Character Design (Part I)
Ages ago I posted about concept art, and how it’s the starting point for the artist involved in the process of making a game. A good share of the concept art will be aimed at deciding what the characters of the game look like and what their personalities and range of expressions are.
There are a few basic concepts that should rule your process of character design. These are the ones that I feel cannot by any means be overlooked, no matter what you are trying to do, or what medium you are using:
- Construction: Your character should be built upon geometric foundations (cubes, spheres and cones), if you ever plan on it being usable for animation, and to be consistent in different poses.
- Balance: There should be an equilibrium between the shapes conforming your character. The way shapes interact with each other ought to seem organic and natural, and preferably have a subtle grain of asymmetry to make the design look alive.
- Identity: The design should have it’s own voice, and respond to the specific traits of that character. Obviously, every character can fall into a given archetype (the big dumb bully, the perky little guy, the sexy girl, the heroic guy, etc), but if the character has something differential pertaining to its past, personality, point of view, or so on, you can make it stand out.
- Appeal: This is perhaps the most important concept of all. Your character should be appealing. This doesn’t mean cute and cuddly with big puppy eyes, and it’s absolutely incommensurable. Appeal is what catches your eye, is interesting to see, pleasing to observe, and has a magnetic charm that makes you remember who that character is. There’s no hard rule for how to accomplish it, you just have to develop a sensibility towards appeal and learn what works and what doesn’t.
With that in mind, you begin to toss into paper as many ideas, designs and proposals as you can. Some will have small, controlled variations while others will be very different and even bizarre. In this stage, lateral thinking goes a long way.
With the Moops, we were initially thinking about a group of characters that have a sort of hive mind, kind of like Lemmings do, and whose sole purpose in the world is to make joy for humans. They should be odd, cute, and a tad spunky. Since I could go in millions of different directions, I decided to base the characters off a two-head construction (that means they are basically two heads tall), and continue from there. Some were more animal like, others more alien. It’s all good, the more options, the better.
Here are some scans of the very first designs for the Moops:
Once you have done that, you can move on to the next stage, in which you will take what you’ve done in this first stage and process it, so you can begin to streamline and solidify the character’s design.
Update: see part II.
Posted in Art