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Article - 'The Less Important Characters' by Xanqui

An item about Graphics/Audio posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

You could call this the sequel to "The Lesser Known Main Characters", but this is quite different. Xanqui explains how to create characters that aren't main characters.

Body

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you heard the names “Rufus”, “Scarlet”, or “Heidegger”? If you’re a hardcore fan of Final Fantasy VII like myself, then you’d know what game they were from. These characters played an important role of the game, but weren’t quite significant enough to be remembered as well as Sephiroth or Cloud. But perhaps you might remember the scene where weapon attacks Midgar, destroying the upper tower, and killing some guy in a cool white trench coat? That was Rufus. Or what about the lady who convinced the people of Corel to use Mako instead of coal? That was Scarlet. Heidegger would best be remembered by his stupid laugh “Gya-ha-ha”. He was also the one who ordered the firing of the Junon cannon during the amazing weapon raid scene.

So what is it that these characters do, anyway? They play many different roles in the storyline. But, like The Lesser-Known Main Characters, they do the things that main characters can’t be there for. For example: you wouldn’t want Sephiroth to run Shinra and be the ONLY evil guy in the game, would you?

They also play another role. They give a different perspective of the storyline. The Shinra also wanted to defeat Sephiroth, but they had other plans as well. They provided conflict for Cloud and the party throughout the game so that it wasn’t just a crappy revenge story that we’ve seen ten thousand times before.

So how do you develop these characters? Well, think of them like the main characters. Give them a little background, such as reasons for them being part of the storyline. Why was Rufus in the story? Because his father was the President of Shinra, but he was killed. (Though that sounds a bit more like a monarchy, and not a republic. Meh.)

Throughout the story, these characters must interact (according to their personality) with the main characters. The Shinra hated Cloud and the gang, so they were generally rude to them, and kept picking fights. The Shinra are generally rude people who like to pick fights. It’s that simple. But, like the characters I described in The Lesser-Known Main Characters article, they deserve some time to shine in front of the audience without the aid of the heroes.

I’ve been focusing a lot on the Shinra from Final Fantasy VII, but I truly believe that they are the best example of these characters. They were what made that game’s storyline, in my opinion. Of course, there are other less significant characters in other great stories as well. But the important thing is to give them a reason for being the story, a cause, and a fate. By fate I mean end of their story.

Like the heroes, these characters need to complete a story as well. They must achieve, or fail to achieve a goal, which could have been affected by whatever the heroes did. They could possibly find a new job, and decide to leave crime for good (if they’re bad guys), or they could be killed by an evil force. Perhaps they could be sentenced to a life of eternal torment, which can always end up being quite humorous in a sick, twisted sort of way.

If you learn just one thing from this article, let it be this: CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IS VITAL. This is the reason for storylines. Just because they aren’t very important to the audience doesn’t mean they aren’t important to the storyline. While you work with these characters, put as much care into them as you do with the heroes. J.R.R. Tolkein did this for even the least significant characters, but look where those books went. As long as a character affects the story in some way, you owe it to them to let the audience know what happened to him or her. Not to mention, the DEPTH.

A good way to show what happened to the characters in a game is at the ending, before the hero’s story ends. Final Fantasy 8 did a wonderful job of this. While the I watched the cutscene at the end of the game, it left me on a cliffhanger, and I didn’t know what happened to Squall. Before it was revealed what happened to him, a really long cutscene showed all of the other characters that I’d pretty much forgotten, and where they ended up in life. Then, at the very end, I found out what happened to Squall. It was great.

Whether it be like Biggs and Wedge, the Shinra, or even the Al-Bhed, as long as these characters have a reason for being there, a cause, and a fate (which all of them did), they will provide that much depth to your story. This is a great way to prevent the casual “Hero V. Villain” story, and instead make it a “Hero meets insignificant characters, does stuff, deals with them, and then fights the villain.” Obviously, it’ll be a little more in-depth than that, but you get the idea…I hope.

Anyway, I hope you found this article helpful. But I’m just glad I didn’t have to do another preview. Now, give me good feedback!