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How to Write the Perfect Villain

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Infinitron, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. ilitarist Learned Illiterate Village Idiot

    ilitarist
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    TBH I just don't remember much about FF4 villain, played it after FF5-6 and didn't like it as much.

    FF5 had Exdeath who just was an evil tree or something. He wanted to kill everybody and rule because he's evil. FF6 had mad clown but to get to him you went through more plausible evil empire that used general Lee (which is a name you use for noble adversary fighting for the wrong cause. Naturally). Now that I think about it FF6 was almost a modern BioWare RPG. You gather a team of unnecessary teammates some of which may die along the way and then you fight an evil force of evil, and if you want to find tons of lore you can.

    Starting with Sephirot those people all have, ahm, sort of justifications. Sephiroth had bad childhood, he discovers people exploit the planet and are not original owners of the planet, so he restores justice. Ultimecia is caught in a timey whimey mumbo jumbo and she's hunted because she's a sorceress and she's evil because she's hunted or something. Kuja wants to save his people or something - don't quite remember him, but there's some sort of ambiguity and in the end he's absolved after heroes fight Giant Space Deathgod From Nowhere.

    Those characters are presented as overreacting to some injustice. Also in case of FF10 you have undead dudes who think they've found the solution to world's suffering. Two sorts of them, in fact - the church and the summons.
     
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  2. Iznaliu Arbiter

    Iznaliu
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    No, it results in cliched crap and limits design flexibility.
     
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  3. Wayward Son Fails to keep valuable team members alive

    Wayward Son
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    Not from a game, but one of my favorite villains is Solf J. Kimble from FMA, and he's a one-dimensional cartoonish villain but it's done so well that you feel that his one character trait, his insane sadism, is all he needs.
    In F3, the villain is Bethesda.
     
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  4. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I think a great many video game bosses (or let's say "character you meet at the end of the game") aren't particularly good as villains, though they often yield interesting dialogues or battles. To me, a good villain is a constant counter-force throughout the story. Unfortunately, outside of jRPGs, in RPGs the villain often doesn't really engage with the player until quite late in the game. Sometimes you encounter and engage with their underlings, or see the fallout of their actions, but you don't really have a back-and-forth with them. If you compare that to the typical novel or cartoon or movie, the contrast is pretty striking. It's one reason why Kefka, though very flat and simplistic in a game that is pretty flat and simplistic, works so well -- you encounter him again and again, directly interfering with your progress and hurting your characters in various ways, and his threat grows in parallel with the player's strength, which works nicely, too.

    I think part of the problem with villains in western RPGs is that there is an expectation that if you encounter the enemy, you should have a chance to resolve the encounter with combat, and defeat him. In jRPGs (as other static stories like novels, cartoons, comics, etc.), you can have the villain show up, do his thing, and never give the player the choice (or the possibility) of fighting and winning, or uncovering him, or whatever. In western RPGs, the villain always needs to be off-the-scene so that you can't save-scum him to death.

    Spider & Web has a good villain, one of my favorite in computer games in terms of his actual role as an adversary.
     
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  5. Raghar Arcane

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    I remember games where there was two or more equally viable sides. No villain. Simply two factions who fought over throne. Typically both of them had likable and dislikable characters. No villain. Aside of these few stories/games where second country manipulated the whole mess to weaken them and screw them over.

    Villains are mostly derived from Greece classic works. They killed villain, and everything was solved. In real world killing villain just starts the trouble. Do you remember killing Sadam Hussain in Iraq. Yea that's that country that's welcoming Iranian help and sees them as rescuers.
     
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  6. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    :notsureifserious:
     
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  7. Harry Easter Arbiter

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    I think Sephiroth worked so good, because he was build up as this Boogeyman, whose deeds haunt you the whole game. He wasn't that interesting, but the plot was build around him, so it worked. In the end, it is the investment we have in the world, which makes a villain effective or how much we hate them (Bishop and Caesar are good examples for really despicable humans).
     
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  8. Falksi Arcane

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    The Illusive Man was superb in ME2 IMO. Ruined in ME3, but in 2 I genuinely could see the pros and cons for both siding with & against him. Superbly acted too (as you'd expect from such an actor).

