1. stage2
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    stage2 New Member

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    Tips for creating a convincing mad man ~ well sort of

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by stage2, Dec 7, 2009.

    Evening all. I'm a games design student at university, and a couple of my fellow course mates have got together to create a small game in between studying and drinking. We've been recommended to do so by our tutor who believes the only way to make any progress in this business is to "do".

    My task is to create the story and characters (the others consist of coders, artists and audio techs). However, I havn't all that much experience in the way of creating characters and thus am in need of a little help.

    I guess I had better start with explaining the story so far. The game is set in a "Medieval-esq" land, however the location is purely fantasy. The player controls the protagonist King Alaric Deltrelos IV. When Alaric was 35 he was blessed with a son and heir. However, shortly after his third birthday, Alaric's son fell ill with disease and soon after dies. Alaric, blinded by emotion denies his son's death and believes him to still be alive, kept locked away due to his contagious state. Convinced by a strange man that there is a cure for his son's disease, Alaric sets off with his men to find said cure. The men know not of their mission and are simply following orders, until the stranger tells Alaric that an innocent village is hiding the cure and that he must burn the village if he is to find it.

    Alaric's captain at this point confronts his king asking what it is they are looking for. When Alaric says it's the cure for his son's illness, the captain reminds the king that his Son has been dead for almost three months and that he does not know of this "stranger" that the king has be speaking with the whole time. Alaric snaps, again denying his son's death and proceeds to destroy the innocent village himself. At this point the player assumes the role of the Captain, and thus must stop the king by inevitably killing him.

    Thats a rough draft of what the story is about. But what I really need advice with is how to create a convincing, "mad" king. The biggest problem i face is that as far as the story goes, it's all told through dialog (with a little backstory at the beginning, and a conclusion at the end). The player knows only what is told to him through the conversations of each character. So I need to create dialog that suggests the king is mad, whilst not alerting the player to the fact that his son is dead. The player does not know this king's son is dead until the captain reveals it to the king in the village.

    The "stranger" that tells the king about the cure for his son is also supposed to be a figment of Alarics imagination created by his blinding belief that there is a cure for the disease. It's also made clear to the player, in the beginning that Alaric loved his Son more than anything in the world.

    In short, does anyone have any tips for creating a character, which to the reader seems a little wierd and odd, but doesn't reveal any major plot twists. Again this is mainly through dialog, so I'm unable to show any form of physical emotion, body movement or thoughts (though there will be a few pictures of the character during the game, which could show signs of emotion).

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me, and sorry for the long post XD
     
  2. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    One way a reader (or player) learns about a character is through dialogue.

    If I told you my professor cut his finger and didn’t put a band aid on it, but just smeared the ruined finger across the white board, then you might think there’s a slight chance that my professor is insane.

    If five more of my class mates told you even more shocking stories, then the professor will seem quite mad to you, even if you’ve never seen him.
     
  3. hszmv
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    hszmv Member

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    I think if you showed us some variation on the "split the baby in half and give each half to the bickering mother" (for get the king, want to say Solomen) wisdom, where he does make somewhat crazy decisions and that he has a sort of "Jack Sparrow" flair, where his plans are crazy, but there is a doubt over whether he planned it or made it up as he went along, that might help forshadow the reveal.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Keep in mind that dialogue in gaming is different from dialogue in fiction. In gaming, dialogue can be experienced in random order, and some fragments may never be seen by a particular player. In ordinary fiction, the writer has far greater control over sequence and context.

    That will make it far more difficult to be subtle. You'll probably have to compromise for wild irrationality over subtle and realistic development.
     
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is the game text-based only? If not, I'd consider showing his insanity through actions.
     
  6. stage2
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    stage2 New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Due to the nature of the game, we do have a fair bit of control over the dialog. The game is set into chapters, with a sandwich structure. The interaction between the character's begins the chapter, with the actual gameplay in the middle and then finally returning to interaction as the character's reflect over what has happened and what they are to do next.

    The player will read the story much like they would in a book. There would be small amounts of dialog in game, but it would usually be triggered on specific events and would probably not have any impact on the story.

    Whilst not entirely text-based, it is a turn-based sprite game(much like the old RPGs on the NES + SNES back in the 80s and 90s) so actions are limited. We can include small animations but the character sprites are about 72 pixles high and thus can portray little to no emotion. Ontop of that, the number sprites needed to create a single emotion that a player can clearly recognise, could be anything upto 9 - 10 frames. If it could be more effectively put into words, then that would definately be prefered.

    The problem is that until he attacks the village, the King doesn't really do anything "shocking". The player thinks he is simply acting normal, just a little strange. But it does get me thinking, that perhaps the King's condition should deteriorate as the story progresses, and his actions become more wild.

    Your point about shocking stories however has given me ideas. Along with hearing the conversations between the king and the stranger, perhaps the player should hear conversations between the guards and how they feel eg.

    "I heard him talking to himself last night in his tent, do you think he is ok?"

    "I wouldn't worry yourself too much, the King has been under a lot of stress lately".

    To the player i want the King's decisions to seem planned. He is being guided by this "stranger", so one is to assume that they know where they are going. But at the same time i want to make the King seem hesitant in making his decisions, suggesting that he is playing it as it goes along. I was thinking last night about how the stranger might never actually make any of the decisions for the King, but mearly make suggestions.

    E.g. the stranger points him down a path saying,
    "I believe the cure is somewhere through this forest"

    With the King replying,
    "Yes, of course the path only goes straight on. It must be through the forest".

    Ideally, i would love to include dialog where it suggests something is not right, but the player overlooks it (or even completly ignores the idea of it), so that when the twist is finally revealed, the player could look back and see that the signs were there, they just didn't pick them up. If anyone played the game Bioshock, i feel the twist in that game was a good example of this.

