Discussion: What Makes a Compelling Character

Why not??? O.o


Child of Three worldsT

Here's some math for you

Garona (child of Male Orc + Not so willing Female Draenei (Could be the otherway around)+ Medivh (Titan possessed Human) = Med'an. His Grandparents are from 3 different worlds (Argus/Draenor/Azeroth).

The child of Garona and Medivh who had no real prior interaction with each other, but then somehow, got busy and made Med'an.

Was given away to be watched by an undead (read: NOT FORSAKEN, NOT SCOURGE, NOT A 1st GENERATION DEATHKNIGHT), who apparently taught him Arcane Magic.

Maraad is his uncle, which goes back to the whole lineage post above you (which means that his sister or brother was assaulted by the other parent). Begins the foundations of teaching him the power of the light.

Somehow can interweave his magics together. Oh, and somewhere along the line, he learned Nature Magic (both Nature and Elemental). How did that happen.

Is the new Guardian of Tirisfal (Which not only is it an empty title because Tirisfal is inhabited by the Forsaken, the Undead, etc. etc., but Medivh also once upon a time said the world no longer needed a Guardian).

That is a rough draft of what is wrong with him. If you remember me talking about Lucan Foxblood on page 1 of this thread, Lucan has NOTHING on Med'an. Of all the Mary Sues, Rhonin and Broxxigar may be the only ones to have him beat, and that is by and far by nanometers.

Med'an is in a sense - Perfect. I can only hope that he never ever shows up in WoW.

03/29/2013 04:07 PMPosted by Starwishgirl
And it's really not his fault he was born with so much power.


He was written that way, therefore yes yes it is.
Edited by Seebach on 3/29/2013 4:09 PM PDT
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55 Draenei Death Knight
470
Having written a fantasy novel of my own I can say from experience that a compelling character doesn't have to be powerful, talented, or even good looking. Real character development is showing how a character is weak and then overcoming their weaknesses. Life is about choices, you may not choose your skin color or race but you can choose whether or not to let your fears an your weaknesses overcome you or you can choose to stand up and conquer them. Who or where you are born into doesn't have to determine you become is what I'm saying and the best character development is found in that kind of story. Varian overcame his anger and depression. Velen discovered that focusing on the future too much blinds you to the difference you can make from the day to day. And though ill conveyed to the player-base Tyrande discovered that because of pride she may not have always been able to see when others were right. I honestly don't see much growth among the Horde characters in personality, the Blood Elves still live for revenge, the Orcs continuously fall into their old ways, perhaps only Zul'jin and Baine have grown as Horde characters because Sylvanis continues to fall into madness.


Brandon Sanderson is that you?
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92 Human Death Knight
9475
Flaws and reasonable motivations.

Perfection and complete consistency are almost always problematic - perfection isn't really possible (despite it being a fantasy world), and consistency should be defined by reasonable motivations, rather than repetition of the same character traits without variation.

Flaws make them relatable, though the flaw shouldn't be the overriding characteristic (because that devolves solely into stereotypes, which are generally only useful for secondary characters). Flaws lead to actions that can be inconsistent, but also provide motivation for those actions. Knowing what makes the character tick (which doesn't always have to be given directly to us) gives the foundation for the character's actions.
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90 Pandaren Priest
14930
I see a lot of people say that they want a character that's written without gender in mind, but even when this is done, gender defines the character, at least it does in your mind. Thus, there are expectations of that character based on that. i.e. As I mentioned before, Jaina going after vengeance to some makes her "crazy".

I also see a lot of vague mention of "relate able" or "realistic" or "rational". What makes a character fit this, and how do you think this translates into the game (within the restrictions that it entails.)?

(I'm just pushing the conversation a bit further here. Thanks to everyone who's participated so far. Very well thought out posts.)


I didn't see this until now, but...

I think that, for me, what makes a character "compelling" is when they are multi-faceted. I mean, sure, it's fun to have the big, bad, two-dimensional evil loot pinata to take down in a raid, but I'm a lot more drawn to characters who aren't necessarily evil in every conceivable way. I think that GOOD characters are more interesting if they have made mistakes or have regrets. I think that EVIL characters are more interesting if their humanity shines through at some point.

The thing about Warcraft, for me, is that there are very few black-and-white lines where you can point at someone and say, "That person is a monster with absolutely no redeeming qualities, let's kill him and take his loot!"

