Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Pre-Liminary Designs: Xangdra (part 1)

Whilst on the train to work today I made my sketch book with me so I'd thought I'd try begin designing the Human form for Xangdra but un fortunately no real inspiration struck and I found that my skecthes were lackluster in quality and didn't really portray what I had in mind for the character.

I decided that I would go down the route of not a fully real but more stylised version of the designs as I usually work better with a more fluid, stylised look rather than try to create something too close to realism.

The sktech book I was using was also much smaller so when it comes down to a proper design/sketching session I will be using a larger format just to allow my mind space to think on the page. So Whilst no visual character development has been made a stylistic choice has.

Developing a Character: Brain-Storming (Part 2)

Since my last brainstorm I've settled on using the Bali demon 'Rangda' as a template for one of my characters. I returned to the book of Asian mythology for more inspiration, a clear choice for a second character was 'Barong', known as the Spirit King. He lead a band of warriors to defeat Rangda, ultimately achieving this goal. This makes him an obvious choice for myhtology's sake.

Barong is described as: "The Spirit King is the opponent of Rangda. He takes the form of a lion, representing day, light and the forces of goodness."

However I felt that the description given for Barong in the book didn't given me enough to work with as it essentially amounted to "Barong is a Good Guy" so, I set about trying to develop my own. After Brain-Storming I came up with three main concepts:

  • 1. He acts as a sage for another character as being the spirit king he is neither dead nor alive.
  • 2. He's an angel how must possess the body of a human to have any power whilst on Earth.
  • 3. He's Rangda's Brother/ex-lover and human-sympathiser.

Before settling on any of these ideas though I still had another character from the mythology book;

'Jigokudayu', described as "A Courtesan who experienced enlightenment when she looked in the mirror and saw a vision of a skeleton gazing back. She became a disciple of Zen Master Ikkyu Sojun".

Same with Barong, I had a few ideas for how I could mold Jigokudayu:

  • 1. Commited suicide after her lover is killed during a war and is chosen to go back to fight Rangda as only one who has loved can defeat her.
  • 2. Disciple of Barong (refering to Barong's Sage concept) as she has been cursed by a Demon (possibly Rangda).

Ultimately I decided to go with Barong for several reasons, firstly I've not really worked on a male character for a video game or ever tried to model one, secondly I felt he had more potential due to his connection with the demon Rangda. So after deciding on Barong I put together this basic background story thats kind of a mix of the several concepts I had in mind.

"Barong, brother to Xangdra, is a Lion-like demon. He grew sympathetic towards humans as they saw him as a symbol of courage and honour. Over the centuaries he began protecting them against other demons. Living amoungst humans in disguise, Barong learns of his sister's rise to power and plans to eradicate life on the planet and sets out trying to stop it"

(Barong pictured above)
It's a little cliche'd but I like certain angles such as him being her brother and having a lion like demon form should be interesting to design. With that done thats two of my characters main backgrounds complete. Sure there are finer details that need to be ironed out but that will come further down the line in the preliminary sketching stages.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Looking at Concept Art: Monster Designs

Since at least one of my characters is a demon of sorts I thought it'd be best to look into monster concepts to both get an idea of what a good creature would look like. This also allows me to add much more variation to my research.

This piece done for an indy game by Deviant art user Endling features many variations and annotations but focuses solely on the concept that the monster is a large Lava based creature. These loads of variation and each would be acceptable as a final design, eventually it's clear Endling settled on the large horned reptile and it works really well. Clearly taking in the environment that is around the monster and applying those elements to the monster, this is presented by the rock like hide and vents for lava to flow from. The colour pallet is also taken from the volcanic area with dark reds and oranges being the main motif here.

What's a really good of this design is the fact you can only really see the head of creature leaving the rest of the monster entirely up to the player's imagination, this is both a great way to add interest to a design and also get away with not designing more than you need to. My personal favourite out of the bunch is the large insect type in the centre.

This next piece by Joy Ang, a conceptual artist for Bioware's Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, gives use a pretty scary looking demon. With large forearms and sharp features all over it's body the over all aesthetic tells you this is not a creature you want to run into. The design is almost iconic in how a demon should look and yet at the same time it's fresh and new due to little added details such as the way the jaw is almost unhinged and the texturing on the chest.

Again the main colour system shows up again with the main two being purple and black, with shades and variations being use but no colours that are beyond that spectrum has been used thus doesn't deter visually. Ang's art style also breathes fresh air into this otherwise standard design, with all the extra details the feeling of this design is something truly menacing.

