Julian Widdows of Swordfish Studios has written a small expose upon the nature of personalities and characters for the key players in Cold Winter, it's time that the world was shown this evil at work - many Bothan spies were used as firewood to deliver this information!
Good guys, bad guys, and shades of Grey.
When you're settling down to develop personalities and characters for the key players in a computer game, you are often, and understandably, drawn towards the clichéd range prevalent throughout the field and beyond, as these are the easiest to source, and subsequently develop and create. We've all seen it - chiselled 30 something hero accompanied by lithe 20 something heroine, Pammy silicon up to her chin and body cut the way only a $300 an hour personal trainer espousing a GI diet and regular colonic irrigation can. To a certain extent this is hard to get away from in a computer game, but it's certainly something we've been aware of when developing the characters for 'Cold Winter' and something we've been keen to avoid. We've always felt it was wholly unrealistic to have characters that are either monastically pure or despotically evil in their motivations, and to this end have tried to create a world where the distinctions are far more malleable and fluid. We've tried to blur the lines as much as possible to make the player's journey more interesting and engaging.
Take Sterling as a prime example. Sterling is by no means your average hero. Beyond the fact that the years are working against him at every turn - he is not a ripped thirty something - Sterling is very much a man in conflict. He doesn't want to be facing a hail of bullets at every turn, putting his life on the line for a cause he knows nothing about and cares for less, yet is clean out of options. He kills because he has to, because it's his job, because it's what he knows how to do. For Sterling this is an out, a final chance to have his place in the sun and to retire and this is his motivation. At no point do we get the sense that Sterling enjoys what he does; in fact more often than not we see that he doesn't. Regardless, he gets on with it, not caring too much about those who fall in front of him. It is a me or thee situation, and Sterling would much rather it were thee. This coldness is equally evident in Parish; a man who thinks nothing of considering a score settled when all he's done is free Sterling from almost certain death and sent him off to, well, almost certain death. Parish uses people as a matter of course. Kim, who he's raised since Sterling rescued her from the Te-Wu, is like a daughter to him, who similarly, he would have no issue sending off to almost certain death. He is the ultimate pragmatist - the end always justifies the means - this is the Tao of Parish. Kim, who could easily have become a mono dimensional game slut, is a horror. I mean, frankly, she's clearly and evidently amoral and totally unhinged. Yet all this bubbles underneath a 'butter wouldn't melt' façade. Although to Sterling she is like a daughter, she is also a completely brutal killer who does not value human life in the slightest. More so than Sterling, Kim enjoys what she does. Not in a sexual way, but with the pride of someone who has found something they're really good at, no matter how distasteful that thing may be.
The early bad guys, on the other hand, do show clear indication of being complete and utter shits. Fariq in particular was a cinch to script, certainly once the basis of the character was down on paper. Most of the time he wrote his own lines, the fat bastard that he is, expletives and brutality falling into place time and time again. The humour ripples through him though, and in some ways this is what makes his cruelty all the more difficult to deal with as it's generally completely unexpected. A large, jovial, villain on PCP, Fariq is hyperactive, schizophrenic, and thoroughly unpredictable. The fact that Salah almost seems to get off on this duality is a worry in and of itself. You really wouldn't want them looking after the children now would you - really, you wouldn't.
John Grey, however, scripted largely by Warren Ellis, is the ultimate man on a journey. John Grey's motivations are ostensibly good - this man is a war hero after all, a decorated pilot, and yet his actions above and beyond those of the obvious villains are the most brutal and unpleasant. To develop a Western character as the ultimate villain was always something we wanted to do in 'Cold Winter' - we didn't want to create a game in which it was East vs West, but rather show that there is good, bad and shades of grey in everyone, and that life is often the deciding factor in which way we go. Circumstance is as much the villain as the players in the story. When we reach the climax with John Grey what should be his redemption is no such thing - John Grey exits 'Cold Winter' still not giving a damn about the little people, but at least feeling a little better about himself. Ultimately the psychological damage of being a super villain for the large part of his life cannot be undone in a matter of days. When we finally resolve the story I hope people don't blink once for the man. The world is a better place without him.