A star is born!
So a big part of the idea behind this blog is that it can be useful to others, which is why we like to share our process, insights (and challenges!) with you all in the hope that you'll find some useful nugget of information. This week, I wanted to run you through a fairly typical development cycle for a character for EL PRESIDENTE:
0.-Start with an idea: We're making characters that will have certain actions inside the game, this guy here is not one of our main protagonists but hopefully he will make the cut. I wanted something inspired by the animal kingdom. Animals are great starting points because we already associate a certain tipe of attributes to them, and if we can transfer some of those features to the character, then we're already giving a lot of information to the audience without saying a word.
1.- Research: I started looking at animals, and I though reptiles and amphibians would do the job in terms of giving the 'vibe' I wanted, something a little alien and removed, a bit slimy, maybe appealing but not necessariy likeable or warm in the conventional sense. (Sorry lizard lovers!). I found these pics of the Red Eye Tree Frog, and with those big eyes, he's already halfway to a cartoon already!. In the picture I'm only showitng one, but I used other for reference as well.
2.- Sketching: I did some quick sketches based on the reference, it helps me familiarize myself with the main shapes and features that distinguish the animal, in this case I'm really taken by the eyes, the long limbs and how the torso leads into the head with pretty much no neck.
3.- Early tests: Looking at how I can apply those features into a human character, I don't want to make an anthropomorphic frog, but a man that really looks like a frog. Certain human-mammal features would really pull it too far away from what I want, things like hair and ears, so I had to think of how to overcome them: Enter the Hat! pressumably everything is still there but since you don't see it, it's not affecting your 'read' of the character .
4.- A clear idea: The hat really helps me nail the look of the character in the context of El Presidente (which is set in a tropical climate). So now I test the whole look, the clothes it will wear, I'm going for a tourist with a secret agenda! (I toss with the idea of glasses but the eyes feel very important). I'm also thinking about the pose, I like the way the frog holds onto the leaves in many of the pictures I found, also that little cowering/hunched look it has. All these body language traits are things I want to incorporate, which is why I give him a board to hold on to.
5, 6, 7.- I've settled on a pose and look, so I proceeded to do a cleaned-up version of the character to settle on what will be seen, I also check how the silhouette looks. Silhouettes are very important, if the silhouette reads clearly, it'll help the image come across in quicker and stronger fashion. It's all about visual shorthand, the clearest, quickest simplest way to convey information.
8, 9.- I start choosing colour, I first pick my flat colours based on the frog pictures but after looking at it I'm not quite sold that they work so I change them a little bit to make sure that they are working together rather than against each other, once happy I pick my light sources (at least two, one main at the front, one at the back to make it pop) and figure out my main shadows.
10.- Refine: with everything else in place I'll start going around with different brushes, styles and effects to give it a more finished look (things like a litlle bit of texture, feathering some shadows, etc)
Anyway, there it is! I know I've gone on for quite a bit so I'll leave at that, hopefully you guys found something of interest there. Maybe we'll go into more detail of a particular section some other time too!.
One last thing that I've yet to do with this guy is: Give it a name! and I'm terrible at it so, why don't you post your suggestions on the comments below or on Space Duck Games facebook page!
Cheers guys! :)