Lord Vectra

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We will discuss villainology. The idea of villains, what makes them good, and what makes them bad. After reading this, I want to know your thoughts on villains and what you think is the true villainology or even if you think there isn't. It's mostly personal belief, but I'm sure through discussion, we can all come to an agreement on some general things like "the villain shouldn't be one-shotting you on turn one."

I've had talks with friends and family on why Villains are just marvelous compared to the heroes. I want to see your guys' opinions on that.

We are comparing the following:
Looks including clothing, armor, and weapons
Combat skills and/or superior planning
Wins/Losses record

Looks
I'm pretty sure we all played that game where you think you look extremely badass and then you see the villain that makes you look like you're wearing children's clothing (exaggeration but you get my point). I actually prefer villains to look more cooler than me because at that point, I probably look better than anyone else and it's a nice change at that point.

I do think games make the good guys underwhelming nowadays. Like, I feel there is a certain badassery that the heroes should reach by the endgame, and I see many games where the hero isn't at that stage but the villain just looks godly which then magnifies the normal difference between villain and hero. The few games I do know that has their heroes reach that point is so beyond the point that the villain just looks like another enemy but just more skilled.

I think Villains should look as cool or cooler. If they don't look as cool, it doesn't sit well with me. I know the term "cool" is subjective so I do keep that in mind, but if you're wearing titanium armor and your villain looks like they just came from the poor people's armory, c'mon, seriously? And it shouldn't be the other way around either. I don't want to fight my God-Armored villain and I'm wearing armor that looks like I got it at lv 5.

Combat Skills/Superior Planning
These are kind of together because the villain has to be in that spectrum but has to excel in one or a both. You villain is either super-skilled in combat but not so skilled at planning, vise versa, or excels at both (whether little or extreme). I feel the villains should always have cooler moves than the hero because you want the villain to appear tough and intimidating. If the hero can blow up the planet, the villain should be able to blow up the solar system.

If you blow up a planet but they can only blow up a city, how does that work? Now, if your villain is the superior planner and has an AI that is built to counter the player (thus not needing superior abilities), then that'll be interesting since the player has to counter the counter (which in my experience, can be really tough at times because you're usually having to think backwards instead of forwards).

Now you have the superior planning villain. You know, the one that has this 100-step plan and all 99 has already happened because he's just that cool. Again, I think it's necessary because if you have a villain that fails on everything, he will be viewed as sucky. Doesn't matter what the lore says - if the player cannot see the villain succeed on any of their plans, then the player loses fear in that villain and will just be like "well, he sucks anyways. Nothing in his plan worked out" which makes the villain not memorable which is probably what you don't want.

I do favor villains who are good at both planning and combat skills because it makes them a force to be reckoned with. If you witness a villain take down six heroes and devised a plan to breach into heaven which is known to be impossible but does so successfully through careful planning, then the villain is more memorable. When that final battle comes, the player is like "Oh, I better be careful because this guy is POWERFUL" and I feel that's how all villains should be.

Win/Loss Record
I partially said this earlier but a villain that keeps losing is just seen as another enemy or a weak enemy. Even if they prove to be strong in the last battle, they will be forgotten easily. Some loses are fun, but the wins should outweigh the loses. By outweigh, that means that the number of losses and wins can be skewed to the villain having more losses if his wins were big enough that the losses doesn't hurt his appearance as a villain.

Now on the next part of villainology... story. Why are they evil? Should villains have a story? What about the stereotypical "I will destroy the universe" villain? Do they reappear 100x?

Should they have a story?
I think they should. I find most "I'm going to destroy everything" to be quite unmemorable because if they have the "I'll conquer everything" idea... um... what are you going to rule if everything is dead? Now, if he is using necromancy to use everyone as his slaves, that'll make sense and I can get behind that.

A villain's story doesn't have to be sentimental, sad, or even a "good heart bad methods" story. As long as there is a story that makes sense, I'm totally fine. My favorites are the depressing or angry villains because I find it interesting how depression and anger can change the brightest of souls, and I like to see that in a villain because I think it's interesting.

Some games make it so sad to the point you don't want to kill the villain or you feel bad doing so. I have mixed-feelings about these type of villains. I think they work really well for the games I see them in, but I find they make the villain do things that are unnecessary and makes them the villain.

Oh, he backed out of the war to save the kingdom? Okay, I can see why he think that's suicide. The King of the kingdom you were helping comes and say he understood and then you kill his captain... what? So I guess what I'm trying to say is they often overcompensate for the fact you could feel bad for killing them so they have them do things to the extreme but the extreme seems out of place. Know what I mean?

It's not too much of a big deal since many bosses are arguably like that and are still memorable. It is just something I observed.

