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Death Machine Miyagi

When it comes to your main character, do you prefer a Tabula Rasa?

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The blank slate approach is best, particularly since it seems like there's a fairly broad range of cultures and belief systems in the P:E world, and it'd be hard for the devs to do a background for each possible combination that wouldn't feel either implausibly narrow or uselessly general.

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I think you could do worse than this for a character background:

 

 

Dr. Evil: The details of my life are quite inconsequential.

Therapist (Carrie Fisher): Oh no, please, please, let's hear about your childhood.

Dr Evil: Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.

Therapist: You know, we have to stop.

 

 

If this game has premade character backgrounds, they all should be like that. It is the only way I wouldn't mind them.

Edited by HeedlessHorseman
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Personally I liked the slow introduction of the Exile's backstory in the Sith Lords, it was that rarest of things in modern media, subtle. The few lines of dialogue we got from the Exile and Kriea hinted at so much more, thus allowing us to mold his backstory to our own imaginations liking. Personally I played him as a severely mentally scarred veteran, who hated his former Jedi self and wanted nothing more to do with the force after Malachor. Meld this with the backgrounds of Arcanum, that reflect a statistical consequence and i'd be over the moon.

 

Or the Zoroastrian scrotum shaver.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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I like both blank slates and prebaked characters. For this kind of game I definitely want a blank slate. Predefined characters don't work so well in games where freedom of choice is a big component. They can be great in more linear stories, though. It would be a much sadder world without Tim Schafer's protagonists.

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I think PST and BG games did an amazing job, in general, at giving your character an actual tangible, in game background while still ultimately leaving you as a 'blank slate'. Ultimately I feel like you need a blank slate for these kinds of games that allow such diverse choice in race and the like but it can feel a bit empty when your characters always the odd one out of never having any real ties to anything.

 

DAO did it with the origin stuff but I'm not sure how viable that would be for PE. Though picking a background that involves stuff and not getting that pre-knowledge of getting to interact with that also tends to deaden the impact of all of that. For instance if DAO didn't actually 'have' the intros but had you meet some of those characters later on anyway and they act like they know you? Where DA2 failed a good bit often, didn't let you get to know the characters that have known you for awhile before introducing them which causes stuff to feel stilted.

 

Guess what it comes down to for me is there has to be some level of blank slate and if you can't do some kind of intro thing to get you familiar with people who would of known your character (such as family) prior to the bulk of the game... then your better off not going that route and just doing a blank slate. With that in mind going pure blank slate style I still think its a good idea to have some kind of thematic background stuff that isn't so much about your place of origin or people you knew but is more focused around the kind of person you where growing up. Simple things like brutish or charming or some basic bonus to combat or non-combat related things that can also be called upon in later conversations as something folks notice here and there. Though would be nice if they had later growth analogs for most of those.. example is charming or ladies man like stuff, no reason you should be stuck with that type of thing at lvl 1 and not being able to develop into it later so... meh. Things and stuff...


Def Con: kills owls dead

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I wouldn't mind having a number of backgrounds from which to choose in order to facilitate more specificity in the scenarios we encounter throughout the course of the game a la Dragon Age: Origins, but if this is the route chosen I want to see it come into play more often. Having a background doesn't mean all that much if it doesn't mean all that much within the game, does it?

 

So long as we're given ample opportunity to define our character via roleplaying, though, I'd probably prefer the tabula rasa option. One doesn't have to think very long to come up with a dozen character concepts that might not fit into anything but the most generic of background stories, after all.


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Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forests and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoors experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.----Fred Bear

 

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I think PST and BG games did an amazing job, in general, at giving your character an actual tangible, in game background while still ultimately leaving you as a 'blank slate'. Ultimately I feel like you need a blank slate for these kinds of games that allow such diverse choice in race and the like but it can feel a bit empty when your characters always the odd one out of never having any real ties to anything.

 

BG2 actually gave me what I feel is one of the more frustrating examples of forcing a background on you. Namely, it started with the assumption that you had a party consisting of Imoen, Jaheira, MInsc, Khalid, and Dynaheir which behaved heroically and made various virtuous decisions your character from BG1 might never have made. A little tweaking of the dialogue could have established that you did not travel with any of those companions or behave heroically at all, allowing the past to be established by your dialogue selections ala KOTOR2, but nope. Jaheira flat out tells you, 'we've been adventuring together for a long time now.'

