Saturday 13 October 2007

Character beats

Watching the trailer and downloading the demo at the moment for Jericho. I'm slightly optimistic about this one, but I know I'll be disappointed. Simply because the games seems to take itself way too seriously, and, as Alec Meer from Rock Paper Shotgun notes:

Without going into too much detail on Jericho because I’m reviewing it elsewhere, one thing that bothered me about it was that its squad are arrogant dicks.
which is a shame because the concept is great. It sounds like the developers needed a Harvey Smith to work on the character interactions a little. In fact, they probably needed to go back and study the best action movie ensemble cast to figure out how to play the character interactions. And I'm not talking about Predator.

To recap on the characters in Jericho, I'll quote Wikipedia:

The Jericho Squad consists of several team members, each with their own special weapons and paranormal powers:

  • Capt. Devin Ross – the protagonist, Jericho Squad captain, team telepath and healer. At one point, Ross is killed, allowing him to possess his squadmates and control them directly.
  • Father Paul Rawlings – the dual-pistol-wielding priest and exorcist.
  • Sgt. Frank Delgado – a minigun-wielding alchemist and pyromancer with a fire-demon encased in his right arm.
  • Lt. Abigail Black – a telekinetic sniper who can control bullets in mid-flight, enabling multiple strikes in a single shot.
  • Sgt. Wilhelmina "Billie" Church – a ninja-esque blood mage who uses her own blood to cast spells and wards. She uses a machine pistol as her main weapon and a katana as her secondary.
  • Capt. Xavier Jones – a seer who uses astral projection for reconnaissance and possibly even possession of enemies.
  • Cpl. Simone Cole – the Jericho Squad's reality hacker who can alter time and teleport supplies and personnel
Now that should be enough variety for a huge number of possible character interactions, used to build the relationship between the player and the team. Taking a leaf from Left4Dead, you'll want each character to have several pieces of dialog for common situations, so that it doesn't get repetitive: reloading, out of ammunition, reporting the presence of a particular monster, and so on. It looks like the monster design in Jericho requires a particular way of defeating it, such as shooting a weak spot, or using a particular weapon against it. This should mean that a particular character is most effective against it. So you'll also get call-ups when one character wants another to assist in a particular fire fight.

And from that point, you inject the ironic wit, humour, and pathos and so on: the character beats that build up the players perception of the characters. The dialog and character types naturally support this: people will talk to Rawlings or Ross (yourself) for healing, Cole for ammunition, Cole or Black for when they're pinned down and so on. Its just a matter of building up enough character beats to keep it interesting. For instance, Jones might be the sarcastic guy:
  • for reloading: 'Reloading, again. Can I get something better than this pea shooter?'
  • for new target appearing: 'Oh, you want some too'
  • for healing needed: 'Father, is bleeding out of my ass a bad thing?'
  • for out of ammuntion: 'Cole, could you warp me in some ammo? No, make that a cheese burger. No, make that Nicole Kidman.'
  • for saving another player: 'Delgado, did you see that? He tried to grab your ass. I think he liked you.' Church: 'Don't say that. His dentist did that to him in Milwaukee.'
And the movie? Aliens. It has the wise-cracking happy-go-lucky flack out who ultimately redeems himself (Hudson), the calm and quiet hero (Hicks), the quirky out there superhuman (Bishop), the tough as nails bitch (Vasquez) and so on, that would have been ideally suited as models to adapt to the Jericho cast. All those characters are believable and endearing, even the slimy ones like Burke who ultimately betray the team. And they have just enough beats before the shooting starts to make the audience like them.

No comments: