If there's anything i'm sick of it's bad villains in videogames. Be they a world destroyer, a sadist or just a huge prick, a bad villain is easy to decipher, even moreso than a hero. Villains are very important to a game's story. I'm not really skilled at making a villain myself but i know what makes a good villain. Here i'll list some examples, i hope indie dev's will take some of these ideas and share their own because they are the cornerstone of the industry right now and if we want games to become any less bland in the future, we need to share our ideas to stop these godawful villains from appearing in videogames.
Voice is power
One of the most easily recognizable traits of a villain is his/her voice. Villains need a powerful voice to convey their dialogue. You want to make the player fear them, you want to show their superiority. Through voice this can be easily accomplished alone. If you have a strong voice, you're pretty much half way there.
Give them an interesting goal with lots of depth, conceal it with mystery to give the player a surprise
Sometimes you wonder why they are the psychotic, sadistic, evil masterminds that they appear to be. Perhaps this has something to do with their characteristics or their past. Or perhaps they have ambitions and goals that are beyond human comprehension. Destroying/taking over the world is not a goal, it is but a means to an end. There has to be a reason for willing to commit such acts. Of course everyone would like the fantasy of controlling everything but we lack the willpower and the skill to do it. There has to be a reason, a very strong reason. A villain must be extremely passionate about their goals. Either that or perhaps it is something to do with the villains past. Perhaps he/she had a bad upbringing or maybe they were experimented on at a very young age and something messed up their mind. Be creative about your villain, and make him/her as passionate about their goals as you are about them.
Ok, i think we've all experienced at least one of these at some point. Though tropes are very hard to avoid, try to avoid using them excessively and if you must use them, try to make them seem logical. If a villain teleports, they must be either a really powerful mage or... if you're going with a sci-fi setting, give them a device that allows them to teleport. Oh and don't just have them teleport instantaneously with no explanation, give them an incantation or show some sort of device and have them press a button or something. Regardless, i'm sick of seeing villains who teleport with no explanation whatsoever.
Magical barriers are less common of a trope but they are annoying because they usually come out of nowhere. If they have a magical barrier in a cutscene, why don't they have one when you fight them? I mean if a villain can easily set up a barrier in a cutscene instantly, surely they will be able to use the barrier in combat and if it's unbreakable, the villain is surely invincible and killing him off would create a plot hole.
Excessive monologue is the fastest way to put people to sleep and the quickest way to make me laugh. If you're going to add any type of monologue, keep it minimal, don't go overboard. Villains need to get straight to the point whilst mocking their opponents and questioning their reasoning for opposing them. Of course during the final confrontation you can give away all your plans but likewise, don't go overboard, keep it brief and get straight to the point, let the hero talk and just sit there grinning as they talk about justice for like half an hour. once they're finished get ready to piss in their coffee before pulverizing them.
Creative dialogue, use complex words, i.e expand your villain's vocabulary (and your own) to enhance their dialogue and give them memorable quotes. Metaphors help too, try to make it as flamboyant as possible
My avatar fits this perfectly, you may not be able to see the dialogue due to the poor quality but it's good (yes it's a comic not a videogame but it's based on Warcraft so i thought it would be relevant).
What makes a villain memorable is his/her dialogue. Villains need an expansive vocabulary to show their superiority over the filthy heroes. Great dialogue also gives them more appeal to the player. Just because they're villains shouldn't make them any less likeable than heroes, they need charisma, they need charm, you don't want them to be remembered for being a nuisance, you want them to be remembered for being a great villain. Don't be afraid to be flamboyant with your words, make it so the heroes can't comprehend, make it so that it keeps the player guessing, a complex vocabulary can make monologues much more enjoyable and harder to decipher. Have them taunt the heroes with their superior vocabulary. The point is, words speak louder than actions. You could have a clown with a chainsaw who is completely mute or a charismatic butler who just happens to have a hidden agenda and uses his strong words to puzzle the player.
Give them a role and have them play it well
Is your villain up close and personal? Or is he/she a a backstage villain, sipping their cup of tea as they watch the heroes suffer from afar? (if you do this, make it logical, actually don't do this, i'm not talking about backstage villains, i'm talking about watching the heroes from afar. It happens so many times where the villain is looking through a magical mirror where he/she can see the heroes suffering at their hands).
One backstage villain i really hated was Rowen from Resonance Of Fate, probably the most boring villain ever written in video game history, i hated pretty much every backstage scene with him and Sullivan, god they were just terrible, please kill it with fire.
