How to make likeable characters

it seems one of the things that is either really good or bad with this franchise is the likeability of characters(marines are usually just cannon fodder) these are the things 343 needs to do to make the characters likeable and someone i would care about if lost

  1. usefulness
    for the love of god, any main characters that show up in combat need to be useful, that’s what gets people attached is having someone they like because they are extremely helpful in combat. I loved the ODST characters because of their personality and usefulness, i could actually give them good weapons i might suck at using like the sniper or spartan laser, or get a gun they have that might be full on ammo, it makes them more likeable. In contrast we have the near useless AI in Reach and very little character development and no weapons switching, they were so useless i never felt anything when they were lost because i knew i didn’t loose a useful ally. the Spartans in halo wars with next to no development were more likeable, because they were useful, they were an asset that was extremely helpful in combat.

  2. Death(obvious spoilers)
    something this franchise is no stranger too is killing of major characters, there’s a good way and a bad way to do it. The problem Reach had with death was that on reflection, almost all of noble teams death were so obviously shoehorned in.

Jorge was a plausible death, and he did a sacrifice combined with his personality made it a sad death, he was fine. Kat had less of a personality and no usefulness in combat, plus the fact that the covenant had a phantom around was beyond unlikely since in the same cut scene Jun said the covenant was pulling out, and if the ship had stayed to kill Spartans why not attack the rest of Noble team? Carters death was ridiculous, if 6 and Emile had stayed in the Pelican he would have been fine and they would have gotten closer to the pillar of autumn easily. plus he didn’t need to suicide bomb the scarab, he had it distracted, Emile and 6 could have easily run past it while he had it’s attention, it was pointless beyond belief and i felt nothing because it carried no meaning and was obviously stupid. Emile was almost as bad, he clearly knew there were more covenant around him and would have logically turned to fight the rest, plus, he had a motion tracker that would have told him the elite was right behind him, he would have known it was coming. and 6’s death was stupid because the only reason he needed to sacrifice himself was because of Emile’s pointless death, plus he was deep in the middle of enemy territory for no given explanation, he could have easily stayed at the base, shot down more ships to clear the airspace and evac with the rest of the marines still on the ground. plus his personality was in limbo, Bungie wanted to make him you the player, in the universe, but at the same time he wasn’t a silent protagonist and feels completely underdeveloped, his whole character was just in limbo between being a person in the universe and being the player.

  1. personality
    a character is so much more interesting when they have personality. it makes them much more likeable and if developed with enough depth can expand the universe at the same time. make characters feel different from one another, give them their quirks and such like Palmer calling the scientists egg heads(on a side note i don’t get why people dislike her so much, she calls people egg heads, so what? and she tried to kill Halsey because she was ordered to by the head of ONI, someone who kidnapped children to fight insurrectionists.)

> marines are usually just cannon fodder

I would love to have marines that you care about that could still die. Like have a specific model for them in a cutscene or something, and whether they live or not is up to how well you do in battle. Enough to the point that you actually cared about the marine, without it being some cheesy cutscene or stuff.

> (on a side note i don’t get why people dislike her so much, she calls people egg heads, so what? and she tried to kill Halsey because she was ordered to by the head of ONI, someone who kidnapped children to fight insurrectionists.)

She’s forgettable and undefined. The only things that really define her character are:

  1. She says egghead all the time. Saying egghead isn’t offensive, it’s just silly hearing it so often.
  2. She’s bossy. She -Yoinks!- at her fellow soldiers all the time for no real reason (other than for the writers to clearly display she’s in-charge, i.e. she’s being forced onto us).
  3. She’s a high ranking Spartan (as reinforced by the above).

It’s hard for me to list things that make a memorable character. In general the characters we remember have their own personalities and quirks along with interesting motives and stories. Palmer is the exact opposite, she barely has any personality to her, and there’s nothing really interesting about her or her story, she’s just another Marine in a crowd of generic Marines.

Yes, I know she’s a Spartan IV and not a Marine, that wasn’t a literal statement.

