Skip to Content

Building a game around a fictitious character

29 replies [Last post]
Stainer
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969

What are peoples thoughts on building a board game around a character? Has anybody tried this? The idea is mostly found in video games (Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, the list goes on...) and I was thinking of applying this to board games. I think the idea will greatly enchance the theme of a game provided the game is capable of maintaining the character. But will it do anything else besides enchance the theme? What are other peoples thoughts on this idea? I don't see many board games with a main character. Actually, I can't even think of one right now.

rd

johant
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

It popular to make boardgames from popular videogames.

I think that its a good idea

Edit: using popular characters in your boardgame will make it easier to market the game

The drawback is that you need the permission to do so!

SenorOcho
SenorOcho's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/24/2009
Building a game around a fictitious character

It doesn't look like the OP meant licensing video game characters - he's talking about board games centered around a character in the same way that many video games are.

Deviant
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

The biggest obstacle I can see would be that most games require two or more players. Who gets to be the main character, and what is player two doing in the meanwhile?

That's not to say that it's a bad idea. There's just more to consider. In video games, the gameworld itself is the antagonist. How often does that happen in board games? How many games are solitaire? Good games, I mean.

Stainer
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

thank you SenorOcho, you are right. I am thinking of building games around a character I will develop and create. I'm trying to think of all the benefits and drawbacks from this. Does anybody have any experience with designing characters for a game market? Or any market? I'm inexperienced with this.

Thanks,

rd

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Beowulf.

english
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

I reckon the idea of having a central character/s has a lot of merit particularly if your game becomes popular.

You would then have a defined character to 'license' to other producers and could make money that way.

I agree with what others have said though - a board game isn't the same as most video games played from a 'first person alone' perspective.

I'd say that the way to do it would be to have a stable of characters (think team of heroes much like the X-men).

You would then need to write the games 'theme' to incorporate the 'team members' all competing for the same goal. E.g. first to achieve the graduation from 'hero' academy to full hero status.

Just my thoughts.

(incidentally we're kind of doing this with our first game which we hope to be in the position to 'launch' at the end of the month).

cheers

c

Rick-Holzgrafe
Rick-Holzgrafe's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/22/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Deviant wrote:
The biggest obstacle I can see would be that most games require two or more players. Who gets to be the main character, and what is player two doing in the meanwhile?

In a cooperative game, all players could work towards advancing the theme character against a game-system enemy. (Help Indiana Jones steal the Ark of the Covenant away from the Nazis.)

In a competitive game, players could be characters that seek their own goals in the world of the theme character, with the theme character himself (or herself) as a resource that all players can draw upon and compete to use. (Try to make your museum the best in the world, both by enlisting the aid of Indiana Jones to find artifacts for you, and by conniving with his enemies to steal the artifacts he's obtaining for other players.)

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Rick-Holzgrafe wrote:
In a cooperative game, all players could work towards advancing the theme character against a game-system enemy. (Help Indiana Jones steal the Ark of the Covenant away from the Nazis.)

Damn it, Rick... now why'd you have to go and do a thing like that?

(/me oes to ponder game mechanics for multiple players controlling Indy, and the game controlling Belloc)

Quote:
In a competitive game, players could be characters that seek their own goals in the world of the theme character, with the theme character himself (or herself) as a resource that all players can draw upon and compete to use. (Try to make your museum the best in the world, both by enlisting the aid of Indiana Jones to find artifacts for you, and by conniving with his enemies to steal the artifacts he's obtaining for other players.)

... There you go again! Stop it!

Hambone
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

How many of us can name all the characters from Clue? I was always partial to Colenel Mustard.

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Hambone wrote:
How many of us can name all the characters from Clue? I was always partial to Colenel Mustard.

Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet... I guess that's as far as I can recall :/ I do remember that the names all had to do with the colors...

Kreitler
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

sedjtroll wrote:
Hambone wrote:
How many of us can name all the characters from Clue? I was always partial to Colenel Mustard.

Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet... I guess that's as far as I can recall :/ I do remember that the names all had to do with the colors...

Add in Mr. Green, Mrs. White (the cook). Was there a 6th?

M.

Fos
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Kreitler wrote:
Add in Mr. Green, Mrs. White (the cook). Was there a 6th?

M.

Mrs. Peacock.

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Kreitler wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
Hambone wrote:
How many of us can name all the characters from Clue? I was always partial to Colenel Mustard.

Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet... I guess that's as far as I can recall :/ I do remember that the names all had to do with the colors...

Add in Mr. Green, Mrs. White (the cook). Was there a 6th?
There was. Green and White? You're right! I figured there were more creative names :/

Blue was the 6th color perhaps?

Scurra
Scurra's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/11/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Well I believe the game first came out in the UK - Cluedo - and the original line up was Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, Mrs White, Reverend Green (not the boring Mr Green!), and - your missing sixth character - Mrs Peacock.

