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AIF 101: Characters


Even though my projects tend to be story driven, it is the characters that can make or break an AIF game. Detailed and creative characterization can enhance every aspect of a players's interaction with an NPC, from sex to dialogue.


Player Objectivity/Subjectivity:

Before anything else, special mention must be given to the player's character. There are basically two schools of thought in IF regarding the persona adopted by the player. One proposes that generic characters are best to play, letting the player decide who he is and how he reacts to things. Attempts are made to avoid putting words in the player character's mouth. The other school of thought is that players enjoy stepping into a well developed role, and that the persona the player adopts is important to define.

In my eyes its really a question of subjectivity versus objectivity. If the player's character is set by the author, than everything presented to the player must take the character's prejudices in mind. Every room description, object description, and action result should be crafted with an eye towards how the individual character would interpret such an event... is the glass half full or half empty? On the other hand, with an objective generic character an author must be very careful to avoid ever telling the player how he feels about anything. State what is, and let the player decide how to feel about it.

AIF deals very heavily with sex, a very intimate activity. When describing someone's involvement with sex, it is very difficult to do so in an objective manner and still have it be 'hot' (or at least entertaining.) In this I recommend that, especially in AIF, the player's character be as thought out and developed as any of the NPCs.

Secondary Characters:

If you've been following along with me thus far, you should have a list of characters. Among them should be listed a Protagonist (usually the PC) and an antagonist. There are some other archetypical literary roles we can fill out. As we do, if you have an established character that would fit the role, use them, otherwise don't be afraid to create new NPCs for them. Not all of the following roles are strictly required, but they can add much to a game.

Sidekick:

The sidekick is a character who accompanies the character, and can act as the author's "voice" when need be. There is a strong tradition of "followers" in Interactive Fiction, from Floyd the Robot and beyond. The sidekick can offer advice, hope, and comic relief. The girls in BBBen's Outworld series and One Eyed Jack's Sam Shooter II count as sidekicks.

Foil:

The foil, who may also be the sidekick, is a character in the same position as the protagonist who chooses differently. He usually chooses wrong, and serves as both an example to the PC and to provide mood.

Romantic Interest:

Who, throughout the course of the rest of the action, the protagonist is pursuing romantically. This is, in lots of AIF, the "Main Girl".

The more characters you include, the more coding you have to do. Keep that in mind.

There is a large branch in the plot of the game we've been developing. The player comes to a crisis point... he can help the Princess escape, or decide to bring her back to the Prince. Because of this, our antagonist can change mid game.

  • Protagonist: Knight.
  • Antagonist: Dragon at first, may become Prince.
  • Romantic Interest: None set initially, may become Princess.
  • Sidekick: Another knight sent by the Prince. Lets say a younger knight. An idealistic younger female knight, perhaps. If the player chooses to side with the Prince, she may become the Foil, trying to help the Dragon.
  • Foil: Lets add another companion... perhaps a bounty hunter. He can act as Foil if the player decides to side with the Princess, and is sent to get the player as well.
  • Other Characters: The King, The Queen

Character Design:

Character design is important. You can be as sparse or as detailed with this as you like, depending on how important the character is to the game. There are a few general things to decide about the
characters you design.

Appearance:

AIF is a text based medium, so knowing what different characters look like is important. Here's a list of things to consider:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Height/Build
  • Skin tone
  • Eye Color
  • Hair Color/Style/Length
  • Piercing/Scars/Tattoos/make up
  • Clothing style
  • For male characters, you may also wish to consider facial hair, genitalia size, etc.
  • For female characters, you may wish to consider breast size, pubic hair (trimmed? Shaved? Natural), etc.
  • Also, characters may have a certain accent/way of speaking, or a distinctive body language.

Personality:

This is of importance as well, for it is a guide to how they react to the player. Here are some things to consider:

  • Intelligence
  • Sensitivity
  • Creativity/Openness
  • Discipline
  • Introversion/Extroversion
  • Friendliness
  • Emotional Stability

Sex:

Knowing a character's idea of sex is very helpful in AIF. Not all attractive characters have to by Nymphomaniacs, but its up to you.

  • Sexual Orientation.
  • Strength of Sex Drive
  • Sexual Experience
  • Sexual Habits (Spit or Swallow, etc)
  • Kinks
  • Turn Ons
  • Turn Offs

And, basically, anything else you need to come up with for game purposes. Backstory, etc. Names. Hobbies. Likes. Dislikes. Try to come up with at least 5 personality quirks.

Here are some examples:

THE KNIGHT

Sir Jordan is an aging but still virile knight. He's of average height with a muscular build, a well crafted physique maintained despite his age. He has dark green eyes, and his short black hair has long since gone to grey. A lifetime of battle has left numerous scars across his body, including a prominent one running through his left eye.