This design for one of the summon creatures from Final Fantasy is interesting as the base shape for it is very similar to a medieval representation of the Devil as a Goat/Pan like creature with a main difference being that this creature has wings, the reason for the monster's appearance is due to it being based on the zodiac creature; the goat. Covered in a hard decorative armour for skin this design is almost a far cry from what you'd expect an ally to look like (or atleast from a western perspective where in the Devil-Goat is more well known).

The colours in used are predominately a kind of Jade and light/scarlet red, this is accompanied by a cream like colour being used on the tips of the wings. Overall the design is very lavish and helps translate the message that this is a creature of both great importance and power.

Already after looking into these three designs I have ideas forming in my head for Xangdra's demon form but I plan to look at atleast three more. When it comes to designing I will also use my Persona 4 and Monster Hunter art books for influence/inspiration as they're full of monster designs.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Developing a Character: Brain-Storming (Part 1)

The more I looked into my book of Mythology from the east the more I really wanted to create a character based on one of these acient legends. Ultimately for my first character I settled on forming one around the demon "Rangda".

Rangda is described as a demon of death and sickness, after trying to settle on an idea using my brainstorm (seen right here) I came up with a base premise to fill out on the proper character sheet.

I also decided to change Rangda's name as I thought it wasn't feminine enough so to solve that problem I simply added an x and moved the letters around. So, after my brain storming the basis for one of my characters is:
"A demon who can disguise herself as a human, Xangdra is a bringer of death and sickness. Disguising herself as an attractive woman she manipulates herself to the top of the Oren corporation where in she plans to release a plague that would wipe out humanity and allow her fellow demons to rise where she will take place amongst them as their queen"

(Rangda pictured above)
With one character's background complete I'm almost ready to start the visual conceptualising of the project.

Moving onto The Next Step: Moodboard

Whilst finalising the ideas for my two characters I thought it would be good to create a moodboard with a mix of fantasy and scfi-fi images to have inspiration for when it came to developing a world and creating my character's appearance.

The board features images from a mixture of films and games and will hopefully give me a good starting point for when it comes down to the visuals.

Moving onto the Next Step

With my interview with Wayne Reynolds complete I feel I've delved enough into research and it's time to start working towards starting my concept sketches but before that I'm taking some time to show that along with the tools I'll be using such as traditional and digital ones I'll also be keeping a small library of books near me for quick influence and reference.

The books I'll be using for reference in both the conceptual and modelling stages will be Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Anatomy for making sure I'll be able to keep everything within porportion and looking human. The other books are How to Draw Manga: Sketching manga vols 1 and 2 which will be used in the same way as Hogarths book but just to give different opinion on how things should be done to add diversity.

The books I'll be using for influences should I get stuck during my conceptualising stage are; Apple vols 1-3, Flameboyant, The Art of Monster Hunter, The Art of Persona 4 and The art of Star Wars Epsiodes I-III.

With these books at my side theres no chance I'll get stuck with my designs.

Looking at Artists: Wayne Reynolds

When it comes to find out the working world before getting there how else would one find out about it? well in the terms of being an illustrator I talked to Wayne Reynolds, a freelance illustrator based in Leeds who has worked with clients such as Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard Entertainment on IPs such as Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft. Wayne was kind enough to give me some time to ask some questions about his work as an illustrator to better get a grasp of there over all occupation.

Ken: Hey Wayne, thanks for doing this. How are you today?

Wayne Reynolds: It's alright I've just been busy today packing up some prints for the convention I'll be going to, sorry if it seems I'm a bit quite as you're on speaker phone.

K: That's alright, Shall we get down to it then?

WR: Sure, go ahead.

K: Alright, So what exactly is your job, I know you're an artist but what's your full title and what does it entail?

WR: Well I'm a Freelance Artist usually working with fantasy illustrations but sometimes I get called in to help with creating concepts such as with Magic: The Gathering. Sometimes I'll help develop a character/monster that another artist will create the final version for the illustration. Generally I all the work I do is work for hire.

K: That leads nicely into my next question generally what tools do you use to complete your work?

WR: I use traditional tools like pencils and paints, more specifically acrylics. Most of the time I use a thick card about 3mm thick to paint on, it's really more of an art or mounting board. I find it's best for the type of work I produce.