I LIKE the idea of good people having to make terrible, awful decisions. I LIKE the idea of evil people seeing something they can't take and in that moment having a profound change of heart. Think about the moment when Javert in Les Miserables finds the body of the little boy who was shot down by the soldiers, and pins his medal to the little boy's body. Before that, he's been consistently a hard-nosed, unforgiving, almost hateful human being. But in that one moment he shows so much humanity, and you can see him falling completely apart. That moment shows him to be a human underneath all of the unbending rules, and it makes Javert, as a character, a much more compelling figure rather than simply a foil for Jean Valjean.

One of the reasons I like Saurfang is that he HAS regrets. He's walked a bad road, and seen what it results in, and he does not want to go back there. One of the reasons I like Vol'jin is because he's not afraid to get his hands dirty, but he has a line he won't cross. I LIKE Lor'themar because he knows what it's like to lose everything and have to claw your way back from the edge, and I like Varian because he has made many mistakes, struggled with his own hatred and what he has suffered, and is still working to do the right thing. Hell, I like Velen because he knows what it is like to lose your family, your friends (closer than brothers), and your entire world, and it gives him an innate empathy that I think more two-dimensional characters wouldn't have.

I like characters who are human, who mess up, make mistakes, and have to live with it. I think characters who are well-rounded like that, who are not always right, who have to live with the choices they have made, are much more compelling and interesting than characters that seem to just...I dunno. One of my issues with Garrosh is that he feels so very two-dimensional from what I've seen in game, and his behavior seems to vacillate wildly. It honestly makes it difficult for me to see him as a legitimate character, and it makes it hard to care about his ultimate fate.
Edited by Tiriel on 3/29/2013 4:15 PM PDT
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100 Draenei Paladin
13000
03/29/2013 04:07 PMPosted by Seebach
Why not??? O.o


Child of Three worldsT

Here's some math for you

Garona (child of Male Orc + Not so willing Female Draenei (Could be the otherway around)+ Medivh (Titan possessed Human) = Med'an. His Grandparents are from 3 different worlds (Argus/Draenor/Azeroth).

The child of Garona and Medivh who had no real prior interaction with each other, but then somehow, got busy and made Med'an.

Was given away to be watched by an undead (read: NOT FORSAKEN, NOT SCOURGE, NOT A 1st GENERATION DEATHKNIGHT), who apparently taught him Arcane Magic.

Maraad is his uncle, which goes back to the whole lineage post above you (which means that his sister or brother was assaulted by the other parent). Begins the foundations of teaching him the power of the light.

Somehow can interweave his magics together. Oh, and somewhere along the line, he learned Nature Magic (both Nature and Elemental). How did that happen.

Is the new Guardian of Tirisfal (Which not only is it an empty title because Tirisfal is inhabited by the Forsaken, the Undead, etc. etc., but Medivh also once upon a time said the world no longer needed a Guardian).

That is a rough draft of what is wrong with him. If you remember me talking about Lucan Foxblood on page 1 of this thread, Lucan has NOTHING on Med'an. Of all the Mary Sues, Rhonin and Broxxigar may be the only ones to have him beat, and that is by and far by nanometers.

Med'an is in a sense - Perfect. I can only hope that he never ever shows up in WoW.


As I said in a previous comment, Med'an is in no way perfect. It wasn't his fault either that he was born with that kind of power. I can't stress the word "born" enough. The fact that he was born from two "powerful" people, it'd be rather disappointing if he'd have no magical properties at all; with an incredibly powerful family line to boot! Again, "Mary Sue" does not exist to me. So what if he has three different powers and is born from three different worlds? In no way can he control all that power so easily.
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90 Human Hunter
11285
The child of Garona and Medivh who had no real prior interaction with each other, but then somehow, got busy and made Med'an.

This is the biggest thing for me. It kind of feels like really bad fanfic.
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90 Draenei Monk
0

As I said in a previous comment, Med'an is in no way perfect. It wasn't his fault either that he was born with that kind of power. I can't stress the word "born" enough. The fact that he was born from two "powerful" people, it'd be rather disappointing if he'd have no magical properties at all; with an incredibly powerful family line to boot! Again, "Mary Sue" does not exist to me. So what if he has three different powers and is born from three different worlds? In no way can he control all that power so easily.

