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What makes Good Characters?


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For me it comes down mostly to believability. Their motivations, both past and pretense, need to make sense to me in the context of their personality. I just need to feel like, 'Hey this character could be the sort of person that would really exist in a setting like this.' This doesn't mean every character needs to be sympathetic or anything like that. In truth too many tragic pasts and that's why I'm evil now gets tired really fast. It's ok to just be 1 dimensionally evil or good so long as it's consistent. Granted what is good, what is cheesy or what is too cliche or acceptably cliche is really subjective. Minsc is a fine example, most people love him, I found him to be annoying.

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K is for Kid, a guy or gal just like you. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up, since there's nothin' a kid can't do.

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For me it comes down mostly to believability. Their motivations, both past and pretense, need to make sense to me in the context of their personality. I just need to feel like, 'Hey this character could be the sort of person that would really exist in a setting like this.' This doesn't mean every character needs to be sympathetic or anything like that. In truth too many tragic pasts and that's why I'm evil now gets tired really fast. It's ok to just be 1 dimensionally evil or good so long as it's consistent. Granted what is good, what is cheesy or what is too cliche or acceptably cliche is really subjective. Minsc is a fine example, most people love him, I found him to be annoying.

 

How would you feel about an antagonist that is painted in a bad light and does in fact do evil things but their end goal is actually heroic?

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The basic rule I have for any character is they must try to grow or they must go away. That's my rule 1.

 

Beyond that, the best characters have interesting stories to tell. And I enjoy seeing characters in conflict, ones that speak up their mind about differing opinions on issues they feel are important. I like them to have their own motives that tie into what's going on.

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"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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Companions - growth in power and believable psychological reactance to the world and the PC

 

Key Characters/various non-party member NPC's - eh...it annoys me when the first 9 townspeople are named townsperson and they all say identical things when spoken to, all of which is lore-dumping, and then the 10th townsperson has a proper name and meaningful dialogue.  

 

Antagonists - If they oppose my worldview/behaviors, we either debate or fight.  If we agree, then I'm allowed to team up with them to be the new mayor of E-ville.

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To make your characters more meaningful, one of them should die. Permanently. :o

 

To make your choices matter, the character that dies should be determined by your previous decisions. :wacko:

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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Good characters? Easy, their world doesn't resolve around the main character. I don't mind ego stroking (it's a video game after all so sometimes you have to pat the player on the head to make them feel, along with other methods, they accomplished something good) but they must have their own values, beliefs and motivations. A good antagonist, for example, is an antagonist you would have joined in another game.

Hence, why a woman like Atris was awesome in KOTOR2. She wanted to protect the legacy of the Jedi, felt like she really had the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. She wasn't perfect, had her quirks and flaws, like her cowardice and self-rigteouness that made her cover her failures, seeked knowledge from villains and allowed her slow fall to the dark Side. Much better than "MWAHAHAHAHAH EEEEEEVIL UNLIMITED EEEEEEVIL" Malak.

 

And they must not have over-the-top personalities, just like my previous example. I take it chars like Minsc in BG2 are amusing and all but it was annoying to deal with a manchild obsessed by his pet hamster. That's also why I wasn't exactly a fan of Heck in Alpha Protocol, despite his popularity.

Edited by Auxilius
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They need to be comprehendable, and complex enough that you can't figure them out in a single dialogue (you may not even figure them out fully after the whole game. But, if you do, it should take some doing.)

 

If they're... I won't say "evil," but, antagonizing you, you don't necessarily need to be able to sympathize with them, but you need to feel like they're making choices after considering things, same as you are. They're simply trying to get at different goals from a different perspective, and use a different approach.

 

If they're friendly, they need to like certain things about you, and not-like other certain things about you. They need to have convictions, as well as doubts. Even the most zealous Priest needs to question his own faith, once in a while, even if the answer to his questioning is to keep his faith.

 

Whoever they are, they need to struggle with the conflict between emotion and reason. They need to not have everything in the world figured out already, but strive to do so. Their personality needs to affect the way they make decisions, not just automatically decide things for them.

