Game Development Reference
development that is under the control of the player, but often this simply
comes down to assigning your own scores to various abilities or changing the
colour of the character's hair or choosing their gender. Then during the
game, the awarding of experience points allows the player to increase the
character's stats further. However, affecting the character's skills and abilities
in this way is not true character development in a narrative sense. There is
rarely any indication that the underlying nature of the character is being
affected by the player's actions.
One of the downsides of any kind of game interaction is the possible
resource overheads - the creation of the code or art resources necessary to
allow the actual interaction to take place and deal with the consequences.
Most games rely on repeated gameplay mechanics because when they are
spread throughout the game the costs associated with each one become more
easily justified.Whenever the player interacts with the narrative in some sense
or other, the development team must look at creating specific resources to
deal with the action and the consequence.
If you want to develop the nature of the character based on the choices
the player makes properly, resources will have to be available for subtle vari-
ations of cut-scenes, the creation of a clever, engine-driven facial animation
system, or alternative versions of all dialogue lines to reflect the changes in
the character, which in turn will require appropriate changes in the responses
of other characters. It is easy to see that, for a game with a complex narrative,
very quickly the resources required will grow enormously if there is no
mechanism in the game to hold it in check in some way.
Some games studios have implemented systems in which the main charac-
ter never speaks out aloud.This may mean that supporting characters launch
into monologues with little encouragement or the player chooses from a
series of queries when talking to other characters, which results in the other
character responding without the player character having spoken the line the
player chose. One dissatisfying aspect of this is that the player can feel the
character they control is a little dumb and that the drama that derives from
fully-realised character conflict is somewhat restricted or lost altogether
because you only ever hear one of the voices and there is little interplay
between the characters.
Another method of dealing with characters in an interactive way is to
develop gameplay mechanics that handle their responses in a generic or
systemic way. If the player character is in charge of a squad of army troopers,
say, there could be a system in place that responds to the actions of the player.