K: huh I never even thought about painting directly onto an artboard before, Since we're still on the topic of art, what's your work progress? Do you design first or just go straight into painting?

WR: When I get a brief, either for a full illustration or just a concept I always start with a thumbnail sketch in my sketchbook. Generally if it's a character I'll outline the basic shape and there will be several variations in their costume design. From their I work on a composition which then leads to the final piece.

K: so it's a fairly Standard way of working on designs then?

WR: yeah it's not too different from most other processes.

K: alright, so how many years have you been working as a freelance illustrator and do you think you've improved?

WR: Oh yes, I've definitely Got better since I started back in 93, 18 years gives you a fair amount of practise (Laughs).

K: (Laughing) well I'd hope so. So what generally inspires your work or is it more often something fited to a client's brief and even then do you go out looking for inlufences?

WR: Well 18 years gives you a good visual library in your mind and you constantly get influences, it's like an evolution but often when the client requests something fairly specific I'll go out and look for more reference material, say for example they want an egyptian themed character, my process is to look at the real image of say an egyptian warrior and take that maybe two steps cloers to fanatasy than what it was originally so that theres still that grounding of reality but it becomes something newer.

K: That's quite intersting that you have you're own specific formula, judging from your work it's clearly working when looking at most Fantasy stuff in the gaming community it seems you've had a part in it so you're obviously in high demand. What would you say your proudest piece is then?

WR: hmmm that's tough...I'd probably say my covers for the Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition books, it was quite an hour. As a kid I used to play D&D so it kind of felt like I've come full circle.

K: well your illustrations are now what the new generation of players will imagine what the world of D&D looks like. I know I was impressed when I first saw them!

WR: (laughs) well thank you.

K: We're coming to the end now I've only got two questions left really, as a freelancer what's your workload like, do you ever have to take on anything extra or are you fairly well off in terms of being hired?

WR: It's pretty heavy, constant. The last 10 years I've had a pretty good stream of work come in. Often a normal work day would be around 12 hours, sometimes if the workload is particulary long my day will be; Wake up, Work, Sleep. And that repeats until it gets done. The worst thing you can do sometimes is to work when you begin getting too tired, you'll start making mistakes and when you return the next day you'll have to go back and fix them making it pretty much a waste of time. Sometimes it's good just to step back and take a breather.

In terms of taking extra work on I've generally not had to do it, when I began I used to take all sorts of commisions but these days I only take commerical ones as private ones arn't as profitable as they can't pay as much as a company and ultimately the work will only get seen by a dozen people tops, but when just starting out it's a great way at getting practice and "pocket oney" (laughs).

K: (laughing) well that's good to hear, I guess my last question is, Do you have any advice to budding illustrators out there?

WR: yes! Absolutely. If you want to be a professional illustrator be prepaired to give up your social life. Illustration is very time orientated and if you want to create good work it WILL take up time. Also you need a very patient and understanding partner (laughs).

K: (laughing) well alright! Thanks again for doing this Wayne, I hope you have a good time over in Europe and We'll catch up soon.

WR: Thanks. I hope this helps your Uni work.

K: Undoubtably!

Looking at Concept Art: Monster Hunter

After looking at the art of Final Fantasy XIV I was reminded that I had a copy of the art of Monster Hunter on my shelf. Considering the game is fantasy based I thought it'd be good to look through both for analysis and use during the conceptualising step of my characters. I have a feeling it'll come in great use when I get stuck with a design for armour or a weapon.

This piece here show one of the many and various types of armours players can obtain. Firstly all of the armour in the game is based off the monsters you defeat which is a great idea for designing armour. Here in this design there is a clear mix of several elements such as metal, dragon hide and leather, then theres the great inclusion of a piece that is more recognisable as apiece of dragon on the arm acting as a shield/gauntlet of sorts. The head piece also creates avery intimidating look to this armour implying that the creature was clearly one that takes a high amount of skill to dispatch.

The colour scheme here again follows that base idea of two main colours with shades backing up the design. The use of grey and orange work well together and backed up with the cool grey really give an almost realistic value to the design.

This piece here shows the variations of one armour set for two genders. The main differences between the two are that the male varient features a helmet and the female one has more of a dress. Beyond that the designs are pretty similar but the slight differences between the two go a long way to add diversity to one armour set.

