Empathising with game characters

  • I'm making a game for MolyJam 2013 and since I know the theme in advance I want to plan a few things. My Ludum Dare entry was too simple and bad designed, it was ranked #196 in the overall category but I was a bit disapointed with the game. Anyways, in this jam you have to use a tweet from to design the game, and this is the one I chose:

    A village with just 2 houses. You control a doorbell for both houses. Can you bring the 2 inhabitants together and make them fall in love?

    I still don't know if I'll use pixel art or I'll try using SketchUp. I did this in 5-10 minutes and I liked the result, so I'll keep practising and I might use it.

    <img src="http://media.tumblr.com/64e1ee792a11b5090b9e34e58f3502e3/tumblr_inline_mojviaRZXN1qz4rgp.png" border="0" />

    (I'm posting all this info just to help you visualize my idea)

    I want to make the player care about the characters, that should be the main motivation. We all have played games that were a bit crappy just because we empathized with the characters and wanted to help them. I want to achieve that kind of feeling and I'd like to hear your ideas.

    There is not going to be any kind of interface and my intention is to keep it as clear and simple as possible. I don't want to fill the screen with texts about the character's story. Remember that it's a 48h game jam, it's gonna be hard to create a simple project and I can't spend extra time creating things like animations just to add some background to the characters.

    So, how would you help the player care for a bunch of pixels keeping everything simple?

  • Have the characters introduced as "your Mum and Dad, some time ago"...

  • hi i like what you have achieved and your introduction to the game, its very interesting.. in addition to pixel perficks response...

    i think many pixel characters are easy emphasized with, i've seen this on the creations threads or on the arcade.. usually its the first visual experience then playing the game can make you closer to the character.. some I have seen its been the way they are stood say or big eyes, or oversize feet etc so I would say make the characters visually adorable/ cute/,,and show their feelings etc..

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  • Maybe your setting could be modified to bring more to the situation. You mention 2 houses in a village, but where and when is this village located? What kind of village is it?

    You could give more "pressure" and drama to the whole thing, without text, just by creating the background to the concept. It could be two apartments doors over the same coridor in a lonely society, could be two huts on a deserted island, could be 2 shelters in a destroyed environment, 2 igloos in the arctic, could be 2 houses losts in many many other houses...

  • pixel perfick: Reminds me too much to "How I met your mother" <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" />

    @mineet: I think you're right. I should have a good introduction for my characters and make them unique somehow.

    @sved: I'll think about adding more drama. My initial idea was that they're both spending their holidays and each one thought they would be alone. They're gonna be there for 10 days (10 days x 2 minutes per day = 20 minutes gameplay session). Each day there are two events and if the player interacts correctly with the bells the two characters will get together more often. If you complete X events they'll fall in love. And you won't be able to win the game always, even if you did everything right, because luck is also something important in life.

    And what about names? At first I wasn't going to name them but it could help with this whole empathizing thing. Disney has showed us many times that we can care about any unanimated object just by adding it two eyes and giving it a name.

  • For the names, let the player decides on start of the play session.

    I think that's the best way to entice player and involve them deeply/care about the characters since they can create their own context using names of heroes they like or people they know.

  • Making them cute is an obvious idea, but that could make some players want to shotgun them in the face...

    Which shows how difficult this actually is...

    I think characters placed in a pitiful situation may work as sved is getting at with the dramatic backdrops...

  • yes I agree .. people have different tastes ..

    I think this is good what sved has done.. although the characters have the same eyes and not much facial features, you see there character.. esp the large creature .. kind of looks sad..anyway here is the link

    scirra.com/forum/post-screenshots-of-what-youre-working-on_topic36193_page145.html

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