PDA

View Full Version : Character development, some thoughts ****SPOILERS*



Sushiglutton
02-17-2014, 02:11 PM
On my second playthrough I focused a lot more on the story and noticed that there was a pretty big problem in terms of character development. You just don't know enough about several of them to care about what's happening. So here are some ideas to fix it :)!


Reduce the number of characters.
Ok this one may seem obvious, but I think Ubi needs to reconsider how many characters they can cram into a game. Games are a bit tricky because on one hand they are very long (20h campaign + many hours of sidecontent) on the other hand the time to develop the characters is fairly short because it mostly happens in cutscenes (which is like what 2h in total?). Imo the cutscene time is a more important factor than the total game time. Therefor you can't have as many characters as in say a TV-show, but rather the amount you would have in a movie.

If we take AC4 I think that for example Stede Bonnet could have been removed. Then there are far too many enemies. Many of them are just given a tiny presentation before you kill them. Like Julien du Casse, Laurens Prins, El Tiburon and so on. I think it would be better to have fewer pure assassination missions and instead have various infiltration missions to gain info on your main targets (or perhaps save prisoners from them, sabotage their operations and so on). That would mean a better buildup before you take them out.


If you take a game like TLOU it has far fewer characters and I think it's part of the reason people connect with its story so much. The core is the relationship between Ellie and Joel. Then they meet one or two characters at the time on their journey and you get to follow these characters for some time. Another example is if you compare Arkham City to Arkham Asylum. The latter had a much clearer main villain (the Joker) which lead to a far better narrative imo.


Build side missions around main characters.
This is an attempt to solve two problems. First it would help with character development. Secondly it would help to make the side missions feel less generic. As it is now the naval/assassin missions lacks context which makes them less fun to play. What if the naval missions were given by Blackbeard, Hornigold and so on? And the assassin missions were delviered by James Kidd, Adewale etc. The templar hunts could also have involved core characters on both sides.

So you may ask what happens when these characters die? Well that shouldn't affect things tbh. Since we are using the animus we can jump back and forth in time. So the side missions could be tied to a specific date and open up after the main story has passed this date. Then whenever you play them you travel back to when they actually happened and meet the characters that were present at that time.

Thanks to the Animus AC is actually the only openworld franchise that can have main characters involved in the sidecontent :).


Let main characters inhabit the world and let the player talk to them.
I was thinking perhaps there could be a bit of Mass Effect type content. In Mass Effect between missions you can look up your crew and learn more about them. I think the same could be true for characters in AC. For example you could speak some to Adewale, or go to Tulum and speak to Ah Tabai. It would make the world more alive and at the sane time make it easier to familiarize yourself with some of the characters. at the same time, as it's completely optional it wouldn't hurt those who just want to play.

SixKeys
02-17-2014, 02:22 PM
Reducing the number of characters seems like a no-brainer, and at this point I'm very much in favor of that. Still, it's no guarantee for better character development, such things are entirely dependent on the writer. AC2 had a massive cast and almost all of them were memorable. ACR only had Yusuf, Sofia, Suleiman and a couple of Templar targets, and they were all flat and boring (IMO).

I'm not opposed to the idea of being able to talk to characters outside of missions. We already had that in AC3 in the form of optional conversations which were nice. The only problem with them was that most of them were long as hell. If I'm playing an RPG, I am expecting long, deep conversations so I'm in the right frame of mind to sit and listen to them, but AC is not an RPG. Being stuck walking back and forth in a tiny room while Ben Franklin droned on for 10 minutes about the joys of sex felt like an eternity. Kanentó:kon's conversations with Connor, OTOH, were the right length and added meaningful character development.

Farlander1991
02-17-2014, 02:39 PM
In terms of AC4, I think it does a very tight job when it comes to characters (one might say that it's borderline tight). Though, my first experience with the story was strictly linear, because I was watching a straight walkthrough of the game (it wasn't released on PC yet), I thought, and still do think, that AC4 does just fine with characters. That being said, the open-world nature of the game, where even between missions you still have to spend some time to just get there, things get lost, forgotten, and character involvement gets proportionally lower, so in terms of the whole game narrative overall I don't disagree with you.