You're right, it's not his fault he was born with that kind of power. It's the fault of the writers.

He's a boring character because he can do anything he wants at any time. He fills every role, steals the spotlight, and makes other characters obsolete simply by existing. It would be a much more interesting development if he had two insanely powerful parents but was born powerless. Because then he'd have to work for things, instead of just getting everything he wants simply by being.
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55 Draenei Death Knight
470
03/29/2013 04:19 PMPosted by Rethenn
The child of Garona and Medivh who had no real prior interaction with each other, but then somehow, got busy and made Med'an.

This is the biggest thing for me. It kind of feels like really bad fanfic.


This is another thing hire people that is actually a fan of wc and knows it like christine golden and not have people like walter Simmons write it. The man did not know undeads were a recent development and so use the existing wow race as bsck ground builders.
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90 Human Mage
13505
Med'an could of been good for a few things.

#1: Orcs and Humans can get along.(As much as I dislike hybrid families in fantasy etc etc)

#2: Despite Sargeras' cunning Medivh was able to find some kind of constructive and or beautiful thing to do.

#3: Have a little bit of *Medivh* feel to a character and while still being it's own.

Since this kind of went across the cosmos(No pun intended) Med'an probably should be killed off by the Legion via Sargeras for revenge that Medivh bypassed Sargeras somehow. That is the best thing I can think of in trying to resolve Med'an and not pretend he didn't exist.
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100 Draenei Paladin
13000

As I said in a previous comment, Med'an is in no way perfect. It wasn't his fault either that he was born with that kind of power. I can't stress the word "born" enough. The fact that he was born from two "powerful" people, it'd be rather disappointing if he'd have no magical properties at all; with an incredibly powerful family line to boot! Again, "Mary Sue" does not exist to me. So what if he has three different powers and is born from three different worlds? In no way can he control all that power so easily.

You're right, it's not his fault he was born with that kind of power. It's the fault of the writers.

He's a boring character because he can do anything he wants at any time. He fills every role, steals the spotlight, and makes other characters obsolete simply by existing. It would be a much more interesting development if he had two insanely powerful parents but was born powerless. Because then he'd have to work for things, instead of just getting everything he wants simply by being.


This is all the more reason why I want to see him IN GAME! I don't quite agree with the "taking the spotlight" part, as Med'an is hardly ever mentioned, has never been brought into the game itself, and the only way to really learn about him is by looking him up yourself. Not to mention, he's often kidnapped and hasn't used his powers well (and he has three powers!). I just feel he could become a better character and a more likable character if they actually gave him something to do IN GAME! He has a lot of potential. He just needs to be fleshed out more.
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90 Human Paladin
11525
Lets try and stay focused. This isn't what the topic is about. Opinions and such.
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100 Draenei Paladin
13000
Med'an could of been good for a few things.

#1: Orcs and Humans can get along.(As much as I dislike hybrid families in fantasy etc etc)

#2: Despite Sargeras' cunning Medivh was able to find some kind of constructive and or beautiful thing to do.

#3: Have a little bit of *Medivh* feel to a character and while still being it's own.

Since this kind of went across the cosmos(No pun intended) Med'an probably should be killed off by the Legion via Sargeras for revenge that Medivh bypassed Sargeras somehow. That is the best thing I can think of in trying to resolve Med'an and not pretend he didn't exist.


Lol! You're like my opposite, well, I personally like halflings. And ouch on the last bit! I think killing him off would be one of the worst things to do to him; not because I like him, but the fact that they'd be only mentioning him TO KILL HIM! Yuck!
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100 Undead Priest
21880
03/29/2013 02:49 PMPosted by Ramayana
I see a lot of people say that they want a character that's written without gender in mind, but even when this is done, gender defines the character, at least it does in your mind. Thus, there are expectations of that character based on that. i.e. As I mentioned before, Jaina going after vengeance to some makes her "crazy".


I agree that character gender brings its own expectations to writing but I feel that these expectations are part of the reason Blizzard has a lot of flat, one-dimensional female characters. When you start with "gender defines character", then you start asking questions like "how do females act differently from males". Obviously, males and females are different, but their reactions to situations aren't based on gender, they're based on personality. There isn't the "female" or "male" way to react to this or that situation, there's the "Jaina" or "Sylvanas" or "Varian" way to react to a situation. Being female is part of Jaina, not the other way around.