Another thing about this armour set shows that in the Monster Hunter universe there's a good amount of variation from the large bulky ones such as the above to these more selnder and light weight looking armour. This combined with the fact that most armours have male and female variants adds much more visual depth to the game and the world the players live in. As noted in the my analysis of Final Fantasy XIV art the armour is almost colour coded, where as here it's more relating to the monsters which were slain to gain the armour the colour coding is still present.

This final piece is in here as it shows the amount of annotation the artist has put onto one piece which gives me the impression that many of the armours designed will have had the same amount of notes written around them. With the image and this much annotation theres no way anything would get left out between steps of passing over concept art to the modeller or programmer.

I will try keep this in mind as I have often annotated my own designs but not to this level where every little detail is explained, hopefully this would give me the experience of working in the art department solely instead of on this project.

The armour itself like many of the others is well designed mixing in many influences from various eras and the design of the weapon is not to be taken seriously and adds that bit of fun to the design and ultimately the game.

I would imagine that this work would have been sketched out first before being polished up and coloured with a paint program, this is beginning to become very much a trend in the artwork I've been looking art, I may end up using this as my main method creating my work.

Looking at Concept Art: Persona 4

Whilst looking through the various Concept Art books I have on my shelf at home I came across the art of Persona 4, an RPG set in a modern Japanese town. What's more interesting though is what is presented in the books.

These page shows not only the final pre-limary for the main player characters but also various other sketches of thier designs that the artist was obviously doing whilst trying to settle on their design. It's interesting to say the least to see the rough designs from a finalised game where as in so many other cases you never get to see stuff from that far back in development. The changes from the rough skecthes to the final preliminary is clear on the pages such as the female character having longer hair. Check them out below.

Looking at Concept Art: Xenoblade Chronicles

Continuing my research into Fantasy/sci-fi specific concept art I'm beginning to look at games that fit that criteria, one of these was the recently Nintendo Wii RPG; Xenoblade Chronicles. Creating a weird mix of high-tech looking weapons and concepts but keeping fairly traditional features such as the setting. It's a weird blend that works well in the final package.

This piece features one of the central characters isn't too much of a departure from the classic fantasy designs seen in solely fantasy games. With clothing very much akin to Renaissance era clothing, especially with the use of the small cape, waist coat and knee high boots but there are little details such as trim on the trousers with their unusual buttons, this adds interest to what may have been considered a fairly standard design.

The colours here also work together employing that base two colour system using Red and white the rest of the design is backed up by various different shades of brown. This all works well together to creating something thats pleasing on the eyes.

The piece was finished off using a digital painter program.

This piece here featuring two of the main character's the player has control over shows us a bit more of the world such as the weapon of the main protagonist. Firstly what should be noticed here is that the clothing isn't particulary 'sci-fi' but isn't fully 'fantasy' either with extra features and detail to make the designs more interesting.

The male character is dressed similarly to many young male characetr's from other games of the same genre, almost making him a cultural visual archetype. The weapon he's holding is clearly sci-fi in origin but it doesn;t look out of place in his hands due to his ambigious clothing design. His colours are clearly red and dark grey/black, like the previous design this is backed up with browns. It should be noted in Japan it's more traditional for a hero to wear red as opposed to western cultures where red is seen more often as an "bad guy" colour.

The female character's costume is clearly designed in a way to pull in male viewers but like the FF XIV monster design it's not overly sexualised, this gives the impression that the character is still quite young. Her colours are more tan/darker browns, which helps keep the designs fairly rooted with their fantasy origins. Due to the composition of the picture it's also implied that these two character's are either friends or relatives.

This piece was completed (potentially) fully with traditional tools such as pencils and water paints but there's a good chance it was coloured digitally.

This final piece is a shot of the main characters all together within an environment. More is given away about the game by seeing the other characters such as the way their armour and weapons are stylised gives the sense that this isn't just a 'fantasy' game as it has things such as guns and very hi-tech looking weapons, but this contrasts with the lucious natural environment the character's are in creating a very strange mix of the two elements that as stated previously works quite well.

This piece was obviously created using a painter program and it works well to help convey the wonderful scene so vibrantly.

So far what I've taken away from Xenoblade's concept art is that the mix of the two genre's isn't impossible but does have to be handled in a certain way (potentially) to work.

Looking at Concept Art: Final Fantasy XIV

Since I'm focusing on creating a Fantasy/Sci-fi based game I thought it'd be good to focus on looking at Concept art that fall into this same genre as to focus my efforts on getting inspired by other fantasy-esque games.