And yes, sadly, I'm a trivia bore and know all this sort of useless stuff ;-)

As for the original inquiry - as people have noted, it's tricky to find a way to use just one character when most games involve more than one player. For instance, a few years ago there was a passable Lara Croft: Tomb Raider game. Obviously, only one player could be Lara, and the drawback was that the other characters in the game had to be roughly equivalent in skills, which meant that you didn't really care about Lara as compared to anyone else.

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Rick-Holzgrafe wrote:
Try to make your museum the best in the world, both by enlisting the aid of Indiana Jones to find artifacts for you, and by conniving with his enemies to steal the artifacts he's obtaining for other players.

Thread-jacking a bit, but I tried something like this in my GDW game "Profit and Provenance". The mechanics were rather generic but you did commission archaeologists to go and uncover relics which you'd then bid on, and for fun I named two of them "Jones" and "Belloq".

I'm working now on a more overtly themed Indiana Jones game, and it's interesting as a challenge. Obviously, going with a licensed property means the game is dead in the water unless a publisher picks it up and runs with it, but from a design standpoint, it really helps the design process flow, and I assume, helps the players buy into the game, if it's based on an iconic character rather than a made-up-just-for-this-game character like "Alabama McGee" or some such.

The real advantage to developing a new character or story-line, as I see it, is the potential to watch the character develop over multiple expansions; ie, for players to become "invested" in the characters' story. I think this is an important thing to leverage. Otherwise, it's likely that a game about a specific character will feel like any other game onto which a backstory has been slapped. It's not a bad thing at all, particularly if the backstory is evoked well by the mechanics. But it's a delicate balance, because a theme is typically meant to be an aid to learning the game's mechanics. If players have to learn a complex backstory to be able to understand or appreciate the mechanics, it may be counter productive. But the catch is that to make a character truly interesting, there has to be some complexity to his story. That's why I say that developing the character's narrative over several games or expansions could be a good way to achieve this.

-Jeff

Kreitler
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Stainer wrote:
thank you SenorOcho, you are right. I am thinking of building games around a character I will develop and create. I'm trying to think of all the benefits and drawbacks from this. Does anybody have any experience with designing characters for a game market? Or any market? I'm inexperienced with this.

Thanks,

rd

I don't have any direct experience...yet (though it is one of the steps in my plans for world domination). However...I can point you to a great example of a world of characters carefully constructed to sell comics, toys, and games:

http://groups.msn.com/NarutoMangaReturns

The art of this manga is pretty simple. There is an enormous number of characters -- all drawn in bold, melodramatic strokes at first, then shaded in with a surprising degree of subtlty which extends the popularity beyond junior high kids (yeah, I'm a fan...*shakes head sadly*). It's not great literature, but it's a great way to sell their comics, video game licenses, and card/board games.

Mark

Stainer
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Thanks everyone for the awesome replies. I agree that having a single hero in the game will take away from the other players experience and that a team of heros will be more fun. Thanks for the high quality posts guys!

rd

MattMiller
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Seems to me a number of kid's games are built around central characters. I think you could say that the dude with the red-lightbulb nose in Operation is a central character (does he have a name?). There's a game called Captain Bones that features a skeleton pirate character who steals the players' gold. In another game (the name escapes me), you throw spaghetti and meatballs at this Italian chef guy. Etc.

There's also Monopoly's cute little robber-baron in a tophat. Though he doesn't figure into actual game play, he's every bit as closely associated with his game as Lara Croft is with hers.

-- Matt

doho123
doho123's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

For all practical purposes, whenever you play any type of game, aren't you, in essense, playing a character? Granted, depending on the game, the concept of "character" can be fairly abstract, such as playing checkers or hearts. In these cases, you are simply a character with a blank slate who's only objective is to win.

But looking at games with a theme, aren't you really playing as a "wealthy land owner running plantation and putting slaves to work" in Puerto Rico, a "leader of a set of adventuring goons" in Munchkin, or a "command in chief with world domination issues" in Risk?

Stainer
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

That's not what I had in mind though. I want to build a background and different qualities for the characters. In other games sure you play a real estate mogul (sp?) and such, but there's not depth to the character. I want that depth.

rd

Kreitler
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Stainer wrote:
That's not what I had in mind though. I want to build a background and different qualities for the characters. In other games sure you play a real estate mogul (sp?) and such, but there's not depth to the character. I want that depth.

rd

I fiddled with a design like this for a bit. You started with a "blank slate" character, and for the first half of the game, everyone wandered the board performing quests in exchange for customizations to his fighting style (earning weapons, stances, techniques, etc.). In the final round of the game, everyone gathered at a temple and fought it out. Basically, it was a card battle game where the first half of the game consisted of building your deck and the second half of a fighting tournament.