 

That, at least, is something to avoid like the plague. It makes an evil playthrough of BG2 feel extremely weird from the very start.

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This being an Obsidian game I'm 99% certain we'll wake up with amnesia.

Again.

 

NO SLEEP FOR THE WATCHER.

 

Amnesia or similar might be the case indeed.

 

EDIT: Anyway, blank slate background is kind of the best thing to get the character into the world, especially with new IPs. Using the "amnesia" way, all the odd and peculiar things of the world get to be talked about, even if they are the most common thing in PE setting.

Edited by Uomoz

1669_planescape_torment-prev.png


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First off, I want to spend three hours rolling virtual dice. Then I will spend an inordinate amount of time clicking through my custom portraits, which take up a 1 TB external hard drive.

 

Anyhoo, I also expect to grow up on a small farm on the borderlands (how a high-intelligence half-orc assassin with a semi-Japanese name, an interest in rare poisons and proficiency in throwing stars grew up on a small farm isn't important right now). While I'm killing some rats in a nearby cellar, evil humanoids rampage through the village.

 

I escape, having found a +1 dagger and levelled up twice. I go on to have a number of hair-raising adventures and earn the trust of a Scottish dwarf with mead dependency issues, a haughty but foxy MILF druid and a scarred barbarian with a name containing no vowels.

 

This is all sorts of awesome to me.

lol

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Just throwing in my two cents/copper pieces/shinies.

 

While I do sometimes prefer a blank slate, I like having some personalized flavor involved; though a little more than Dragon Age: Origins where it doesn't really matter what you pick it feels like, but not railroaded into choices. I recall a video game ages back that let you click on traits ("I click adopted, cursed, and I fell on my head as a child" as an example.), that would affect reactions, how your journal was written (the arsonist one was particularly amusing there), and to a degree the story line Perhaps have it as a choice to be a blank slate or you can pick some traits that affect story line, how people react, etc. like

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I think it really depends on the story, and I don't think one way is necessarily "the" way. If they do put in backstory including siblings, parents, etc., though, they really need to have a *slightly* slower start than BAM YOU ARE ON THE RUN WITH YOUR FAMILY ZOMG NOW ONE OF THEM IS DEAD DON'T YOU FEEL TERRIBLE YOU TERRIBLE PERSON. That was . . . jarring.

 

I think my personal favorite for introducing background details into the game has to be KotOR2, though, where people ask you about your past and you can give several answers. The whole section of Peragus IV was pure gold covered in gold with a side of platinum and diamonds as far as I'm concerned. I'd definitely support having the option to brush off the questions for people who don't want to have their internal story thing disrupted though (Sylvius, looking at YOU).

 

For me, it's all about implementation. Tabula Rasa can be AWESOME. Having a background could be AWESOME. It's just how it's put into practice.

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Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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With Ciphers around, one wouldn't necessarily have to start with a blank slate. A powerful Cipher may be able to insert false memories; perhaps even an entire false background (like the replicants in Blade Runner). Over time a character may begin to discover discrepancies in their personal tale, which will thereafter lead them to begin a search for the truth. This can really mess with a character's head, causing them to doubt what is real and what is not.

 

Note that this could instead be applied to a companion instead of the PC. 8)


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I very definitely prefer a blank slate. Failing that, just enough details to give some context, but not enough to limit the kind of character that will fit into the background. Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale II were good examples of that, to my mind; the characters were at least at the time of the game's beginning mercenaries of some stripe, and you knew what city they had most recently been in and the rest was up in the air.

 

So long as the choice of who your character is doesn't feel restricted, it's fine by me. Baldur's Gate was fine; being raised by Gorion and knowing Imoen and the others in Candlekeep was vague enough that I haven't yet come up with a concept that didn't work. For some reason, while perhaps it should've been the same sort of thing, Neverwinter Nights 2 always felt much more restrictive to me on that.

 

In any case, enough rambling: I like to be able to define my character's background as much as possible.


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Who was the Courier of Fallout: New Vegas fame before the game started? Obviously, the Courier was a courier. Other than that, no family, friends, or connections of any kind are clarified in the game. The character is thus more or less a blank slate.

 

I disagree with this, and another Courier-like character is what I'd like to see.

