Games with Generic Heroes

jonthefox

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I'm curious about this subject.  I just played Last Dream (didn't finish it, but it got me thinking) which is basically I'd say a game in the style of the original Final Fantasy.  Meaning, aside from typical classic jrpg elements, the game rests on the mechanic of the player choosing his party combination in the beginning...you could go knight/thief/white mage / black mage, 4 knights, 2 knights and 2 white mages, etc. etc.    The game gives 8 classes and each is unique, so there's a lot of replay value because of the various party combinations.


I found myself remembering why I loved games like this, and I was curious why this isn't a more popular mechanic.   I guess everyone wants to tell a kind of compelling story and so they present specifically envisioned characters, which of course this precludes.   


So my question, in a game with generic hero characters that the player selects a different combination of at the start--what do you think a game like this needs to be successful (i.e., to be enjoyable).   Is it even possible, since you're inherently going to have a very generic and/or superficial story?    
 

Wavelength

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I think there are probably a fair number of other people besides you that like this kind of thing, but for me, it's anathema.  I like to be invested in a game's characters; it makes the successes so much more satisfying and it makes the failures hurt more.  Even without much any story, I think characters (with names, personalities, dialogue, and maybe a bit of backstory) can be a draw in and of itself.  League of Legends and Team Fortress are good examples of character without story.


I could see totally generic characters working in a heavily-gameplay focused game where you control lots of characters (as one good example, a tactics game), especially if the characters are being recruited/dismissed/killed often.  But even then, I think adding a little character to the characters never be a bad thing in any game.
 

ash55

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There are plenty of games that don't require a story, or the story is simply YOUR story as you explore, unscripted, through the game world and its mechanics.

Look at Hearthstone. That is essentially an RPG. It has progression and a RPG-esque battle system (since RPGs are largely similar to card games and board games). Hearthstone has zero story, but makes the player invested in other ways. Collecting, improving their strategy, etc.

You don't need a story to invest the player and hook them in. But you do need something else to fill that gap. Whether it's compelling gameplay, addictive collecting etc. That said, it certainly doesn't hurt to have both a story and solid gameplay if your game could stand to benefit from it (stories don't make sense in every game though).

When you've defeated Sephiroth in FF7, you can still feel invested in the game. You have another quest available, to defeat Emerald Weapon and Ruby Weapon. That isn't really Cloud's journey or goal, not a single line of dialogue refers to it IIRC, that's simply the player's journey. And that's an equally valid story.
 
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Scott_C

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You can still have a satisfying story with generic heroes. It's just that the story will have to be focused on the world more than on any specific person.


Think of Dark Souls. The player character is a blank slate with no spoken dialogue. But the game's story is still fun because the world itself is full of interesting bits of lore and mysterious secrets to discover. The fact that the player character is a bit boring is more than made up for by the fact that the world is so interesting.


Same with the Etrian Odyssey series. Party of boring generic heroes but a very interesting and mysterious labyrinth for them to explore. The player is motivated less by concern for what is going to happen to his heroes and more by his need to know what sort of secrets he'll find on the next layer of the labyrinth.


So if I were to design a game with generic heroes I would try to work it into some sort of mystery plot. An ancient ruin full of hints about the rise and fall of a mighty civilization or a dying world full of monsters guarding murals that bit by bit chronicle the death of the old gods.
 

Alpha-mad

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Generic hero games can and do work. I'm not talking about choosing your class, because that doesn't make a hero generic (for example, Mass Effect).


A few that come to mind are Journey, The Swapper, and Bastion. All indie games that have very little development of who the character is, was, thinks, wants, etc. The key to these games, however, is immersion. There is a story, great game play, but who the hero is doesn't matter. 


To take this in another direction, looking back on Chrono Trigger, he never talks. We don't know much about his story, he doesn't offer opinions, etc. These silent heroes help with the player experiencing the story. 
 

trouble time

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A few that come to mind are Journey, The Swapper, and Bastion. All indie games that have very little development of who the character is, was, thinks, wants, etc. The key to these games, however, is immersion. There is a story, great game play, but who the hero is doesn't matter. 

The Kid from bastion actually has a full backstory, and we're told tons about what he thinks and wants though. He's not really a blank slate, he just doesn't talk.
 

Makio-Kuta

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I like these sorts of games. All the might and magic games come to mind and another one I forget the name of... Anyway, lots of older games used this formula of picking your party and classes. (Probably because a lot of them drew their inspiration from d&d and other table top RPGs)


what kept me invested in these games is, as someone mentioned, the world story, the fun of the gameplay, and also!! Making my own story. My characters may have been ones that have no personality governed by the story but certainly they had one in my head. All their actions and results and growth went towards shaping them as characters as much (and maybe even more) than any other game.


perhpas these games hinge on the creativity of your player? Or they hinge on a compelling aspect of gameplay or a fascinating world to explore. (And exploring is another big aspect in a lot of the games that come to mind for me in this style)


I can tell you in M&M6 I cared way more about blanketing fields of lizardmen with meteors while I flew overhead than finding the prince -3-
 

mistFAWKES

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in a single word: emergence. make no mistake, all games have stories. emergent storytelling is the interplay of the rulesets of the world, mixed w the (unavoidable) tendency for the human brain to make connections/find patterns.


but who am i, right? right. here's will wright talking about it for like 2 hours.
 

cybrim

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Here it is~


Destiny: Great Gameplay mechanics, weak "story" (look if I have to leave the game to learn the story it isn't there! F*** DLC I paid for a full experience and I had to pay for internet to enjoy this for a month and then got bored of impressive loading screens), Generic (good) Characters.


Bloodborne: Great Gameplay mechanics, strong story (yet hidden, you have to find it in every item, every location, every creature), Generic (good) Characters.


All (True) MMORPGs: Generally SLOPPY unimpressive gameplay (click & go, wait for cool down, spam, continue), really well planned story (of varying qualities, often with continuity issues in different mediums), Player Characters usually end up having "cookie cutter" mentality as your ability to raid becomes the driving force behind your character.


In an interview with Game Informer one of the Fallout 4 devs said that they started with the world and walked through it to place the content to ensure the variety and consistency in the world, you won't have to walk too far to find anything interesting, if devs got bored walking from point A to point B than they added in locations of interest. After the base world they added in characters with stories linked to the world, and added more lore on top of story heavy areas, to the point where things felt right. The result is a solid world, with solid gameplay based off of issues with older Fallouts. A basic story that is tied to the over all world.


Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Just play it! Everything right with Fallout 4 is right with Witcher 3... Except menu design... too much menu... a LOT of reading, but great gameplay, optional difficulty this is right between Bloodborne and Fallout 4 for the goodness!
 

mistFAWKES

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In an interview with Game Informer one of the Fallout 4 devs said that they started with the world and walked through it to place the content



where dat vid, son. i needs me some more bethblog.
 

cybrim

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Not a video it is in an article of Game Informer # 272 December 2015, Quantum Break issue, starts on page 10. It loves you too. If you don't love it you are a FOOL... or you just don't like fun... Darn right I kept it... it guides me in my decisions like the Final Fantasy VI article in issue 259 November 2014, Resident Evil Revelations 2 issue starts on page 94. Or what about the incredible issue 270 October 2015 Dark Souls III issue Page 24 For Witcher 3 & Page 38 For Dark Souls III. These are the Sacred Texts to guide you on your journey to ultimate game enjoyment, LOL I am holding all 3 issues and # 259 is oversized by about an inch.
 

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