Sunday, August 29, 2010

Late project post ahoy.

So updates haven't been as forthcoming as I was hoping, but the wheels are in motion. I'm just making sure everything is  properly though out before I start working on stuff. This is supposed to be serious operation after all.

So I'd say at the moment, preliminary design is done. I've been spending a little too long on it I feel, but I'm now sure of enough to begin setting up the framework. I've even started on some of the graphic templates, which I may post on here before the weekend is out. Today though: A quick sketch of what's possibly going to be the main character, and an boring (but skippable) essay on character dilemmas. There is however a bonus question at the end to answer though! See you after the...
I'm still kind of tossing up between having the player character as a true "blank slate" (I.e. so the player imagines their own responses to the NPCs dialogue), or actually giving the player some semblance of character and dialogue.

The standard response if trendy gameplay design fuax-tuers are to be believed (which they shouldn't be) is that the ideal player character should always be a "blank slate" citing reasons of immersion, and trumpeting the virtues of Gordon Freeman and other such silent protagonists. Their faults here are double headed really: Immersion as a serious goal is bunk (in most cases, but I'll save that for another post sometime), and while Gordon Freeman is indeed a silent protagonist, he's far from a blank slate. Sure, we're never privy to his replies (personally, I like to think they're a nonstop profanity party) but we do know a hell of a lot about him just based on the way the game and the characters in the game treat him. He's a scientist. He's respected. He's tardy. He's handy with a crowbar. As the story amps up in the second game, his character is even further defined, entirely extraneously of the players input. At no point in Half Life is the in game character a representation of the player's "character" outside of the game.

That's not to say that blank slates don't truly work in games. The Elder Scrolls use them particularly well. With a couple of exceptions, theres hardly ever any moments where you're forced into playing a certain way to extend the story, which in turn means that the game never really enforces any characteristic on the player character. The in game character is a full representation of the player's "character' outside of the game.

The opposite choice here is to have the player control a strongly defined character. Voltron's not going to have branching story arcs/dialogue trees (maybe the next project!) so really, aside from the shooting and flying  there's not really any way to extend a players personality into the game anyway. Although, I am totally thinking about giving the player a choice between playing as a male or female character, but ideally the story shouldn't change that much. Gamer girls represent! (although lets face it, more guys will play as the girl anyway... I'm looking at you James)

The advantage of this is that it's easier to write the dialogue when I'm not writing replies to imaginary questions, and its also much easier to increase tension/setup jokes when I have two sides to work with. Let's face it, I need all the help I can get, so this is most likely the path I'm going to take.

But what do you think? Blank slates or amateur-hour comedy and tv-soap melodrama?

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