Enough of that, lets talk about how to make a good backstage villain. First, make sure they have some connection to the plot, perhaps they are the leader of the guards who attacked you earlier... or perhaps they are just a pathetic lapdog who serves the real villain. Secondly, they need to formulate some sort of plan, they need to recognize the damage and the threat that the heroes pose to their ambitions. They need a way to snuff them out and quick, keep conversations brief and keep the villain enshrouded in mystery, you could just have them call their subordinates to eliminate the heroes for them but perhaps you could do something more creative. It's all about building suspense, don't leak too much, just make sure the player know that the villain is there and that he is coming for them.
Finally they should be doing something off camera. Surely they can't be sitting on their throne all day, they must have better things to do. A true villain is always active be he/she in the players face or not. They should be working on achieving their goals, not sat around letting their minions do it for them. If they are truly passionate about it, they will do it themselves, even if the villain is lazy.
If they are up close and personal, be sure to have them make the best of their time in the spotlight, occasionally actions speak lounder than words with these types of villains, but be sure to let the hero know how pathetic he/she is, master the art of mocking young padowan... uh i mean sith lord.
Don't be a sore loser
There is determination and then there is just being a coward, if the heroes are beating you to a pulp, don't teleport away, keep fighting to the death. Perhaps add a plot twist mid battle to interfere or have the villain defeat the heroes but leave them to suffer whilst walking off camera like a boss rather than finishing them off. When a villain is defeated, don't be afraid to have them admit defeat, even villains can have honor. No matter how close to your goal you were or how determined you were, dying honorably can help emphasize your ambitions, make the hero regret their actions through words, tell them that they made a huge mistake and that your ambitions were their only hope or tell them that you'll be waiting for them in hell, haunting them every night. Just don't run away. The Dreadlords are an exception to this rule.
There are two villains who fall into this catagory. Gaius from Tales Of Xillia and Grazel from White Knight Chronicles both make their escape as the heroes are about to finish them off. Nobody likes a coward, villains are no exception, running away from a fight is dishonorable and it just makes you appear to be a weakling in front of the heroes, you definitely don't want that do you?
lets play spot the difference... if you can spot the difference between these two images... you win a point...
And just to wrap this up, allow me to present to you the worst villain in a video game ever:
Just an outspoken fan of rpg's and gaming in general who likes to rant about first world gamer problems because there are so many.
My blogs mostly consist of reviews/rants of games of all generations, particularly rpg's. I try to blend my reviews with both facts and opinion so that people can see from my own experiences and decide for themselves. i will also tend to review older titles because i still believe that there are few people out there who haven't played these awesome titles and deserve to give them a chance.
Oh and as for some negative's you might point out, i can't spell for my life and my grammar is terrible. Plus i like to exaggerate my points a little to make things more fun, yet some people are dense enough to take them as fact.
Here is my response to those intelligent enough to point them out:
Heres my review rating system:
Masterpiece (Same as masterful but for overall score, will be based on opinion), of course it won't be perfect in every way but it will be close to perfect, no game is perfect.
Masterful - Perfect in every way (Formerly 9.5+) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)
Exceptional - Goes way beyond expectations (Formerly between 9.1 and 9.4) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)
Excellent - Does what it needs to and provides a first class experience (9.0) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)
Great - Does what it needs to, provides a high class experience (8.5-8.9) (recommended to all fans of the genre)
Good - Does what it needs to and provides a very enjoyable experience (was 8.0 - 8.5) (recommended to all fans of the genre)
Satisfactory - Does what it needs to, provides an experience which is just enough to satisfy the player (Formerly between 7.5 - 7.9) (Reccommended to read the review if unsure)
Decent - Does what it needs to, experience can very depending on the players tastes (Formerly 7.0-7.4) (Recommended to read the review if you plan on picking up the game to see if it's for you)
So-So - Not for everyone, has some issues, may be worth a try if patient enough to cope with it's flaws (Formerly 6.5 - 6.9) (Reccommened to read the review if you're interested in the title)
Flawed - Alot of flaws, difficult to recommend, some may be able to pass them by but will require a lot of patience (Formerly 5.0 - 6.4) (Reccommened to read the review if you're interested in the title)
Awful - (Formerly 4.9 and below) (If you see this, don't pick the game up for this catagory)
Kill It With Fire - (Same as Awful but for overall score, based on opinion which in this case is usually right if you see the game, you know what to do, don't buy this and if you do, get some gasoline and a match)