    I think the FFX's villains were quite interesting too. Maybe a bit irksome at times, but definitely interesting.
     
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  9. ilitarist Learned Illiterate Village Idiot

    ilitarist
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    Too bad FFX villains looked like clowns, especially Seymour. At least Sephiroth looked like 80s action movie villain or heavy metal singer. Though Seymour had decent characterization and understandable cause up until the inevitable one winged angel form and undead insanity.
     
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  10. Athelas Arcane

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    This isn't a good thing. Having the villain repeatedly show up raises the typical issue of why the heroes don't finish the villain of or why the villain lets the heroes escape (depending on what happens during those encounters), and other issues relating to the villains' and the heroes' competence.

    The Master and the Transcendent One maintain a constant presence throughout their respective games because there are tons of not-so-subtle details hinting at their activities (the missing caravans in Fallout, the trail of murdered people and destroyed documents in PS:T, etc). And you could actually research these villains and make preparations that let you exploit their weakness for when you finally confronted them (Vree's autopsy in Fallout, the Blade of the Immortal and Bronze Sphere in PS:T).
     
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  11. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Well, it is not clear to me which is the lesser of evils. Again, in any other medium, the "villain" is not an off-screen character who appears at the very last minute. Even the Emperor has screen time, and he's about as last-minute as I can think of. It's part of the challenge of games, though, to deal with the fact that (as I noted) the player expects to be able to deal with the villain when he appears.

    They have a hindsight presence, anyway. But I still don't think either makes an especially good villain, though they are fun final encounters.
     
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  12. Harry Easter Arbiter

    Harry Easter
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    Hmm, but the story was never about them, it was about us. Everyone talks about the complexity of the Master, but we met him just once and he was quite crazy. And the Trascendent One is also very ... complicated. Fighting him is like kicking yourself repeatedly in the nuts :D.

    Maybe we have to ask ourselves easier questions? For example: Do I want to fight that guy? Worked for me with Kingslayer in The Witcher 2. Considering, that every regent of the Northern Kingdoms seems to be a terrible person, I just wanted to fight this guy, because he was fast, he was clever, he was somebody to test your skills against. Same with Frank Horrigan from Fallout 2: That guy is Death in a Power Armour, but this what made him a worthy fight. It helped that he was a racist piece of shit, so you wouldn't feel sorry for him.
     
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  13. vonAchdorf Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    vonAchdorf
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    Yes, in movies, you can switch to the villain in a spectator mode or in a change of perspective, which doesn't work in most games. Though why not try to expand on TW3's Ciri sequences and extend them to the villain?

    In Portal the villain is also omnipresent, just not revealed until later in the game, which makes it, IMO, quite memorable and "the cake is a lie" part of the pop culture.
     
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  14. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Yes, Portal has a good villain.
     
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  15. Bohrain Liturgist Patron

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    The thing is that characters don't need to have particularly complex motives or personalities in order to create interesting interaction in a story, although if a character (say, a villain) is simplistic, it usually demands that characters that react to his/her/its action becomes more fleshed out.
    Personally I'm a real sucker for settings where there is a single macguffin that multiple factions are after. Take something like Steel Ball Run for instance, you have individuals who are after the holy corpse for the sake of money, personal redemption, national interests and so forth. Simple motives, but it becomes more interesting when you have people making temporary alliances and then stabbing each other in the back, revealing the extend of how much they value personal relationships over goals their individual goals.
     
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  16. mondblut Arcane

    mondblut
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    >
    How to Write the Perfect Villain

    Take zoe quinn and sprinkle some hillary.
     
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  17. Wayward Son Fails to keep valuable team members alive

    Wayward Son
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    You should really watch Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood in that case. The main plot is about a macguffin that the factions all want, with some political intrigue sprinkled here and there with a lot of really well done villains.
     
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  18. Beastro Arcane

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    Golbez was a dude all clad in dark armour that acted all Darth Vadery evil collecting the crystals, then it turns out he was being controlled by the a Lunarian sealed away up on the moon that was full of hate and shit call Zeemus.

