What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

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dramspringfeald
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What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#1 Post by dramspringfeald » Fri May 18, 2012 8:17 pm

No really, I'm having issues with this. My bad guys end up as either "good guy" with a bad guy label OR ends up Way cooler than the good guys.

I know some of the issues being that I have always liked / felt for the bad guys. like Batman VS Joker, in the comics (not the movies) Batman looses his mom and dad but has billions of Dollars to cry to. while the Joker struggled every day trying to make enough for his wife and yet to be born/small child. He finally gets a break and goes clean but the local "Mob" break in, hold his family hostage, and forces him on one last job at a chem/bio lab or they kill his family. While he's fleeing from said botched job Batman shows up and knocks "the Red hood" into a vat of Chemical runoff. Loosing his wife, kid, face in one moment he gets a hard-on to force Batman to "Fix" what he created by breaking his rule. The Joker is born because after everything that has happened he realizes how 'funny'


The "joke" is after doing all this his life is no hell. why not make it funny for everyone else.
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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#2 Post by Applegate » Fri May 18, 2012 8:42 pm

Some people prefer a bad guy whose actions are just as sympathetic if not more sympathetic than the protagonist. Just because it's not their story doesn't mean that they don't have a reason for what they do.

I loved the Suikoden series precisely because the "bad guy" was always ambiguously "bad" (well, until SuikoDS came...), and I definitely don't think it's awful to have a "good guy" as a "bad guy". Just work with what you find most comfortable.

To give a few examples, spoiler warning:

In the Malazan Empire,
the Chained God is the Big Bad as he poisons the flesh of Burne, the Goddess who quite literally is the world. I'm not going into his reasons for doing so, but he is justified. In one of the books, there is a Goddess named Poliel who spreads disease and plague. At some point, she is killed by one of the protagonists for spreading plague among an entire nation. Her reason? Because her plague expunged the poison in Burne's flesh and permitted the world to exist for longer. She was a bad guy who was actually acting on the good of everyone in the world, and paid for it with death.
I find bad guys with actual good intentions much more compelling characters than people who want to rule the world or destroy it because that's what I do, or they have some weak, petty reason; the queen rejected me, so the next logical step is to DESTROY THE WORLD!

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#3 Post by Gambit74 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:36 pm

Anti-villains are one of my favorite types of villains, but a good villain does not always have to have good intentions in some form or another. IMO, a good villain shouldn't be evil just for the sake of being evil. They should have justifiable reasons for doing what they do. Like, maybe they experienced some sort of trauma at some point in their life that made them lash out against the cause of the problem or anything similar to it. Or, they tried being a good guy at first but was always being taken advantage of, so then they turned into the bad guy in order to get revenge.
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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#4 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri May 18, 2012 11:09 pm

dramspringfeald wrote: I know some of the issues being that I have always liked / felt for the bad guys. like Batman VS Joker, in the comics (not the movies) Batman looses his mom and dad but has billions of Dollars to cry to. while the Joker struggled every day trying to make enough for his wife and yet to be born/small child. He finally gets a break and goes clean but the local "Mob" break in, hold his family hostage, and forces him on one last job at a chem/bio lab or they kill his family. While he's fleeing from said botched job Batman shows up and knocks "the Red hood" into a vat of Chemical runoff. Loosing his wife, kid, face in one moment he gets a hard-on to force Batman to "Fix" what he created by breaking his rule. The Joker is born because after everything that has happened he realizes how 'funny'


The "joke" is after doing all this his life is no hell. why not make it funny for everyone else.
Well . . . that's what HE says. At that moment. As opposed to all the other backstories he claims for himself. All of them likely being lies. He says himself that he can't remember what the truth is anymore, and is likely spinning that particular sob story to screw with Batman's guilt fetish.
dramspringfeald wrote:I'm having issues with this. My bad guys end up as either "good guy" with a bad guy label OR ends up Way cooler than the good guys.
One problem may be that you WANT your bad guy to be the protagonist. Maybe the "bad guy" is the one with the most interesting story to tell. That is often a vital part of learning to write effective stories - determining the best viewpoint character to tell them through. I know I've had several stories that didn't work until I switched who the main character was - then suddenly everything worked.

Or, another possible problem, is that it may not be bad guys that you are having a hard time writing. It may be the good guy that is REALLY giving you the most trouble, and the bad guys shine in comparison. One is usually only as interesting as the other. One of the reasons Batman and Joker work so well is they mirror each other so well - regardless of Joker's real past, Batman pushed him over the edge. He created him. (And in some continuities Joker created Batman as well, by killing the young Bruce Wayne's parents when the Joker was just a lowly street thug.) And where Batman is somber and gruff, the Joker is loud and jovial. They compliment and balance one another. Your bad guy and good guy should do the same. They should NEED each other in some way.

