Monday, September 12, 2011

Play on Player

Yea, my foot has been “restored”! Gypsum is gone, and now I can walk again (as if raped by a bull). Drink your milk boys & girls!

Movie-knowledge-check. A muscular robot? --> Arnold Schwarzenegger. That dude doing kicks and splits with a French accent; Jean Claude van Damme. The black man with that magical voice; Morgan Freeman of course. The simple guy telling his whole life story on a bus-stop bench; Tom Hanks. The psychopath shouting that Johny is here, Jack Nicholson. The teasing woman spreading her legs, Sharon Stone. "Can you fly bobby?", Kurtwood Smit. Roundhouse 360 kick; Chuck Norris.The little fatman with the big ###, uh, Ron Jeremy.

Just a grasp in the Hollywood Lucky Dip. And by now, the game scene also has an impressive repertoire of virtual actors. The jumping guy that looks like the earlier mentioned Ron; Super Mario. The medieval sadomachosism man with a whip; Simon Belmont. The fast blue hedgehog thing; Sonic. Hatatjapoerasturvat-something; Ruy from Streetfighter. "Your face, your ass, what's the difference?", Duke Nukem. The first polygonal breasted adventurer; Lara Croft. The chain-smoking sneaky grandpa; Solid Snake. That asswhipe stealing the princess every time; Bowser. The fairy-dude with the green hat; Link. Female bounty hunter; Samus Aran. The ninja with the skeleton head... Skorpion wins. The clumsy wannabe pirate; Guybrush Threepwood.

Now that my foot is ok, I can finally sport again. So here's a dressroom bench. It has been a while since I did a 3D object myself!

Not all games have strong characters with a complete biography, but creating a bond between game and player usually starts with putting down a loveable or interesting protagonist. A character being worth to pick up the joypad/keyboard. Cause, who wants to play a game with a stupid character anyway? Action hero's usually require a good look, a set of biceps and a doses of one-liners to make friends with the player. More serious games pass decorate the protagonist with a mysterious background. Lost your family, grew up in an underground sewer, shit like that. Who are you? Play the game and find out.

Yet other games manage to create a character that everybody instantly loves, such as Sackboy from Little Big Planet. Did you ever hear Mario talking by the way? We don’t even know where he lives exactly. Yet Mario is the most famous game-sprite in history. Some characters have that love-factor, others don’t. Now how about Tower22? What’s our plan to grab the player and drag him into the screen?

Here you go, a sketch of the player by Robert. There is still some cloth shopping and cheese-grater work to do here and there, but we’re getting somewhere. Not that Tower22 has much to do with “Communism” or “Russia”, but we chose the Soviet theme as a design-code. Therefore the character needs a typical Eastern Europe / Russian look as well. I’m not a fashion queen, but after a couple of visits in Eastern Europe, I can tell a few details. First, most men have a normal posture. No body building bullshit (who can afford the sport school), and neither fat. Most people work too hard to become fat. Second, a lot of men have short dark or blonde hair, often flat on the head (because they wore a cap or didn’t have time to smear 10 kg gel in it). A little bit the “army” look. Having a “tough-guy” attitude seems to be popular here by the way; lot’s of youth are wearing army trousers, trying to look dangerous and stuff.

Now our guy isn’t a kid or football hooligan anymore, he looks a bit exhausted. Yes, although things are slowly getting better in these regions, people still have sort of an depressed look if you ask me. Maybe it’s Slavic DNA, but I guess being bored, or just tired from all that work is playing part here as well. Read the lips: “Life isn’t easy”. Men like our player don’t have time (and money) to trim theirselves a cool George Cloney beard, buy the latest fashion shoes, and enjoy life. Fuck that, he wakes up to work. Nothing more, nothing less. Now that’s the kind of look we from T22 Next Top Model are looking for.

Robert made a whole set of (3D) "sketches" to pick from. We chose this one, because it has the tired "fuck-off", yet friendly, look. Now Robert is busy making a real 3D version. That version will be slightly different, and with little details such as beard, elder-marks, maybe a little scar, oil smear, sweat... In the meanwhile I have to make a realistic skin shader one day.

