A villain doesn’t necessary have to know they are one, in my opinion. I find that much more entertaining than having a “evil doer” trying to take over the world whilst proclaiming they’re the most powerful one, and no one can stop them.
To be honest, I like it when a villian falls somewhere in the “grey area” of what’s morally right/wrong. And, because of that, I’m not put off by “we’re not so different, you and I” speech, provided it’s done right. Of course, the player has to have made, atleast somewhat, similar choices as the villian if this is going to work.
I dislike being forced into the role as a hero when I’m playing, especially if it’s poorly done and you get the feeling you’re just “going through the motions”. So what I’m currently trying to do is ask myself is how the MC is a threat to the villain’s purposes and wants, and what measures would be taken to ensure that they’re not prohibited. And whilst this is going to lead to the original set of happenings, I want the MC to be able to influence the villain, and vice versa. If possible, there should always be a peaceful solution to the problem- not just eradicating the bad guys in the game.
I think that this is generally a very good way to get a meaningful antagonist.
Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to fit such an antagonist into an IF game, since the MC’s not going to be the same for every player, so you’d have to write the antagonist differently for each player, and that’s not going to be easy…
Some writing advice I’ve found was that the villain is always the hero of their own story. Save for cartoons or the superhero genre, most villains believe that they are doing the right thing, no matter how twisted that view has become. No one believes that they are evil.
It may also be helpful to note the difference between villains and antagonists. The divide is mostly that the villains are categorically evil or bad in-story while antagonists oppose the protagonist. You can be an antagonist without being a villain or vice versa, and some stories can call for either of the two.
I would recommend not having the villian be as evil as possible noone wants it to be a pure evil incarnation(unless the storyline specifically calls for it) have the villian show a little humanity ex. Struggles to finally kill the mc and let’s them live and curse themselves for it later,refuse to rob people who clearly can’t afford, and goes out of their way to avoid casualties
In my opinion, a character with no specific background or a past makes an amazing personality. Whether it be Joker from batman or Jack Reacher. Here I’m talking about the good as well as bad characters. The protagonists and antagonists.
But I think a villan with no past is something to really read about. because people mostly get scared of something they don’t know about for sure. A vague backstory creates a completely unpredictable villan. That gets the readers on the edge. They are biting their nails, sweating bullets. That makes the story even more thrilling. So vagueness is the key to create a larger than life villan