Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Video Game Writing #2
Chris Avellone blogs on writing for video games again, this time answering a question on how much background material is written for NPCs. As an example, Chris has supplied the info on Kreia from KotOR2 from the design docs - a treat for anyone who is a fan:
Answer: Attached is the amount of background material we wrote for Kreia on Knights of the Old Republic II, if this gives you an indicator.
My advice: A lot of what you imagine a character to be is simply not going to make it when the rubber hits the road and you start scripting that character in the game engine and in conversations - it's only then they truly find their voice and their theme, so I try not to get bogged down with too much backstory. Anything more than a page or two I find is probably enough to get started and go from there. For example, some of the events in the first draft of what we intended for Kreia ended up not surviving once we were designing full force and discovered there were other more interesting things we could do with the character rather than what we initially thought. But hey, that's part of the design process.
Note that a lot of the "backstory" for Kreia also involves concrete details for what a voice actor needs to know - since it's becoming a staple in the industry that every character is voice-acted, a lot of that stuff we need to write out for the studio (and for our own reference).