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Tim Schafer

Writing Update 5: Creating Characters

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Hmm should think of that next time I write a 'story'

[author] [in the lab] [finding solution to problem]

:D

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So, what would be the one-liner for Star Wars The Phantom Menace? :)

Oh man, that reminds me of this great demonstration of exactly what Tim's writing about—specificity as the soul of character and narrative. It's in this (extremely long, strange and glorious) review of the Phantom Menace,

, in which people are asked to describe various Star Wars characters as a test for how alive/memorable they are.

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Tim, this is amazing and extremely valuable.

Character design and development is something I'm constantly studying. And your games are full of specific characters (also very specific in their visual identity and design)

Which reminds me of Manny Calavera, which I consider a great three-dimensional character, and, as of late, a role model.

He was stuck on Rubacava waiting for Meche, and instead of moping around and doing nothing he worked his way to the top and created a casino. He made the best out of his situation.

Anyway, awesome stuff!!

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Great post !

I try to quick sketch him :)

Michael+D+Cheshire.jpg

Our good friend and beloved teacher Mike Cheshire should definitely make a cameo appearance in Broken Age... :)

Thanks for the incredible insights Tim - decades of experience condensed into a short (well, ok not so short) post. Love it!

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Thanks for this! I hadn't yet gotten around to transcribing the PDF version into a spreadsheet.

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From the girls i liked Milka the most. I never thought about it whilst playing the game but is her name based on the female first name or the chocolate brand?

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Whoa. I was just listening to Nick Cave as I got home, and one of my favorite books as a kid was The Secret Garden! Lili is a girl after my own heart. Is Raz's profile still up, by any chance?

Thanks for the tutorial, Professor Schafer! I've used a technique similar to this for creating roleplaying characters, and I'm probably going to use the same for a comic that's been bouncing around in my head for awhile. It's really effective.

GOM, I love your drawing, by the way. I'd love to see him and Lumberjack worked into a future DF project somehow. Maybe they can team up with Augustus Aquato, Sasha's Dad, and Eddie's Dad. Double Fine Presents: Awesome Facial Hair.

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IDENTITY

Name: Spike

Age: 25

Gender: Male

Nationality/Ethnicity: Who Knows?

Parents: Orphaned

Siblings: Unknown

Significant Others: There was that one person.

Location: Where ever the action isn't

Religion: Whatever god happens to suit him

Class: Doesn't care about it

Marital Status: Single

Education:Refuses to divulge this information

PHYSICAL

Fat/Skinny: Skinny

Tall/Short: Tall 5'11

Strong/Weak: Muscular but not overly so, whatever that means

Hair Color/Style: Brown Caesar cut that turns red in the sunlight

Style of Dress: Whatever helps him blend in

Attractive/Repulsive: Attractive in an average kind of way

Unusual characteristics / markings / disabilities: He would much rather blend in; however this usually fails as he loves to crack jokes.

BEHAVIOR

Speech ( accent / pitch / dialog tags ): Usually a soft spoken person

Temperament (cheerful / grumpy): It bounces around from one to another

Social Skills: Jokes are the best he's got in a social situation

Ambitions / Desires: His biggest thing is to manage to see the next day.

Fears / Hates: Fear the fear

Hobbies / Obsessions: Spends hours on end researching useless information on the Internet.

Special Talents: Research if you want to include that

Self Image: Doesn't admit that there is such a thing

Emotional Baggage: Emotions if those count

Secrets: Never reveal them on a first date

Smoke / Drink: Drinks but only in social situations

Self-destructive / defeating: Depends on the mood doesn't it?

Mannerisms: Sometimes when he talks, he makes a lot of hand motions

Intelligence: Fairly smart

Strong / Weak: He follows through until the last moment

Leader / Follower: Somewhere in between but he won't admit it

Mean / Kind: Usually kind, unless his jokes don't go over well

Right / Left brained: Which ever side is creative

Brave / Fearful: Brave and than fearful in that order

Graceful / Clumsy: Well he doesn't trip over his own two feet

Seeks attention / isolation: Isolation

Funny / serious: Funny with a serious streak

Mellow / energetic: Mellow, very mellow

Humble / arrogant: Humble until complimented then he runs away

Obedient / Rebellious: Mostly a rebel that tries to find a cause.

Favorite music: Jazz

How does he or she change throughout the story? Because it's a story about truths and correctness, he strives to find the right balance in life.

