Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PISS Developer Diary: Character Design

Some time ago I had a discussion about the speculative biology of Dougal Dixon with esteemed AGSer Creed Malay which really got me thinking about the function of characters in a game environment.

Dixon's work focuses on humans adapting themselves to suit certain conditions, and before it becomes totally unbelieveable is quite an evocative, inspiring work. It got me thinking about the way we adapt to our conditions, and I've been trying to apply this a little in my character designs. Each NPC in a game has a story, a set of circumstances they exist in, and I feel that their design should absolutely reflect this. Outfits should be adapted to the tasks the characters are most commonly engaged in to help further their character.

For example, the second character here works in a mortuary. I thought it would be nice to have a system where instead of using gloves, he relies on long strips of rag tied to his belt to wipe his hands on as he works. The green skinned character is a mercenary guard, and thus I wanted him to look intimidating and confident, hence the lack of a shirt. The character on the far right is homeless, hence the simple rags she wears.

These are quite fantasy inspired shapes, I've never seen people dressed like this down the street, but they're also simple exaggerations of normal outfits. I feel this helps define a character's personality more clearly, as well as making them interesting to look at. When I draw a character for a game, I usually try to adhere to 3 main things: It should match the style of the scenery but also be instantly identifiable from it, should have a unique appearance that distinguishes it from the other characters, and should be simple enough in style that it can be animated reasonably. I feel that in PISS I have stuck to these, while also using each character's circumstances to define their design, and thus I am quite pleased with the results.


Chicky said...

I find that with character design a lot of personality is presented through posture, body language and facial expressions. These are all things that become increasingly more challenging when working in lower resolutions. You have a unique style Ben, and through this a lot of character is already established, I often wonder if your sprites could benefit from a more traditional pupil+eye style. Although you would likely be forced to pixel the heads a bit bigger, would still love to see a game from you in 640 :)

RCL said...

I love the individuality his characters have, including the uniquely iridescent sclera differently colored for each character or their generally slender build. Please don't change them [too much], Ben. Experimentation is always ok i guess, but sometimes it's just a nice word for becoming like everyone else.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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