. Again, it's in the frame and the comfort of the clothes - the pistols which imply "Yes, I get in trouble. No, I don't need a laser turret". In a way, their branding piggy-backs on one we're already familiar with: Indiana Jones.

    Price, while having a recognisable voice, isn't a well designed character. The moustache helps a little bit in the last two games, but even then it's negligible and doesn't help differentiate him that much from those around him. The same with Marcus - he blends in to the crowds around him and isn't particularly interesting or informative to look at. The most recognisable thing about him isn't him at all - it's the Lancer, with it's chainsaw under-barrell. That tells you much more about the wielder and their world than Marcus himself.

    Character design is about communicating aspects of an individual character in a clear and recognisable way without other information. If you're looking for a good example in the COD series, the only one who even gets close is Reznov.
     
    Last edited: 16 Mar 2012
  8. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    You know, Joe for a second I thought you were talking about Fenix from StarCraft. Who I actually remember more than Marcus Fenix.

    And Joe's point essentially goes back to the age old play on Archetypes.
     
  9. Oh No Not Again

    Oh No Not Again New Member

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    This article seems like a perfect example of confusing cause and effect. Characters like Pac-Man aren't memorable for their simplicity, rather for their complexity. Yes, I know what you're thinking, as characters go one modelled on a pie chart isn't the most challenging graphic design ever. But ask anyone to describe Pac-Man and they'll describe the game not the character. You've made an error of attributing the popularity of a fairly important milestone in gaming to a character that shares the name of a game. Much like Sonic The Hedgehog, is that character, game or brand?

    Here in lies the complexity, they become inseparable, and for good reason. It's good marketing. Pac-Man as a character suffers from a limitation of game play, while it's an entertaining game there's not really many places you can go with it. A mistake that wasn't repeated with later brand tied innovators such Mario and Sonic. Mario Cart works because Mario is a more complex character so you can divorce it from running up and down ladders. Pac-Man Battle Royale isn't going to set the world on fire, and for a good reason, at its core it's the same old game.

    Compare all that to modern characters with all their binary finery, as other commenters have pointed out character/game/brand combinations still exist, but Master Chief breaks the mould. There you have a character that is successfully identifiable as separate from the game he exists in. And the reason for that success is the quality of the character; based not on the limitations of early console processors, but on the richness of characterisation that can be accomplished.

    Ask yourself, two games side-by-side, Pac-Man and Halo; Pac-Man gets eaten by a ghost while Master Chief is offed in a battle, which one has the stronger emotional impact? The yellow dot or the human in the space suit?
     
  10. pimlicosound

    pimlicosound New Member

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    The default Commander Shepard might be a triumph of branding over design, but the core NPCs in Mass Effect are definitely well designed. Each one (Garrus, Wrex, Liara, Tali, Mordin) has a distinctive colour, shape and face that instantly confer personality, even before you witness the voice acting and animation.
     
  11. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    I was going to say something similar, ManShep and FemShep may be pretty dull and uninspiring, but a lot of supporting cast and incidental characters are imo, very well done.
     
  12. Blademrk

    Blademrk Why so serious?

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    You're forgetting the Pac-Man platform game Pac-Land (Hey, I liked it, even if no-one else did)



    and the 3D platformers Pac world on the PS2/GC.
     
  13. Ending Credits

    Ending Credits Bunned

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    I'll just leave this here:

     
  14. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    Nothing about that screams 'pacman', in fact you could have replaced pacman with just about anything without affecting the game much, if at all.
     
  15. Bauul

    Bauul Sir Bongaminge

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    This is true, but I'd argue this is due to the full realisation of the characters in their respected games. The critique was specifically of the design (i.e. the look) of the characters.

    The point of the article was simply that there is a severe lack of iconic characters in modern AAA titles. And by iconic, I mean characters that are recognisable to people even if they've never played and know nothing about the games from which they originate.

