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Bringing Game Characters to Life: 

Bringing Game Characters to Life Steve Crane Midway Games

Game Characters are Dreadful: 

Game Characters are Dreadful Why are they dreadful? Why does it matter? How can we improve the situation?

Why do characters matter?: 

Why do characters matter? Mainstream entertainment is based on interesting characters

Games Lack the Broad Appeal of Movies: 

Games Lack the Broad Appeal of Movies Not everyone is goal-oriented or competitive Hand-eye coordination fades Game graphics aren’t quite there yet Game characters fall short

Action Movies vs. Action Games: 

Action Movies vs. Action Games Games are good at the action scenes Games fail to deliver the 'quiet moments' that define character Great action + memorable characters = massive hit Should be an easier problem than simulating all of human behavior

Character Can Drive New Kinds of Gameplay: 

Character Can Drive New Kinds of Gameplay If there isn’t any gameplay during the quiet moments, they might as well be cut scenes. I’ll get back to this later

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short?: 

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short? They’re often autistic

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short?: 

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short? They respond too similarly

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short?: 

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short? They’re wooden

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short?: 

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short? They repeat themselves

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short?: 

Where Do Game Characters Fall Short? They don’t interact believably

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting?: 

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting? Challenge 1: Characters shouldn’t act like idiots They need to respond to events believably Characters should vary their behavior

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting?: 

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting? Challenge 2: Characters should display a baseline level of human behavior Their behavior takes relationships and past events into account They have moods They behave differently around people they know versus ones they don’t They express themselves (at a minimum) via body language

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting?: 

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting? Challenge 3: Characters should have recognizable personalities One-note personalities are acceptable for supporting characters (e.g.tough guy, weasily coward) Ideally, main characters have at least two competing traits. This enables meta-games.

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting?: 

How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting? Challenge 4: Characters should be able to engage emotionally with the player

Special Cases: 

Special Cases Zombies

Special Cases: 

Special Cases Soldiers

Special Cases: 

Special Cases Law Enforcement

Special Cases: 

Special Cases Stone-cold killer

Special Cases: 

Special Cases Sports

Special Cases: Crowds: 

Special Cases: Crowds Real crowds are non-uniform

Special Cases: Crowds: 

Special Cases: Crowds Real People Respond Differently to Events

Personality: 

Personality Heroic

Personality: 

Personality Villainous

Personality: 

Personality Likeable

Personality: 

Personality Ditzy

Personality: 

Personality World-weary

Personality: 

Personality Intense

Personality: 

Personality Cool

Personality: 

Personality Irritable

Facial Expression and Body Language as Indicators of Personality and Mood: 

Facial Expression and Body Language as Indicators of Personality and Mood Animators figured out the rules long ago

“93% of human communication is through body language”: 

'93% of human communication is through body language' A search for 'body language' on Amazon generates 1373 hits Body language is straight-forward to implement

Body Language: 

Body Language Level 1: Brain-dead obvious

Body Language: 

Body Language Level 2: Subtle

Body Language: 

Body Language Level 3: Obscure Don’t over-think it. Players won’t get it.

Body Language: 

Body Language Static postures are the place to start

Body Language: 

Body Language Posture plus movement can provide an unmistakable signal

Body Language: 

Body Language Crowds can tell a story

Body Language: 

Body Language Body language can express a changing relationship

Body Language: 

Body Language Another example of a changing relationship

Body Language: 

Body Language Invading personal space creates tension

Body Language: 

Body Language The message is clearest when postures reinforce each other

Body Language: 

Body Language Mixed messages are interesting

Body Language: 

Body Language You can always tell when someone cares

Body Language: 

Body Language Group dynamics are a harder problem

Case Study - Poker: 

Case Study - Poker There is no such thing as a poker face

Case Study - Poker: 

Case Study - Poker Poker is a game and a meta-game The meta-game is all about body language

Case Study - Poker: 

Case Study - Poker 'A player is either acting or he isn’t'

How Character Can Drive Gameplay: 

How Character Can Drive Gameplay Imagine that you cared about an NPC Would you change your play to avoid hurting their feelings or alienating them? Suppose an enemy NPC had human weaknesses that you could exploit?

Case Studies: 

Case Studies The guard The alien abductee The plucky heroine

Connecting Emotionally with Game Characters: 

Connecting Emotionally with Game Characters Can an NPC be your friend? Shared interests Shared experiences Responsiveness Friendly gestures How about if you choose your friends?

Summary: How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting?: 

Summary: How Do We Make Game Characters More Interesting? Characters should react to what’s happening around them Characters should display a baseline level of human behavior Characters should have recognizable personalities Characters should engage emotionally with the player

Questions?: 

Questions? (Oh, and by the way, Midway is hiring AI programmers. Lots of them.)

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