There are a lot of flat, one-dimensional male characters as well. But most of that is due to the fact that there's a limited amount of the game they can devote time to, and most leaders are typically men. It seems that a lot of people want Blizzard to write "bad !@# good-alignment females" just to have badass good females running around, and anything short of that becomes a failure to make a "strong" female character.

There's a lot of abuse of the term "strong character" when it comes to females, with a lot of people making it sound like a character is not strong in the "quality" sense if they don't demonstrate sufficient power and independence from the men around them. They use the term "dependent" as if it's a bad word. "Oh no, how can a woman be dependent on a man!?"

Good writing typically ties into real world tendencies. Song of Ice and Fire is a great example of this. Women in those stories are almost totally relegated to feminine roles. The few exceptions you meet are trumpeted as exceptions, and still have their fair share of disempowerment as a result of their gender in their stories. Daenerys is practically sold into bridal slavery at the start of the first novel, and she's confronted with the reality that commoner women coming across her horselord husband's forces typically have very bad fates. Caitlin Stark as a young woman married Eddard to fulfill a bridal contract her father had made (initially with his older brother and her). Later, Caitlin doesn't take control of the house, instead she recognizes Robb's in charge as the son. She also lets her maternal instinct rule her actions to an extreme extent.

Cersei is a powerful woman, but she's powerful because of her house, and her marriage. And she greatly resents being a woman in the books, because she knows it prevents her from greater authority. Brienne of Tarth is one of the very very FEW warrior women. She's muscular and can fight with any man and is described as not at all attractive. You probably have people on this very forum who have pointed to her as a great example of a strong female character. I'm sure I've seen her mentioned a few times in other threads. Yet, they typically leave out that she was very mentally tormented by her situation. She tried to dress and be more feminine when she was younger, and was mocked and deeply hurt by that mockery. (It ended up pushing her further into a more martial, fighting life). She followed Renly around with a schoolgirl crush cause he was friendly to her. She'd described as actually lacking a confident demeanor when it comes to conversation. (But, she tends to show confidence against people mocking her after her difficult youth, it's the friendly relationship stuff she has trouble being confident with at that point).

All of this is to say that strong female characters tend to exist in books and media that more realistically recognize that the term "female" carries a lot of connotations about societal expectations, and when a female character is an exception to those expectations, they are very aware of what makes them into an exception.

WoW does not do that because WoW cannot do that. In WoW, female soldiers are as common as male soldiers. Female officers are in lots of places as minor NPC's right along male officers. Because at the low level, the context-of-the-world situation presents women as permeating society in the same ways that men do, the idea of different roles for the genders is very weak. "Good!" some might say. Some love those differences being weak. But there's a cost to that. It also means that you lose the opportunity for gender to play more of a role in a female character's development, which makes them less INTERESTING and STRONG as characters altogether.

On the flip side, men present a better writing opportunity in that environment because the roles they occupy are roles frequently occupied by men in the real world anyway. Warriors and leaders and the like. The absence of gender considerations is more forced, and thus more felt, with women characters. Forced characterization isn't liked. I really don't know how WoW can get out of this trap.

That article of WoW Insider gets it completely wrong. A strong female character is not written by writing it as if it's not a woman, then making it a woman. That's not asking to make a "strong" female character. That's asking to make a "strong" character a female. There's a difference, and it's important.
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Personally I think the key to a really great character is context, and then consistency. I throw everything else out the window. Relatability is subjective, and I think unnecessary. I cannot relate whatsoever to The Joker, from Batman, but he's a fascinating, fascinating character. But for the WoW setting:

Garrosh is the perfect example of everything right and wrong with the above principle. We're introduced to Garrosh as severely wanting, lacking pride in himself, his family, and his people, so much so that he's endangering those in his care. This is the context, and it's well established. So far, so good.

