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:: RPG Source :: View Article :: Thoughts on Villains and Heroes

Thoughts on Villains and Heroes
By Shinan [14/12/2002]
(Although this has been done to death I couldn't resist making one myself)

Creating a bad guy is clearly different from making a main character hero. Heroes have to appeal to most players and therefore must have a somewhat flexible personality, meaning that each hero is different for each player.
Villains on the other hand are usually cool badasses with all the duality effort and devilry you want to put in him. In villains one can create a strong personality since a villain doesn't have to appeal to everyone, in fact it doesn't matter if the player hates or loves the bad guy as long as he isn't indifferent about him (which means that the badguy's personality have to be somewhat extreme).
So when approaching you main character you can go two (or probably three) ways. You can make a character with a strong personality and if the player doesn't like it they shouldn't play the game. [...] The other way you can go is to make you character without too much personality, this doesn't mean that you have ot go with the computer-RPG way of dialogue choices for everything, nor the Breath of Fire-approach with the hero not saying anything at all. BUT you can make your character somewhat quiet, without too many inner monolgues but instead some of the "..."s which implies that he is thinking about something but the player himself is really doing the job, so to speak. I have to admit that I'm really overfishing for an example here and it's pretty obvious which example it is. It's Cloud from Final Fantasy 7, this guy doesn't say too much so that you can basically make up what he is thinking about, not to mention that you can yourself choose which girl you like in the end. The story itself is quite linear AND Cloud has his "twist-past" but still there's much in the main character that you can come up with yourself.
On the other hand there is Squall from Final Fantasy 8 which has a strong personality and quite a lot of inner monologues going on. (He does have a couple of "..." but mostly these don't mean too much...) This could also be one of the reasons that some people don't like Final Fantasy 8 (even though many blame the battle-system... But frankly it's the same as it has always been). This has much in common with the thing I said in my "article" on linearity, more linearity means better story, but the story won't fit all since there's less freedom for the player to make up his own mind about things and therefore there's less people who'll like the game (I could put in a rant here about young people today that don't have any imagination, but I won't)
The smei-third way is to make a quiet character (either by the Breath of Fire approach or Cloud approach) and then make a lot of optional supporting characters that have a lot of noise and personality, although this approach is often a must when playing with quiet characters because someone has to move the story along (and this is why it is a "semi-third" approach)

That was the hero part. Now on to the villains

Creating villains can also be divided in a couple of parts (although they're basically the same as the heroe's although the quiet approach isn't too favored) but most importantly, as I said earlier, is that the villain is either hated or loved and not someone you feel nothing about. Villains come in all shapes and I'll go through some and perhaps if I'm lucky I'll come up with some not-too-used ideas on the way. (And you may of course feel free to use any ideas gotten from this, most of them are old anyway)
Probably the oldest villain out there is the mindless bad guy who has to be defeated because, well, he's bad. Villains of this kindare usually huge and difficult to beat when you finally fight them and their motives are often summarized in the instruction manual. These villains aren't however too used anymore except in joke games. (although it is basically this kind of villain that you always meet in random encounters... You kill them without too much reason)
Another old villain that is and will always be popular is the bad-good-bad-good guy. This guy is either and old friend turned bad or an old baddie turned good. This kind of villain also includes the ally turned traitor or the bad guy turned traitor (for the bad side that is). People have apparently always been fascinated by betrayals since, after all, this villains is probably the most common of them all. Nowadays there's usually a lot of them, and to further twist it nowadays it's often done in an almost pathetic fashion by making the good guy turned to the bad side and then turn back only to betray again and in the end he turns out to be on the good side after all...
The third villain is a villain that has gained popularity lately, especially with all avoiding of "cliché villains", is the "Villain with a twist". The good-bad-good-bad guy is actually included in this villain but I still thought that the good-bad-good-bad guy was worth a special mention. Some of the twists tha the villain with a twist have include: bad childhood (traumatizing event in the past that created hatred), loss of loved ones (or similar), schitzofrenia (or other psychic "disease") o rbeing "special" (being the only person that have certain powers or similar).
These are the three main cathegories of villains in my opinion, there are a couple of others that are less used and perhaps some that I don't even know about. Sometimes the "main" villain is quite hidden and he doesn't really get to omuch development and it often feels like he is of the "first" kind, but a good maker should be able to plant clues and things like that to show the real face of the enemy, nevertheless villains that only show up at the very end aren't ever too developed, but there's alway possibilities to expand more on the henchmen.
Other kinds of villains are often dependent on the games' stories. For instance the villain could be a group of people or a ruling "council" that vote for different motions, democracy really, only that the hero doesn't like it (Think the Shinra Corp's board's decisions to fire the whatever-cannon against the "Weapons"... For the greater good of course)
Talking about the "greater good" villains that actually are good are also fine, but these are really dependant on the game itself, if you make a game where black and white isn't clear the villain isn't clear either but that's another story I suppose...
If this article didn't help at all then don't worry, there's plenty of articles similar to this one, and really, I have only stolen the information from them and put it in this one and put my name last.

And then the ending stuff that I had last time too: I probably have contradicted myself around in this text. And all language (grammar etc.) problems I blame on the fact that I'm not English. Oh, and if you want to comment on the article do so in the RPGSource forums or send an e-mail to freak_no89@hotmail.com

-Jan Karell a.k.a. Shinan
"Be strong in your Ignorance"
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