    Sonic, Mario, Pac-Man, the enemies from Space Invaders are all recognisable far beyond the scope of the games they come from. Lara Croft is another example (Derby even named a road after her), but dating from 1996, she hardly counts as modern.

    Despite games being a bigger industry today than at any point in its history, there are precious few true mascots in modern games. The red Angry Bird is definitely one, but beyond that I can't think of any.

    It just seems to me that of the pantheon of instantly recognisable fictional characters, from Homer Simpson to Santa Claus, all of gaming's contributions date from 15+ years ago.

    Further than that, I'd argue that a major cause of this is the fact the graphical wizardry of modern AAA games leave no room for the simple, bold and striking character designs of yester-year.
     
  16. Jaffo

    Jaffo New Member

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    Correct but the article reads (to me) more about a character being visually recognisable than about the overall design of it and there are plenty of characters like that in modern games.

    A lot of iconic characters also have the luxury of having been first to the party and so have 20 years+ of nostalgia, branding and cross platform marketing to reinforce them.
     
  17. Oh No Not Again

    Oh No Not Again New Member

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    I would argue that they are recognisable because of the iconic nature of the games, and as a brand, rather than the character design. Anyone who hasn't played a game yet still recognises a character from it must at some point have been exposed to the brand, which makes Pac-Man et al little more than iconography, in the same vein as a Coca Cola bottle.

    If we are talking look of a character then to be honest I don't think they ever were, or ever will be, separable from the game in which they appear. They can be innovative design, attractive to the eye, but a beautifully realised character will soon be forgotten in an unplayable game. Well unless it's ridiculously unplayable, but that's a type of fame all of it's own.

    So it's back to my earlier point, it is the complexity of Pac-Man the game that stands the test of time, not the simplicity of Pac-Man the character.

    Lara Croft, Master Chief, Nathan Drake, Gordon Freeman, Shepard, Altair (in whatever incarnation), Sam Fisher, there are loads of characters that are identifiable.

    Sure, you can argue that a person who knows who Pac-Man is would be less likely know who Nathan Drake is, but that's simply because Pac-Man (and Mario and Sonic) have become icons for gaming. But that doesn't make it a character any more than the BMW logo is a character.

    Without the game that spawned them they would be nothing. I appreciate that's an obvious statement, but if those original games weren't memorable then I would doubt that the character would be either.

    It's hard to be considered a classic without that passage of time; in 15+ years time there are games today that will be considered classics. But then again games like Pac-Man and Sonic came at defining points in gaming history, those aren't coming at the moment, but you can be sure when I get my first telepathic interface game it'll be one for the history books.

    I'd argue that suggesting graphical wizardry reduces character design is a sophistic one. Improved graphics aren't making the characters less memorable, it's the current lack of major innovations that would give a game a wow factor out in the mainstream world, thus inscribing themselves on our collective conciousness.
     
  18. XXAOSICXX

    XXAOSICXX Member

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    The ghost pirate Le Chuck from MI2.....classic :)
     
  19. Sloth

    Sloth #yolo #swag

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    I've only played the GoW games in multiplayer with friends and as such didn't recognize the name Marcus Fenix or event the Lancer name, but knew exactly what you were talking about when you said chainsaw underbarrel.

    I've also only played a bit of Halo 1 and 2 multiplayer but can instantly recognize Master Chief and feel a decent grasp of the character I'm looking at even without first hand understanding of the game's actual story and plot.

    Shepard falls into the zone that many main charaters in books, games, movies, etc. fall into in that he's overly relatable. In order to prevent players from disliking the main character he/she is kept from having any distinct features. In fact, this lack of features is sometimes a main character's defining feature. The "normal guy in an abnormal situation" design can be found anywhere. It's a shame because in my mind it makes for a more boring character than a unique design which I personally don't relate to.
     
  20. greypilgers

    greypilgers New Member

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    Minsc and Boo.

    :)
     
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