Game Development Reference
Recently I was given the task of adapting some of Agatha Christie's books as
point-and-click adventure games. The first two were And Then There Were None and
Murder on the Orient Express . The second of these presented a daunting challenge.
The detective, Hercule Poirot, is one of the most famous fictional detectives ever,
probably surpassed only by Sherlock Holmes. Everyone who is not a writer often
jumps to the conclusion that players would have the most fun playing Poirot. But is
that truly the best answer?
We've seen him in almost every imaginable medium. We know him. It was my
belief that the fun of Poirot's character, as is the fun of Sherlock Holmes, derives from
watching him do his thing, being surprised by his deductions and conclusions, and
being amused by his eccentric behavior. To put the player inside the mind of such a
character spoiled the surprise and the humor.
So instead, I enlarged the role of a peripheral character, combined him with an-
other character from the topic, and changed his sex to female. That person became
the player character. She could be far more active than the sedentary Poirot, she could
be more adventurous, she allowed the player to make deductions and to make mis-
takes (something Poirot rarely did), and she allowed the player to experience Poirot
in all his brilliant, eccentric glory.
The most important rule for characters adapted from another medium? Make
sure you remain true to them. Don't force them into situations or choices they didn't
make before. James Bond does not gun down innocent civilians.
If you are creating a brand-new story, you have much more freedom. Here are a
few suggestions to think about as you create your player character.
Create a character who makes sense in the world he'll inhabit. He doesn't have
to be at home in that world, but his place there should not strain the player's
credulity. A fish out of water is fine: for example, a middle-class character
whom players can identify with thrust into the world of politics or high society.
This gives you lots of opportunities for puzzles, surprises and comedy.
Create a character who makes sense in an adventure game. Somebody who
thinks with his fists, or who is at home firing automatic weapons, may not be
the best choice for the more cerebral pleasures of the adventure game.
Create a character who doesn't know everything. It's much more interesting
for players if their avatars don't have all the skills necessary to complete the
story but must learn some along the way. Consider hindering the skills they
do have at some point. Feel free to break a leg or temporarily blind them.
Just as in a TV series, make sure the character is someone with shoes we'd
want to slip into. The character may have faults but should be someone who
is interesting, someone with whom you would want to spend a considerable
amount of time.