 

I'm fine with a character who loves fighting, for example. But... why he loves fighting is much more important (and should be, in the way that character's written) than simply whether or not he favors fighting. Decisions and preferences are the result of deeper factors at play.

 

Lastly, I would agree that Minsc was a bit overboard on the comic relief front. A character can easily be funny, but, they shouldn't just serve the role of humor for the player throughout the game. *shrug* People just aren't quite that pervasively one-dimensional ("I'm going to constantly refer to my miniature giant space hamster friend in a comedic fashion!").

Edited by Lephys
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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Imo to simplify abit, a good character is of service to others. His/her conscience is main guide. They want to do the right thing. Minsc may be annoying but he is typical guy who "thinks" with his heart. (headwound obviously)

 

Doesnt mean they will do always good. I would love some stories that backfire, whn they try do good or right thing and later have personal issues like good intentions gone horribly wrong. I think this will mess with players mind alot and is fun also. Will make you as player question your decisions more. You really want to do good thing, but you just might make it worse. Not all sitauations in game should be obvious...even whn something doesnt pay ingame that well, there is certain satisfaction doing the obviously good thing. My point, dont make it always obvious or so easy. Playing good character has been way too rewarding. I think more sacrifice is needed.

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^ To clarify, I was under the impression we were talking about "good" as in "quality."

 

However, that is a very good (no pun intended, strangely enough) point made regarding "good" as in "anti-evil" characters. :)

 

Tying our two analyses together, I'd say that even the "purest" good (anti-evil) character should still be tempted to do not-good things sometimes. That's what I meant by emotion versus reason.

 

You may have every intention of being the most righteous person in the world, but you're still only "human" (I realize there are different races, but, I mean no one's perfect, and we're all susceptible to mental states/emotions/other factors). There should be some situations in which that ultra-good character feels like doing something they know isn't exactly "good" in their own philosophy. Even if those situations aren't very plentiful.

 

That on top of not necessarily being able to make your intentions and the results of your actions/decisions match up.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Having subtlety and nuance is important. Don't telegraph everything with the character, have certain things be hidden and only hinted at. Even with more straightforward and "simple" characters, you can add some layers to them. The recent Dredd movie is a very good example of this. Dredd seems like a pretty straightforward character, he's supposed to be the faceless representation of the law, stern, unwavering, and completely devoted to the pursuit of justice. However, through all the interactions with Dredd, the movie still gives little hints that there's something more to the man underneath the helmet and the constant scowl.

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How would you feel about an antagonist that is painted in a bad light and does in fact do evil things but their end goal is actually heroic?

 

You mean like an antagonist who decides they want to build a society that would accept all different types of people including half-breeds and destroy those who had oppressed or opposed them? Sounds like a game I know. :-

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'Evil' characters don't think they're 'evil' - they may have their own version of a 'noble goal' or simply think it's a dog-eat-dog world and act accordingly.

(The ultimate 'evil' in NWN2 OC was a bit like this 'noble goal' approach - I especially liked the story of his/its origin when you were talking with the dwarves and elves in the library/place/thing and ultimately understood why it was doing what it was doing (even if Black Garius was more of a 'mwahaha' type))

But more so.

 

Others have already said it in more detail so I'll just echo that good characters have layers and their own motivations.

 

And if someone's supposed to be the secret hidden antagonist behind the veil - it shouldn't be obvious the first time you meet them ;)

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MCA wrote a blog entry on characters a while back which might be relevant to the topic.

 

http://forums.obsidian.net/blog/1/entry-168-project-eternity-and-characterization/

 

And his vlog on the same.

 

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"Things are funny...are comedic, because they mix the real with the absurd." - Buzz Aldrin.

"P-O-T-A-T-O-E" - Dan Quayle

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Relatability. Desirability. I can relate to John McClane's quick irritability and wry cynicism, and I desire his capacity to kick terrorists in the ass. I can relate to Éowyn's keen yearning for equality, and I want the strength of heart she always possessed. If I understand where they come from, and, at least a little bit, want to be like them, that's a good character.   

