Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

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Ragnos
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Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#1 Post by Ragnos » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:48 pm

I know that a lot of people like to create their own character, and flesh out their own backstories as the go. But what if the story they are playing through has them set as a character who has been named and already has a backstory?

What are your opinions on stories like these? Does it take away from the story or does it add more to it?
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#2 Post by SundownKid » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:56 pm

I actually prefer pre defined MCs if they are interesting characters. What I don't like is when they are boring characters, just "Mr. Generic Man".

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#3 Post by Ragnos » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:05 pm

How about Mr. Generic man in the beginning, but gets not so generic by player choices?
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#4 Post by KittyWills » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:16 pm

I won't play VN games where the MC is a blank slate. I see this genre as very character driven and if only that guy/gal whose path I'm on has any any personality I loose interest really quick. I need interactions not just responding to what they are saying or doing. But that's just me.

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#5 Post by SundownKid » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:17 pm

Ragnos wrote:How about Mr. Generic man in the beginning, but gets not so generic by player choices?
I'm also down with that, if you can change them drastically depending on what you choose.

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#6 Post by Ragnos » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:38 pm

Thanks, this have given me some ideas for a few of the story branches.
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#7 Post by RotGtIE » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:51 am

I absolutely despise avatar-style player characters, and have hated them since my introduction to the differences between JRPGs and WRPGs in the early nineties. My distaste for avatar characters extends to everywhere they are found, and that includes visual novels.

The reason for my contempt of this character archetype is simple: the realization of a player's desire to "live the adventure" will never be achievable, and attempting to provide the player with this ability always comes at an enormous cost to the proper development of the setting itself.

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#8 Post by Mammon » Fri Dec 23, 2016 6:03 am

Maybe check out this thread I made to find out just how much many people despise a flat MC character. I asked them tips on how to make a generic MC and the most common tip was 'Don't.' There are a lot of generic MC's that work (the Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) but most of those rely on the story just being that big and with a great supporting cast to not need a very expressive MC. Around Lemmasoft, making a well-defined character would work much better.

And adding upon one's character through player choices does not require them to start of as a blank slate. Instead, making a well-defined MC and making their changes in personality be logical works MUCH better than adding these traits to a faceless MC. With a blank slate, the player choices will be the sole character-trait that the MC will have after a while, if they choose evil he'll be nothing but evil and that's no fun with a game the size of an average Ren'py project. If the 'evil' development is according to an already pre-defined trait getting more dominant it will work much better.
F.e. You have a faceless MC and a snarky MC that are both being hassled by a girl that wants to pull them into a VN story to save the world or something. The faceless MC doesn't really complain or have any solid opinion about this, he's confused and says he doesn't want to do something so dangerous or leave behind his old life. But when the girl doesn't listen and takes him along anyway he stops complaining about this and starts learning about these lands. The snarky MC is most annoyed that a girl just dropped into his room, demands him to go with her, asks him to risk his life over a magical land he never even heard of, and just her carefree attitude that doesn't considers his opinion at all.

Good end: The faceless MC picks all the right choices and guess what? He wins and saves the day. His hesitance in the prologue doesn't really remain in the real story and instead it's a rollercoaster of exposition of this world from that point on, it never felt like he had any issues with the adventure after entering this new world. He wins, saves the day and the audience goes.... Meh. No one really cares, it's predictable.
Now the snarky MC gets to the land, and boy does he keep complaining that the girl dragged him along against his wishes. He complains to everyone that he doesn't want to fight the Demon lord and this obviously causes a lot of friction with people whose lives are depending on him. Due to their hope placed in him, his snark slowly fading away when he sees these people suffer and his pessimistic feelings slowly getting warmer towards the girl, there's some real development as he gets closer to the end. Who knows? Maybe the audience will actually care when he suddenly and unexpectedly (but boy were we waiting for that moment) decides to stop complaining and fight that demon king.

Bad end: faceless MC is walking around, but in the end he doesn't win. There are various ways how; he could turn evil, he could lose to the Demon King, he gets scared and runs away. It doesn't matter, they're all equally uninteresting endings that'll come out of nowhere.
The snarky MC is standing in front of the Demon King and just when he's about to fight... he doesn't. The Demon King offers MC a way back to his own world and unlike in the happy end MC is happy to take it. He was forced to go on this adventure, he's been complaining about it the entire time, he tried to return home with every opportunity he saw and he never even suggested he wanted to help the girl. This bad end isn't just a bad end, it makes sense.


