Monday, 28 March 2011


Characters are generally meant to evoke emotions in you so to feel a response to said character. For example, a bad character is usually a complete prick. This is simple, why would you like him? It makes disliking the bad guy and defining who is the bad guy easier. However sometimes, bad guys are actually quite likeable. Take Mr Wonderful from the book Mogworld (Yahtzee Crashaw): He's evil, he wants nothing more then to kill people in bloody and gruesome ways, he loves torture and drawing out pain. Horrible basis, why would you like this character? First of all, he's called Mr Wonderful, you have to like that. On top of that he's cynical, ironic and has a satire humour to him. I should mention this book is a comedy, this particular character made it so much more enjoyable.

Kel'Thuzad, Warcraft 3 - Prince Nuada, Hellboy 2 - Ruber, Quest for Camelot

Hero and saviour of the world,  Tirion Fordring
Strange how that works; liking the bad guy even when, in this case, he's a mass murdering pyschopath. Then there's the flip opposite; the knights in shining armour type characters. The kind that shout justice and honour every chance they get, the sort of chosen ones with the gods on their side who always get the girl and it all works out for them in a lovely happy ending. I find these kinds of characters somewhat repulsive. They're without flaw, aside from the usual bad childhood crap like, oh I dunno, they were an orphan, or their daddy is the bad guy etc.
These are the characters you're meant to like and chant on from the sidelines. Having to play as these guys puts me off games.

A game that almost did this but pulled it off well is Mass Effect. I put off playing this game as it just seemed like another: 'Hoo-rah soldier, America saves the day.' sort of storyline with some curvy women chucked in for good measure... that's not to say it isn't.
When I got around to playing it I was pleasantly surprised that at the beginning of the game you get to choose John Shephard's background. Of course, you can go for the clichéd hero with a troubled past or, you could go the more adventurous route and take a ruthless bastard who grew up on starships. Ruthless does not directly translate to evil, just less... savoury. This instantly made me curse myself for not playing it sooner.

I seem to have a warped view on what a good character is to me. I loathe the clean boots, do it by the book style heroes, the ones I'm supposed to like, and yet prefer the ones who I'm meant to dislike; to an extent. I don't like the moronic bad guys, the kind that assume a couple henchman will finish the protagonist off while they retreat to practice their surprised face. Like these bunch of dipshits.

The Lich King, World of Warcraft - Megatron, Transformers - Skeletor, Heman

Though that's more to do with poor script-writing. So tired of seeing the same clichés over and over again. When will I get to play as a truly bad person in a dark and tragic storyline?


To expand on script-writing; this can make or break characters. They could have all the write ingredients yet if the script is poor and inconsistent, they'll just be another character. An example of a well done character with a decent script would be Garrett from the Thief series of games. He was the good guy but not as you know it, he was just some dude living one day at a time trying to make ends meet amidst solving some rather strange mysteries. The thing that made Garrett so great was his frequent comments throughout the levels, often sarcy – he was essentially talking to himself with just you listening in. Characters who don't talk are often unrelatable and pretty bland characters.

Take Gordan Freeman for example. I feel I should really like this guy, the Freeman, he doesnt talk and looks like a bit of a geek, which is unique. I like him as far as that goes however it stops there due to him never saying a word. How can you relate to this guy who does nothing but swing a crowbar with repetitious monotony? Still, he gets points for being different.

This brings me to voice acting. In books there are no voices so you have to make it up in your head, I'm a little slow with such complex exercises so generally all the characters sound the same. This doesn't necessarily ruin it for me. However in games a good voice actor can really inspire appreciation for a character whereas a bad voice can completely ruin it. A few examples of good voice acting:
Several of the voices from Fable 3: A lot of the voices in this game were done by well known actors such as Simon Pegg, Stephen Fry and Michael Fassbender. Getting professional talent for your voices, though not essential, really helps it a long. The prince (you) however, has a terrible voice that doesn't fit. Your brother isn't really that posh, yet you are, very. Add that onto your everyday role of slicing and dicing, burning and looting and it seems to disintegrate the image somewhat.

Another good example would be Martin Septim from The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, played by Sean Bean. You can tell he put a lot of effort into bringing across emotion into this character. Game Director at Bethesda, Todd Howard, stated that Sean Bean "didn't get enough credit for his role as Martin." With which I strongly agree.

Some links to examples of what I find to be good voice acting:
Shade of Aran, World of Warcraft -
Various voices, Transformers (2007)

Adding star status into your games always seems to be a winner. Ron Perlman, Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart for just a few examples of this. It's nice to see more and more actors lending their voices to games, it shows that this industry is really going somewhere and being accepted.

Voices, however are not the be all and end all, despite the power to absolutely destroy a character with poor voice acting, or possibly cause them to become pop-culture icons because of it like Barry from Resident Evil or Dante from the first Devil May Cry.


Stop laughing; I am evil!
Aside from voices the biggest part, with first impressions riding on it, are appearances. As I stated at the beginning, I loathe knights in shining armor. So for me, to see that typical guy in full plate with golden trim, mighty steed and heaven forbid, wings, causes me want to shit myself with woe. Poor character design can really cripple a characters persona like Venger from the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series; He's bad, but could you really take that guy seriously? He's got one bent horn thing sticking out of his head that seems to have a bit of a growth issue on the back. On top of that he's goofy and wears a dress.

No comments:

Post a Comment