    Sephiroth originally thought he and Jenova were Centra, but after the while burning Cloud's hometown thing and cast into the Lifestream he was rejected by the Lifestream, came to realize what Jenova was, then dominated her personality and took her over (instead of what you'd expect with an ages old alien that goes from planet to planet destroying them dominating his personality, but no, Sephiroth's too bad ass for that...) in his plan to wound the planet and merge with it effectively becoming a Jenova/Planet hybrid or something that the writers distilled down to him becoming a god.

    Ultimecia was another Zeemus last minute "true" villain of the game. In her timeline she rules the entire world but that wasn't enough, she wanted to rule all of time by merging all time periods into one. Fans of the game found some hints that Ultimecia might have originally been Rhinoa wanting to be reunited with Squall who is dead in her time. The devs say Ultimecia isn't her, but the speculation remains that that might have been planned before being dropped for her just having a random megalomaniac motivation.

    Kuja was born an adult intended to speed up the death on the main planet of the setting to hasten the games weird planet merging plot. The guy who mad him concluded he wasn't that good at it and so planned to make replacement born with a childhood, which Kuja kidnapped and cast away onto the planet which became the protagonist. Kuja's intentions are to just cause death because of the angst of his life and his loathing of others, the only people he seems to have any sympathy for are the black mages, despite his contempt for them, because are tools of destruction created to cause death like him. In the end there's some last minute feels happening, but his desire to kill everything somehow attracted death itself to come try to finish the job off or something.

    I find it a stretch unless you include being shaped by injustice in that. That doesn't include Ultimecia though, she just pops up wanting to continue her conquest without any real story or insight into her personality. As cheesy as it might have been, the fan theory fits really well and at least connects her to the rest of the game as well as the overarching romantic plot between Squall and Rhinoa.

    Final Fantasy is supposedly influenced by Star Wars to some degree, so you can see the ancestry of its kind of overarching plot and villainy with FFIII/VI going so far as to have it's own Rebellion.
     
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  19. Azarkon Arcane

    Azarkon
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    I'm not sure this is a Western CRPG tradition as much as it is a fan excuse. Sarevok, Irenicus, and even Thaos are all present in scenes where the player cannot engage them in combat, much less defeat them. Thaos is simply a case of poor execution. As a man who counts, among his many achievements, the destruction of entire civilizations, his activities in Pillars of Eternity are awfully subdued. What, so he steals children's souls and frames the animancers and when that gets discovered, he just ... Gets beaten and dies? This is the opposite of what you'd expect from the master mind that Thaos is depicted as. It lacks scale, and a contingency plan.

    Had this been a JRPG, I'm sure Thaos would've been the head of a powerful religious order with an army of zealots ready to hack every animancer to death at his command. He'd still commence with the manipulation and the framing, but it wouldn't be all he does.
     
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  20. Beastro Arcane

    Beastro
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    His problem was the "boogeyman" factor overtook the rest of his characterization going so far as to sideline what should have been the real threat in the game, Jenova.

    Imagine having some Cthulu-type space monster threatening the planet only for it to be made the lackey of some emo solider because that soldier is just so fucking badass he's even stronger than a Cthulhu-type space monster!

    Me thinks they fell in love with their antagonist a bit too much.
     
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  21. ilitarist Learned Illiterate Village Idiot

    ilitarist
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    I don't remember reading any fan theories but that's how I supposed it to work. Timey-whimey clusterfuck made me think that all 3 Sorceress where the same person or something.

    Yes, Thaos is a very good villain with a pitiful execution. And they even had the tool to show him without using combat, old memories, but they didn't use it till the end.
     
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  22. Beastro Arcane

    Beastro
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    I've been browsing the FF wiki lately to help fight insomnia: http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Forum:Rinoa-Ultimecia_Theory
     
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  23. *-*/\--/\~ Arbiter

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    This is exactly what pissed mi off in Pillars of Butthurt, aka "you did everything right yet his plans proceed anyway, because fuck you". I'm all for the player not being the center of the world, but railroad plot is a stupid way to do it.

    Someone please punch this guy a few (hundred) times.
     
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  24. Iznaliu Arbiter

    Iznaliu
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    Sometimes you've just fucked no matter what you do.
     
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  25. ilitarist Learned Illiterate Village Idiot

    ilitarist
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    It'd be nice to be fucked in different ways, earning the most forceful reaction by performing well.
     
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