Hi, folks! Finally, it is time we touch on some creative topics in game development, and today it’s all about game characters.
First of all, let’s leave the “why does your game need characters” question — it just needs them. StarCraft wouldn’t have been even half as popular if there were no Raynor, no Kerrigan and no Zeratul. Mass Effect trilogy wouldn’t be praised if wasn’t for Liara, Sheppard or Garrus.
In this article we would like to talk a little bit about creating characters for a game and what should your approach to the whole process be from the very beginning. Also, we will talk about the development of supporting characters as a small bonus. As a source material, we will use our actual mobile action game Rise of Colonies: Uprising. This will help you track the thought throughout the entire process. Shall we?
How should you approach towards developing a game character?
First of all, you’ll need an environment (or a universe as I like to call it). I believe that the surrounding environment and events that we live through define us. For example, average people from unstable regions of the world will have different values compared to the ones that have lived in peace for their whole life. So it would be a bit illogical if in an apocalyptic game world where everyone dreams about survival people are saying things like “Excuse me”, “Would you kindly please”, etc. The same goes with swearing characters in fairy-tales-themed games — that’s just a poor designing choice, to begin with.
So, the environment… ROC: Uprising inherits the universe from its main title Rise Of Colonies — a turn-based strategy taking place in the late 21st century several years after a technological apocalypse. It has a full-scale story with detailed characters alongside non-linear choices, multiple endings and even certain missions blocked depending on the story choices. I like cyberpunk-styled environments and actions set in the near future worlds because, despite a slightly narrower audience, such games give you the opportunity to address modern society issues (e.g. high dependency from technologies like smartphones, wearables, etc.) and freedom to introduce some non-existent sci-fi elements and speculate a bit on the topic of how our world could soon change.
Once again, as an example, we have an arcade mobile game Uprising, where players have to kill all enemies on a level. But who will do the job? Well, having an automated turret doing it is not that interesting, though we could add some easy upgrades, thus simplifying the design. But how about a person who appears to be trapped and cannot leave for some reason? Let’s make it personal and throw in a man there.
Now to structure the process we need to ask ourselves these questions:
- Where does the action take place?
- Where did the person come from?
- How did he get trapped?
- Who is he and what does he look like?
- What’s his attitude to life and to the situation?
- How does he defend himself?
- Who is helping him?
- Where does he go after the game ends?
Well, that’s about enough questions. We’ll answer the first five in this article and leave the rest and the bonus to the second part of it.
Where does the action take place?
So, we have a fallen world in the near future, but need to create obstacles on our character’s way. Let’s put him on a blocked road. Probably, on a highway bridge.
Daytime environments have a better design value in mobile game development, as it’s easier to make contrast objects in daylight with no additional hassle. But is that really the cyberpunk environment we all got used to? I guess not, because cyberpunk is more like night and neon kind of thing, so let’s switch it to night.
This already looks better. And even more with some smartphone-powered enemies (we’ll discuss them in the bonus part of the article). But how did our character (his name is Jack, by the way) get there?
Where did the person come from?
Knowing where the person came from can help us understand his motivation better. That’s why I created a whole prequel story for Uprising. So, Jack has escaped from a secret underground research facility (think of something like Hive from Resident Evil movies, just without zombies). The facility had multiple floors with different environments on each floor. As Jack progressed through the facility, he thought he went crazy and had been locked in an asylum. Then he thought that he was trapped for some social experiment. The next thought was that the world as he knew it seized to exist and the dwellers of the facility were the only survivors. Obviously, I know the twist about the facility, but bear with me, I won’t spoil it now. The truth is always somewhere in between, so he escaped and found out that the world is facing the first days of post-apocalypse, and no one knows what to do and how to live from now on.