    Thanks again for the comments, the more i discuss it, the more ideas come into my head =]
     
  7. Never Master
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    Never Master Member

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    I think that after reading that last post, I grasped a fairly decent idea of what you are aiming for and I may have some advice that could help.

    It sounds like you are set on the road of slow dissolution into madness for your misguided King. Perfect opportunity to not only keep a part of the plot interesting, but to offer entertainment value at the same time. I like it. But there is still another level you need to delve into here to really make this feel real instead of just concocted (as many video games tend to feel).

    The first decision to make that will help you get on the right to track is to decide HOW he collapses into madness. You already stated some schizophrenia in seeing someone who isn't really there. Perhaps he begins seeing other things, such as wild animals in the castle, insects in his shoes or even armies that don't exist. As his mental state declines the false images and people become worse and worse.

    Another route that could be traveled is the 'Intelligent Insanity' road. His mental state is slipping, but instead of bizarre actions or made up people he is simply saying things oddly. To really pull this off, you are going to have to be a bit of a Twainian Wordsmith. In this version of madness, what he says actually does make sense, but the words he uses to get that point across don't fit together in context. Essentially, seemingly random, but not without purpose.

    An example of the above might be Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness from Oblivion's expansion, the Shivering Isles. At one point, he says in order to congratulate you for completing a quest, "We should have a celebration! Free cheese for everyone! Wait...no. No cheese for anyone. Which is still a celebration if you don't like cheese!"

    Even though it appears random and extremely odd, it did serve the purpose of showing the two sides of this Daedric prince. It continues to show how those two sides fiht for dominance and why is world is relatively split in half.

    I hope that I am making sense here, but essentially, his statements grow more and more random and off-putting as time progresses and he falls completely out of his mind. This works out well as you have said that the story will have to be dialog heavy, but it can be difficult to keep it subtle. Here is a suggestion:

    Start off with small random inserts. Not enough to interfere with the plot, but enough to make the gamer think twice: (King in italics)

    "Did you see that stranger?"


    "No"

    "He said he had a cure!"


    "Who are you talking about? What cure?"

    "The cure for my son you blind fool! We must find this stranger! He has the key to the castle's gate!"

    You see? Not enough to make him seem out of his mind, but perhaps confused. And the story element in this interchange was not effected.

    Before we get into the other two or three roads you could drive on, I'd like to see what you make of what I've brought up thus far and if either one of these methods might work for you.

    What do you think?
     
  8. stage2
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    stage2 New Member

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    Thanks for the indepth suggestions :)

    Regarding the ideas, I actually like both of them though i feel i would use the second more. If the king starts seeing things such as armies, it would probably give away the fact that he is insane which i really want to avoid (at least in the first and middle sections of the game). Though towards the end I could see it working. I could imagine him breaking in a house, seeing a tankard of ale on a table and immediately assuming it's the cure. As he tries to sieze it, the owner wrestles with him resulting in the King striking her and then suddenly dropping the tankard and falling to the floor in tears.

    Rather than the king seeing things which arent there, he would simply interpret them differently to everyone else leading to him acting irrationally.

    I can see the second point being of more use however. Using you example:
    This hides the King's inasnity, perhaps having the player misinterpret it as more the soldier's stupidity, which i like. But as the game goes on, the player begins to realise that not all of the soldiers or villagers can be wrong, so clearly there is something wrong with the King. Then as the game begins to conclude, his babblings could become more insane and unbelievable

    EDIT: Actually it suddenly hit me that i could begin to look at certain figures in history to try and find refernces. Towards the end of the second world war, Hitler began commanding armies and units that didn't exist, the famous one being the "Army Detachment Steiner". Hitler ordered it to break through the allies forces. When his fellow officers informed him that attack hadn't been made he started accusing his them of treachery and incompetence.

    I could see thins being used in game, perhaps having the King believing things he had dreamt e.g. (king in italics)

    "Where's the scouting party i sent out last night?

    "I didn't recal you ever making such orders my lord"

    "What are you talking about, the four of them were in my tent last night. I specifically ordered them to search for signs of the cure"

    "My Lord, you were alone last night in your tent"

    "Nonsense, they joined me just after dinner. Bring them hear immediately!"
     
  9. Never Master
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    Never Master Member

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    You are definitely on to something there.

    The key to making this successful will be maintaining a consistent increase in his insanity. If at a point in the middle of the game he does something completely insane and then at a later point does something less so then it will become unbelievable and the gamer may lose track of what you were trying to get across. It may end up testing your creativity a bit, but isn't that point of any good creative excersize?

    I would be interested in taking closer looks at some of your drafts if you need an objective eye. And I am also curious, what are your comrades thinking about this plot? Do they like it? Are you meeting resistance?
     
  10. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Read Shakespeare, specifically King Lear, it shows a perfect example of how someone in high power can become mad.
     
  11. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    This side of insanity I really enjoy. While the total loon is intriguing your situation prevents you from doing that, and it'll be fun to try something a bit more complex.

    I think you should read some articles on what is called "The Mask of Sanity". It is a series of articles on how even the most sane seeming person can be totally losing (or lost) their mind. Most average people wouldn't see that a person who is crazy as being as such, but rather as odd. That may be what you should aim for. Not that the king is foaming at the mouth, but rather that he's entirely illogical, lacking in common sense and bereft of proper direction.

    To me, that is insanity of the "intelligent" variety. One who acts fairly normal, but when you see parts of him he didn't want you to see (for example, you read some of his weird letters, overhear something, etc.) you realize that's some funny business going on in his head. To me, that's a satisfying and deceptive insanity, which makes it even more dangerous.

    Good luck with it. It sounds like a very challenging and rewarding prospect.
     

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