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Antagonists and RPGS, and why Antagonists are important


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In a great many RPG's I have played in my time I often find one of my biggest angsts is that the guy I want to oppose never really felt opposing or someone that made my life a personal hell. I want that to change in Eternity.

 

I like what this game could be but what I really want to see is another Memorable Kriea/Trancendant One/Jon Irencius. So what ultimatley makes a villian like these ones so special?

  • These Antagonists all had a personal attachment to you in one form or another.
  • They exist consistantly in the story of their games rawly to make your life a living hell.
  • They actually effect you by hurting friends, you and the world in ways that will all link back to the pain you suffer for them.
  • They are damned cool to look at and have memorable voice actors that leave shivers down the spine.

A villian to me needs to be a person that reprisents all of these things and more. We can be the villian in some rpgs and that too is fun but perhaps the most important essense of an antagonist is to remember with a story, they must be the obsticle to the player.

 

It can be anything to me, be it a person, a metaphysical force or a very concept that can be the main villian but as long as it convinces me that its worth my investment to destroy it im happy.

 

So, what "doesnt" work for a villian?

 

The list I generally find most bad guys are overly cliche for is the following:

  • Dragons, there are too many of them latley.
  • Evil Wizards, again, overkilled cliche of late.
  • Female seductive sorceresses, far too typical and predictable.
  • "The Black Knight" usually an armored or imposing super strong male figure who wants to destroy you.
  • Orcs, Goblins or an army of boringly predicable hordes of evil that force you to unite the races (yawn).

These things are the things I really do not hope Project Eternity will be filled with in my opinion purley because of the amount of times they've been done. I know in this day and age its impossible to avoid a cliche but I really hope Obsidian (and I know you will because you guys are awesome) do a deep job of making an origional anti-force for the protagonist (you).

 

Im also going to name a few faces that I feel I do not want to see either, examples of villians that are so predictable it hurts and equally feel week and shallowly developed:

  • Alduin in Skyrim, granted this guy is supposed to be a world eater but not once is a city destroyed by him and he even saves your life (accidently) at the very beginning of the game.
  • Malak from Kotor 1, because granted, while Malak was your apprentice (and the twist was really cool) he never felt like an interesting villian himself other than "go destroy things Bwahahaha!" -Cough- booooring.
  • The Blight from Dragon Age, it had potential to be interesting (and the architect was a good example of that) but otherwise its just a predictable (yet another zerg) force that comes to consume and swallow everything and never feels personal or truley your problem. You could have just run away but you chose dumbly not to (granted thats one opinion and alot of others might have different ones).

Thats a good example of naming and shaming. None of these antagonists felt personal it wasnt like Malak was after me or Alduin even destroyed or hurt anyone I loved. Thats the wrong way to make me care, I shouldnt have to go to them to care, they should come to me and "make" me care about who "they" are.

 

The antagonist is the obsticle and opposite of the protagonist, be you the hero or the vilian your opposite has to be that which hinders your progress and chooses to object you as the center of their goal to stop or destroy. That goal should be a personal and emotional journey, loosing companions, being hurt literally by them and metaphorically. Made to question weather your morality is better than theres, these are things that make a good villian.

 

So what I am saying here Obsidi is, please make us a well done antagonist, one that leaves us with shock and awe at twists and turns they take us through and ruins our hopes and gives us reason to repent for their victories, avenge ourselves, and conquer or save the world.

 

Make these foes, the main foe, or foes! Who said its limited to one? A group or individual that truley want to ruin my chars life.

 

"THEN" I will go and stop them, THEN I will rally an army to end their tyranny (or conquer their heroism) THEN I will liberate nations from their hand (or send daggers in the dark to unmake their merciful rule).

 

Make me care, Obsidian, make me care who, or what these things are that oppose me.

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I want that to change in Eternity.

 

You make it sound like PE team have already sent you a memo with the entire story, told you they don't know what to do and asked your advice about how to write a good one.

