In this detailed design piece
, researcher Anders Tychsen looks to tabletop RPGs for inspiration on the best ways to create compelling characters - and lasting experiences - for video games.
Though typical RPGs can contain dozens of characters, the player-controlled character or characters form the focal point of interaction between the player and the real world. In an RPG, if the character is too simple or not interesting to play, the experience will often not be enough to motivate the player to continue playing:
"That player characters which are comprised of more than visual models with stats are of interest to a segment of the player population should come as no surprise; however, when considering the segment of players interested in RPGs, the interest is pretty substantial.
If we for a moment accept the hypothesis that having the opportunity to create more "complex" characters - in the internal sense - is a benefit; and that we are reasonably sure this will impact on the financial bottom line - which means we can justify allocating development money - the question is: How do we apply this to computer games?"
Citing possibilities with adapting the tabletop RPG character system in digital RPGs, Tychsen examines Lord of the Rings trilogy character Aragorn. Simply specifying orcs as a "favored enemy" for Aragorn and granting him a bonus to damage against them in combat would be a shallow approach.
"In a system with more depth, we might define Aragorn as having a high level of "social responsibility". This can be hard to integrate in the game mechanics, but not impossible. Furthermore, it points towards a different option for utilizing this personality element, namely in the creation of content to accommodate this personality element, and the direction of content towards characters. We might tailor a series of quests to Aragorn's player, providing a story-based response to the character personality.
This can be problematic in terms of development resource, so a different option is to "tag" the hundreds of quests generally integrated in CRPGs after the personality/integration elements of the character system, and direct them to the player content. This is not as big a development resource issue as one might believe, since CRPGs generally have lots of different quests in order to accommodate different player preferences anyway. Note that this approach does not prevent any players from accessing any of the content, avoiding redundancy.
As an example, a quest involving helping a group of refugees would be in line with our Aragorn. What we need to do is make sure this quest comes to the attention of Aragorn's player. Even if this quest might have been available anyway, the fact that the content is directed provides a measure of responsiveness to the character generation choices of the player."
You can now read the full feature
on using elements from tabletop RPGs as inspiration for developing nuanced and more compelling characters in digital RPGs (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).