Characters are one of the main feature in games nowadays. In fact, I think that games are one more way of telling stories, and stories usually need characters, so this gives more importance to the topic. Developing rich characters is not straightforward; it needs some work, developing their past life, their personality, those little things that conform their way of acting, what is their main activity, what about their families, the relation between them “¦ As you may guess, the list grows faster, although it’s something worth doing. It helps when you need to draw the character, add background for him, or have to describe how he perform actions. If you know him, you could correctly suppose how can he act. This eases a lot the subsequent work and gives consistency to the project: the player will see that everything is well suited for your characters, as every detail had been taken into account. He sees and appreciates your work.
For the second version of “A Mad Journey Minigolf” (available in the AppStore) we added a new environment: the UnFair, Â a long time forgotten fair, somehow cursed an deserted. Then, we felt that we had to develop a second playable character: our ex circus strongman Sprunch. But he became an ex circus strongman at the final stage, after the development process. The only clue we had was that we wanted the new character to be akin to the new place, the UnFair: he could have worked or lived there which, in turn, sets a relation between the place and the character clearly visible to the player. Back then, the first version was sketched. And “he” became “she”:
An old witch that lived there, making tricks and predicting future. We liked the concept, she even has his own level (the Witch Cave, can you find her cauldron?), but she didn’t pass the test. The cauldron would bother a bit, so would have to put her on foot, loosing part of her magic. And above all she looked so – evilly – happy that she was a bit close to our Zombie. The Zombie was happy in his new undead life (yes, a contradiction), and we wanted a character that was a bit different this way, to give the player truly different options; we thought they were sharing some of their personality.
It wasn’t so bad at all, in fact we like her, but not for this game. However, we have learnt that we should ask ourselves some questions before sketching: Does he affect the gameplay? Is “he” or “she”? Is he a real alternative for players to choose among other characters? Imagine that, along Kratos, you could play with a common gladiator… yes, it’s not as inspiring. So, after some answers, we came up with a totally different sketch. And “she” became “he” again:
Our executioner, unhappy with so much exaggerated killing and blood related to his profession, fearful of everything. He may have worked in the House of Terror, for example. We had advanced a bit: it’s the opposite of the Zombie, so the player could have completely different characters. But it wasn’t perfect: we felt that he lacked a bit of charisma for “A Mad Journey Minigolf”, where we only see him playing golf. We though that players didn’t want a character so sad. It could be a bit difficult to develop a catchy personality, so we reserved it for later projects. But we were near: it was strong, instead of weak as the Zombie, it was somehow not so happy as the Zombie, and it had a cool “¦ “shape”. The last attempt brought us Sprunch, the final character.
Sprunch has all the things that any strongman has: muscles, big moustache, is bald, and carries heavy things to lift up. In our case, a hammer to hit the ball with. He is arrogant, always with the head up, but is silly and a completely loser – even when he wins, he loses somehow. That slight smile helps transmitting his self confidence, and puts him at the same level as the Zombie. He has feelings so intense as stupid: he loves the minigolf ball he has lost, the one the Zombie has found, creating a rivalry that make our two characters so different. In the promo video of “A Mad Journey Minigolf” you can see that he still lives with a mysterious woman that is able to stop all his anger with just a word, proving that he is not strong at all even in those moments of anger and wrath. He’s a self confident silly loser: perfect!
Now that the pillars are set, we have to show the personality right to the player. He is strong and proud, so he is always willing to give that image of him: he hold the heavy hammer in his hand (so many h’s!), preventing anyone from thinking that he is tired at all. That’s our basis for the standby animation.
Let’s analyze now how he shoots. First, he holds the hammer in the air effortlessly, and then hits the ball with a smooth and calculated movement so self sufficient he is. He’s strong, impassible, he hasn’t lost the pose!
But things come a bit different when he loses. His temperament raises and he does anything stupid and fierce enough to ease his inner pain – with “outer” pain, yes. He strikes his hammer with anger right into his head. Then, he calms down and realizes that has lost.
But he could have won, of course. In that case, remember that he is unable to win without consequences. When he wins and raises his hammer in the air, as a waving flag of victory. Fate and Destiny awake and the hammer drops directly to his head, turning his joyful status into a painful moment. That’s what it takes to be Sprunch: never win, but never desist!
Character development is beneficial and maybe profitable. It gives an interesting background for your game and helps preventing the risks of developing a character further with the bad consequences of not having given him a past life. Keep on developing characters, and share with us your thoughts: leave us a comment! Thank you for reading!