DESTROY THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!!!!
I don't mind these villains, but I would never add one into my own project just because I feel there are many other creative motivations and goals for a villain than just "destroy the universe!" I'm not saying they can't be pure evil, but I would prefer other goals and motivations of pure evil rather than "destroy all in existence." I don't mind villains that are nor do I mind playing a game with villains like that, I just wouldn't put it in my own project UNLESS there was a story behind doing so like "WE ALL NEED TO DIE FOR OUR SINS!" or something like that.

The Endless Resurrecting Villain
Like almost every boss you have ever seen. I find that reusing villains is actually really good in many cases even though it's a bit cliche. I think the non-cliche is HOW they are revived which opens up an opportunity for you to add it to the lore. I think some games would benefit from a reappearing villain.

BONUS: Open-interpretation
I saved this for last so it's easy to wrap this all up at the end. I am aware that certain things in games are left for open-interpretation which I am wholeheartedly for if it works so all I have said can vary based on that. However, if it's a villain you'll never see again, try not to leave too much to open interpretation or it might be viewed as a cliffhanger, and you don't want to disappoint your fans if they are expecting to see that Evil King rise but they find out the game dev killed him off, he isn't coming back. That is especially dangerous to villains who revive 10 times on top of a cliffhanger. Don't kill off a cliffhanger, no one likes eternal cliffhangers.

What do you think? Do you think I am right or do you see flaws in my thinking? Anything you want to add that I did not mention? Remember this is a thread about Villains and the dos/donts and the I like/dislike [enter type here] kind of villains because [enter reasoning here]. Sorry about the wall of text, but I wanted to get everything I can think of out there to start the discussion.
 
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TheoAllen

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Have you play a game where you have grinded your character a lot of times, reaching level cap or so, actually defeated the last boss and save the world. Then you find it boooring, and began to attack towns people because you're overpowered and wants a challenge? I've been there, so I think I've once being villain. So destroying universe and being powerlust are actually a valid reason despite how cheap they are.

But, before we discuss further, there's fundamental question need to be answer. "Why do we need villain?", "What is villain anyway?"

You can technically write a story and/or a game without any villain. Unless you think random encounter as a villain. Think about zombie survival (even though I'm bored with this theme already). You can make a game / story in zombie survival without a villain. Everything comes from each character interactions and how they survive, or a gameplay to do so.

When you put villain there, things can get more interesting like how/why things set in motion. And eventually, players will set their goal to defeat the villain. So I believe the definition of villain in terms of the game is your end game goal, a clearer goal. Without a villain, your game might looks like a game where "what I need to do now" rather than "I need to beat this guy". So all you do to villain should be to make reaching the goal interesting.

A good villain is subjective, so I don't think I can talk about this. Even simple pure evil destroy everything type of villain is not bad either. Some people just don't like pure evil because it's too cheap and overused, but I heard some also hate not so evil villain where they have their moral code (especially if you can pick side), because they don't want to feel bad about beating the villain.

EDIT:
As for villain in game mechanic, Imo, it's better to be a separate discussion in game mechanic forum, and discuss it as a boss battle rather than being mixed up here
 

Kes

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@Lord Vectra I would like to reinforce the point that discussion of Boss Battle design belongs in Game Mechanics Design. There is an active thread on that subject right now. I'm on my phone so can't do links but it is called something like Final Boss Battle Design.

Perhaps you could edit your opening post and remove it so that people are not tempted into replying to that aspect here.

Thanks
 

kovak

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When the villains are well developed characters, they become appealing.
The hardest part is to make them more lively, more reasonable (or not) and above al, they must have 1/3 of the talking in the game else you won't feel that he's an important key for the narrative.

As examples we have Kefka from Final Fantasy 7, Haytham Kenway from Assassins Creed 3 and Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics.

"A well planned villain has the right motivations and they see themselves as heroes of their own journey."
 
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Milennin

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For me, it's important that the villain gets stuff done, and that they're actively working on getting the stuff done.

A good yet simple but classic example would be Robotnik from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, who lost his battle-station in the previous game and is stranded on an island. He deceives the guardian of the Emeralds who happens to live on the island, and convinces him to work for him and to hinder Sonic. Over the course of the game, he re-builds his spaceship, and steals the Master Emerald right from under the nose of Knuckles himself. When Knuckles finds out what's going on and tries to stop him, Robotnik knocks him out and proceeds to take the Emerald for himself. Using the Emerald's power, he launches his Death Egg back into orbit. Everything, apart from ultimately firing his doomsday weapon (because duh), he achieves over the course of the game, and is a good example of a villain who is actively working towards something and getting stuff done.

Robotnik also works great as an intimidating enemy, because even though he's physically nothing special compared to Sonic and his buddies, he gains his strength from building massive robots and fortresses. This is pretty much shown in the first stage of the game, where he sets the island ablaze with a rain of fire, and later chases Sonic and drops a bunch of bombs from his giant airship. You get to see the scale and the power of his constructions during various points as you play through the game.
 

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