Let’s compare her to…eh…343GS.
-He was created to watch over the ring.
-His solitude affected his sanity over time, leading him to question his role and existence and often cloud his judgement between what is and isn’t the most logical action.
-He is conflicted between doing whats best for humanity and doing what he has always been instructed to do.
-He has a generally jolly demeanor and a great passion for knowledge.

I could probably go on but already we see the difference in depth between the two.

To be brutally honest though, Bungie had their share of forgettable characters as well (Lord Hood, Miranda Keyes, Captain Keyes, etc.) Seriously, killing off characters doesn’t suddenly make them relevant, was I supposed to care that Miranda died? Because I didn’t even remotely. And to be honest their notable characters (Chief, Cortana, Arbiter) still aren’t as developed as they could be.

To answer why people don’t like Sarah Palmer, I’ve gone into detail on her in the past. I think she was pushed too much on the fanbase early on. She had a brief appearance in the main Halo 4 campaign and she wasn’t bad in it. Yet in Spartan Ops she had a much more prevalent role and, as stated above, came off as really overbearing. Between her infamous hatred of “eggheads” and use of “bad guys” constantly, it really felt like the character was trying too hard to seem badass. Throw in her cartoonishly powerful pistols laying waste to everything they hit, her shocking emotional outbrusts, ie hitting the holographic table on the bridge and her mini-meltdown after Jul 'Mdama and a now unconscious Halsey got away and bashing of Halsey in general, admittedly more of a personal issue for me, she didn’t have much of a chance.

Her role only expanded after she got her own comic mini-series and a lead role in Spartan Assault. I know Initiation was meant to shed some light on the origins of the Spartan-IVs, but it really felt like a superhero comic book trying to act like a Halo story. We are talking about a story whose main antagonist was a “prototype” Spartan-IV who went insane because of her augmentations, that is one of the most cliche supervillain origins in and of itself. The whole story was juts ridiculous and pretty much was set out to make Palmer look more impressive. It didn’t exactly work out too well if reviews and opinions from those who read it are to be believed.

I mean, the comic tries to rationalize her hatred of scientists with this gem: “Soldiers don’t act like they’re smarter than me just because it took them eight years longer to get out of school.”

Is that supposed to make us sympathize with her? To me it just feels like projection. And to top it all off, this comes after we are told she is giving her doctors a hard time after she was injured in a previous battle. They are trying to get you healed and keep you alive, being a -Yoink!- to them because at some point some scientist made you feel dumb is not something to be admired.

But then again, she is MUCH better in Halo: Escalation. I think at the end of the day, certain writers at 343 Industries know how to do character development better than others. I mean, they do know how to make likable characters, if not then Lasky wouldn’t exist.

> > marines are usually just cannon fodder
>
> I would love to have marines that you care about that could still die. Like have a specific model for them in a cutscene or something, and whether they live or not is up to how well you do in battle. Enough to the point that you actually cared about the marine, without it being some cheesy cutscene or stuff.

you don’t even need specific models or anything, they just need to be useful, and it can be done without upsetting the games balance. Look at something like Half-life 2, the AI companions are fantastic and the squads you get later on are even better because they automatically pick up better weapons that they find, and the medics will give you health kits.

i do agree with the cutscene stuff, they should appear in cutscenes if you keep them alive long enough. It was really annoying in ODST how i could keep one of the guys at the ONI tower alive till the very end…but he doesn’t get on the pelican because the devs don’t expect them to last that long with their bad AI.

I think that 343 knows what they are doing with Palmer, first they make her hard to like and later she will become more liked. Perhaps they are making her character grow during the series rather than put a totally complete character in.

> Between her infamous hatred of “eggheads” and use of “bad guys” constantly, it really felt like the character was trying too hard to seem badass.

And don’t forget that every UNSC Weapon/Vehicle is a “toy”. We can’t let the Covenant steal our toys!!!

On topic, I agree that in-game usefulness is a big deciding factor for whether I like a character or not. I think that personality development is a key factor to making a likable character, I felt that Reach had very little character development, and I didn’t feel too torn up when (most of) Noble Team was killed. Giving a character a “bada**” death doesn’t make up for poor character development, in the same way that giving a character “bada**” dialogue and giving them Super-Action-Hero scenes doesn’t make a good character to me cough cough Palmer.