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The TM is for Totally Magical.
@LockeZ: and again, can you call Biggs/Wedge/Jessie minor characters? True, they're only alive for the first act, but their deaths drive much of what Barret does afterwards.
I remembered one character in a game.. but I can't recall what the game was (one of you might, but I played it waaaaaay ages back when I was consuming a ton of games).

Anyway, we never actually met the character as a player. By the time the game started, they were long dead. We only ever interacted with their daughter, who was seeking the truth behind her fathers' disappearance. So as part of sidequests for the daughter we had to scour some places he'd lived before and find diary entries/images/etc for her.

And it was fucking sad at the end when you found out how he died (protecting his wife and daughter from a house fire set by assholes who he'd gotten tangled up in). The last diary entry made me cry quite a bit - a goodbye to his girls, written on a note, tucked into the wallet his wife made him, shoved into the silver vase they bought to commemorate their daughters' birth and thrown into the fish pond, just before he died.

So you never actually have to have met a character before, but how you present it and write about them helps a lot. Also, music. I remember in the background of that final letter was a remix of the lullaby, and fucking hell, it was painful.

Also, you might think that the daughter was the main cause of your sorrow, but frankly? She was pretty wooden-board. If the game had pushed her character a bit more it would've been great but nope, boring old "Wahhh, my daddy disappeared can you help me find him? Oh, I'll stay here, you go ahead!" type character. Boring, in a word. The father was the main character of that quest line.

(It's about the only thing I really remember about the game, to be honest. I'm pretty sure it was a jRPG or at least an RPG, and it had some action-based mechanics like jumping/attacking on-map enemies to engage in battle screens. And the main character was a pretty generic hero dude with spiky brown hair. Damn, I kinda want to play it again, though. Oh, yeah, it was a 2k/3 game too and I played it back in about 2006-2009. not sure if it was on this site though.)) >.<;
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
PC: "What happened? They were alive just last week when I stopped by."
NPC: "I wasn't there, I didn't see what happened, all I know is that they're dead."
PC: "..."

Play out them trying to reason how something like this could happen until they just have to throw up their hands and accept that they're gone.
I just remembered another good one from another nameless RM game of the past where you interact with a shopkeeper NPC a few times (he's a travelling merchant type dude) and then one time you notice his sprite has changed pretty drastically, but the name's the same. They guy acts like usual, though, so you just go with it. Then later on the main party discuss the difference (I think you had to stay at the inn) and you get a quest to find out what's going on. Turns out the new guy killed the original guy and you retrace yours (and thus, his) footsteps and find the place he was murdered.

It was kinda sad since even though to you initially he was just some merchant that travelled around, the characters drew attention to him being changed and it piqued your interest as the player. You got invested in what was going on and yeah, found out he was killed.

Sadly, that was as far as that quest went since the game was a demo. I remember being all NOOOOO! because I couldn't get to see the end of the quest (where I assumed we bring the murderer to justice). ...Maybe THAT was the saddest thing about that quest, come to think about it. XD
I like to kill of characters. In theory, I mean I haven't actually done any proper stories in a while so I haven't actually killed anyone off. But I really enjoy the thought of just killing off everyone.

The way I see it is to make the character likable in the interactions you have with them. It's usually quite easy to make a minor character memorable by just giving them some really obvious quirk. And then just make them show up more than once. So that the characters have a "oh it's that guy". (And hopefully the players as well. Most of my thoughts I've found are related to tabletop gaming where you can throw all kinds of stuff at players and see what characters stick. It's harder to do this in a prewritten computer game)

I think an important bit is to have the character as part of some optional sidequests where you can get to know them. If you want to. Nothing makes a character more unlikable than forcing interactions with them. Of course if it's optional the impact might be lessened if the player didn't do the optional stuff but that I think is something one just has to live with.

Another important thing to remember is to make more than the killed character this way. Because nothing telegraphs death more than some random dude suddenly talking about his wife and child back home. If you want to keep the surprise there has to be other equal characters that live.

And once the character is dead, make sure the character is occasionally remembered. Maybe not by the player characters but by other characters that were close to the dead character.

I kinda feel that for the player to care the player characters have to be the ones to care the least. If that makes any sense. The player themselves should talk to npcs, read optional diary entries and the characters needn't really comment. Especially the player substitute character (you know the one who is usually either mute or get the dialogue choices). If the player substitute character starts caring too much it so easily backfires. Of course this all depends on the kind of game it is. Sometimes there is no real player substitute character and all the characters are basically playable NPCs anyway so a lot of fun can be had through their interactions.

And as I realize I stop-started this post a number of times over half an hour or so I don't know if any of it is coherent. But it's some points to think about I guess.
Easiest way to make the dead character memorable is to make it possible to save the character from death, but make the option almost impossible to for a first time player to find. And if you really want to hammer it home, have flashback later on that spells out the moment the player condemned the character to death.
Goes inactive at least every 2 weeks
I know I'm late on this, been rather busy lately.

Holy shit you all gave me a ton of stuff to work with. I don't know if I should praise you all or be concerned.
The all around prick
We take murder of insignificant peons very seriously.

@LockeZ: and again, can you call Biggs/Wedge/Jessie minor characters? True, they're only alive for the first act, but their deaths drive much of what Barret does afterwards.

I actually would call them minor characters. The narrative doesn't focus on them, so they certainly aren't major characters, and they aren't referenced enough throughout the whole game (that I recall) to make them part of even the supporting cast.

By the way, I had to actually go and look up the FF7 versions of Biggs and Wedge since I completely forgot they existed. Whenever I hear those names, I immediately think of their FF6 incarnations. FF7's versions weren't really memorable to me.

Also, there's an answer for you, Porkate. What makes a person sad is pretty subjective, so instead do you best to give the character a lasting impression on the player. Even if the player doesn't particularly LIKE the character, their death will still leave some sort of lasting impact. Don't measure player's investment in the character by just their screen time. It's about the quality of time spent with the character.

Also, try to involve the player in their deaths somehow. Was there a side quest with a character's life in the balance that you didn't complete? Kill them. Did you make a choice that you KNOW is going to kill a character you got to know? Drive it into the player's skull that THEY killed the person, not the story.

There was one character in Mass Effect whose death stuck with me. Gonna hide it because it's a spoiler and I don't care if the game came out almost a decade ago.

You arrive at a colony to conduct an investigation into brainwashing humans. Shit inevitably hits the fan, and all the colonists go mad and attempt to kill you. At the end of the area, a colonist you talked to at the beginning of the mission approaches you, trying (and failing) to fight off the brainwashing. Before you have a chance to fight, he screams that he refuses to kill a complete stranger before turning the gun on himself and pulling the trigger.

I haven't played Mass Effect in years, and that guy didn't have more than two cutscenes worth of screen time, but I still remember that scene as clearly as if I played it an hour ago.
@LockeZ: and again, can you call Biggs/Wedge/Jessie minor characters? True, they're only alive for the first act, but their deaths drive much of what Barret does afterwards.

Yes, they are minor characters, and always will be minor characters, minor characters can drive someone's character, such as Lara in Lucca's backstory, literally her whole life and motivation until Lavos was because Lara got caught in that machine and Lucca couldn't save her herself- she's still a minor character.
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