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Story Design Tips: Character Orchestration
by Guy Hasson on 01/11/12 08:50:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Inspiration Tip

In this Story Design Tips column I sometimes talk about the rules of creating a story. But sometimes I like to give tips that help inspire you to create a better story.

Today we’re going to talk about character orchestration. ‘Character orchestration’ is the act of deciding which characters to put in the story. The characters, together, are likened to an orchestra, and together they’re supposed to make ‘beautiful music’.

What character you put next to what character is vital to your story. It isn’t vital to your plot – it’s vital for the feeling the player gets when looking at the story.

Your Story Has Music

Your story is music to the player. I don’t mean that your story has a soundtrack. Each story sounds like music if you think about it. Darth Vader, with his low voice, black clothes and evil actions, would still have similar music in the viewer’s ears even if there was no music. C3PO and R2D2 are two pieces in the same section of the orchestra (Strings? Woodwinds?)

Some characters are trumpets, some are piccolos, some are drums. Each character has his own ‘sound’ in the story, and together your story creates a symphony, an opera, a requiem, a short pop song, or anything else you can think of.

In music, some instruments don’t go with other instruments. They simply sound too off together and can’t make the melody you want. It’s the same with creating characters. There are some you shouldn’t put together, and there are some you should.

When Is This Relevant?

When you’re putting together a team of good guys or a team of bad guys, their orchestration is important. They have to work together. They also have to create beautiful-sounding music together. You choose the music, then make sure your characters fit that music.

The good guys also have to be orchestrated against the bad guys (singular or plural, doesn’t matter). Their scenes together have to ‘sound’ right. Choose the sound you want for their showdowns, and make sure you’ve got the right characters.

In fact, any scene which has characters in it is also playing some kind of music in the player’s ears. Make sure you’ve created the characters in such a way that scenes with these two characters or those three characters, etc., work together as interesting music, as well.

It’s up to you to choose the kind of music you’d like the player to hear. You can choose to be quite original here. And, if you rely on music that’s proven to be good, you’re pretty safe – the scene will work.

Creating the Characters

In creating the orchestrated characters, you have to make them ‘sound’ right. You have to make sure that you:

1) Fit their looks to their ‘music’. Dark? Big? Tiny? Thin? Fat? Small? The visual side of the character should fit the music of the character or it wouldn’t fit.

2) Fit their voices to their ‘music’. Does the character sound ominous? Powerful? Weak? Feminine? Manly? Whiny? Enticing? Absurd? A character’s voice should fit the music that’s playing in your ears when you decide what that character is.

3) Fit their dress to their ‘music’. Their physical look is not the only physical aspect the players see.

4) Fit their movements to their ‘music’. Does he step harshly on the ground? Does she fly? Is he weightless? Is he sneaky? Is she powerful? Is he fearful?

 

Best of all, when we can connect music to our character orchestration, we can use the music we like as inspiration for our story design. A piece of music will intrigue us, and will cause us to find a story that fits it.

I hope you enjoyed this inspiration tip.

 

[If any of you have any questions for future Story Design Tips columns, please write them in the comments or send me an email to guyhasson at gmail dot com.]

 


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Comments


Timothee Garnaud
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Thank you for the tip. I like the part where you say "we can use the music we like as inspiration for our story design". I can't count how many times I've listenned to Verdi's Requiem and though of a freaking epic battle on horses and story that goes with it^^

Daneel Filimonov
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As one who is highly inspired by music, this article certainly speaks volume. I have found myself listening to a certain genre over and over (perhaps maybe even pbsessively) until I regularly immerse myself in the world of the character/storyline. It seems to help in creating the mood I want based on the music (which is usually what gives games that dramatic edge). I personally think it's a nice skill to have (would you call it a skill, per se?), and I'd like to think of it as somewhat of a hidden attribute available to all game developers who should utilize it as part of their development cycle (if it's not too distracting of course).

Matthew Burns
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Well stated. I couldn't agree more.


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