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Let’s face the truth real quick, writing can be hard. It can be even harder without having a cast that doesn’t feel alive. How does one create such a feeling in fictional characters that are born out of inspiration, or even more difficult, born out of necessity to simply fit the plot of the story? This hurdle can be a hassle for not only the writers of movies and books but for game designers. We designers have the responsibility of keeping player options in mind, meaning every action must have a reaction.
Thus, certain actions and decisions will most likely affect the supporting characters within the game world, and without a clear character design, it can be hard to think of the proper reaction for said character.
So, to aid my fellow designers that might find themselves in the same shoes as I was in, here is a list of guidelines I use when I started to design my own characters.
Basic Stuff: *This stuff should always be apart of their design doc*
- Name – Preferably the first middle and last.
- Age – Are they years older than the main character thus giving them a sense of being wiser than the main character
- Birthday – This detail can also affect the world they live in. Are they in a completely different universe that uses a different calendar than us, or does the game take place in our universe?
- Hair Color – Helps paint a picture in your head.
- Occupation; What did this person do before meeting the player? How did they survive before the player?
- Relationship to the player – Are they fellow warriors? Love interest? Family member?
- Other Relationships – Are they a sibling of the bad guy? This can lead to some interesting plot twists.
- Height – Again, helps build a mental image of the character. Do they have issues with their height?
- Race – Are they Caucasian, Asian, African-American, or other? This could help build the backstory of their character, and could possibly dictate their culture and their beliefs.
- Hobbies – What do they do in their free time? Pairing them with a hobby the player wouldn’t expect is a great way to make this character memorable.
- Key Features – Are they bald with a shiny scalp, always wear the same headband or hair pen? This shows a bit more of their personality suddenly.
- Personality Trait – One-word to describe their personality. Two words if needed, but keep it short to give wiggle room for rework if need be.
- Bio – A 2-3 sentence written by you about the character.
- Introduction – A brief introduction to the character done as if it as written by the character themselves.
Preferred Stuff *Having this to work off helps if you plan to have one on one interactions with each character.*
- Likes/Dislikes – If you plan to have a gift-giving feature in your game, when you have the list of times made, be sure to think of the responses to at lead 3 of the items they would like, and 3 responses to the items they don’t. If you don’t plan to have this feature, think of some gifts you would possibly give them anyways and build a small list of likes and dislikes.
- Fear – What does this person fear the most? Do they have an irrational fear of the dark or a more rational fear like the fear of butterflies like myself?
- Hometown – Are they from a well part of town or the slums that isn’t safe to walk home at night?
- Overall Theme – How do they change throughout the story? How does the main story affect them? Describe this in one word preferably such as retribution or revenge.
Extras *Things that help a bit, but might not even be used story wise.*
- Financial History – Did they grow up with money to spare, or did they have to work from a young age just to survive.
- Medical History – Were they never sick as a child? In the hospital for most of their life thanks to their daredevil spirit?
- Allergies – Do they suffer from hay fever? Can’t enjoy a cup of milk without having to run to the restroom 15 minutes later?
- Weakness – Something they just can’t do, such as cooking or headstand. But something that doesn’t affect the main story, just their own personal shortcoming.
There are many more ways to flesh out characters more to fit individual needs, but I always start out doing these ones on my own supporting characters, and your welcome to pick and choose the writing prompts as you see fit!
Even if you end up scrapping a character completely DO NOT THROW AWAY THEIR DESIGN. Store them someplace safe for your next character design brainstorm and pull them out to get some inspiration. Who knows you might just use them on your next game!
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