I never thought of taking it to the next level by making the characters part of a fiction external to the game. Your idea sounds very interesting...

Mark

Nando
Offline
Joined: 07/22/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

doho123 wrote:
For all practical purposes, whenever you play any type of game, aren't you, in essense, playing a character?

I think you're more accurately describing a role? A character is more recognizable/less generic, yeah?

doho123
doho123's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Nando wrote:
doho123 wrote:
For all practical purposes, whenever you play any type of game, aren't you, in essense, playing a character?

I think you're more accurately describing a role? A character is more recognizable/less generic, yeah?

Not really. I look at it more like how some background actor plays "Policeman #3" in a movie.

Giving a player a character cad that says "Ponce DeDoofus wealthy land owner with 14 cats" in Puerto Rico doesn't change the game, or the way you play, but I guess it might get you "more incharacter," whatver that may mean.

Odonata
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

In Cloak and Dagger (http://anything80s.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=3222) you played generic spies, but possession of the "Jack Flack" super-spy gave you a boost. I loved that game, but it probably sucks if I were to play it now. But I kept that Jack Flack die cast figure with me at all times.

I made a board game a long time ago based on a character, Ric Silverstone. Ric was a superstar rock musician (bleached blonde hair, acid washed jeans, shades, guitar) that was enormously popular. You played the role of Ric Silverstone fans. The goal was to collect Silverstone paraphernalia and become his biggest fan. Things like "Grabbed a loose bit of denim from the knee of Ric's jeans" was worth $200 (or 200 fan points, whatever) while something like "Ric's personal silver-plated microphone" was worth 2000 fan points. It was kinda Monopoly-like, only without the rent.

Bozonoir
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

In the old Star Trek board game, all the players were the Enterprise and each player interacted with cards and locations that applied to any ship. Because of this, the story was mostly a marketing thing but at least everybody got to be Kirk.

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Making games focused on a popular character will somewhat requires that you make more than one game using this character. If you just make one game, it would be hard to make it a star character.

I always use a series of common names ( like larienna ) and character for everything I do : D&D character, video game names, etc. In one of the game I designed, I intended to make the leader or the player's army called "Shadow" ( another of my nick name ) and make it mimic emperor palpatine (star wars ).

Now the only way I can make this character popular, is by making another game, let's say a ninja game, where the character is also called "shadow". So now the player can see the link between the 2 games, and eventually, when they see a game with a guy called shadow, they will make an association to a character concept.

NetWolf
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Building a game around a fictitious character

Quote:
I fiddled with a design like this for a bit. You started with a "blank slate" character, and for the first half of the game, everyone wandered the board performing quests in exchange for customizations to his fighting style (earning weapons, stances, techniques, etc.).

This would work well with the "Tech Trees" idea in one of the other topics in the Design forum.

There are other ways to make the main villain a true threat. Namely, make him unpredictable. You can achieve this in several ways. You could have him controlled throughout the game by one of the players, thus giving that player a separate set of goals to accomplish. This way you could even have an interesting two player game where the hero and the villain are both players who are against each other, rather than two heroes working separately towards a common goal.

Another idea is to have random goal-oriented cards which spell out the task of the villain character. This could be as simple as 'kidnap so-and-so' or as complex as 'Turn 3: Infiltrate the police station. Turn 7: free prisoners. Turn 10: etc...'

With different goals for the villain, the task of the players becomes ever changing. No two games will be the same and the villain will become a character based on the methods behind his madness.

Hedge-o-Matic
Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/30/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

Well, the Clue example was my first thought, but the strength of characters being the basis of games is also a big part of the experience in Arkham Horror, Blackmorn Manor, and Kill Dr. Lucky. Early Magic:TG had a set called Antiquities that used this, introducing the enigmatic character Urza and one or two others. It added a lot to the gameplay, my group thought.

If characters are the basis of the game, it's far easier for the players to knit together a storyline from the gameplay, and that increases immersion. A game of mine from a few years ago, Malice Aforethought, capitalized on this. A name and an image are all you really need to get this effect, thought stronger gameplay elements enforcing the predefined character traits can help, too, sometimes. But, as the Magic example above shows, sometimes less is more. A name alone can be all you need to get the player's thinking about a character, and what their game actions might mean in some imagined setting.

Character, after all, implies a setting in the same way settings imply a character. Even with just a name, a character is assumed to have some sort of past. How did they get to have whatever adventures they're having? That's the obvious question.

All in all, I'm a fan of the idea.

GeminiWeb
Offline
Joined: 07/31/2008
Building a game around a fictitious character

How about an idea where the players are, for example, gods from some panetheon, and the game is about influencing a particular hero to do certain things ... such as fulfilling personal (posisbly secret) objectives or performing quests in your name and so on ...

That way the game might be about (say) Hercules/Heracles, but no-one is actually Hercules.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut