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Game Writing 101: Creating A Good Villain

A good video game, like a good article, needs a "hook" to get and keep interest. An interesting villain helps create player interest.

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Many times, I find myself unimpressed by a game’s faulty plot. I end up feeling disconnected, uninterested and generally disappointed when I complete a video game. However, I do find solace in knowing there is hope for a game lacking in plot. My hope is found in characters such as the Joker from Arkham Asylum, Nashandra from Dark Souls II, or Ganondorf from Zelda. There are many more names I could list, however, I think you’re starting to get the picture, A well-developed, interesting,  villain can make all the difference when it comes to developing the story of your game.

You Can Never Be Too Emotional

A villain can consist of all sorts of emotions, even if they are conflicting. They can be deranged while still remaining passionate, providing a more attractive personality for the villain at hand. Using our previous example of the Joker, he is one of the most well-developed villains of all time; he’s maniacal, cunning, and determined. You might ask why he’s considered an “ultimate villain,” provided his back story isn’t exactly War & Peace. The Joker provides such a crazed performance, that his sparse backstory only intrigues a player more. I suppose we’ll have to trust Alfred when he says, “Some people just want to watch the world burn.”

Well-developed villains do not need to be deranged or crazy for that matter. Frankly, they come in all emotional shapes and sizes. Whether your villain is downright crazy, a renegade military operative, or a corporation bent on world domination; your villain simply needs to be attractive and enticing to the player. Providing unique mannerisms to your villain helps to interest players as well. Singling out your villain makes them feel even more unique.

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Shock and Awe

Last but certainly not least is this idea of shock and awe. No player wants to feel as if there is nothing left to discover. The minute gameplay seems to become too routine – BOOM! – hit them with a left hook! Villains are meant to bend the rules and break the balance between good and evil. Take Bioshock for example. Containing probably the most beautiful story twist in recent game history, Bioshock truly changes the way a player feels midway through the game when Atlas turns out to be – SPOILERS! – manipulating you the whole time. This turn events was essential to the development of this character, “Would you kindly” agree? Atlas himself was suave, crazed, and  shocked players. He perfectly accentuated the story, allowing players to truly feel over-indulged in the Bioshock universe of Rapture.

There is an important guideline when developing a “shock and awe” performance for your villain. Please remember to stay within the bounds of your game’s universe. The best way to describe what I mean would be through an example, in this case, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. Whoa, whoa, before you punch your computer screen and start hating me, I have two words: Nazi Zombies. Even for a game with a slightly wacky Indiana Jones vibe going on, it felt inconsistent with the rest of the world. Uncharted features beautiful graphics, impeccable gameplay and a beautiful plot, well, until the end. Staying consistent

Just remember when writing a game, don’t give your villain the short end of the stick. They may very well become the most defining factor of your game when it comes to motivating a player to finish. Perhaps with a strong enough characterization, they will leave a lasting impression on your audience for years to come.

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Topics:
game design ,game dev

Published at DZone with permission of Daniel Doan, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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