Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
ences and set in cartoon worlds has led to an abundance of cartoon characters within
the genre. From Earthworm Jim to Rayman , cartoon characters make sense in a car-
toon world. In games with more realistic human characters, the protagonists' back-
ground often casts them as adventurers to match their adventure film feel. In Tomb
Raider , it is not just Lara Croft's bosom that defies gravity as she bounds from one
ledge to another, and such acrobatic feats need to be explained. Both Tomb R a i d e r
and Uncharted sketch their protagonist as “an adventurer” to frame their characters'
abilities. Not all games follow the convention of explaining how the protagonists
can do what they do. After all, Mario is a portly plumber rather than a lithe cir-
cus performer. Oddworld 's first hero Abe is supposed to be fit but not special. His
movements and landings have weight to them that make him feel more like a real
“person” trapped in special circumstances. For such characterization to work, the an-
imation, art, and narrative character design must tie together neatly. Though it is not
essential to explain everything, writers should try to match their characters to their
Historically, many platformers have featured a single protagonist with supporting
characters who only appeared in cutscenes. The reason for this is the large amount
of work needed to get non-player characters (NPCs) to function believably in dan-
gerous environments without them becoming an annoying liability to the player.
The investment in design time and in the programming resources needed to create
high-level AI have often proved prohibitive to the inclusion of NPCs beyond the
cutscene. Adding characters to the platforming sections of the game is fraught with
danger. Lego Indiana Jones runs into this problem with many of the secondary char-
acters getting in the way of the player with the result that the player falls off ledges
and fails gameplay sections through no fault of his own. This is because creating the
artificial intelligence needed for NPCs to navigate platform sections is notoriously
Some games get around the AI constraints by having the NPC shadow the main
character, repeating everything he does. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 , Sonic is joined
by a companion, Knuckles. This companion follows Sonic, but there is no real
communication between them. All the character does is repeat Sonic's moves.
In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune , the protagonist is joined by a number of NPCs
who are capable of interacting with their environment (operating switches ahead of
the player and independently moving to the next point of interest). The Oddworld
series sees both Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus utilize NPCs as part of the game
design. It should be noted that Uncharted limits these NPCs to the flat safe areas of
the game, while the Oddworld gamesmakeleadingtheNPCsthroughtheworldand
the limitations of these characters part of the gameplay challenge.
The limited abilities of secondary characters are a factor in determining where
and how the story can be told. If secondary characters break the game, then the
protagonist will need to be alone for much of the game. This in turn may prompt
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