As he we transition from TBC to WotLK, we see him grow. Given that we know he's been wanting in pride, has been illuminated by others that there is much to be proud of, we would expect that he would try and then prove himself. Given his context in TBC, we see him take some action in WotLK that's consistent with it. He's aggressive, not for the sake of being a badass, but because we the audience knows that Garrosh wants to prove himself. He's repeatedly rebuffed and chastized by his superiors, in Thrall and Saurfang. It creates conflict - keep your aggression to prove yourself in check. And we see the fruits of that tension. He is very against the Broken Front, because it's cowardly to attack the enemy from behind, and it's beneath the Horde. It's a question of honor, dignity, pride. These are things core to Garrosh. Great job so far, because it's consistent. And there are certainly seeds of foreshadowing where we know Blizzard wants the story to go. We see Saurok telling Garrosh that he will not allow Garrosh to take him down the wrong path. We see that, in Garrosh's eagerness to prove himself, he will overexert and overextend against the Alliance, whom he sees as a danger to his own pride and glory. We're on the right track.

But in Cataclysm, I think we see that Blizzard saw the endpoint and started to push for it, and as a result things stopped being consistent. Sure, Garrosh wants to push for war against the Alliance. That's totally in his character, it's consistent with what we've seen before, and there is no longer anyone to buffer him since he's Warchief. It's all consistent. And we also see where he wants to win for the glory of the Horde, and rebuffs those who fight underhanded. The scene in Stonetalon, his chastizing Sylvannas - perfect. But then you see glimpses like in Wolfheart, where he employs Magnataur and Proto-Drakes. That makes no sense for Garrosh to do. He wants to win for the glory of the Horde. To be consistent with his character, Garrosh would want to win outright, in a full fight with the Alliance. So why use these outside monsters? Isn't that a reflection on how the Horde can't win on its own? He makes no mention of this. They just show up.

And it gets worse in MoP. Manabombing Theramore? Direct contradiction with what we've seen before. Infusing characters with questionable power, vis a vis the Divine Bell and the Sha? Direct contradiction with what we've seen before, and in a violation of his character since his father made the very same mistake that set him on his path. While I certainly see the value in getting the story to round out that way in symmetry, it has to make sense. And in MoP, it doesn't. You never get to see his thinking, why he's pushing more desperately for more powerful weapons. We're supposed to intuit that he's not doing well in the war against the Alliance, and so he's resorting to cheap tricks and questionable methods to succeed. But we're not given this insight into his character - he just does, and we have to do the legwork.

The key is consistency, and if you're breaking the mold from what came before, then you have to account for it. It seems like Blizzard is pushing and pushing for Garrosh to be this sad story of replicating the sins of the past. The theme is fine, the arc is great, but you have to earn the payoff. There isn't a single point in the books, or in the game, that shows Garrosh reflecting that he's making more questionable choices, but then justifying it with his gains. You know what would be a great scene in Tides of War? Have him consider taking the manabomb route, have him acknowledge that it's beneath the Horde, but then justifying it by predicting the victory to come with it. A simple scene would change an out of character moment into something bigger. Because you're allowing the reader to see that what came before is still fueling him, but it's now affecting him as a character. Have him actually say out loud, or think internally, that his expected rampage over the Alliance has turned into a brutal war that he didn't expect to be so hard, and have him think about how he NEEDS to do these things now to get his victory. We see dissent from Vol'jin, from Baine, and we always just see Garrosh rudely dismiss them as weak. Sure, that's in his character. But isn't it *also* in Garrosh's character that he was ashamed his father was so weak to turn to demon blood? It's at his very core, it's what drives him. So if you are going to have him turn to some external power, you have to show that, yeah, he's violating what he believed before, but he's doing it because he believes it to be right. He'd be dead wrong, but at least then we'd get the impression that this is him spiralling, as opposed to, "Well, he's just gone evil."

I don't mean to make this all about Garrosh, but I hope you see the larger point. You can have characters do things that they normally wouldn't, but you have to EARN those moments. They have to make sense given the context you've introduced the characters, and then consistent with their journey. Garrosh's endpoint is TOTALLY in character for him, but Blizzard didn't earn many of the moments along the way. And you take what was and could have been a fascinating, compelling character and turned him into a plot device. When you're writing, you have to pay attention to the time between the "BIG MOMENTS", and make sure that the characters are behaving consistently. When they do, and then you get to those big moments, you get an extremely rewarding pay off. When you don't, you show the seams of your story and you lose people.
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100 Draenei Paladin
13000
Lets try and stay focused. This isn't what the topic is about. Opinions and such.


Yes, yes, I agree. Just something that's been killing me fore a while. Any who, more compelling characters... Hmm...

