Selling the pitch: How creativity, consistency combine to craft quality characters

Ron Toback-Wolf

As someone who cares a lot about storytelling and characters, there are certain topics that come up a lot. What stands out to me is creative, unique, big set-piece moments or characters. They can be comedic or serious, long-term or short-term, fantastical or realistic, or using existing ideas creatively or completely new ones. 

With characters specifically, people will choose the ones that they relate to and remember. When a form has a large cast of unique characters, people will typically choose the characters most like them as their favorites, or the characters that completely fascinate them. 

For example, Pokemon has roughly 900 different creatures with unique designs that players can nickname and personalize while learning and growing with it. There’s no need to develop all 900 pokemon as realistic individuals, players will form a bond with their specific pokemon during their journey, and *give* the personality to the pokemon over time. 

The Squirtle you got at the beginning that you named Joey? Well, Joey is right there with you to the end, evolved into a Blastoise but still your faithful friend that has been with you all the way through.

Now say writers or developers don’t want 900 characters to be memorable, rather just one character. Undertale and its follow-up Deltarune, two games by Toby Fox, have silent protagonists, leaving room for everyone they meet to chew the scenery. Case in point, EV3RY BUDDY ‘S FAVORITE [[Number 1 Rated Salesman1997]]. With Spamton G. Spamton from Deltarune, Toby Fox gives commentary on modern online society with a deranged, shady, chatty salesman who wants your “Kromer” (money) and blabs on about returning to his glory days of being a [[BIG SHOT.]] 

As Kris is a silent protagonist, this allows Spamton to be his unadulterated self at all times. Because Spamton is entertaining and interesting on his own, the scene is hilarious. Had the protagonist been holding a conversation with Spamton and reacting to him, it would have furthered the development of two characters rather than one, which is completely fine, but it would have meant a less memorable Spamton. 

When fighting with Spamton, his attacks are simply just dollar signs, and floating words such as “Deals,” “Bargains,” and “$49.99.” By all means not anything that would be legitimately harmful, which is why Spamton is so humorous.

Spamton is truly memorable and immersed in his own concept. He displays a clear personality, archetype, and missing pieces in his backstory that allure players to learn more about this fallen salesman who seeks his former glory, even if he only has 5-6 minutes of screen-time.

Except he doesn’t. If the player seeks out Spamton and follows his quest, they will find him yet again, as the game’s secret boss, as he would put it, a [[BIG SHOT.]] I can’t begin to tell you how genius this is. With the newfound role of antagonist, Spamton is truly able to steal the spotlight. 

As the secret boss fight of Deltarune Chapter 2, Spamton NEO has a dazzling robot body topped with the goofy, needle-nosed head of Spamton, which works beautifully with the fight itself. Spamton NEO attacks with phones, emails, and tiny floating versions of his head, showing that despite his transformation Spamton is still himself; however, the grueling difficulty and uniqueness of these attacks represents the utter power of the robot body that he now possesses. The dressing of lethal bullets as funny objects is a perfect representation of how unnerving and demonic the monstrous clash of emotions in front of you is.

Even his music is fantastic; Toby Fox composes the music for his games and his storytelling through notes, rhythm, and instrument choice is ever-present in “BIG SHOT”, which utilizes glitching and distorted words to represent Spamton’s incoherent mumblings (and perhaps his cries for help.) 

My one critique with how this character was handled is the quest building up to the reveal of Spamton NEO. A fight with a powerful Spamton is by far the most hilarious option for the chapter’s secret boss; in, fact I find it hard to believe that his initial encounter was not created with the Spamton NEO boss fight in mind, but what sours it is the fact that it is overtly revealed to you that the boss is Spamton before he appears. There should be hints so inquisitive players can figure it out, but otherwise it should be a surprise, to sell the joke that someone so goofy and weak essentially became a god. Deltarune Chapter 2 has a hidden route that does this, and it is a much better handling of this secret boss’ final reveal.

Other than that however, Spamton is a masterclass in how one character, when done correctly, can steal the spotlight in all the right ways. His concept is relevant to the world today and reaches the perfect levels of wackiness for the wacky world of Deltarune, you watch his story progress as he delves further and further into depravity, and his lines and [[GUT-BUSTING SPEECH PATTERNS!!]] are always consistent to his character while still being funny. Spamton is a BIG SHOT, and in my opinion, a BIG HIT.

A lot of media takes a similar approach. The MCU does this with all of its characters, fleshing them out individually. This has taken them lots of time, but slowly but surely they got us to care about Peter Parker, T’Challa, and every other small member of the MCU. 

But the reason we haven’t seen anyone like Spamton in the MCU is that Spamton is not meant to be seen as a real person. I don’t mean his backstory and the fact that he is fictional (though the game is very self-aware in this regard), I mean that his quirks are larger than life and entirely revolve around a determined set of cartoony characteristics. 

Even Rocket Raccoon, the closest thing the MCU has to a character like Spamton, has a personality and flaws that make him interesting, and make him and his development seem real. If he were just ‘haha space raccoon who eats trash and scurries like a thief’, it would perhaps be funnier, but a lot less compelling to those who, well, aren’t deranged online salesmen with robot bodies.

What is compelling about Spamton is the amount about him we don’t know. Deltarune is not finished yet, only two chapters have been published out of the seven that are planned. If Spamton is any indication of not only the quality of future chapters but the power and influence of the [[Hyperlink Blocked]] that corrupted him, the story should soar to absolutely unimaginable heights that I’ve never been more excited about.