Since there are very excellent 2d/3d artists, coders and level builders, I have decided to focus everything on character and story development instead, because I don’t see much of that in the game dev sphere right now. So I am going to give you effective tools in order to create a great story using all kinds of literary devices. Game developers are storytellers.
https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/character-arcs-1/ – Positive Character arcs post 1 – all posts linked in the document.
And while you’re at it – follow her on Twitter – she has all kinds of amazing advice on how to be a great writer – which you can definitely bring into video games.
Like I said on Twitter, I am starting my research and development process for the 3rd block now, which is all about character development. So I’m going over an amazing resource, linked above, to get you looking at how to make robust character arcs, like Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2 – something that will be remembered forever, instead of falling flat like Commander Shepard’s story in the Mass Effect series.
Today, I go over her article looking at those two characters in particular, and why Arthur Morgan’s story was 10 times the story than Commander Shepard’s.
In the second episode on Character arcs, I look at Arthur Morgan almost exclusively as the best example of a change character arc in a computer game, going from a man who followed Dutch’s every command, believing it would help him escape the law/the world, to the point where he decided that he had to forge his own destiny after learning he had TB.
In our last episode, we focused on the Lie the character believes, looking at Arthur Morgan’s story in RDR2. Today, we continue our analysis, looking at What Arthur wants and What Arthur needs. In RDR2, it’s easy – Arthur wants freedom from the law and the consequences of his action, so he will do whatever he can to help Dutch escape. What he really needs to see how Dutch and the Gang is going to kill him, and he sees it too late – once he contracted TB. From there he has the freedom to go from there, to go down a downward path – seeking vengeance for what happened to him, or to accept that he can do better than that and do his best to help people instead.
In this fourth episode on character arcs, we continue to look at Arthur Morgan’s story, and why he believes he must work with Dutch in order to escape his past/the world/the law/the consequences of his actions, the painful wounds (his ghost) that haunt him to this day. That, of course, is losing his family – his one time he could have escaped Dutch in the past, and he lost it, leading to the events that unfold in RDR2.
Now that the last four episodes, we’ve established Arthur Morgan’s character arc, a change arc where he goes from blind loyalty to Dutch because he believed only Dutch could help him escape his past where he lost his first wife and child, to a realization that his life was his own in the last chapter of the game, let’s look at how we are introduced to Arthur’s story, feeling Blackwater because Dutch messed up everything again – showing his tough personality, his misplaced loyalty, and what he wants, to help Dutch and the gang escape the law.
In our ongoing series on character arcs, we look at the next step in the physical story of Arthur Morgan in RDR2, the normal world, which for Arthur is the camp. The camp is where you do chores, donate things, go hunting, fishing and supply the needs for Dutch and the Gang, therefore re-enforcing Arthur’s lie, the blind loyalty he has for Dutch believing Dutch will solve everything and help him escape his past.
In the first two chapters of RDR2, it shows careful consideration of the change arc – whether it is Arthur doing what he needs to help the camp and Dutch – enforcing his lies, or striking out on his own – a glimpse of the truth, having fun with Lenny, or the inciting event where the Pinkerton’s are asking you to embrace Arthur’s truth – he needs to be independent of Dutch, but Arthur won’t discard his blind loyalty just yet, but that lingering thought that they are not after the gang but Dutch is constantly in Arthur’s mind from there on out.
It is great to see that first act in RDR2 because it really does set up the rest of the game.
The first plot point is one of the most important parts of the story, and RDR 2, it is when Arthur and a few members of the gang rob the Valentine bank before they go onto the new camp that Dutch is setting up. It’s a glimpse in how good Arthur’s life could be if he embraced the truth he doesn’t need Dutch because the robbery goes really well, but in the end, he goes right back to trying to find a new normal of helping Dutch, because now the Pinkertons and Driscolls are after them now – which leads to all the conflict and bad luck Arthur goes through in the third, fourth and fifth chapters.
After the Valentine robbery, where Arthur stretches his leadership muscles, the second act begins, with Arthur further experiencing the fortune of the gang’s respect for him, establishing a glimpse in what he needs, independence from Dutch, while at the same time – what he wants – to escape the O’Driscolls and the Pinkerton’s leading him to accept more and more of Dutch’s schemes that never work out, because of Micah selling the gang out.
In the midpoint of the story for Red Dead Redemption 2, we have Arthur and the gang being ambushed by the law, and it starts with the Keiran being posed on a horse with his head between his hands – a shocking development, leading the camp to become sceptical of Dutch’s plans, though they keep on being loyal to him – living in both the truth and the lie.
The 2nd half of the 2nd part is all about the character’s growth between the midpoint and the 3rd plot point – showing they understand the truth, and for Arthur, it is emerging from Dutch’s shadow and taking his own destiny, and holding onto the lie – he still wanted to be loyal to Dutch. Major things, like Guam he gets what he thinks he wants – escape, only for it to be taken away by the lie – relying on Dutch, the loss of Lenny during the robbery of the bank in St. Denis, showing the Pinkerton’s and O’Driscolls and the law were still in power. Finding out he had TB and he was dying leads to some amazing before and after shots of his character and how emerging from Dutch’s shadow affected him.
In Red Dead Redemption, the third plot point comes with Arthur’s death. At that moment, he can choose to help John, where he will then face Micah, or he can go down the negative path and take the money. Since we’re talking about positive character arcs, of course, I will be talking about the beauty of Arthur’s noble sacrifice and how that sets up the epilogue (the 3rd act in my opinion), where John takes up the mantle of working towards creating a new life, and finding and bring Micah to justice.
After Arthur’s death, we enter into the 3rd act, where John Marston goes on from those events into building a life for him and his family. Tempted by the past where he could just continue to wander and be a bounty hunter, or settling down with Abigal and Jack. Choosing the permanent establishment shows how far he and other old members of Dutch’s gang have come, and resisting the temptation of being a bounty hunter, as demonstrated by Sadie, we come to the final part where the final showdown between John, Micah and Dutch in the climax.
In the final confrontation in RDR2, we can see the true message of redemption, as the player just needs to do nothing for Dutch to turn against Micah. Instead of resorting to violence first, Dutch and Micah disintegrate and you can kill Micah in an act of self-defence, to defend Sadie and ultimately allowing you to tie up all the loose ends to allow you, Abigail and Jack to live beyond the gang lifestyle that dominated the earlier part of the game.
The final episode of positive character arc series, we look at the resolution of Red Dead Redemption 2, albeit, it’s about how John has rejected the brutal lifestyle of Dutch and choose to have a more stable life with Abigail and Jack. Beautifully told, it shows hope for John’s future.