More halflings (*gets slapped*)! All joking aside, I like bubbly characters. What with all the death and mayhem and war, it's quite refreshing to see a silly and optimistic character. I, personally, would love to see a "damsel-in-distress" at some point. Male, female (personally female, just for old-fashioned's sake), doesn't really matter. Would love to see a very cowardly man that you have to save a lot that slowly gets "slightly" better.
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90 Human Mage
13505
03/29/2013 04:43 PMPosted by Starwishgirl
Lets try and stay focused. This isn't what the topic is about. Opinions and such.


Yes, yes, I agree. Just something that's been killing me fore a while. Any who, more compelling characters... Hmm...

More halflings (*gets slapped*)! All joking aside, I like bubbly characters. What with all the death and mayhem and war, it's quite refreshing to see a silly and optimistic character. I, personally, would love to see a "damsel-in-distress" at some point. Male, female (personally female, just for old-fashioned's sake), doesn't really matter. Would love to see a very cowardly man that you have to save a lot that slowly gets "slightly" better.


That reminds me of a video I watched on Youtube. It was complaining about a movie where a man was in danger a lot. It was amusing. Anyways female characters. We love them cause they are girls and being a guy we're interested in them.

It's not bad to have them be dependant on a male. Look we don't need any feminism propaganda characters here to tell off men that "WE DON'T NEED NO MAN." It's shoehornned and if a character is like that so be it. Same thing with other catagories.
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89 Pandaren Monk
9855
What a wonderful topic and I was quite pleased to read all of the responses, bravo on those well thought out responses!!

Now let me put in my own two cents.

For what makes a character compelling is that you want to know as much as you can about them. Everything about that character clicks and comes alive when you read about them. So what kind of characters are they though? Let me show some examples:

Deathwing pre-cata. Here was the thinking man's villian. Convincing everyone else in the dragonflights that he was still a good guy while manipulating everything in the background to achieve his goals and his end. Did he always succeed? No but did he always fail? no. But you knew with DW that he had his goals and he was always workign towards them whether you knew what he wanted or not. And it made sense for the story that they were telling. Now fast forward to his Praestor days and he becomes even more layered and while the humans are battling the orcs, he is moving all of the chess pieces into place, manipulating the humans and later on with his kids the Dark Horde to achieve his ends, and they were multiple. Everything the guy did was planned out and he didn't let anyone get in his way. And I wanted to know more about him and his history and just what kind of schemes he was cooking up.

Then came the Cata DW who was reduced to just a Hulk going around and smashing stuff. Anything that that was the pre-Cata DW was wiped away for a villian that I didn't have any level of love or respect for and I just wanted to kill him to put him out of his misery. It would have been like going to Northrend, and having Arthas just go around mindlessly attacking things.

And now let's look at some of the more recent characters that Blizzard has graced us with.

Varian- I loved him in the comics, in game not so much. He had a tragic backstory and wanted to do right by his son. He had his demons and he overcame them, but it was how and all the circumstances that really destroyed him as a character for me and I really want him to just go away now. Three times we thought that we had the anger issue fixed and we suddenly find out that it's because he is the chosen of a "night elf" deity and that's not including Elune. Seriously? We can't have a kickass character that doesn't have to be a superpowered hero? And now we get into MoP and Cata as well and suddenly he is "in charge" of the Alliance without ryhme or reason except he is the leader of the biggest faction within the Alliance. And while he continues his rise, it's put the other leaders and factions not called "human" into the shade. It made him unbelievable and not someone that I care about anymore. A characters arc and story should make sense for the story that is written and the plot that it demands.

Genn- I loved him in pre-WoW. While the rest of the Alliance leaders were all buddy budy, for the most part, he was someone not like the others and a real selfish prick that covered the love for his people and to keep them out of the war as much as possible schtick for his own problems that he had. This made him compelling and in the short story and CoTW and even WOlfheart, it was ratched up. But then in game it completely fell apart once you left the starting zone and a once great character was reduced to Varian's lapdog and a cameo in MoP. So then it really made you wonder, was Genn not telling the truth when he talked about Gilneas being the best friend the Alliance would ever have and he would make up for past mistakes? Because it appears in game and even out of game, that the Gilneans have all but disappeared and really no longer care what the Alliance does, unless it involves Gilneas. Alas, we don't have a clue since they aren't Varian and Stormwind.