 

These guys were responsible for PST, with possibly the least traditional antagonist we have seen in any video game before or since.

 

I'm quite happy leaving them to their own devices and coming up with whatever it is they come up with.

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  • These Antagonists all had a personal attachment to you in one form or another.
  • They exist consistantly in the story of their games rawly to make your life a living hell.
  • They actually effect you by hurting friends, you and the world in ways that will all link back to the pain you suffer for them.
  • They are damned cool to look at and have memorable voice actors that leave shivers down the spine.

Maybe it helps to express them as more general motivations

  • it's personal
  • it's actively involved
  • they're dangerous
  • they stand out, visually as well.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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You know, I agree with you, and I've seen a really good take on this in the comic, the Order of the Stick. There's the main antagonist, a lich who's trying to gain power and couldn't care less about the main party. Then there's also "the Linear Guild" which is another party of adventurers that are really out to get the party for personal reasons. It makes for an interesting dynamic.

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  • The Blight from Dragon Age, it had potential to be interesting (and the architect was a good example of that) but otherwise its just a predictable (yet another zerg) force that comes to consume and swallow everything and never feels personal or truley your problem. You could have just run away but you chose dumbly not to (granted thats one opinion and alot of others might have different ones).

 

You know, I always saw the blight in Dragon Age more as a force of nature than an antagonist. The real story wasn't the blight, it was about how people responded to the blight. And for that purpose it worked fine.

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Im not entirley disagreeing with that regard Kevadu but it was also "cliche" which I hope Eternity tries to avoid when it comes to protagonists, companions and antagonists alike.

 

Still Im also agreeing with Knight aswell as I do have faith in Obsidian I just hope it doesnt under shot itself as some great developers get over-confident and forget that they are making a product that will hopefully appeal to a good number of people and please them.

Granted, you cant make the world love you but you can try to make as much of it satisfied with your work.

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  • The Blight from Dragon Age, it had potential to be interesting (and the architect was a good example of that) but otherwise its just a predictable (yet another zerg) force that comes to consume and swallow everything and never feels personal or truley your problem. You could have just run away but you chose dumbly not to (granted thats one opinion and alot of others might have different ones).

 

You know, I always saw the blight in Dragon Age more as a force of nature than an antagonist. The real story wasn't the blight, it was about how people responded to the blight. And for that purpose it worked fine.

 

 

I agree main antagonist in DA:O isn't archdemon, it's Loghain (and he is a very interesting antagonist if I may add). His agents are actively trying to stop you throughout the majority of the game, while on the other hand archdemon is, as you said, more like force of nature that puts events in to motion and don't intervene much after that.

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  • The Blight from Dragon Age, it had potential to be interesting (and the architect was a good example of that) but otherwise its just a predictable (yet another zerg) force that comes to consume and swallow everything and never feels personal or truley your problem. You could have just run away but you chose dumbly not to (granted thats one opinion and alot of others might have different ones).

 

You know, I always saw the blight in Dragon Age more as a force of nature than an antagonist. The real story wasn't the blight, it was about how people responded to the blight. And for that purpose it worked fine.

 

 

I agree main antagonist in DA:O isn't archdemon, it's Loghain (and he is a very interesting antagonist if I may add). His agents are actively trying to stop you throughout the majority of the game, while on the other hand archdemon is, as you said, more like force of nature that puts events in to motion and don't intervene much after that.

 

How was Loghain interesting? Not only was he extremely bland as an archenemy, he hardly made any sense.

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How was Loghain interesting? Not only was he extremely bland as an archenemy, he hardly made any sense.

 

I worded that poorly, he was interesting for video game antagonist (there are a lot better ones than him of course but, but video game antagonists tend to be pretty shallow) because he had a little more complex motives than "I want to destroy world because I'm that evil". Also everything that he did throughout game was within his character, why do you think that he didn't made sense?

