Let’s Get Archetypal

First of all, the latest version of Harem Collector was emailed to backers this morning. If you are a backer and did not receive your email, please contact me ASAP. I probably have the wrong email for you. So relieved and happy to actually get a release out, btw. Looking forward to the public release next week.

Oh, and Spoiler Warning for Harem Collector. You’ve been warned.

Video games should always be about gameplay. If you want to tell an excellent story via a video game, you’re probably better off writing a novel or making a movie. This is why video game stories- even from games are lauded for their stories- tend to be very simple. The point is to provide an engaging, interactive element for the player, after all. This is why games tend to be a poor medium for a character study. This is what makes archetypes so important for storytelling in this medium.

Archetypes (or, if you pay more attention to the internets than English class, character tropes) are basically a short-hand for what a given character is or how they will act. Archetypes are useful to game designers because they are capable of delivering a large amount of information with a small amount of characterization, which is key in game design because very few games are character studies. I know this sounds lazy, but Japanese developers use them, western developers use them, and I’m going to tell you why you should use them.

For example, take Guardians of the Galaxy. Action movies are similar to video games in that studying the characters is not the point, so you need to deliver all the information necessary to describe the characters in a small amount of time. Fantasy novels are the same way- video games should focus on gameplay, action movies on engaging action and good dialogue, fantasy novels on the unique setting (usually). Anyway, by taking the core five characters of GotG, and describing them in 2-4 words, you’ll probably end up with something like this:

Peter Quill- Loveable Rogue
Gamora- Assassin with a Heart
Rocket- Jaded Veteran
Groot- Gentle Giant
Drax- Noble Savage

When the movie opens, we are introduced to Peter Quill by seeing him in action- on a hostile planet, searching for something, but while he does that while listening to a walkman and dancing around. He kicks the local predators out of the way without breaking stride. By the time those opening scenes are over and Quill heads for the planet Nova, we have a bead on his personality- he’s cut from the same cloth as Malcolm Reynolds, Han Solo, or even Bluto Blutarsky and Danny Ocean. Immediately, the audience starts associating attributes to Quill that they don’t necessarily have any evidence for, because of those archetypal connections. The character appears fuller and more complete, because you can draw on that archetype. Later, Quill is given better definition, and the specifics of his personality and how he defies his own archetype are introduced, but the movie’s authors have bought themselves breathing room while also making the experience more satisfying to the audience.

When designing a new character Harem Collector, I find it very useful to say “This character is like X except for Y”. For example, Therese is basically what TV Tropes would call a Lawful Stupid Knight Templar- she is a straightforward, hardcore agent for good who reviles sin and refuses to do evil. This provides a broad map for her character and her behaviour, until later when the differences show up. She talks to Larelle, and accepts her necromantic powers while condemning Larelle’s assault on Lumberhill. This way, you learn that Therese doesn’t believe evil is inherent, and her character gets a little more definition, but the playing audience never feels that Therese is less of a character until they learned that fact. Gargan is like a typical 80’s movie bully and rival, then you start the Virgin Gynocides and learn that he’s actually really dedicated to his job. Meline is a typical imouto character with a huge hard-on for her brother, then you do her Love Quest and (hopefully) pick up on the fact that her dedication to her brother is very much a result of her childhood and family life.

Archetypes are a valuable tool for the game designer, and in hentai specifically, archetypes have a secondary value in that they can be comforting. Hentai draws from a small pool of similar character archetypes (and western porn is an even smaller pool, but that’s kinda sorta a different thing entirely) because when you’re looking to enjoy some hentai, challenging characters will probably just distract you from your purpose. In this case, archetypes serve a useful function of putting the audience at ease, and tipping the audience off as to what this character will react to (and thus, reinforcing the fantasy that you’re a charmer who can romance the panties off anyone).

So don’t worry about your characters being “too typical” or “simple”. Design around archetypes to your heart’s content, and save your innovation for the stuff that’s really important- the gameplay.

By the way, Chibi needs to get some computer equipment repaired before she can work more on Harem Collector or Fairy Side, so starting today she’s doing commissions to raise money for the repairs. Her commissions start at $10 USD, and comes with the added benefit that your commission dollars also benefit Harem Collector’s development. You can see examples of her work here and here and here and here. Contact her at magicwhitelady AT hotmail DOT com for more information.

17 Replies to “Let’s Get Archetypal”

  1. Since you mentioned Larelle, just wanna asked that if you gave any plan to develop this character, since she has a great background and a sly but charming personality. For example, any plan for her love quest?

    1. Next update, Larelle will have a small, optional role- let’s just say that if she gets really excited about something, might be a good idea to keep her in the party. I know what her love quest is going to be about, but as always, the devil’s in the details- it’ll come in time.

  2. Do you have a donation button somewhere (preferably PayPal)?

    I really had/having a good time with this game and was thinking of dropping a few dollars when I can afford it.

  3. Does this mean that Therese will have special dialogue during Meline’s love quest concerning Hero’s desire for a harem basically being, I want a big family to make up for the one he almost didn’t have? Or will that come out on a later date?

  4. Looking forwards to the new content! Will we have to start from the beginning for each new update, or should the bugs with the one quest be squashed now?

    One other question, will we be able to chase an elfmaid AFTER this new release? You said that wouldn’t happen this release, but I’m looking forwards to how the MC would deal with a proud elfmaid!

    1. I will tell you when you will need to start the game from scratch- and I try to avoid doing that as much as possible. The only thing I would suggest for the next update is to make sure your file isn’t saved on the world map, Lumberhill or Eastfort.

      As for elves, the sprite work for the elf party member is 75% finished. The elf village/first quest/party member/sex scene programming is my third priority right now, after two other quests. Or, if you meant elf maid as in literally a maid who is an elf, if it happens at all it will be some time after that. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go to the effort of putting player housing in the elf village.

    1. That’s getting pretty close to done. The reason why it’s taken so long is that I was initially only going to make black/brown townsfolk, but I figured if I was going to be inclusive I ought to go all the way. So, there will black/brown people of all varieties in the game- townsfolk, soldiers, maids and butler, priests and nuns, nobles and merchants, slaves and sailors- obviously, as a coastal nation with a strong merchant tradition, the Middle Kingdom would have a variety of ethnicities present. On top of that, there will be a handful of dark-skinned harem girls.

      Obviously, Americans (and others) can be pretty sensitive to this sort of thing, so I’m going to try being responsible with it. I also want to make a pseudo-kinda-sorta-African nation based on something like Carthage, Zimbabwe, or Nubia, kind of like how Chimei is from pseudo-kinda-sorta-Japan, but it’s probably going to be material for the sequels.

      1. Since Carthage is Phoenician original, she shouldn’t be THAT African, just in case.

        Besides, I think it was quite dumb to regard a GAME racism, only because it lacks several ethnicities, specially when ethnicities were divided among men, elves, and dwarfs in this world, …

      2. I actually appreciate that response. Albeit the somewhat facetious tone I usually portray within my comments -for I admit, I am mostly labeled under a deviance like behavior when it comes down to social norms. In short. You really don’t have to heed any attention towards this mockery of humanity; However I give you kudos for answering my question.

        Keep on, keeping on brother.

  5. Good article. I’ll admit I’ve never really thought about it like that. I must say I don’t entirely agree with games being the wrong place for ‘an excellent story.’ It depends on what you mean by excellent story, I suppose. If you mean something that is incredibly deep and designed to be thought provoking and or a study on a specific aspect of life, than you’re right because gameplay will just get in the way of the story and vice versa.

    I absolutely agree that a game in the end needs to be about the gameplay. That’s really what you are there for. But, if by ‘excellent story’ you mean a well told narrative that leaves the viewer feeling improved in some way (either in disposition or mood) then I see no reason that it can’t be told via the medium of game with out gameplay and story stepping on each others toes.

    A good example is the Atelier Iris series of games. Great fun, light-hearted story that I would rank as excellent alongside fun combat, in depth crafting system and interesting dungeons.

    Anyway, back on topic before this becomes too much of a counter rant: Archetypes are definitely a good short hand for games because it allows players to get right into the game while still having characters and story to engage them in. I never really thought about it like that and gives me a better opinion of tropes in general. Plus your article helped me articulate my response above which had not put into words. Thanks for that.

    1. Maybe I should have explained better- this was a sleep-deprived first draft, I have to admit. By “excellent story” I meant in the sense of a good narrative, like you would expect from more linear experiences like novels, movies, or television. Interactive experiences are a different sort of thing altogether, and thinking in terms of a linear narrative is not.. optimal? IDK.

      1. Well it was a pretty good draft for being sleep deprived. 😛

        I think I see what you mean now. You were just meaning a narrative where the audience has no effect on how the story plays out is better kept to things like movies and novels. That’s true. I think most games miss a huge opportunity by having the players actions not have any effect on the way the story plays out.

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