So I will be looking at the artwork for Final Fantasy XIV that was recently released with the announcement that the game's makers were doing a large re-haul of the MMO to make it more successful than it's initial launch.

Here are some Armour designs for the upcoming game. The first thing that jumps to mind when seeing these is that the armour is all colour coded making them clearly distinguishable from each other. Next is the detail of the armour, with the white and yellow pieces the features are more neutral and give of the sense that the character wearing it would be a "good guy", this is also strengthen by the use of the colours. The black and red armour on the right however features a more aggressive aesthetic, with horns on the helmet and sharp edges on the aromour itself gives a much more sinister look to the character giving them the outward appearance of a "baddy". The artist has clearly completed the sketches with pencils and touch them up when colouring in photoshop but what's really to not here is how easily colour pallet can change the way a character is veiwed, if one of the black suits where white would it be seen as a hero even with it's more demonic features?

Next is this design for a creature that will appear in the game, clearly it's meant to be a high powered monsters that could either be an enemy or ally to the player. What should be noted is the angelic motif that has been taken up yet has been warped slightly, not completely white and featuring sharp talons and features along side the legs and arms it's hard to define wether this is an enemy character of not as the design and colours conflict nicely. The design choice to make the main form female works well as it adds a little bit of sexual appeal but it's not been overly done and in it's subtlety it works on making sure the player stays focus on the fact this may be an enemy. Thie piece has clearly been completed entirely in a painting program and to it;s effect it works nicely to help translate a strong bold image of this character along with a unique silohette hopefully making it more memorable of players.

This final piece I'll be looking at features Player character's interacting with an environment. What's important about this piece is that by showing us some of the background/ world that the players will inhabit it reflects on how the player character's will be seen. The various rope bridges and fire lanterns definetly speak out to be a Fantasy based game and the high contrast lighting suggests that the game's art style is more realistic than it is cartoony. The character's painted in also give a sense of scale to the world they inhabit too, which works for both ways to understand how large the world is but to show how small the players will be incomparison. This work again seems to have been completed with a painter program but inital sketches on paper could have been completed.

I walk away from this quick look with knowledge such as combining contrasting motifs and colours can lead to interesting effect, colour coding isn't just for characters and a world can hellp shape a character's design as much as a character design can help shape the world.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Looking at Concept Art: Spider-Man Re-Design

Whilst browsing the internet I came back across Project Rooftop, a blog site for re-designs of super hero's costumes. I remember a while back I saw they were hosting a competition to re-design spider-man and to the left here is the design that won.

Re-designed by Mike Dimayuya, this new spidey costume is reminiscent of Japanese super heros, especially with the long flowing scarf, You'll also notice that the spider-logo has disappeared. The overall motif of the red and blue design is stil presen but with the key difference being the large helmet with the four extra eyes as a design. There are other nice touches like the webs coming from the fingers.

Overal Dimayuya's re-design is fantastic and instantly rings of japanese super heros like Ultra Man or Kamen Rider, but most importantly it doesn't change the core personality of the character of Spider-Man.

Project Rooftop has many great examples of super heros being redesigned in interesting ways and it shows sometime a variation can be just as good as a brand as the concept. Below are More from Dimayyu's designs.

Looking at Concept Art: Batman: Arkham Asylum

During my usual surfing around the internet one night, I happen to come across a thread of a forum that posted up a collection of art taken from the Batman: Arkham Asylum game. Below I will analyse the works.

In this piece for pre-liminary designs for the Joker, artist Carlos D'Anda took an iconic character and began to think how he could be presented differently for the game. Trademarks of the joker's appearance are still present such as the slender figure, smile and green hair, but often the Joker is presented in a well dressed manner. Here D'Anda has designed this Joker to be much more of a brawler/hands on person and you immediately get that from these designs, even goin so far to annotate one design was influenced by "A Clockwork Orange". The colours used don't conflict with each other stick with the strong purple and white motif. It should also be noted here that D'Anda has taken one pose and adjusted it slightly to show the variation one design can have, his annotation also helps present his ideas clearly as though he, himself is talking you through the design. This is something I'll have to do in my own work.

