Creating Characters: A Case Study in Tybalt and Trehearne

I tell you why in GW2 Tybalt makes you feel unique while Trehearne makes you feel jealous.

Guild Wars 2 has some great writers. I really respect the team that makes the game. They've written great characters, and one that many players love is named Tybalt Leftpaw. He's endearing, funny, and lovable.

There is a character, though, that gets consistent and passionate hate. This man, Trehearne,  is considered irritating, self-centered, and boring. I want to tell you what makes one so good and the other so bad, but I want to be sure you know that not everybody adores Tybalt and not everyone despises Trehearne. These are generalizations from what I've seen people say in the community and my own opinions. 

Treahearne. People don't like him. Some say it's the voice-acting. Others say it's the art of his non-distinct outfit. I disagree. I think the basic problem with Trehearne is that you get jealous of him. At level 50, he swoops into your story out of absolutely nowhere and every other non-player character in the game suddenly forgets you exist and talks to mild-mannered Trehearne like he is the most interesting person in the world. It's especially irritating because previously, you were having a pretty good time, saving the world with your friends--and then suddenly your friends are gone and you are playing second-fiddle to Trehearne and his elitist attitude.

There was, once upon a time, another character who beguarded your story. Her name was Kormir. People questioned that narrative move, but there wasn't nearly as much hate for Kormir as there is for Trehearne. The reason is that we see Kormir from the first cutscene of the game. Her rise to power is gradual. Trehearne, on the other hand, shows up after many missions have gone by and you've already been playing for dozens of hours to take over your story. 

Some will argue that the reason the developers of Guild Wars 2 decided to have Trehearne be the central player in their endgame as opposed to having the player be the central character is that they needed to point to someone in a future game or expansion as the person who slayed the dragon.

It can't be the player because we all have different names. This is silly, though, because they've conquered this narrative barrier before. Jora was a major character in Guild Wars who is consistently mentioned in lore as a great hero of the norn. There are statues and stories devoted to her all over the place, but she garners almost no hate. She did it the same way Kormir did. She was the first character you met in the game. She is tall, beautiful, and important from day one, so it doesn't bother you when the story is about her. She deserves it. Trehearne doesn't.

While everyone hates on Trehearne there is a character who is his polar opposite. In 20 levels, and just a few missions, the Charr Lightbringer completely endears himself to the character. He does it very simply with humor. He's the player's mentor. He doesn't try to be better than the player because he's already positioned that way. Instead he simply chats to the gamer like any good teacher would: with a smirk and a pat on the shoulder. He jokes with you about his fears, his physical malformations, and his love for apples. He's funny because he's flawed.

With Tybalt you'll laugh and you'll cry because he's your companion. He feels like your brother the way he jabs jokes at you.

What I see as the difference between Tybalt's greatness and Trehearne's failure is that Tybalt shows up early in the story to help you, whereas Treahearne shows up near the end of the story with his own personal goals--entirely separate from the player's wishes. When designers are making characters, they should consider if the person is an adversary or friend. If friend, they need to act in the exact opposite way that Trehearne did. They have to work together and chat with the player. They have to give credit where credit is due. They need to be just a little bit quirky. Then we'll love and accept them.


GameSkinny intern, college student, and lifelong nerd.

Published Oct. 11th 2013

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