The one year game develpoment duel
Sep

3

2014

Character and Level Design

This post is a status update, which is how I track progress specific to my game. Check out my timeline to see what I've recently accomplished.

    Key Events
  • First Character Created
  • First Level Created
  • Contracted an Animator

I had just started working with an illustrator when I last left off, and most of my time over the last two weeks was spent designing some pretty cool characters and battlefields. I was also able to contract a character animator, who is now working on the game’s first character animations.

My first goals with Scott, my illustrator, was to design the game’s first level and character. Those two assets will set the tone for the game’s art direction, so getting that right was pretty important. I wanted the first level to answer a few questions about workflow and artwork, including:

Map Sizing
On a 2850 x 1800 illustration, the battlefields are made up of rhombuses measuring 120px in width and 60 px in height. Scott likes to work on a larger sized canvas, so we had to make sure that the mockups I gave him scaled correctly. We also had to make sure they look OK on different mobile devices.

Nature
The world map has a low poly look, so it’s important that natural objects in the battle scenes carry over that low poly and angular look.

A Man Made Object
It’s not necessary that man-made objects have the same low poly look as natural objects, but they need to look like they’re part of the same world.

Symbols
In the game’s world, there are 5 main symbols that represent the five lands. I wanted to get them all in the game early so the future use of those symbols is consistent.

With that in mind, Scott created the following illustration, and I couldn’t be happier.

bridge

I also tasked Scott with creating the first character for the game. There weren’t as many goals with the character as there were with the level design, but this character is important for scale. He’s of average height and medium build, so he’ll be used as the benchmark for future characters. He’s called a Rune Mage and here’s how he looks:

runemage

The Rune Mage has magical powers derived from the runes inscribed on his body and he fights for the good guys. He does look a little menacing and doesn’t have that Gandalf look that’s typical in magicians, and that’s kind of the goal. Why does a wizard have to be frail? I won’t completely avoid stereotypes with the characters in this game, but I do want to add my own spin on fantasy archetypes. Scott made a bunch of other characters, but we’ll save those for later.

Another objective of first two weeks with Scott was to get a feel for how much time it takes to create these assets. I am on a budget, so the game has to scale in accordance to how much artwork is created. I have a better feel for how long characters and levels take now, and I believe the game will have somewhere around 15 characters and 20 levels. Everything honestly takes more time than I had initially thought, but I think I’ve made the game pretty scalable and it won’t hurt to remove some cut scenes or go a little bit over budget.

One thing that has surprised me is how much planning I’ve been doing for the game. Creating pixel perfect level mockups, character concept files, game story ideas, and a number of other non-programming related tasks has pretty much taken up all of my time. I’m trying to make things as efficient as possible for the artists, and while that has taken away from programming, I believe more content will ultimately make it into the game.

The other big news from this last week is that I believe I’ve found an animator. I contacted a number of artists on Carbonmade, made a help wanted blog post, and paid for a job listing on Behance, and I was fortunate to have found Dustin Bolton. I think his work is awesome and he made a great demo of my character walking, so I signed a contract with him to provide my character animations. Dustin is in the process of 3D modeling the Rune Mage now, and I look forward to reporting his progress during the next update.

Speak freely