3 Ways Popular Games Bring Party Members to Life

in Advice

So you have your party. Let’s say 8-10 glorious characters recruited to your cause. And now the story continues! But of course, you want those Party Members to all to continue to develop and be interesting! But if you let every single one of them comment during every single cutscene… yeah we’ll know what they are thinking, but it drags out the “cinematics” of the game.

So you need to find an alternative way to have your characters chime in on the current situation, their feelings, and their just general attitude.

What Not To Do (Original Dragon Quest IV)

First, let’s describe what not to do.

You have cool characters. Entire CHAPTERS of the game are devoted to each one. Then you get to the fifth chapter and you recruit them and…

Boom. None of them ever talk again, just becoming an extension of the Silent Protagonist blob that is the party.

DQIV

The Dragon Quest series is a property of Square Enix.

This is literally the last thing Nara says in the original Dragon Quest IV. Now, in the remake for DS in Japan, as well as the remake version internationally on Android/iOS, they implemented a Party Talk feature, which is a good solution to this problem. Though not one of the main ones we are going to talk about in this article.

Give Each Character Sidequest Lines (Mass Effect Series)

The Mass Effect series, and by extension pretty much every Bioware game that came after it, ties each of their characters to a sidequest or series of sidequests.

This is a really good way to deal with the problem because it does something that other solutions don’t really do: It lets the character work through some unresolved issue or grow in a way that isn’t directly related to the plot.

Mass Effect is a property of BioWare.

Mass Effect is a property of BioWare.

Such as Garrus’s mission to take down Dr. Saleon, which leads to you being able to talk him down from Cowboy Copping Dr. Saleon, or let him shoot the Salarian for his crimes against sentient beings.

Sidequest lines for the character make them more than an extension of the main plot. It enhances who they are outside of what is going on in the game. And that is why it is a great choice for games.

Make a Home Base Where You Can Talk To Your Party (Suikoden Series)

If there was ever a series of games that couldn’t have each of the parties talk up in every cutscene, it is the Suikoden series. With 108 recruitable characters (though not all of them are combatants), the Suikoden games have MASSIVE casts. If each of them said something for every scene, the game would be 80 hours of just dialogue.

But with 108 characters, they have to have somewhere to stay! Like a big castle, or a ship in the one no one likes to talk about…

Suikoden is a property of Konami

Suikoden is a property of Konami.

This home base gives the player an opportunity to discover what every character thinks almost every step of the way, but it doesn’t slow down the game. The player can interact with the ones he wants to, on his own time.

Give Characters a Way to Contact YOU (Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE)

While Mass Effect does the first two examples, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE does BOTH of the previous (you can find the characters hanging around the city), it also introduced something I found absolutely brilliant:

The characters could get in touch with you, using a nonobtrusive “social media” app in the game, that was on the main characters phone and used the Wii U Gamepad as the phone screen. This let them insert quirky character moments throughout the game, without ever breaking the flow of what you were doing. You would just see an alert in the corner of the screen that you had a new message, and you could check it when you felt like it, without ever going to a menu.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a collaboration between Atlus and Nintendo.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a collaboration between Atlus and Nintendo.

It also added things like texting idiosyncrasies in the characters, and cute little stickers that match their personalities used in line.

This added mechanic really brought the game and it’s characters to life. Instead of just existing when I poked at them, the characters now existed and contacted me on their own. And it never broke the flow of the game.

All of these methods can do a lot to make your characters stand out more for your players. What do you do in your game to make them stand out? What do you think of these methods? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • David Ruckman

    It’s because of the linearity of my game, but the characters is probably the most praised element for it and I didn’t do any of these. 😛

    That said, these are all ideas that worked for the game they were used in, and this article is definitely something I, along with the community in general, should look at when I start my next game. I’ve seen too many shovelware RM games where the characters are just blank slates, even to the point of just joining the party to fill up space.

    Also liked how you used Dragon Quest IV as a reference yet again. I’m currently playing the android port and I’m quite enjoying it.

    • Touchfuzzy

      Android port is the definitive version.