Garrosh- So much waste. It's really sad what is happening to him. In BC, he was broken, but was redemmed by Thrall talking up his dad as a hero to the orc races. Then we got to see him grow as a "true orc" suddenly cast into a world where such orcs had to learn what it meant to be in Azeroth. Then in Cata we saw him continue to grow as he embraced the new role thrust upon and tried to live up to his own ideals and the ideals of the orcs. And now it's all been thrown away in MoP where his character has turned 180 for no reason except we need a villian for the expansion, and it's going to be Garrosh. Some of the best villians are the ones that you can actually have some sympthay for and love to hate. Darth Vader, Two-Face as examples. Garrosh has become a train wreck character.

Now take a look at Arthas, that was a compelling story. We saw him rise and we saw him fall and it was realistic. He wanted the best for people, but he was blinded by his own pride and never understood what that meant. He was too into himself and thought that only he could defeat Mal'Ganis and you were either with him or against him. "Only Sith deal in absolutes". Even in WotLK, you could still see that. He had it all planned out. He was going to turn everyone into copies of himself. They were going to understand what he was about and why he did the things he did. But he never truly understood what that meant and what sacrifice really meant and he was killed.

And unfortunately, in game right now, I don't see anything that makes a character truly compelling except for maybe Wrathion. Jaina had some promise, but she keeps flipping back and forth it's really hard to wrap yourself in that character. Anduin it appears has some huge blind spots and it gulliable to a T. Varian takes up all of the oxygen in the room. SKy Admiral Rodgers seems to be destined to be a raid boss. And the one character I'd love to know more about is Maiev and Magatha Grimtotem but both are MIA. Now those are two very compelling characters I'd love to see more of.
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100 Draenei Death Knight
7320
Before I start in general, I'm going to say a few things about the gender issue, as thinking about it with regard to WoW is something that has been bothering me quite a bit recently. In general, Azeroth is presented as a world with near gender equality. There are not noticeable in-game social barriers to female characters obtaining power or fighting--indeed, we're as likely to see female npc soldiers as males. This is a valid way for a world to exist, and one that I would personally like to live in, but it is also a source of the problem the game's story tends to have, when it comes to gender.

Why do I say this? Essentially, because it is presented as such, and yet the characters who matter seem much more like they were written for ancient Greece or one of the many cultures in between, where tales of women having power were essentially cautionary tales as to why they should not have power. Essentially every strong female character either ends up doing something evil or ends up being unable to handle the power that they have on their own. Those who succeed and do not become evil tend to be those who become subordinate to a stronger male, as others have said.

Now, taken alone, one or even a lot of instances of stories like this are not a problem. I am not trying to say that women are going to do better or worse--in fact, given the sort of world this is, we should have roughly equal successes and failures. But instead of reading like the sort of gender-neutral world it is presented at on a more overall level, Azeroth reads like a world that should have a male dominated culture, because on the level of characters who actually matter, females are neglected, poorly written, or unable to successfully hold power on their own, and it is almost all major female characters who are like this. Off the top of my head, Vareesa Windrunner is the only counterexample I can think of, and this isa problem because now this is no longer the exception or one of two equally likely possibilities, it is the rule.

On the whole, I suspect this problem is unintentional, and stems from a male-dominated development environment. Forgive me if I am assuming too much here, but I find it easy to believe that this is an unconscious reaction because of writing done by men who don't truly have extensive experience interacting with females, and particularly not with strong females. So, they are unfamiliar with how to portray women, and yet they think they need to portray them differently, and so they unintentionally draw on these ancient (or perhaps not so ancient) archetypes which are still unfortunately deeply embedded in many aspects of our culture to this day, particularly since our society now is the directly descendant of the societies which would have more consciously wanted to create these images.

And so, despite that I don't perfectly agree with it, I think that the approach of designing a character without thinking about gender much, particularly in a world portrayed as having quite a bit of gender equality, is a much better approach than trying unsuccessfully to create differences that end up having unfortunate, unintentional implications. And yes, it would be very wise to have an editor for the storyline in game. Any good book will have a skilled editor, and I do not see why the game should be any different in that regard. Authors are very prone to missing things in their own work, particularly when it comes to this sort of thing. And I cannot believe that this has had an editor of any skill work on it, because, as the son of a professional editor myself, I can say with some certainty that things like this would have been noticed and presumably corrected. The existence of this thread suggests that it is not intentional.