 

The Courier had implications about his past, however minor, and a general trend with how people reacted to him, typically calling him lucky and a tough badass. He also had dialog options that were rather suave and hilarious. Tossed in were random things like how the Courier apparently had some sort of fixation with eyebots and/or the Enclave logo (dialog with Ulysses, the fact that the Courier himself initiates the quest to repair ED-E of his own free will, not at the whim of someone else).

 

I like this. It was enough character to make you curious about who he was and curious about his past, while simultaneously being vague (locations he's visited), unimportant (Enclave fixation) or shrug-offable enough (comments about how tough he is; just a matter of the NPC's impression, doesn't make it true) that it didn't interfere with your own character.

 

This is what I want. I want to be able to roleplay while also watching the Courier's story unfold. I want to see this repeat in Project Eternity.

 

This being an Obsidian game I'm 99% certain we'll wake up with amnesia.

Again.

 

Which games do this?

Edited by Longknife

"The Courier was the worst of all of them. The worst by far. When he died the first time, he must have met the devil, and then killed him."

 

 

Is your mom hot? It may explain why guys were following her ?

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I think the method this game is going to take is rather obvious given then unique soul mechanic that has been discussed in the updates.

 

You will create any character you can imagine, any race, class, gender combo will be open. However as the game unfolds it will be revealed that you have a rather unique soul that will awaken and tie in with events and actions that make your character special beyond your average Project Eternity denizen. This soul may in fact have been thought destroyed by some powerful nasty individuals and now that they know it lives in you they will want to finish the job.

 

Anyways that's just my guess, but that means it doesn't matter what your character was or is, they are still going to be swept up in all kinds of events because of this reborn soul mechanic. So put this one in the BG, PST category of blank slate with partially defined events surrounding the character.

Edited by Dersu42

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The disadvantage comes in the form of possible lack of depth. With apparently no family or friends or background of any kind, the character can feel like little more than a walking set of statistics pretending to be a character. Torment would not have worked anywhere near as well as a story if your character didn't have a very richly defined background, for example.

 

This isn't the developers' problem. Tabula rasa is a slate upon which the player writes himself, creating his own background for the character, personality, quirks and so on and so forth. If the end result is a "walking set of statistics pretending to be a character," then that is the player's failure, resulting from not grasping the concept of roleplaying.


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The mystery of the background of the main character in Torment could be a nice middle ground. You get hints about your past, but not enough to set anything in stone.

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The disadvantage comes in the form of possible lack of depth. With apparently no family or friends or background of any kind, the character can feel like little more than a walking set of statistics pretending to be a character. Torment would not have worked anywhere near as well as a story if your character didn't have a very richly defined background, for example.

 

This isn't the developers' problem. Tabula rasa is a slate upon which the player writes himself, creating his own background for the character, personality, quirks and so on and so forth. If the end result is a "walking set of statistics pretending to be a character," then that is the player's failure, resulting from not grasping the concept of roleplaying.

 

Except, no matter what wild and wacky exotic story you dream up for your character, you will still have the exact same dialogue choices, interactions with characters, quest lines, and so forth. A Tabula Rasa is all-to-often interchangeable with the game treating you as Mr./Ms. Generic, with no friends, no family, no history, nothing. A CRPG is not like Pen and Paper, where the GM can accommodate whatever background you've dreamt up. 'Unstated background' is treated the same as 'no background.'

 

That said, you're certainly right that a player can imagine any background they choose. They can also imagine dialogue options that weren't there, enemies they didn't actually fight, and so forth in order to facilitate the character they want to play. Its still just not the same as it being actually in the game.

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Detailed character backgrounds, unless it is a game with a pre-defined character (PS:T, The Witcher, DA2) is a fairly new concept.

 

Ambiguity / sketchiness was fine, it allowed the player an element of imagination and it allowed the developer to create an open plot. Adding character traits and backgrounds adds flavour to that without shoe-horning you into someone else's character. I hate being told who I am in a CRPG.

 

Put it like this. I make a fighter called Rolf. On his character screen it says Background: City-Boy: You grew up in a teeming metropolis, the son of a tradesman. You have the gift of the gab and can run rings around vendors less smart than you. Mind you, go out into the wilds and you quickly miss the bright lights and a down-filled quilt...

 

All of these things might give minor bonuses or penalties in a number of contexts. Maybe I also start with a bit more money, and even an heirloom item linked to my urban heritage (as you leave to make your fortune, your father gives you a treasured ring that belonged to his father before him. Won on the battlefields of 'X', it bestows minor protections against curses and hexes).