In this piece D'Anda re-invisions the Batman foe, Bane. A Wrestler who pumps himself with quick acting steroids to become large and bulky. Firstly the nicest touch to this design is the inclusion of Bane having baggy skin when not in his muscular form due to the constant expanding and contractions. Next theres the design of the restraints that keep him in place, very large and bulky. This gives the idea that he's incredibly dangerous. Finally is all the equipment attached to Bane's back to possibly keep him from either getting bigger or perhaps it's his equipment he would use himself. Either way it gives a very haunting llok to the masked character. again the choice of colours are relatively minimal being orange and a very pale yellow/green for the skin making key features such as the pants and mask stick out more.

This design for the scarecrow is a mix of familiarty from the character and D'Anda's personal rendition. Keeping the ragged hood and mask D'Anda adds new elements such as a breathing aparatus to the mask and a fear formula inducing guantlet. The design it's self in reminciant of native american wear, especially with the inclusion of the small axe. Again a clear colour scheme of two main colours and smaller ones has been used, this time white and brown, with green used to highlight the fear formula. Other design ideas such as the tight straps help shape personality to the scarecrow's single emtion mask building upon the design for maximum effect.

All of Carlos D'Anda's work is completed by creating pencil sketches and importing them into photoshop (or similar program) where in they're completed digitally with colours. His turn arounds are mostly 3/4 shots of front and back which a I feel is a great way to get across character designs in a nice fluid way and gives a chance for an artist to show off their personality.

Looking at Concept Art: Previous Analyses

For now I feel like I've look enough into the background aspects of characters I think now would be a good time to start analysing concept art. I've Looked into concept art before in my previous years on the course and I thought it'd be good idea to repost them and add to the intial post here such as adding method of how they were created. Also to refresh my mind on how I would analyse concept art.

This design for one of the heroes from Final Fantasy X features many interesting design points in several places. A notable feature is the colour scheme is predominately red and grey giving the character an ambigious alightment to either good or evil, this is heightened by his face being obscured by the coat and the sun glasses. The streaks of grey in the character's hair also suggests that this character is quite old, often when old characters are cast as warriors in games they're either the source of wisdom or used as comedy reliefs, this character obviously isn't a comedic relief. The extra detail on the shoulder and the waist helps build upon the fantasy setting, once again little touches such as the jug attached around the waist and the use of the coat as a sling for the warrior's arm creates intrigue for players. Overall a mysterious looking figure that possibly hides both wisdom and power.

This design for a minor character from Final Fantasy XIII carries a very corporate aesthetic about herself with a mix renaissance/17th centuary military attair. The extensive amount of detail on the coat doesn't really add much to the character, the whole outfit really just depicts a glorified bureaucrat with extra detail. Perhaps the most interesting point it the way in which that the hair is styled to be long and free flowing which creates a contrast against the professional, formal outfit. Whilst some nice ideas have been put into this design it doesn't really come of as significant, the grey colours also make itall the more forgettable. This design shows that extra detail does not make a good design, it's hard really to name the good aspects of this as it is quite boring to look at visually.

With these two designs from the Final Fantasy Series I had looked at the clothing and general design of the characters explaining how they complimented one another. Through research I discovered that Concept artist Tetsuya Nomura often uses a mix of
traditional and digital tools, in these designs he's either used pencil and digital colouring or a textured brush for the lines with difital colouring. Either way his results are fantastic.

This design for one of the minor villians from mass effect also pique my interest really more in the mechanics of it's posture. The armour with the protruding chest is an interesting detail, along with the way that the armour inter locks with each other helps build upon a sci-fi setting. Again the use of tubing and such create a blend of artificial and organic materials makes for an impressive detail to what is a minor villian.

This design from Mass effect of one of the female character's clothing is a good point of interest showing both a mix of formal and exotic fashion and what effects they can have on visual aesthetics. The use of minimal material should be noted too as it shows that a good visual impact can be achieved with a simplistic/minimal look. The subtle details are also nice such as visable seems on the fabric on the formal wear and the cuffs of the top and trousers make interesting design points in the clothing.

In these designs by whom I believe is Chris Rhodes (The Art of Mass Effect doesn't expcilitly state who has done what). The work is completed by predominently digital methods, this is clear from the way the lines are formed and colours are done. Theres a good chance that sketches were made by free hand pencil and then polished up in a program like photoshop.

Next I'll be looking at more concept art to see new skills and how artists tackle the task of giving a visual to a concpet in someones head.

Looking For Influences: Mythology of Asia

For my characters I'm still stuck on trying to come up with a back story. Whilst being influenced from the many film, games, books and comics I've watched/played/read. I thought it'd be good to look into some classic mythology especially since I want a fantasy-esque setting.

