One of the most enjoyable parts of the game development process so far has been creating characters. Using my imagination to discover how they look, what abilities they have, where they’re from, and how they talk is immensely satisfying. Largely due to the efforts of the illustrator and animator I’m contracting, the first character of the game was just fully completed. I’m extremely happy with the outcome and thought I’d share with you the process of how he came to life.
Step 1 – Rough Concepts
I love fantasy books, and my game characters draw a lot of inspiration from some of the characters I’ve read about. I knew one the first characters was going to be a samurai or a knight, so I had the artist draw up some concepts for a samurai-knight. I gave the illustrator, Scott Pellico, a written character description and he quickly came up with these rough concepts.
I wanted armor to show, so I told Scott #6 was the closest, but to try again with some more armored examples. Scott came back with these concepts.
None of the concepts were exactly what I was looking for in a samurai-knight character, but I was really liking parts of a lot of those characters. At this point I decided that I would go with two characters instead of one. One character would be a samurai and the other a knight. The first character would be the knight and he would be based off of #3 in the above image.
Step 2 – Final Concept
Now that I knew that I wanted a knight character and what he should look like, it was time to create a finalized character. I wanted him to have a more traditional helm and shield, which Scott added here:
That’s what I’m talking about! Now that the concept was decided on, a series of turnaround images were created to show the side and back of the character.
The reason I needed the turn around is because even though my game and character animations are in 2D, I decided to have a 3D animator create those animations. The logic behind this decision was that creating the base 3D model is time consuming, but building animations and exporting them from multiple points of view is quicker than hand-drawing 2D animations. I wanted about 9 animations per character, so I thought it would be more cost effective to do them in 3D. It was a little bit risky on my part, I’m pretty happy with what came next.
Step 3 – 3D Modeling
Now that I had the turn arounds, it was time to send them off to Dustin Bolton, the 3D animator that brings the character to life. I gave Dustin a list of animation sequences to create and he made them a reality. I honestly have no idea how 3D modeling works and what kind of powerful magic he performs to make that happen, but here are some pretty cool screenshots of his process.
Step 4 – Implementation
After Dustin worked his magic, he provided me with a series of animation sequences in .png format. I built a bunch of sprite sheets with those .png files and brought the characters to life in-game. You can see the awesomeness that is The Guardian Knight in the animations below.