 

There's plenty there for me to be getting on with. Too much detail and I start thinking I'm just an extra in someone else's movie.

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Except, no matter what wild and wacky exotic story you dream up for your character, you will still have the exact same dialogue choices, interactions with characters, quest lines, and so forth. A Tabula Rasa is all-to-often interchangeable with the game treating you as Mr./Ms. Generic, with no friends, no family, no history, nothing. A CRPG is not like Pen and Paper, where the GM can accommodate whatever background you've dreamt up. 'Unstated background' is treated the same as 'no background.'

 

Uh, no. You're forgetting that you express your character through the dialogue choices and stat/skill/race choices you make. Are you expecting the developers to hand hold you through the game, providing convenient dialogue options to a handful of pre-set background choices? Or are you going to take a blank slate character, define the background and role play them, ie. make choices and build the character how they'd develop if they were real?

 

Every dialogue choice and character statistic should help to define the character, with the game reacting to them. For example, I created Viraya for my latest playthrough in New Vegas (http://tagaziel.blogspot.de/2012/09/viraya-background.html) and the game is hardly generic. I make choices in accordance with her character and background, with the game supporting and reacting to them. I let Dean live, personally, but Viraya did not. The game supported making this choice and reacted to it. In a broader sense, playing with a female character is subtly, yet distinctively different from playing with a male character.

 

Another example is Planescape: Torment, where the Nameless One is a tabula rasa for the player to create their own character. The previous incarnations are pre-determined, that is true, but the current one is completely blank, with its contents determined by the player's decisions and reactions.

 

That said, you're certainly right that a player can imagine any background they choose. They can also imagine dialogue options that weren't there, enemies they didn't actually fight, and so forth in order to facilitate the character they want to play. Its still just not the same as it being actually in the game.

 

Oh hey, putting words in the mouth of others. Who would've thought.

 

You are confusing role playing with play pretend. Don't do that.


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Personally, I loathe the whole amnesia approach. It has been SO overdone. KotoR 1, Kotor 2, PST, New Vegas, heck even Bioshock. What bothers me most is that it burdens the player: All the roleplaying I do is completely dependent on some thoughts I have come up with on how my character is like. There are no ties in the actual gameworld that explain (and sometimes enforce) a certain decision. I can change my past and character at the blink of an eye - and that means I have to constantly hold on to the character image I created, there is no other element in the game that helps me with that.

 

Then - I'm really baffled on how most posters claim there is no freedom of choice with a given background. That is just not true. Anyone of us could just quit her or his job in the real world any day and go on an adventure, say in central Africa. We probably won't do so, because.... But if we did so nevertheless, it would make for a lot more interesting adventure than waking up in central Africa with Amnesia. A king's son can opt to become a hermit against all resistance. A wizard guild member can stay true to his guild or rebel against it.

 

What I'm trying to say is: A given background does not restrict your choices or roleplaying - it makes them a lot more interesting because of just that background you are making them on (or against).

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I'm all for a clean slate, because I don't want to roleplay a character that I might not feel a connection too.


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I'm thinking of a "prequel" kinda thingy.

Like an opening in DA:O, but with more thorough dialogue and events. I mean, it was a nice try on their part, but still too shallow.

Too much killing, and not enough interaction. But still a nice try.

 

So basically u roll through this pre-intro and do some stuff, and system pictures your past and expands it through things that surround you, and follow you through the main plot. Like friends or posessions, or values that someone might manipulate upon.

 

This "tutorial-prequel" is, i'm guessin', a piece of pretty hard work, like a good portion of the game.

 

So it's up to devs whether they wanna do this or just a simple phycho-test would be enough, like in F:NV or all the TES games lol.

Edited by kabaliero
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You will create any character you can imagine, any race, class, gender combo will be open. However as the game unfolds it will be revealed that you have a rather unique soul that will awaken and tie in with events and actions that make your character special beyond your average Project Eternity denizen.

 

Maybe the real question shouldn't be about the PC but the soul they inhereted. Would the background of that soul be fixed/defined? The normal answer would be 'of course' but what if it wasn't? Would we have flashbacks to the soul's previous 'lives' possibly having some control over events? Hmm... a lot of possibilities there.

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