Friday, 14 October 2011

Looking at Characters : Identifying Appeal (Part 1)

When it comes to creating a character with lasting appeal, you first need to figure out why other characters are so appealing. To do this I will be looking at the top 10 characters in Empireonline.com's list of 50 greatest Video Game Characters, identifying why they're so appealing and then comparing them against one and other. This will give me a better understanding of wht people look for in their games and also potentially influence the choices I make when developing my characters.

10. Sephiroth
First Appearance: Final Fantasy VII (1997)

The main Antagonist of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth already has an appearance that demands attention. A Limited colour pallet of black and silver, long hair, pretty boy looks, a cold calculated personality and an insanely long sword Sephiroth already has an iconic look. His back story as a genetic experiment created from alien DNA to be an elite soldier for Shin-Ra, Sephiroth's define moment was when he murder's the protagonist's love interest, completely removing a member from the player's party.

The Player then has to defeat several forms of Spehiroth at the end of the game with the ultimate form being a large celestrial angel like being.

With an Iconic look and actions that would be memorable a character like Sephiroth is bound to stick in players minds, his back story is also rich in content should players want to seek out information about this character.

09. The Lemmings
First Appearance: Lemmings (1991)

Originally appearing as nothing more than a few pixels, Lemmings were small creatures who depended on the player's wise strategy and choices to get them from the entrance to the exit using a variety of tools on hand such as digger lemming, bridge making lemming and the likes. Created by Rockstar North (Formally DMA Design) part of the fun of Lemmings is the control you had over these tiny, cute/charming creatures, you could either assist them or send them to their firey/watery/free-falling death.

It's the dependance that the lemmings have in their players to guide them to safety that makes them memorable as you could easily betray them ultimately you were their god and it';s this sense of power over them that makes them quite memorable.

08. Master Chief
First Appearance: Halo (2001)

A cyber/genetically enhanced super soldier, Master Chief burst onto the scene as the debut game for Microsoft's X-Box. Being an almost silent (he has spoke but only when needed) and tough as nails Marine, Master Chief has quickly become one of the go to action heros of modern gaming.

When playing in the single player modes you feel like a genuinely unstoppable force, with NPC's constantly exclaiming at your presence and since you never see the Chief's face it's assumed that even through the tightest spot underneath his now iconic green helmet he's as cool as a cucumber.

With an air of mystery and a generally calm demenor whilst delivering one liners, Master Chief is this generation's Doom Guy and the fact that other human's in the game respect him for beating up aliens just adds to his coolness.

07. Guybrush Threepwood
First Appearance: The Secret of Monkey Island (1996)

A youthful and excitable character Guybrush is the main protagonist of the Monkey Island games. With moments of self assurance and use of sharp wit (some of which do back fire), Guybrush starts off with dreams of wanting to be a pirate, as the series progresses the character develops aswell but is ever a bumbling pirate.

His appeal is in his ineptitude and that often things don't always go to plan but ultimately Guybrush succeeds. Coming from a point and click adventure game it's important to have charcaters the player would invest in and Guybrush with his bumbling charm and under dog like qualities adds to a wide range of characters that appear in this list showing that coolness isn't everything.

06. Link First Appearance: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The silent protagonist of the Zelda series has become one of the most iconic characters of video games, with instantly recognisable clothing and a willingness to rise to the occasion to fight Evil. Link has become a poster boy for the Hero Archetype, players only insight to his personality beyond his pure and noble role of being "The Hero" is through NPC's interaction with the character.

One of the keys to Link's fame is the many different versions of him through various games as none of them (bar the odd sequel are connected) each Link is a different from the others and Fan's believe there is some kind of over arching timeline to the Zelda universe, this along with the various events that happen to the ever mute protagonist be them heroic or humorous it's easy to see how this plucky young hero captured the hearts of gamers.

Already from looking at this five characters I've got a range of arche types and why they're appealing, from cool methodical bad guy Sephiroth to ever trusting Lemmings theres a wide range of characters for different styles games, oddly for a less action oreintated game like mokey island the character has a much more robust personality but in the action/adventure Zelda Series, Link is nothing more than the personification of the player. Both are still characters in their own right and fufill their purpose wonderfully but just in their own idium.

I'll be looking at the top five game characters in Empire's List next.

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