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I have to agree with True_Spike. overly clichéd villain, cursing as the hero gets away yet again with foiling his nefarious plans. making stupid decisions not because they made sense but because they were more evil. that's bad characterization IMO.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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I think I appreciate an antagonist most when their motivations, eventually, become clear and I find them to be, arguably, better than my character's own motivations. It'd be an interesting thing if you had several paths through the story, one of which could match antagonist's without you realizing, but with several that did not. It'd be an interesting moment to realize your choices could have sided your character with the antagonist in the end, or against him . . . but with the twist that if you went against him you might just have to realize that he (or she, or it, I don't care) might have just been right all along.

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"Step away! She has brought truth and you condemn it? The arrogance!

You will not harm her, you will not harm her ever again!"

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I have to agree with True_Spike. overly clichéd villain, cursing as the hero gets away yet again with foiling his nefarious plans. making stupid decisions not because they made sense but because they were more evil. that's bad characterization IMO.

 

Loghain has great characterization. Issue is all of it is at the very end (literally becoming available for the player to explore at the exact same time the point of no return becomes available), all of it missable depending on the player's choices, and most of it in DLC! Most players never get to see Loghain's real character in-game unless they've been spoiled and know exactly what to do to get to see it. Look up a transcript of all of Loghain's dialogue in the game (including the missable stuff at the end) and I'm sure your opinion of him as a person will change. Loghain really could have been a great RPG villain if only he were presented more effectively.

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in the end it's delivery that counts. I wasn't seeing a deep character, and if I have to specifically play through all the DLC to get it when he's the main.game.antagonist. seems silly to me.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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Dun agree with the Sephiroth choice to be honest, I do understand the value of his purpose and that alot found him a deep villian but that was primarily because Cloud as a protagonist was overly portrayed as tradgic and weak, as a consequence, his role was weak and thus elivated Sephs too much.

 

A good final fantasy villian was Kefka by far, primarily becuasse throughout the game he turned from being a small nuicence into 'the' main antagonist of the story which in a way is why I still personally find him the greatest J-RPG villian of all time. He was with you from the begining, even to the point you found him comical, a char you loved to hate. But then as the story goes on he starts doing darker and darker things untill suddenly you realise this clown isnt joking, he really is as demented as he acts.

 

I think I loved Kefka because he turns from being this villian with a corny theme tune and a memorably silly laugh with some hilariously angsty dialogue to being this guy who has one of "The" most complicated and psychotically derranged reasons to annihilate the world and rebuild it in his own madness.

 

He "was" a true antagonist, where as Sephs role depended more strongly on Cloud's lacking role which really, while Seph was a good villian didnt really let him characterise himself enough so much as let others do it for him.

 

Its not a bad approach no but maybe if it was done in a way that didnt make the protagonist look any lesser it would have been more immersive, again some loved Seph, some loved Kef and most of one party didnt like the other but we can all agree they were memorable villians.

 

But since this is a western rpg id prefer a western written villian, but an origional one, if it even needs be one villian or many. There are too many fantasy rpg's out there that exploit the following:

  • Evil Undead Army.
  • Evil Dragon.
  • Evil Demon Lord.

Not enough of them try to be origional or unique, less focus on dragons and demons being bad guys please, lets see something new come into the foreground and really push the trail of thought to the moral apex, while at the same time, truley getting you to feel a need to stop this person or being for one reason or another.

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How about not having an archvillain at all?

 

Same goes for epic battles for survival of all humanity, elvinity or all organic life in the universe. Those plots have gone stale in fantasy genre a very long time ago.

 

You can make great story with something very close and personal like in Planescape: Torment. You can play through the whole game without having any sort of ultimate nemesis in sight like in Alpha Protocol.

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I have great faith that their antagonist with be satisfactory at minimum. With a list including Sarevok, Irenicus, Khergan, Isair & Madae, Yourself, etc., I have very high expectations and little fear of disapointment. Even in games like Mask of the Betrayer where the antagonist was abstracted, it was still marvelously done. I wouldn't worry yourself, CaptainVanguard.

