Saucers of Mud

March 6, 2010

On Character and Choosing Your Fate

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 8:16 pm
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At Destructoid, Anthony Burch complains that “For the vast majority of [the new game] Heavy Rain, I, as the player, have only two options: I can force the characters to do things that they wouldn’t normally do for my entertainment, or I can feel useless.” He compares it to the end of the movie Seven: “What if we could choose whether or not Mills should [action omitted for spoily purposes]? What if, as Heavy Rain so often does, we were allowed to decide not only what Mills should do, but subsequently who he is as a person, and what the overall theme of the film should be? On the one hand, that’d be a satisfyingly difficult choice to make, in the context of a BioWare RPG or whathaveyou…. On the other hand, Mills is already his own character.”

That immediately made me think of The Baron, where the point is precisely that you do choose who the PC is as a person, and what the theme of the game is — within limits.

I wonder why this works in The Baron where Burch finds it doesn’t in Heavy Rain. Perhaps it’s because the true import of your actions only gradually becomes clear, even as the fact that they have import is apparent early on; perhaps it’s because text lets you do more different things than motion-captured acting, where you really have to have a specific character established from the beginning.

As an aside, I think that might be part of why so many indie games have lo-fi graphics, aside from budget. Unless (perhaps) you’re Sims 3, you can’t make characters assume the facial expressions that they’d have in unexpected situations. So if you’re going to put the character sprite in unexpected situations, you have to design it so it doesn’t commit you to an inappropriate facial expression — unless that’s the point.

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