Do they ever face an extremely difficult choice? Of course, its hard to find the right course without asking the character to make a tough choice.

Can they turn a weakness into a strength? It's more of a story about finding oneself and a certain balance in an unbalanced world. It's more of accepting that weaknesses exist.

What are their active and passive goals? Active goal is to find out about an underground group that is out to control people. Passive is more about exploring himself.

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Oh my god those are awesome guys! Great characters! Keep 'em coming!

Going through this process again, I felt like I should modify that chart if I get some time.

I would add "occupation." How did I leave that off there?

I would move "marital status" up above "significant others"

I would clarify that one "weak/strong" question was physical, and the other was about their will.

I would add these questions from the Campster profiles:

Favorite Music:

Favorite Books:

Favorite TV Shows:

Favorite Movies:

About Me: (short identity statement in the character's voice)

Who I Want to Meet:

More characters!

More!!

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Oh man, trying to fill this out just made me realize that I have NOT done enough fleshing out for one of the two main characters of the comic I'm working on at the moment. Yikes!!! Time to do a lot more thinking. Thanks for posting these!

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I made this character as my first attempt at pixel art a while ago. Unfortunately I kinda suck at drawing of any kind but I thought it would be fun to try at least:

Ling.png?t=1372960458?669

This is the main character of a game I want to make some day. (and I really hope I do eventually make it, because I've spent a lot of time fleshing out the world and story in my mind over the last couple of years, mainly while trying to sleep or do homework, and only have some notes on my iPod to show for it. Haven't thought about the characters' traits that much though, so this should be a fun exercise)

IDENTITY

Name: Ling

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Nationality/Ethnicity: One of the last humans in a country mainly populated by humanoid squirrels and platypuses.

Parents: Probably killed by bandits or something.

Siblings: Has an optimistic younger brother who likes playing the guitar (I wanted to call him Ching but that sounds kinda racist). His life is simple and he likes it that way.

Significant Others: None.

Location: "The Green Sea", basically a giant forest country. He lives in Purple Village, a small town on the top of a hill that sticks above the tree tops like an island.

Religion: His mother probably tried to raise him as a worshiper of the Great Sky Orange but he is now an agnostic. (though he still likes oranges, until a lot of them get thrown at him one day by an angry crowd)

Class: Not really part of a class. He lives in a small house with his brother. They are fairly poor, but never short on food. His brother makes money from playing the guitar in crowded areas and coins thrown in his hat. Ling makes some money protecting the village from bandit attacks.

Marital Status: Single.

Education: Taught sword-play by his father. He never had a natural talent for it, but he became fairly good through hard work and practice.

PHYSICAL

Fat/Skinny: Fat.

Tall/Short: Shorter than his brother, but generally a bit taller than most of the other inhabitants of the forest.

Strong/Weak: Strong.

Hair Colour/Style: Who knows. He could be bald, or have a mohawk.

Style of Dress: Wears a pretty ridiculous green suit that makes him look like a cross of Link from TLoZ and a teletubby.

Attractive/Repulsive: Fairly unnattractive.

Unusual characteristics / markings / disabilities: A few scars from fighting. Always has black bags under his eyes.

BEHAVIOR

Speech (accent / pitch/ dialog tags): I guess it would be kinda cool if he had an eastern European accent.

Temperament (cheerful/grumpy): Fairly grumpy, though makes an effort to be nice around people he likes(such as his brother).

Social Skills: Fine, though his cynicism can be somewhat alienating.

Ambitions/Desires: Wants to become a hero.

Fears/Hates: Afraid of moths.

Hobbies/Obsessions: Swordplay. Occasionally plays a bit of guitar, to show appreciation for his brother's interests.

Special Talents: He's a pretty good shot with a bow and arrow, though he doesn't know that until he tries it out.

Self Image: He has a pretty poor image of himself after 27 years of what he views as a mediocre life.

Emotional Baggage: His inability to save his parents, his insecurity about the lack of significance his life holds on the world.

Secrets: He has the blood of an ancient forest dwelling race in his veins, making him and his brother the only ones who can harness the power of a weapon necessary to save the country.

Smoke / Drink: Once had some hallucinogenic mushrooms he bought from a dodgy squirrel down an alleyway, but decided it wasn't for him. Likes to have a drink every so often, though neither he or his brother have the money to fund it as a habit.