All Stop. On Screen.

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^ To clarify, I was under the impression we were talking about "good" as in "quality."

 

However, that is a very good (no pun intended, strangely enough) point made regarding "good" as in "anti-evil" characters. :)

 

Tying our two analyses together, I'd say that even the "purest" good (anti-evil) character should still be tempted to do not-good things sometimes. That's what I meant by emotion versus reason.

 

You may have every intention of being the most righteous person in the world, but you're still only "human" (I realize there are different races, but, I mean no one's perfect, and we're all susceptible to mental states/emotions/other factors). There should be some situations in which that ultra-good character feels like doing something they know isn't exactly "good" in their own philosophy. Even if those situations aren't very plentiful.

 

That on top of not necessarily being able to make your intentions and the results of your actions/decisions match up.

 

 

I misunderstood this thread somewhat *awkward*. Yes I was more in realm of classic good as "anti.evil". Thanks for point that out before I continued more lol.

 

Rewards for being good were mostly so obvious. If one even cant get reward in loot, system strokes your/characters ego. People want to play character that is hero of the present, or recognised for their deeds generations to come. I happened to watch documenatry about Judas evangely at the same time and came across thread title. Should have taken more thought into first post.  I was cought in certain thought  and was like how many would do good thing or sacrifice themself and be villified for it. Not Robin Hood villified. But Judas villified.

 

But let me not derail from thread anymore :)

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I think you need consistency in behavior and background, plausible character flaws, and some redeeming characteristics.

and an arc. A character has to have a journey during which something is lost and something is gained.
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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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Only thing that makes a good char is how is this char realistic and non one dimentional (how ever there are some one dimentional char that still are realistic).

 

For example, how will most people react if they see blood and gore ?

 

In reality :

-Their run, their cry, thei are looking for help, or if they are "police-officers" "mayby" investigate ..

 

In most horror movies:

-Thay split up and all go investigeting so they are better targets for the murdurer ...

 

How people react when they have to deal with a mystery that is related to them :

 

In reality:

-They whant to know answers

 

In most games:

-They are avoiding the subiect and react like it never happer (becouse if they where "looking for answers to quickly they will destroy whole "mystery" to soon"...

 

How a man react to a beautyfull woman confesing her feelings or kissing him (beautyfull from his perspectiv).

 

in reality:

-He kisses her/ answering for the kiss mayby even they have sex. Somethimes it Develops in some kind of relationship, sometimes not

 

In most romance books or films:

-He is pushing her away and saying ... "no we can't .. its ... to soon" ... or .. " no you are to perfect to be kissing me im a worthless pice of ...."

 

In most games:

-They allways have sex and cutscene (almost), and after they finish you gain advancment "romance comlepe 100%" and no further developnemt.

 

there are many examples ... by i what to play living characters .. not some kind of "psychical" superhumans that have no feelings, no development and acting acording to some "big plan" almost as they where nothing more then and artist pawns that he plays...

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A character just has to be interesting, they don't need to grow, or be sympathetic, or even be plausible, they just need to be interesting.

 

Whether it's because they interact with people an interesting way, have an interesting personality/story, etc. they just have to keep my attention and make me want to see them more.

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A character just has to be interesting, they don't need to grow, or be sympathetic, or even be plausible, they just need to be interesting.

 

Whether it's because they interact with people an interesting way, have an interesting personality/story, etc. they just have to keep my attention and make me want to see them more.

 

If they son't change, your interest whoud be dying thru the whole story becouse in most cases people are asking "how will his future look like", if he doesent develop ... then propably the same as in the time you met this char :)

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A character just has to be interesting, they don't need to grow, or be sympathetic, or even be plausible, they just need to be interesting.

 

Whether it's because they interact with people an interesting way, have an interesting personality/story, etc. they just have to keep my attention and make me want to see them more.

if they don;t change then they are a type, not a character.

It makes them one-dimensional. That's bad writing no matter where it is done.

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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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Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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