The title says it all. I have a character who’s kind of judgemental and any small thing annoys them (repeatedly doing the same thing a lot of times annoys them). You can’t leave them, and the fate of the game throughout depends on them being at least okay. To have some context, though it’s super spoilers: The person is the narrator.
The problem is how do I develop this character so you can relate to them and not hate them for being so thin-iced on relationships? It’s really bugging me. What are some techniques?
Make them entertaining! GLaDOS spends all of Portal 1 and 2 snarking at you, but players love her because it’s entertaining snark, even if it’s at the character’s expense.
But what kind of thing counts as entertaining? I can’t tell what would be funny, or add to NPC development well, etc.
Lol that very much sounds like the beta tester NPC I am coding up for my next game. Making snide remarks when the PC is doing stupid things, and all. Not acting as a narrator, more like an irritating know-it-all hint giver .
If it makes you laugh, it’s probably funny! You can also ask your beta testers if you don’t trust your own sense of humour. I’m quite fond of an annoying NPC myself, they’re a lot of fun to write. They can be pompous, vain, opinionated and plain stupid, but adding a streak of vulnerability humanises them and makes them more likeable. Remember that there are two sides to every story. What makes a person annoying? Often it’s insecurity or fear. So long as you think of your characters—no matter how exaggerated—as real people, the player will generally find something to like about them…
That’s exactly my problem. I want to make them vulnerable, but in doing so it’ll be so blatantly obvious that that’s a problem that it’s more of a boring “quirk”. How to make it subtle? I can’t do subtle well.
On subtle, I’m not good at funny. If you played Milliways, you’ll understand - the only funny parts in that is a very certain style which doesn’t fit in this game.
So, if that’s all I need to do, I’ll be screwed…
If you’re already stressing and struggling, maybe try a different approach? It’s good to challenge yourself occasionally, but it’s much easier to play to your own strengths. Do what makes you happy and you’ll find your audience.
I read your spoiler text and
yeah, making the narrator an annoying character is a lot of work. Violet is a good game to look at if you’re going down this route. Violet’s not annoying per se but she can be snarky and she’s very likeable. My early game Goldilocks is a FOX! has the player character as the narrator, and she’s constantly carping and complaining at the player, particularly when things aren’t going her way. She even complains about having to carry around too many objects, but that might not be the kind of humour you’re going for with this one. If you want to PM me with more details about your game, please do.
for being not annoying, a npc must be well-fleshed and reacting with the environment in an interesting manner, consistent with its fleshing. I’m not sure what you mean in your spoiler, (perhaps something akin to Capt. Hastings in the early Poirot mysteries ?) so I’m not sure of what I can suggest to you.
Best regards from Italy,
So let’s toss humour out the window then. If the character isn’t funny, they should be interesting, dynamic and even have a bit of an arc as the story goes on. Eventually, they should be likeable, despite their flaws.
I don’t know what the circumstance is for your NPC, so take this with a grain of salt.
( Examples that reveal the spoiler in the the original post. )
I think the trick is to balance being opinionated with being sincere. So let’s take your idea of them being judgmental and easily annoyed. If a player tries the same failed parser command twice, the NPC could remark… “You know, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and expecting different results, right? Please, can we just move on?”
Initially, the comment comes off as snarky and opinionated, but the last part feels sincere, yet still shows frustration. It’s a subtle strategy, but it might work.
Let’s try another example. When the player tries using an item on something that doesn’t work. “Seriously? I don’t know if you’re trying to be funny or not, but let’s not goof around.”
Again, the offended remark ends with trying to get you to stay on task. Each remark must show annoyance, but also direction and sincerity. Try to get something from each side of the spectrum in each response.
Lastly, it all can’t all be about being frustrated and annoyed by the player. Every character should be dynamic to some respect so let’s go over when the player does something right. “I… never would have thought of that. That was quite brilliant actually.”
Now the player gets a little praise. In fact, the praise is weighted more because the NPC has been harping on them for so long. It’s like the lighter version of a hard-assed dad finally telling his son he’s proud of him.
Now the NPC can start to side with the player. “I know I’ve been a bitch, but… thank you for helping me.”
Later on, once the NPC has warmed to the player, they can show a tendency to go back to their old ways, but bite their tongue or show reluctance to chastise the player. “That obviously won’t work …sorry, we need to stay on task.”
All in all, a character that’s cold to the player needs to have a redemption arc in order to be likeable. It’s a meticulous process throughout the game. I think it can be a successful strategy though.
Bad Dad Joke of the Day: Dogs can’t operate an MRI machine, but catscan.
That’s something you’ll have to run by the testers to see. Pay attention to how players react, what they respond best to and what they’re annoyed by.
For the writing process itself, it might help to define a central joke that can be made immediately obvious to the player, and that every subsequent snark can build on.
I’m thinking of a couple of characters from Baldur’s Gate 3: first, Naaber, a minor NPC in Carm’s Garms who wants to be an adventurer. Every time you talk to him, he’s trying out a different class, but is clearly very averse to actual adventuring/battle. The writing makes it clear he was intended to be quite annoying, but every person I know who’s encountered him has reacted with delight because his gimmick makes him endearingly silly.
Secondly, there’s the (slightly larger) character of Minsc, who refers to himself in the third person, claims to be able to speak with his hamster familiar, and filters all of his own opinions and observations by claiming they’re actually the opinions and observations of said hamster. It may get repetitive sometimes, but it’s cohesive enough that it never truly grows grating.
An IF example of an annoying narrator might be Violet. Some people probably interpret it as endearing, others as nagging. You’re not going to please everyone no matter what you do.
Huh. I loved violet, but I get what you mean. I can get why some would find her irritating.