But this kind of problem has pestered AC for a long time, and I think ACR and AC4 are the ones that do the characters, as a whole, the best (I'm not comparing any single particular character, but just how the character cast is dealt with overall). Like, in AC1 we have Rauf, whom we meet in the beginning of the game and then never see again, Abbas for just like one single conversation... I disagree that AC2 had a good cast of characters, I think it handled them poorly overall (don't get me wrong, Leonardo for example is awesome and everything, and he's not the only one who is, but I'm not comparing single characters, I'm comparing the handling of the cast). The thief Ugo who has a problem with Ezio and then disappears, Rosa who disappears without any trace, the Florentine 'mentors' (La Volpe and Paola) appear for a sequence each and then disappear straight until the end when they're suddenly Assassins, heck, the only two Assassins who have the most presence are Antonio and Mario. And then, we get introduced to a major character of Machiavelli at the very end of the game! You don't do that. Say what you want about Burgess and Cockram, at least we see them with Hornigold on his ship and then when Woodes Rogers arrives, so their appearance is not out of the blue. Regardless of for how long a character appears in AC4, there's always a set-up and resolution with said character (and arguing how memorable they are is pointless, because out of all the things that we can discuss on the matter that's THE epitome of subjectiveness, and if somebody works for somebody - then it works, and if they don't - then it doesn't... though Burgess and Cockram are just mini-Hornigolds essentially and they're not that great as characters, so it wouldn't hurt the game too much had they not been there).

But AC3 is the biggest offender, with the most one-off appearances and name-throwings that, while it didn't throw off me from following the plot overall, it did add a lot of 'why the hell are you here and then never appear again?' moments.

So in my personal opinion, AC4 has the best handling of the character cast overall, although side-missions with them and optional conversations a.l.a. AC3 would certainly help a lot, this being an open-world game and everything. Heck, sitting in a tavern talking with Blackbeard about life or what was going on was one of things I waited for the most, as simple as that sounds.

Dome500
02-17-2014, 04:24 PM
Agreed on some points.

Reducing characters to a reasonable amount is good. There are main characters (a few) and side characters (more, but less character development).

Regarding the targets I do not mind having as much assassination targets as we had. It is an AC game after all.
And while I agree that sabotaging their operations, weakening their influence and similar things should definitely be included more, I also think that it does not particularly hurt the story if 1 or 2 targets (especially in the beginning) are not that fleshed out.

I agree that side Missions should also build around main character, but not every time. i would go for a 40 % (main characters) to 60% (side character) ratio with this.
I liked missions like the Templar Hunts which told their own little story only loosely connected to the main story. And I also liked the characters in it, even if they weren't that fleshed out.

I also like how we get Assassination Missions with the Pigeons and can read what we have to do and why in the letter.
Same goes for Naval Missions.

But I agree that including some missions which are given to you by main characters, for example Blackbeard asking you to protect a fellow pirate in trouble, or Kid having a very SPECIAL Assassination Mission for you might be very interesting. Those missions given to you or done with main characters could be 5 or 6 each type across the whole game while the "normal" Assassination and Naval (or whatever we get next time) Missions could be like they always were, a lot more but less fleshed out of course.

I also a agree on the Mass Effect-like talking to main characters. It's a good way to add additional (non-cutscene) dialogue which you do not HAVE to hear, but people who are interested and want to know more can talk to the characters and get to know them more. That way you make the whole thing optional, having the advantage that gameplay-focused gamers do not have to listen to this dialogue, also having the advantage that you do not have to make more cutscenes, because IMO you do not need cutscenes for such side-dialogues, the normal in-game models with dialoge are okay, and that gamers which wish to be more immersed and drawn into the story, know more about the word an characters and be more connected to them, can have that as well.

Fatal-Feit
02-17-2014, 04:33 PM
Let main characters inhabit the world and let the player talk to them.
I was thinking perhaps there could be a bit of Mass Effect type content. In Mass Effect between missions you can look up your crew and learn more about them. I think the same could be true for characters in AC. For example you could speak some to Adewale, or go to Tulum and speak to Ah Tabai. It would make the world more alive and at the sane time make it easier to familiarize yourself with some of the characters. at the same time, as it's completely optional it wouldn't hurt those who just want to play.

Agreed.

This was in AC:3 and I absolutely loved it. It's a shame it didn't return for AC:IV. It could have been a massive changer for critics.