Ares is a Challenging Character to Write (Even if he did sort of get me this job)

Hey everyone, it's Jorden! You didn't hear from me a couple weeks ago because I was in California visiting my family for the first time since the pandemic started and I don't like to work on vacation. Anyway, a quick update:

Just before leaving the state I finished the rewrite of Tutorial 1 and even implemented it in Articy. There will need to be improvements and edits but I wanted to get some version committed so Art could work our the kinks in our Articy importer and the campaign engine. Once that stuff is working I can go in and make further edits but the nature of the Articy license we're using makes it impossible for two people to work on the same project at the same time. To deal with this each of our scenarios and tutorials are separated into different Articy projects so that I can always work on something while Arthur and Matt implement what I've already completed. So until Art says otherwise I can't touch Tutorial 1 which is fine with me. I'm getting off track a bit, let me check the title of this blog to remember what I was writing about...

Right, Ares. OK, so you may recall that I first came up with Ares when I was just coming up with new dialogue for the existing flight tutorial. We needed a character who would actually deliver the instructions to the player and do it in an engaging way. Initially I just needed a character who would deliver the occaisional joke to break up the tutorial instructions and keep the player engaged but over time Ares has actually become the most challenging character I've ever written. This is largely because Ares does everything for the current narrative. He delivers all the exposition to explain each situation, he provides options for the player to choose from, he is one of the only voices the player hears throughout the entire game, he serves as a foil to give the player's character some definition; I could go on. Ares is one of the only characters in the entire game, and the only one besides the player who is present from start to finish so he needs to do a lot of work for the narrative. This makes Ares my most important narrative tool. The challenge is that Ares needs to do all this work while also maintaining a consistent character personality of his own that keeps him compelling for the player to interact with. He has to be more than just his purpose, which is true of all good characters in reality. Generally if you find that you just can't relate to or remember anything important about a character in a book, movie, or game it's probably because that character is just fulfilling a role in the story and nothing more. A villain who can only be described as "the villain of this story who opposes the protagonist" does the job of being a villain but they aren't compelling unless you give them more detail. Things like why they oppose the protagonist and what they truly want are easy ways to turn a narrative tool into an actual character. The challenge is that the more jobs you give a character the greater the skill that is needed to help them transcend beyond their role, especially if the roles are not complimentary. Every role a character takes on dictates some of their actions, since if they don't behave according to their role then they aren't serving the narrative appropriately. Going back to that villain, if he also has the role of "mentor to the protagonist" then two of his jobs are in contradiction, he both helps and opposes the protagonist. With good characterization these two jobs can be resolved, perhaps the protagonist used to be a villain or maybe the villain used to be a heroic mentor. Either way, fleshing the character out with motivaitons and backstory will inform how they should behave when interacting with the protagonist. Bad or missing characterization makes it painfully clear to the audience that the only reason the character does anything is because the plot says so.

Ares has several jobs, and this means there are a lot of constraints on his allowed behavior that I have to balance. I'm not fully certain what my solution to the situation will be. Maybe I need more characters or maybe Ares's role needs to be simplified, or maybe there is a way that all his jobs can be related to each other that will give me the clue I need to bring it together nicely. This is why writing takes a while; the better you get at it, the more you realize how much work it takes to do it particularly well. I'd still so much rather have this headache than go back to retail, but you'll have to forgive me if things don't always get done as quickly as I'd like.

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