Most importantly, all it takes for someone to be the "bad guy" is for their goals to oppose the "good guy's" goals. If your main character is a cowboy riding across the Old West to kill men in revenge for his family, and the Marshals or Pinkertons are chasing after him to arrest him for murder, then they are the "bad guys" of the story - even though they are in the right. This is because if the story is being told from the cowboy's perspective, we likely saw his family get killed, and we sympathize with him as an audience. If we flipped the viewpoint so that the Marshals were the main characters, the cowboy would be the bad guy, as the audience follows the lawmen trying to bring a serial killer to justice.

So remember - opposing goals. Other than that, you can write either side to be the good or bad guys. It's easy and happens all the time - "The victor writes the history books." Which ever side you can make the audience empathize and root for can be the "good guys".

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#5 Post by Dakishimete » Sun May 20, 2012 9:39 am

dramspringfeald wrote:No really, I'm having issues with this. My bad guys end up as either "good guy" with a bad guy label OR ends up Way cooler than the good guys.
And how is that bad? You can rarely meet someone really bad that states "I'm bad". When they do that's mostly because of terrible experiences that broke them somehow. If they're bad for being bad, especially when they're human not demons or some other creatures that are naturally evil, it makes them not real. People often feel for these little broken villians (Loki from Avengers), it's just natural, they are what they are because life made them this way.
Other types of anti-heros aren't really bad,they're just on the other side of the conflict, beliving that what they do is right.
But if you really want to create a bad guy overflowing with evil give him some class, but make him do something really terrible for selfish reason(for example a guy killing his older brother for throne).

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#6 Post by Argeus_the_Paladin » Sun May 20, 2012 10:25 am

My reasoning on this matter is this: No sane and rational human being would knowingly and on purpose do something he knows is bad, morally reprehensible or otherwise unacceptable for the sake of it. In cases where a human being would choose to commit deeds that are morally reprehensible, he must have had a rationalization - a method of justify that his actions will result in better outcomes for either himself or others. Which means that the "evil for the sake of evil" or "self-aware evil" does not really exist in reality (unless we are talking about the insane, then the whole thing about 'moral compass' would have been irrelevant in the first place).

So in my opinion, this happens
My bad guys end up as either "good guy" with a bad guy label OR ends up Way cooler than the good guys.
most likely because the justification you gave to the "bad guy" is too heroic.

My way around this is to write a story without a set "good guy" and "bad guy" catalogue from the start. I pitch two opposing forces against each other, both equally noble or equally heinous, with a little variation in degree. Like LWR said above, the one I found to be more interesting becomes the viewpoint characters.

At the end of the day, this is - for the most part - how history worked. Unless we are talking about imperialistic expansion for fun and profit, who is to say in a given war or conflict one side is more righteous and heroic than the other? We can, however, say quantitative statements like the Roman military was superior to pretty much everything else in Western Europe until about the 4th century.
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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#7 Post by CTheGuy » Wed May 23, 2012 9:38 pm

In my opinion you want to introduce your villain as just being evil, don't try and explain his actions too much he is simply a big evil douche. Now as you progress through the story similarly with protagonists you want to develop the character, as he clashes more and more with your heroes you begin to learn more and more about him.

But you have to keep it in the audience's mind that this guy is a complete bastard, because otherwise why would your heroes be fighting him otherwise. Always have him until the very end try and complete his evil scheme no matter how much your protagonists try and reason with him. The only time you can have him become a good guy is by sacrificing your villain or by having an even greater villain pulling the strings.

A good example would be Darth Vader, he kills people for innocuous reasons, obliterates planets on a whim etc. he's pretty much a completely unlikable bastard. But when he finally challenges the emperor and gains redemption you can't help but feel for him.

Another good villain in my opinion is Dhaos in Tales of phantasia
He's trying to destroy the world and inevitably ends up killing most of the protagonist's family in the process. But as the game progresses you find out that their plane of existence is destroying his world through rapid consumption of mana. Now this guy has committed genocide and alsorts but you realise he hasn't been doing it all on a whim and simply wants to save his home-world, it humanises him and makes him more relatable.
This however should only ever be pulled off in the late stages of a novel/game etc.

Also bear in mind that with visual novels you have multiple routes so you don't always have to completely explain your villain's ideology in one path but you can spread it over several thus making the game more fulfilling as you'll get to know more about the characters the more you replay it.

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#8 Post by wakagana » Thu May 24, 2012 12:46 am

Truth is, I don't think its possible to have a 'bad guy'.

Everyone and everything does what it does for a reason, and they do this because they feel this reasoning is just, or that it must be done.
Now in some cases that might not be true, and the 'bad guy' may not have human emotions, or a lack of them.

So...I suppose the only true 'bad guy' would be something that is emotionless and has no goal or sense of achievement to doing what they personally think is correct. So a robot could be a bad guy, but...I don't think a Pirate could be bad guy.

Just my 2cents.

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#9 Post by dramspringfeald » Thu May 24, 2012 5:02 pm

Sorry about the delay in reply.