Self-destructive / defeating: Yes, in quite a few ways.

Mannerisms: Gets fidgety when doing something boring, like sleeping. (he has also had insomnia a few times)

Intelligence: Fairly intelligent.

Strong/weak: Pretty strong-willed.

Leader / Follower: Neither. Prefers to do his own thing.

Graceful / Clumsy: Not exactly graceful but not clumsy either, thanks to his training.

Seeks attention / isolation: Despite his desire to become a "hero", it isn't because he craves attention. He wouldn't mind saving the world, even if no one knew he had done it. He just wants his life to have some significance. Once he had achieved such a goal he could quite easily live out his life in peace and isolation.

Funny / Serious: Pretty depressed, but he sometimes demonstrates a sense of humour.

Mellow / Energetic: Mellow and uninspired for most of the time.

Humble / Arrogant: Neither.

Obedient / Rebellious: Rebellious-ish.

Favourite music: His brother's guitar playing.

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[Darmok and Jalad] [at Tanagra] [fighting the beast of Tanagra] :D

Best post ever!

This did nearly win the topic.

Smiles

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Most interesting thread I've read so far. Thanks so much for the incredibly satisfying and enlightening information, Tim!

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Interesting that the main characters are kids. What is the reasoning behind that? I don't want to seem criticizing but not even kids want to play kids :)

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Interesting that the main characters are kids. What is the reasoning behind that? I don't want to seem criticizing but not even kids want to play kids :)

Psychonauts had even younger kids.

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Interesting that the main characters are kids. What is the reasoning behind that? I don't want to seem criticizing but not even kids want to play kids :)

Psychonauts had even younger kids.

DoTT had kids.

Mi2 sorta had kids.

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Interesting that the main characters are kids. What is the reasoning behind that? I don't want to seem criticizing but not even kids want to play kids :)

Many Double Fine games have child characters. Raz is around 9-12. Wren, Reynold, Everett, and Lucy are in Fourth Grade. Charlie Blackmore is 12. I believe in one episode Tim Schafer said the theme of Broken Age is puberty, of trying to figure out who you are when your parents are sometimes steering you in a direction you may not want to go down. The character's age fits the story they're in.

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Dont expect yr world to be set on fire by this one guys.. Go Broken Age Go!

aaron d

This is Tim’s blank character question template. Please add your own questions and make this

sheet your own!

IDENTITY

Name

R.H.O.N.D.A ( Replicating Hostile Osilating Node Defence Array)

Age

Same age as the ship

Gender

Hermaphrodite/A sexual- A sort of Bovine (cow) meets rockem sockem

robots.

Nationality/Ethnicity

Laboratory construction in hovering military facility on the north pole of

earth(and or home planet ship was created)In appearance; A sort of Bovine

(cow) meets rockem sockem robots.

Parents

Proffesor Wenchly Nasty-trunks headed the program, growing RHONDA from

mostly cow but some porpoise, sea horse, a pinch of camel and sprinkle of low

land gorilla and some human DNA, onto a metal bio-structure with plenty of

CPU’s jammed in there.

Siblings

RHONDA hopes that if it ever gets to meet a sibling it doesn’t know about, it

will have the family honour of redirecting a black hole and compacting it into

an atom sized tin can ie put it out of its misery.

Significant Others

None but secretly wants the Sun mom and Moon dad to adopt it

Location

Separated in a drone that orbits the ship due to being a highly dangerous and

powerful weapon, and able to reposition itself to eliminate incoming threats

Religion

Believes in a pagan style Boar god whose milk will run through the universe

and reverse black holes to build new stars and galaxies

Class

Conflicted nihilistic hippie

Marital Status

Single for eternity

Education

Ships logs, Philosophy

PHYSICAL

Fat/Skinny

Obese and chunky like a rockem sockem robot

Tall/Short

Short/ medium

Strong/Weak

Medium/Weak- Until defence chip is triggered then strong/manic

Hair Color/Style

Patchy, Milking cow patterns, unkempt hippy locks, shaves it into a

punk/military Mohawk when defence chip is triggered

Style of Dress

Like a used car part yard with tanned animal hides stitched into it

Attractive/Repulsive

Repulsive but with little touches it is proud of like a ‘Sun mom’s my

lighthouse’ tattoo.