Not 100% sure, but most probably, the game will be using the first-person camera perspective. In other words, who knows how the player really looks like. Ok, you will see him in mirrors or in a few cut-scenes maybe, but most of the time you can just as well imagine playing the game with Robocop or Whoopy Goldberg... wait the player has white male arms. Never mind, you get the point. You won't see the player that much, the looks alone is not enough to make you care about the player.

So there goes the "lovely" factor. We need something else to get a love-match. A vast amount of cut-scenes with Reservoir Dogs dialogs maybe? Meeeh... not that I don't like those movies, but our player isn't exactly a joking piece of thug. And even if he was, T22 is a horror game remember. The game is supposed to make you poop your pants, not to piss yourself because it was so hilarious. Many horror-game/movie protagonists are normal, frightened, very human boys and girls. Would Resident Evil 1 still be scary if you run/jetpack through the corridors with Duke kicking ass? No, we want a fragile, sensitive, weak girl/guy. Like the Silent Hill or (older) Resident Evil characters... Though Chris took a steroid cure as well, his arms were 6 times bigger in the last RE game. But hey, RE5 wasn't scary either.

Heather from Silent Hill3, and Chris Redfield (without motor-oil injections) in the GC Remake version. Now Chris looks as if he can defend himself, but the difficult camera positions, stiff controls and scarce ammo still made him vulnerable for a bunch of stupid zombies. And for good reason, otherwise the game wouldn't be scary.

Although anti-hero, it's easier to identify with such characters in horrific settings. The player does the same what you would do: miss your gunshot and run like a girl. Well, probably you would also lock yourself on the toilet, rather than exploring a haunted zombie infested mansion. At least that's what I would do :) Either way, both you and the player are in the same nasty situation, so that makes a bond. And in case of a first-person-view, it's even easier to imagine that your own person is the player. Hence, likely T22 will be using the "Link" method. The what method? Yep, "Link", from Zelda. Or whatever his name is, because the player can always enter his own short name at the start of the game. This character keeps his mouth shut, has little to no emotions, and even a custom name.

In other words, your fantasy has to "complete" the character. Like with books. Some writers describe more details than others, but in the end your fantasy has to picture how the characters and scenery looks like. That's also why book-based-movies can disappoint. Shit, my hero didn't had a beard and brown hair! And that girl was a hot blonde, not a small Viking! Well, some people like to use their fantasy, others prefer to get everything served in ready-to-swallow chunks. But since the horror-genre is for a more select group anyway, I trust on your fantasy.

I'm not sure yet whether the (nameless) T22 player should talk or not. For one thing, there's not much company in that damn building anyway. But if the Boss gives a phone call, it would be silly to reply with silence. Other than that, our man is about 33 years old, normal functioning, and prefer to work with his hands. He's not a genius, neither dumb. An average, working-class (Russian) Joe, or should I say Dimitri or Jaroslaw? You didn't really plan to work in Tower22, but your hands were needed to take care of the building...

More barrels. Sergi is busy doing all kinds of IKEA object(sets). Boxes, barrels, beds, lamps, and so on. We need stuff to decorate that empty building with, right?

So let’s see… We have a non-hero, possibly without a name, that doesn't talk (much)... A prototype, normal human being. The type of guy who drops himself in the sofa with his stinky socks and a beer after work. Good to identify yourself with, but isn't that a bit... 'bland"? How about the mysterious background?!

Well, it would be stupid to spoil everything right here - right now, but let me say the player does have sort of a background. No, your parents weren't murdered. No, you didn't got raised in a spooky orphanage. No, you don't have CIA/KGB chips in your head. No, you didn't do ninja school. No, you don't suffer hallucinations after a mortar hit in Vietnam. No, you are not looking for your family. And no, you can't shit lightning-bolts from your arse either. So what the hell IS he? Play the game and find out :p

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