As the player's character, Sir Jordan's exact personality and sexual habits are not too terribly defined, but in general he is an honorable and disciplined soldier... if a little weary.

Jordan was the eldest child of a powerful knight. He took to a life of military service to the king, performing great deeds and garnering much renown, eventually earning the title of King's Champion. Now in his autumn years, he feels his reflexes slow as his body begins to fail despite his discipline. He privately wonders how much longer he can remain active "in the field", serving a king who can no longer even recognize him most days.

THE DRAGON

Kaosuan is a powerful young monk skilled in both the martial and the magical arts. He is tall and somewhat lanky, with a powerful build. His brown eyes turn briefly red when he uses his magic, and his black hair hangs long. His body is covered with mystical tattoos which he
uses to focus his magical energies.

Kaosuan is devoted to the concept of honor, and to his sister. He does not go out of his way to kill his opponents, but can be ruthless when he needs to be and is not afraid of death. He hates the player's home kingdom for what they have done to his homeland, and has developed a mildly racist dislike of all Westerners because of it. Even if the player helps them escape, he will remain cold, distant, and suspicious for some time.

Kaosuan is a member of a reclusive order of monks. He has trained since he was a little child in arts both martial and magical. He is feared by the populace of his homeland, and only his sister has ever shown him any kindness. Upon hearing she had been brought against her will to your Kingdom, he set out to rescue her. His goal is to rescue his sister.

THE PRINCESS

Kanetsu Keiyama-hime is the eldest daughter of a respected daimyo in her homeland. She is a lithe and slender young woman with pale skin and brown eyes. She wears her hip-length black hair tied back into a pony tail. She wears little makeup, and always manages to carry herself with elegance and style.

She is very bright, but also rather shy. She is kind, but slow in opening up to new people. Artistically talented, she loves to paint. She has no sexual experience, and would tend to be a little
submissive in bed.

Keiyama-hime was more or less kidnapped at behest of the Prince, who saw here both as a trophy bride and as a way to symbolically show his dominance over her country. Her goal is to return home.

SIDEKICK

Lady Elva is a young knight, tall and athletic. Her skin is freckled, and she has hazel eyes. Her shoulder length blonde hair is wavy, and she wears it with long bangs. She has a tattoo of a musical
quarter-note on her right shoulder blade. She tends to dress flashily, in bright colors.

Elva is an enthusiastic young knight, as well as a tad gullible. She has a very idealistic take on the tenets of chivalry, and tends to romanticize her position as a knight. She sees the player as the pinnacle of knightly virtue, and has been obsessed with him since she was a little girl. Sexually, she has fooled around a little bit, but remains a technical virgin. She has slight masochistic tenancies. Her goal is to learn from you what it is to be a knight.

THE PRINCE

Prince Duncan is the heir to the throne. He is tall and muscular, fond of the hunt and trained in personal combat by some of the greatest warrior's of the kingdom, including yourself when he was younger. He keeps his blonde hair cut short, and has icy blue eyes.

Prince Duncan is a cold and ruthless man, unsympathetic to the plight of the peasantry and the wellbeing of others. He is viscous and aggressive, ordering severe punishments for the slightest of offences and constantly pushing his father to conquer. His goal is to replace his father and forge his kingdom into an empire.

He doesn't really care about Keiyama-hime, but he needs a bride to claim the throne from his mother before his father dies. He's not quite ruthless enough to murder the old man. In addition, his pride has been stung by the abduction, and he wants what he has rightfully stolen back.

THE FOIL

Sir Burton is the Prince's personal retainer. He is built like a linebacker. He shaves his head, and has cruel blue eyes.

Sir Burton covets your position as King's Champion. He has never had any respect for you, or for the code of chivalry. He is cruel and sadistic, and has murdered to advance his and the Prince's goals. His goal is to replace you as King's Champion through any means necessary.

THE KING

King Theodore is the aging monarch. Now old and frail, his hair has gone snow white and his once steely eyes are cloudy. He often has a far away look in his eyes, age having subdued his once great mind.

He is a very friendly, if somewhat befuddled old man. On his more lucid days he can summon up some of his old kingly presence, but in general he wanders about aimlessly holding conversations with the portraits of his ancestors.

THE QUEEN

Queen Penelope is much younger than her husband, in her mid 40s, and has aged fairly well. She has taken over much of the administration of the kingdom from her husband, ruling in all but name, and is the only real opposition to her son's ambitions.

Having sexual desires that her husband can no longer fulfill, Penelope has set her eyes on Sir Jordan. She sees him as powerful and virile as he was the day they met.

You get the point, more or less. More characters will probably be added as you continue making your game, but these are your primaries.

Next: Events


© 2004 J Freebase - Updated 07/12/2004