Anyway, that's the issue. My 'bad guy' WAS going to be the hero but things happened and things went wrong.
Think what if Captain America was 6 days from being released as the hero of the allied forces but the war ended next Tuesday. As a way to hide the fact that we were making genetic super solders they decided to scrap the whole project and kill off Cap.

Cap survives and is branded a traitor and is hunted down by just about everyone. THEN he finds out about some 'kid' who won the war, and got him shit canned. Cap then goes on a revenge spree hunting the guy down who is responsible for his down fall. BUT the guy he's hunting down knows nothing about Cap and wants nothing to do with him. thus sending him into an even worse revenge plot.

to top things off during the super solder project they messed with his head so that he would be more susceptible to suggestion and that it has backfired where he can hear 'someone else's voice' digging around in his head. showing him the end of days and thoroughly chipping away sanity. as it turns out his 'visions' are real and he needs the 'hero' to fallow him to a single point in space.


That is more or less the whole thing about my bad guy. His back story sets him up as extremely sympathetic but his actions just shy of blowing up a planet and restarting an intergalactic war to get the hero's attention clearly make him rather evil.

The problem I'm having is I like him far more than I like the good guy who is a PTSD War hero who watched a world burn after being tricked to do said world popping. Simply because the Bad guy acts and the hero reacts, making the hero so boring.


I really hope this make more sense than the first post. police were called and I had to help out in a thingy tat and this is my first time writing anything of substance..
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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#10 Post by Applegate » Thu May 24, 2012 6:39 pm

The guy you like writing most ought to be your protagonist. Considering writing the story from his perspective instead?

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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#11 Post by dramspringfeald » Thu May 24, 2012 6:56 pm

Applegate wrote:The guy you like writing most ought to be your protagonist. Considering writing the story from his perspective instead?
Indeed I am. He's the bad guy in my comic but will get his own game once I figure out how to program the unreal 3 engine and some other Big ass things. if anything getting to play a game AS the bad guy would be fun.

however some of the things he does like kid napping, outright murder, slaving and blackmail make him a VERY bad influence. Ends up he's running a Xanatos Gambit anyway technically saving the universe by (re)starting an intergalactic super war and having it where 'the hero' is being ground zero in hopes to kill him.

He's been written as a 'by any means' bad guy. even if that includes hiring thousands of mercs and raising an entire settlement to get the job done. sure many of the 'heroes' aren't much better but I know She's Evil.

I mean I didn't make him a kick the dog cause it's there evil but more if it needs to be done he'll do it. like talking a character (in the heros crew) to kill a small child so she isn't exposed to being a spy only to revive the child so when he's snuck aboard the ship, that child can be used to revive the character that He shoots outright to get the hero to fallow him to the spot in the universe so that the 'really big bad'* would have to fight instead of walk the universe.



*they are based on the reapers form ME3 but were written way back in '04/ '05 which pisses me off SO much
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Re: What Makes a Good Bad Guy?

#12 Post by Gear » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:17 am

My favorite villains are always the most hate-able ones with realistic motives.

I think the best example I can come up with, strangely enough, was the main villain from Digimon Data Squad/Savers named Dr. Kurata. He incited a war between the human world and the Digital World, which culminated in the near destruction of both. So what made him so hate-able?
  • He was somewhat justified. In the Digital World, he was attacked (granted he was carrying a gun) so he waged war against the Digital World out of fear. In his mind, he was fully justified, and everyone around him just didn't see the truth. Due to his fear, and stern belief in how justified his fear was, he committed mass genocide, and didn't bat an eyelash, as he was working in the best interests of everyone.
  • He couldn't be fixed. He was so ingrained in this 'truth,' that lie he told himself so frequently that it no longer seemed like a lie to him, that nothing he saw or heard would convince him otherwise. He was completely nonredeemable, and always thought he was taking the moral high road.
  • He was smug and crazy-prepared. Because he was so convinced of his correctness, the smile would never come off his face. He was also highly intelligent, so he rarely was caught without contingencies. When the heroes stopped one of his plots, two more took its place.
  • He was untouchable. Between his governmental connections and advanced tech, he could escape from any threatening situation with ease. He hid behind defenseless creatures and was never afraid to take hostages because it was always for the greater good.
  • He would risk anything. His final mistake, the one that got him defeated, wasn't a result of the heroes, but from his own attitude. He tried to destroy one world, only to accidentally start the gears turning to destroy both, killing himself in the process.
A more recent example that exhibits some (but not all) of the above traits is
Councilman Tarlok
from The Legend of Korra. When I saw last weekend's episode, the villain's actions pissed me off so badly, I wanted nothing more than to watch Korra breathe fire and melt his/her face. I nearly put a fist through my coffee table. THAT is the kind of villain you want, my friend. One that pisses off your players so badly, they can't WAIT to see him/her burn in their own evil. Their own "I don't think I'm evil" evil.
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