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So I was reminiscing about the days slaughtering darkspawn alongside Sten and Alister. Dragon Age Origins was released back in (I think) 2009 and yet it still holds some of my fondest memories of gaming. The reason: the NPC's.

 

This game much like Pillars of Eternity is centered around a believable world and having it populated by a variety of characters, akin to real life. As a writer myself, characterisation isn't an easy thing to do. On the one hand, you have the job of making the NPCs that the main character is interacting with as relatable and realistic as possible, on the other you also can't make them too complicated for people to keep up with if there are new characters all the time.

 

The bit that requires (in my humble opinion) the greatest amount of thought is the judgement call on how fleshed out and how much writing can be assigned to any given person. Is this character going to be doing anything even slightly important (vendor level or above really)? If yes then a backstory is helpful (even if it isn't added in game). The layer that the player (or reader) sees is where they are now and how they react to them at that moment of interaction, but the reason that this particular character is, for example, hateful towards the PC doesn't have to be revealed in game specifically but the writer is aware of it all the time throughout the writing process. This helps get into the mindset of that NPC and forms their language, how they specifically structure their sentences and their facial expressions (again, not seen by the player necessarily but kept in mind).

 

This topic is actually huge and I was planning to and could write more but I doubt anyone is interested honestly.

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Thought I'd add to this regardless.

 

What makes an NPC memorable? For me it's the voice acting.

 

Characters like Leonardo Da Vinci and Torquemada from Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; Morrigan, Alister and Sten from Dragon Age; Bastila, Malak and HK-47 from KotoR 1 and Kreia and Atton (HK-47 again too) from KotoR 2 all had great voices which suited the character perfectly without being cliched.

 

On the other hand Wynne and Oghren (Steve Blum is a great voice actor, but typecast so much), Carth and Canderous, Disciple, Handmaiden and Visas were all weaker characters (to me) because they were too generic for my tastes.

 

However I think that actually it's a pretty unusual line to take and more often than not it's the writing that carries whether a character is a success.

 

I'm going to prefix the next couple of lines by saying that for non-fiction I prefer films to books. For the writers of a book or game with no voice acting its more difficult to appeal to the portion of the audience I'm representing so the writing has to really carry it and give accents and nuances to the characters. In a book its much easier with a (terrible) line such as 'In her thick Glaswegian accent', which is sort of immersion breaking at the time because when talking to people the first thing you think about them isn't usually their accent but in the long run benefits the story by not having to keep a Glaswegian to English dictionary beside you while reading.

 

However in a game it's not usually possible to add exposition as background is told via imagery. In which case it's the dialogue that needs to convey accent, relative intelligence level both to other creatures and to others of its own species, state of mind and nuance to indicate things like possible deceptiveness or loss of free will.

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