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It's funny you should mention the Transcendent One (TTO). Torment was very much about a personal journey, TTO wasn't revealed till the endgame IIRC and the game didn't suffer from that at all.n In fact I would argue that having an antagonist at all is kinda cliche. Of course Kotor 2 had several and that worked out pretty awesome as well..

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It's funny you should mention the Transcendent One (TTO). Torment was very much about a personal journey, TTO wasn't revealed till the endgame IIRC and the game didn't suffer from that at all.n In fact I would argue that having an antagonist at all is kinda cliche. Of course Kotor 2 had several and that worked out pretty awesome as well..

 

Considering that a good portion of Torment you were battling against past lives of yourself and their actions, the argument could be made that you were both the hero and the villian w/ personal reason to hate.

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One concept I personally would find interesting is one or more antagonist that are created not for you but kinda by yourself or your actions. Let's be honest the usual adventurer life consists of killing, plundering, stealing and making lots of half informed self righteous decisions about other people lives. So how comes noone ever calls you out on this? All this people you kill had noone in the world that cared about them? Or for example having choosen to let someone die to save several other people never upset someone?

I think it would offer lot of potential for interesting storylines and reflection about your actions to see whose lives you not only saved, but who had to suffer because of what you did and what you decided.

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One concept I personally would find interesting is one or more antagonist that are created not for you but kinda by yourself or your actions. Let's be honest the usual adventurer life consists of killing, plundering, stealing and making lots of half informed self righteous decisions about other people lives. So how comes noone ever calls you out on this? All this people you kill had noone in the world that cared about them? Or for example having choosen to let someone die to save several other people never upset someone?

I think it would offer lot of potential for interesting storylines and reflection about your actions to see whose lives you not only saved, but who had to suffer because of what you did and what you decided.

 

Now that would be cool. How about doing something "good" and having it result in a minor antagonist spending time making your life miserible. No good deed goes unpunished :)

Rub my belly....you know you want to...give in to the temptation...and don't mind the resulting love scratches and bites.

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One concept I personally would find interesting is one or more antagonist that are created not for you but kinda by yourself or your actions. Let's be honest the usual adventurer life consists of killing, plundering, stealing and making lots of half informed self righteous decisions about other people lives. So how comes noone ever calls you out on this? All this people you kill had noone in the world that cared about them? Or for example having choosen to let someone die to save several other people never upset someone?

I think it would offer lot of potential for interesting storylines and reflection about your actions to see whose lives you not only saved, but who had to suffer because of what you did and what you decided.

 

It hasn't been done because writing a story/programming a game based solely upon a players actions would be HUGE/hard to add an expansion to. Think about this, if I kill the local blacksmith, how many possible outcomes can come from just that one singular act yet alone if I kill or support the king. I'm sure plenty of developers have stopped and said, "man it would be cool if a player could impact the world in full".

 

Would love to see an attempt at it tho. :dancing:

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Sure doing it for every person you meet in the game and turning it into kinda world simulation would be absurdly complex, but I still think it would be possible on a smaller scale for a start.

Send the protagonist on his usual adventuring romp with some decisions to make and if there are certain conditions met, start a ongoing storyline about someone interfering with you and your group and your aims (you know like you usually do to the evil ones). So you have to find out who it is and why he is doing it and maybe he has very good reasons and how can you convince someone who has suffered through you to stop apart from killing him.

In short get a glimpse that your actions have consequences too, not only for you and not only for the obvious storypoints where everyone loves you or shrinks back in fear because your so badass evil all the time, but for the "normal" people on your path to greatness.

So maybe you start to think about looting every house, if killing everyone in your way is really the only method to achieve your goals, if your decisions are really good ones just because they seemed that way and so on.

Edited by Eskarion
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