Unusual

characteristics /

markings / disabilities

Ships defence system opens localised black holes to compact incoming foreign

bodies. Defence chip once triggered creates wild mood swings to manic strong

behaviours ( red lights flash ‘Help me rhonda, help help me rhonda’ song

plays) Cannot move/ leave orbiting pod. Sun moms my lighthouse tattoo as it

wants to be adopted by her.

BEHAVIOR

Speech ( accent /

pitch / dialog tags )

shirley bassey sing song

voice when idle. When the defence chip is active, more like the dulcet tones of

Steven Wright

Temperament

(cheerful / grumpy)

Cheerful hippie/nihilist

Social Skills

Can recite the ships log and rule sets, proud, prone to chip activated mood

swings. Tries to make friends by engaging the boy in crappy board games it

made up itself.

Ambitions / Desires

Be adopted, create the worlds most tedious card/boardgame along the lines of

magic the gathering meets mouse trap. Bring its creator back to life so it can

toy with him and murder him.

Fears / Hates

Fears steel wool (sensory aversion) , bees, aliens, rabbits especially ones with

red eyes because they stare at you and their noses snuffle sinisterly

Hobbies / Obsessions

Creating board games, The Pagan Boar gods Judgement Day, compacting stuff

into sub atomicly exclusive sizes with its miniature black holes. Has always

wanted to take a bath.

Special Talents

It can create localised black holes in order to compact incoming threats to the ship.

Self Image

Elements of self loathing, extraverted when speaking on topics of interest to it.

Emotional Baggage

Desire to be loved by a paternal figure, performance anxiety when crushing

objects with gravity power.

Secrets

Knows the ships self destruct codes/ shut off.

Smoke / Drink

Smokes an array of pipes, cigars ect. When in military defensive mode

Self-destructive /

defeating

Wrecks a lot of its board games half way through the first playthrough saying

they aren’t good enough. Jealousy over the compaction power of other units at

the military facility where it ‘grew up’

Mannerisms

Grinds lower teeth over top lip when thinking. Paranoid surprise at short lived

randomised hallucinations.

Intelligence

Knowledgable but not wise.

Strong / Weak

Alternating

Leader / Follower

Follower

Mean / Kind

Alternating

Right / Left brained

Alternating

Brave / Fearful

Fearful

Graceful / Clumsy

Clumsy

Seeks attention /

isolation

Attention seeker

Funny / serious

Serious

Mellow / energetic

Alternating

Humble / arrogant

Humble

Obedient / Rebellious

Alternating

Favorite music

Ween

Bonus Questions to ask yourself about your character:

How does he or she change throughout the story? Opens its mind to things outside its comfort

zone/ knowledge base, realises the struggle going on in the main story and wants to think of a

way to aid. Becomes defensive of the boy rather then the ship itself.

Do they ever face an extremely difficult choice? Whether to blow the ship up/ stop it from self

destructing

Can they turn a weakness into a strength? Use its knowledge past failed board game attempts

to give the player hints on how to solve a puzzle.

What are their active and passive goals? Active- create the universes most awesomely tedious

board game. Pray to pagan boar god, orbit the ship and scan for incoming bodies to destroy.

Passive, escape the ship/ pod and become mobile/ independent. Get adopted by holo-mom and

dad.

Radically change some of the above answers. Change their gender, race, or age. Think about

how the character feels with that change. Does it open new doors?

Collage – what six images would your character use to express themselves?

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Super interesting stuff!

A thought: Would it be possible to use Twine to create character profiles like these, with links for relationships (family, friends, enemies) and shared attributes? I'm not really familiar with the software so I don't know how well suited it would be to the task, but from what I've seen it seems like it could work... in the absence of a more user friendly dedicated tool for building character profiles.

Alternatively: genealogy software

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Religion:

Believes in a pagan style Boar god whose milk will run through the universe

and reverse black holes to build new stars and galaxies

You win.

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Wow this is such a great idea, been working on my own Adventure game Paradigm so I thought I would fill out one of these to understand the characters better when writing scenes and dialogue.

Here is a recent character I mapped out

JEJfhDZ.gif

Name: Spencer Bar

Age: 35

Gender: Male Sloth

Nationality/Ethnicity: American

Parents: Genetically engineered Sloth

Siblings: Other failed diseased failed prototypes

Significant Others: His dead master, the owner and creator of (Prodigy Children- a company which sells prodigy children to rich couples)

Location: Non descript Eastern European country, formally known as krusznovoodka

Religion: Atheist although he fakes worship of a religion based on a WWF wresting diety

Class: Upper

Marital Status: Single

Education: Home schooled by his master, a brilliant scientist with terrible tastes in entertainment.