With all of that said, though, let us move on to individual characters. I will agree with much of what has been said about good characters being internally consistent and someone you can relate to. I will also agree to flaws with the caveat that a character needs to not be dominated by these; even a villain who is so consumed by flaws that they have little else is not interesting. No, rather there needs to be something admirable enough to make a person care about them. This is why, as many have said, Dullwing was a terrible villain. Aside from physical imposingness, he had literally nothing interesting about him because he was a weak-willed imbecile who was so consumed by his insanity that nothing admirable remained. Similarly, his cultists were quite uninspiring on the whole.

On the other hand, the Cult of the Damned was a much more interesting organization because they did have something left. They still had the will to want something for themselves--immortality, even in undeath--and so they were pursuing a somewhat understandable and even admirable goal, despite it being in a very evil way. In that sense, I would infinitely prefer a character who chooses to be evil and takes up the mantle wholeheartedly than a reluctant or "corrupted" villain. I say "corrupted" because I don't mean corrupted in the way Arthas was corrupted, I mean corrupted in the sense of old god created insanity, demonic/sha possession, etc. Those things can (potentially, but not even usually) be tragic, but they're ultimately less than compelling because there was no choice.

Given that, it bothers me quite a bit that there is such a high degree of "war is bad" sentiment from the game despite the fact that the same people who create this give us infinite reasons to want war. The orcs and forsaken have consistently chosen to continue committing evil acts, and despite blood elves being my favorite races, I often find myself hating to play Horde characters because I feel morally uncomfortable with doing things there. Yet Alliance characters seem to either be anti-war or ready to plunge off the deep end. Gods forbid that someone want to get revenge without doing so in ways just as morally unacceptable as the Horde's own actions. I feel that characters who are unable to have righteous anger without going off the deep end can never be compelling.

In this respect, Jaina is an excellent example, and she plays into both this and the female part of my post. Instead of actually taking revenge on the orcish war machine and actually using her considerable magical prowess to say, spearhead a counterattack to break the back of the Horde operations somewhere, she goes into near supervillain territory to the point that she would do the same thing that Hellscream did. But once she decides not to do this, she pretty much uses the elementals that she summoned once and then goes back to neutrality. There is nothing compelling in this, because the changes are too drastic and when she should actually have righteous anger, it becomes almost insane, genocidal anger that practically disappears after she is talked out of it. By males, I might add.

And then it pretty much happens all over again. Almost the same cycle plays out in the purge of Dalaran, where she takes her revenge too far and into morally questionable grounds, and then is basically told she was wrong by a male and that she needed to listen to him. At the very least she doesn't go back to neutrality this time, but she still seems emotionally unstable, a conclusion supported by her extreme flip-flops of conviction without even considering the more reasonable middle ground. I can almost guarantee you that, if I was studying WoW in a history class a few hundred years from now, this story would be portrayed as one of our culture's cautionary tales about why women should not be given power. And it's also one of the reasons that Alliance players continually expect to get the short end of the stick from story.
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91 Blood Elf Paladin
10035
I really think that most of the characters in WoW are very well done--I can relate to them in much the same way as I can with normal people. Honestly, even Garrosh is far more understandable and relatable than some of the forum regulars.

For me, a compelling character is so hard to just label, because I find both Garrosh and Jaina very compelling. Oddly, despite the fact that I play exclusively horde characters and feel a connection to the faction and the people in it, I am earnestly sharpening my weapons for Garrosh's very thick skull, and am likewise hoping that Jaina isn't next on the chopping block.

So do I hate Garrosh? Very much so. While I don't Role Play necessarily, I have an understanding of who my characters are and how they'd act, and as a paladin, everything Garrosh does is deeply repugnant (especially since I started playing after the purification of the Sunwell). Despite this, I do find him a deeply compelling character.

In the most basic sense, a compelling character is an interesting character and an engaging character. You have to want to interact with them, want to know their story and either help or harm them. Male or female, sitting in "established gender roles" or not, it's that character's struggles in the world and the path they take that defines them to me, and lead to some of my most enjoyable times in this game.
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90 Blood Elf Death Knight
3865
I think examples would suffice.

Illidan and Arthas there you go two sides of the same coin both there good and evil sides were well written.
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