Conclusion: Make your MC a well-defined character. It's much better. If you can replace your MC with the coconut from Cast-away and still have an equally well-developed character (your MC, not the coconut. Your faceless MC cannot compare to that guy. :lol: ) you're making a lame MC acting as a conduit for the reader to see the story through, and that's just boring.
Last edited by Mammon on Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#9 Post by TheJerminator15 » Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:38 am

Most people as far as I know hate faceless MCs. Including me.

They can typically work better in video games that are far more interactive and films because there are other aspects at work, but with VNs being so intensive on story the problems become even more apparent.

Simply put, it's far better to make actually definable MCs to work with. There's a reason that characters like Kirito are hated after all.

Unless you're considering using faceless MCs differently. For example, I'm planning on doing a typical slice of life harem VN with a dense faceless MC, but actually having the MC purposely act dense and faceless in order to keep people away with it having the opposite effect since different masks attract different people. So it's sort of a pseudo-faceless MC.

Faceless MCs have their pros, but the cons far outweigh them in all honesty, especially in VNs.
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#10 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:39 pm

The more emphasis there is on story, the more likely I will prefer a protagonist who has a defined personality. If a visual novel includes quite a bit of gameplay, then I will be more accepting of a protag who is customizable / a blank slate.
Ragnos wrote:How about Mr. Generic man in the beginning, but gets not so generic by player choices?
I think that defining a protagonist through decisions can work. Especially if the reader understands *how* they are shaping the character's personality.
TheJerminator15 wrote:I'm planning on doing a typical slice of life harem VN with a dense faceless MC, but actually having the MC purposely act dense and faceless in order to keep people away with it having the opposite effect since different masks attract different people.
For what it's worth, that sounds like the VNDB tag Protagonist That's Feigning Idiocy. I believe that it can be a good idea to have a character with multiple layers -- such as the front they present versus who they actually are.

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#11 Post by dfbreezy » Sat Dec 24, 2016 3:58 pm

I guess i'll have to go with the crowd and say i also passionately despise blank state MCs. They are only readable for me if they have interesting heroines or theu usual "power only they have that can make them OP". Apart from that, i cannot read a VN with such an MC and finish it.

For most of my conceptions and written stories, I tend to go towards the opposite spectrum. Create an MC with a personality so powerful, it pulls the reader into their train of thought.

His opinions become yours, his way of thinking becomes yours and possibly his very existence may overwrite yours. :lol:

It creates an... interesting mode of character interaction when dealing with such characters. At least, that's what i'd like to think.
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#12 Post by Rossfellow » Sun Dec 25, 2016 4:26 pm

RotGtIE wrote:The realization of a player's desire to "live the adventure" will never be achievable.
Decades down the line, I wonder if VR can challenge this.
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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#13 Post by RotGtIE » Mon Dec 26, 2016 12:42 am

Rossfellow wrote:Decades down the line, I wonder if VR can challenge this.
It's a matter of resources and scope rather than technical capability. A whole setting which could dynamically respond to every conceivable thought and action taken by even a single variable element in the form of the player would be by necessity too monstrous a demand for any development team to build. And that is just for a sandbox. The moment you start creating anything resembling a plot, you unavoidably narrow the player's options. The more you have to narrow the player's options, the better off you and the player would be if you had just given them a role to jump into, rather than expecting them to experience a setting and its story through an unattached avatar.

It's just an engineering dilemma: given the same amount of resources, a narrower scope allows a developer to provide a richer experience to the audience, whereas a broader scope results in a greater number of ultimately shallower experiences. Limited resources are far better spent, and goals are more realistically achieved, in refining every character to the point of being great even without player input - especially the protagonist.

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Re: Opinions about Pre-Defined MC's?

#14 Post by Katy133 » Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:48 pm

I prefer pre-written protagonists over faceless ones, but some games work very well with faceless characters that the player creates (RPGs are a great example of this).

TV Tropes has some great articles that discuss this topic (along with bullet-point-listed media examples below each article). I'll link some below:

- Featureless Protagonist/Ageless Faceless Gender Neutral Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person: Blank slate MC.
- Schrödinger's Player Character: Multiple MCs are available to choose from, with distinct back-stories and personalities, but only the one the player selects is acknowledged as existing by the overall story.
- Player and Protagonist Integration: The relationship between the player and the player character.
- Heroic Mime: The player character is mute or has no dialogue, to make them more identifiable to the player.
- The Generic Guy: Character is notable for how exceptionally "normal," unremarkable, and nondescript they are.

If you're looking for specific examples, TV Tropes is a great resource for finding case studies.
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