PHYSICAL

Fat/Skinny: Chubby

Tall/Short: 1.2m

Strong/Weak: The combined strength of a 10 year old girl and a pug

Hair Color/Style: Styled 70's wig, taken from his dead master.

Style of Dress: Naked other than his fur and wig.

Attractive/Repulsive: Cute creepy sloth

Unusual characteristics / markings / disabilities: on his back his furs pattern spells out, I'm a sloth, feel my roth, which was genetically placed there by his master to remind him he is the master of comedy.

BEHAVIOR

Speech ( accent / pitch / dialog tags ): Snobby American

Temperament (cheerful / grumpy): Menacing

Social Skills: none to speak of, he only answered to his master and hated everyone else.

Ambitions / Desires: To fulfill his masters dream of creating a monopoly on the worlds entertainment with his vision of what was good.

Fears / Hates: Fears pity and sympathy.

Hobbies / Obsessions: re-watching all his masters terrible demo's over and over again, styling his wig and re-reading “bar bar genetically engineered sentiment being.”

Special Talents: He is a living vending machine, every hour he vomits out candy bars, wrappers and all.

Self Image: See's himself as a legitimate son to his master, often avoids the reality he is a sloth and often punishes servants who bring it up

Emotional Baggage: His master died of cancer from poor safety conditions in the factory. He thinks himself as his son, when in reality he was only around as a living vending machine.

Secrets: Has a secret collection of national geographic and animal planet videos about sloths.

Smoke / Drink: Doesn't drink or smoke, but takes anti depressants.

Self-destructive / defeating: he is at one point

Mannerisms: “mmmMMMMMM” tries to project a menacing character, however looks more hilarious than anything because of his appearance. Coughs up candy bars mid conversation.

Intelligence: Very intelligent

Strong / Weak: Weak insecure

Leader / Follower: Leader, but a terrible one.

Mean / Kind: Mean, however some kindness does eventually arise

Right / Left brained: logical

Brave / Fearful: fearful

Graceful / Clumsy: Hovers

Seeks attention / isolation: Isolation

Funny / serious: Super serious

Mellow / energetic: Calm but insecure

Humble / arrogant: arrogant

Obedient / Rebellious: Highly obedient

Favorite music: Clean and happy acoustic songs, think playschool and corny campfire songs.

Occupation: New CEO of the Prodigy Child company.

Favourite books: “bar bar genetically engineered sentiment being.”

Favourite tv shows: Gilligans Island, Happy days, Ryan Hopes acoustic hour, featuring happyness and the masters home made tv shows

Favourite movies: Masters home made movies.

How does he or she change throughout the story? The characters initially is a very menacing insecure 'evil' character. However the player will eventually sympathise with him as he begins to show his true insecure side with 'daddy issues'

Do they ever face an extremely difficult choice?  To create a monoply on the worlds entertainment, fulfilling his masters dream.

What are their active and passive goals?  To fulfill his masters dreams, and one step to do this is to find out why Paradigm (The games protagonist who is a genetically engineered prodigy child) does not become 'faulty' like all the other prodigy children.

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Psychonauts had even younger kids.

DoTT had kids.

Mi2 sorta had kids.

I didn't play psychonauts but in mi2 and dott you didnt get the sense they were kids, reguardless of what the character design description was. Guybrush could have been anything from 20-40 yrs. That works so much better since it allows the user to indentify the character with whatever he prefers.

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I believe in one episode Tim Schafer said the theme of Broken Age is puberty, of trying to figure out who you are when your parents are sometimes steering you in a direction you may not want to go down. The character's age fits the story they're in.

Thanks for clarifying, I must have missed that. But with that in mind, there are many possible angles to "rites of passage" in a persons life. Puberty is only one of those. It just makes it harder to identify with the character when it's specifically a kid in that age. I actually just thought of an example where that does work and that is Harry Potter. Then again i never was a fan of Harry Potter for this very reason.

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This is a pretty cool exercise and it doesn't really take that long.

Not I can't stop thinking about what different characters facebook would look like :D

Anyway I gave it a go..

xxz918S.jpg

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Thanks for the great update and the unexpected loads of info! You've made my day Tim! :)

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