How Much Character Definition?


I’ve hit a bit of a rut in my writing in that I’m not entirely sure what direction I should take. Specifically, how ‘defined’ the player character should be in terms of personality and behavior.

What do you guys like to see or write yourselves when it comes to this? Should personality traits be variables that perhaps affect dialogue and choices? Or perhaps a blank slate with a bunch of choices would work better. And really, how many options is enough when it comes to this? And how do you think the choices should be handled?

I don’t really prefer one over the other but I feel like hearing some thoughts might help me figure it out. (:


Well, I personally find it hard to write a main character that is a completely blank slate. I just can’t do it. My natural humour always slips into it.

I think that having at least some of the MC’s traits defined makes a game more interesting. I don’t actually want to play myself in these kind of games (although I do want the MC to share some traits with me, which is why I always end up playing a gay female), so I like feeling like the main character has some amount of personality.

One option that I’m exploring right now is to have three (or more) base personalities that the player can mold their character into. For example, you have a choice with three options.
Option 1 is a polite, friendly answer, so the character gets a point towards the ‘friendly’ base personality.
Option 2 is a funny answer, so the character gets a ‘funny’ point.
Option 3 is an angry answer, so…well, you know the drill.
And those base personalities shape some of the character’s reactions over the course of the game.

…so basically, how Dragon Age 2 did it.


I’ve always found that as a reader, I’ve enjoyed stories with a more defined PC, and as a writer, a defined PC is much easier to write than a completely blank slate.

A blank slate also has the unfortunate issue of occasionally making the main character sound and act like a brain-dead robot. When the only personality you get is through choice, there’s really no personality at all.


It’s what I’m doing in all of my CS games. :smile: Who knew it’d be so much fun channeling various personalities?


It depends on the game. There is no magical formula that will work for every story or writer. Go with what feels more natural for you.

If the story is compelling and character interesting, I have no quarrel with having only to chose go left, go right, eat a apple or don’t options types without - be friendly, be a jerk, be a crazy cat lady.

In a way, I like when actions speak more then “words”.


Honestly it comes down to what you’re good at.

Defined characters with pre-existing personalities are good IF you’re good at writing them. They also tend to go well with plot focused games, because then the player will pay more attention to the plot relevant choices, rather than focusing on their player character. Good for bigger scale stories too, where the player character isn’t the only protagonist.

Less defined characters are good for games that are intended to let players experience a story THEIR way. If the idea of writing many different scene variations based on gender/personality/sexuality doesn’t appeal to you, then this is not the way to go. If you do though, go for it! Good for stories that are more about the adventure/journey than the overarching plot.


I really like the way Tin Star dealt with it you get a new life but you still get to slip in your own ideas. When I write I generally try to slip in my own ideas and (like you) humor


It really does depend on what kind of story you are writing. And either way, if done right, can still turn out awesome. Personally, I like to have a clear idea of the main character’s personality which can fall flat if the writer gives options that can match many different personalities yet doesn’t affect how the character is later on. if that makes sense…but just do what makes you happy!


Thanks for the input, all. I’m not entirely sure which style best suits my game just yet, as it really alternates between plot and explorining. I’ll think on it.

@blackrising I did kinda like the DA2 style of dialogue. Your dialogue choices do end up affecting the dialogue you can’t control later on. I feel like treating personality types as ‘variables’ is viable, though it may take a bit more work and I’m not sure how many personality types is enough.

@Alvern I also like how Tin Star did it. It was a bit more blank slate, but there were so many dialogue options, and really often, so it didn’t feel that way at all. I’m not sure I can pull that off! :smile: