Game Dev: Character Development for Parody

Now that Dynasty Heroes has been released I figured I’d do another of these Game Development posts.  This time we’ll be talking about some of the things I touched on in my Developer Commentary videos on YouTube.  One of the things that we worked on a lot for this project was the character development.  As with any parody, we were working with established characters, in this case from Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).

Dealing with any parody of RTK, though, is a pro/con situation because there are already so many different takes on the original.  Look at our main character, Xuande, and all of his different characterizations, alone:

Picture based on the original story:

Xuande, painted during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Xuande, painted during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

For reference, this is what we went with for Xuande:

Xuande-1

So…how did we get from the Tang dynasty painting to Dynasty Heroes’ version of Xuande?

Well, the first thing we had to do was simplify the names.  You see, in China everyone has a thousand and one frickin’ names!  Our main character’s real name is 劉備.  But unless you actually read Traditional Chinese characters, that means nothing to you.  So you translate it to English, called Romanization; and you’ve got a dozen different ways to Romanize the name.  Liu Pei, Lou Pei, Liu Bei, etc.  We always go with the Hanyu Pinyin style, by the way.  So that would be Liu Bei, and since Asian cultures put the family name first, that equates to Bei of the Liu family.

But Liu Bei also several other names; his courtesy name is Liu Xuande, or just Xuande.  His posthumous name was Zhaolie.  As king he was known by his title, Hanzhong-wang (King of Hanzhong), his posthumous title was Shuhan Zhaolie Huangdi (Zhaolie, the Emperor of Shu-Han), or even by the title of Xianzhu (First Sovereign).

So as you can see, it can get kind of difficult in remembering even who you’re writing.  So our first step was to simplify the names.  We decided everyone would be known by their Courtesy Names.  This simplified the names to a single name, instead of two names for each character, and gave a bit more room for uniqueness.  You figure that even Mimi can’t always remember the difference between Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan, but Yuanrang and Miaocai are a lot easier to tell apart.

With all the names figured out we then had to determine what influences we would parody and how we would turn the character into our own.  We’ve been talking about Xuande, so let’s continue to look at his progress.  There are several versions we could draw from…

LiuBeis

Originally the story began as a straight, legitimate story, but after the script was started we decided to switch everything to a parody.  As a result we decided that somebody in the parody had to not be in on the joke; that was Xuande.  He was written to specifically be the straight man of the joke.  So we decided that making him physically look out of place would be funny, so we decided to dress him anachronistically by putting him in Heian era Japanese clothing.  This parodies two things:

1. The fact that a lot of Americans don’t realize that Japan and China have different cultures.

2. The fact that the straight man is so out of place in the story of the joke, so he’s incredibly out of place in his clothing.  He lives around 200, China; his clothes come from around 900, Japan.

Another point we took was that KOEI has been basing their renditions of Xuande (Liu Bei) on the younger years of his life, lately, making him more youthful and androgynous.  So we made him a bishy pretty-boy.  We also wanted him to have kind of an annoyed look.  And, ultimately, we wind up with this…

Xuande

~RCS

BTW, Developer Commentary Video Part 2 is up, as well.

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