I picked up "Mythology of Asia and The Far East" by Rachel Storm. It's a good little book to help build storys out of or base characters on. Full of lists of heros, demons and gods with descriptions it's proving to be fairly influential at developing a story.

My plan is to try put together a background story using eastern mythology but in a western context. Use the characters that are featured in this book as a base to build my own out of.

One such idea I already have is using a demon by the name of Rangda as the main antagonist of the story I'm trying to weave. Rangda is described as a ferocious demon with a lolling, firey tongue, pendulous breasts and rolling eyes. A creature of sickness and darkness, she is a leader of a band of witches. She tried to destroy a kingdom, killing have the population with a plague before being defeated.

This could easily be modified into a character to fit a variety of different contexts. I shall keep looking through this book until I find two good bases to start developing my own characters from.

Looking at Characters: Rounding Up

After my research into Character Archetypes and Appeal, what I've learned is there's a wide range of archetypes beyond the inital seven and this can be used to help define characters much better than the basic set.

During my research into character appeal I learned that there a various factors into what can make a character successful. In some cases less is more in other cases a really rich and full background can prove to be the way to make a successful character.

Beyond that theres no real cohesive pattern to making a successful character, be it based on archetypes, personality or appearance. The best approach to this would seem to be focus on creating something to the most highest level, always think how I could improve the design or the character background. It's been good to look into this aspect and it has given me some insight but from now I think I will have to start conceptualising on my own.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Looking at Characters: Identifying Appeal (Part 2)

Continuing my research into appealing characters I move onto the top 5 in Empireonline.com's list of Top 50 Video Game Characters.

05. Lara Croft First Appearance: Tomb Raider: 1996

Created for the action/adventure series Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is Video gaming's answer to Indiana Jones, with all the exploration and fighting supernatural creatures in an attempt to acquire a rare/ancient/powerful relic, she's also an object for sex appeal.

Lara isn't a fragile girl though, more than capaale of taking care of her self and being profcient in many skills from shooting to rock climbing. Her sharp wit and attitude towards other tomb Raiders and her ability to laugh even in the face of danger instanly made her the cool girl in the games world.

Despite her overly sexualised appearance Croft is still an excellent example of a strong female character which is something both the film and games industries lack.

04. The Nameless One
First Appearance: Planescape: Troment (1999)

Star of the 1999 roleplaying game, The Nameless one is an immortal who is on a quest to learn why he cannot die. Having lived thousands of different lives when the nameless one is killed a random soul in the world is sacrificed to resurrect him, these souls go on to become Shades which seek out the nameless one for the sake of revenge.

One of the key differences to this character is the rich background he get about the character the more you play and explore the world. It's this crumb trail of information about the main character that keep players coming back.

First Appearance: System Shock (1994)

SHODAN is the meglomanical antagonist of the System Shock series. Built as an artificial Intelligence Network, SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimised Data Access Network) for the Citadel Station in the game which is the environment in which the player traverses the constant knowledge that SHODAN is every where adds tension and a constant sense of dread to the player's experience.

He unique speaking pattern fillen with sound glitches is as much of her personality as her surperiority complex to humans. Although She is ever present the AI doesn't have any bearing on what the player does and is really more a psychological attack as when players thwart her plans she does nothing but scream and threaten the player in her unique voice. In a way she's a hug influence on GLaDos from the portal series whom shares many traits with her.

02. Mario
First Appearance: Donkey Kong (1981)

One of the most iconic characters in entertainment rivaled by only Mickey Mouse. Mario's adventures in Platforming have taken him to super stardom, like his fellow Nintendo character Link, Mario is silent puring gameplay only making sounds when he's jumping or on title screen's where players will hear his voice and exclaim "It's-a me!" or "Woo-hoo! Let's Go!".

What makes Mario so appealing is he's an all-rounder and an average guy, but also a fish out of water, being a human plumber in a Mushroom kingdom fighting giant turtles. Much like Mikey Mouse, his appeal can stretch to people of all ages. Again he is the willing Hero and is bright/colourful, with simple charm mario is a clear gaming Hero that will carry on forever.

01. Gordon Freeman
First Appearance: (Half-Life 1998)

The main protagonist of the Half-Life Series, Gordon freeman starts his story as a lowly scientist at the black mesa institute. When all hell breaks loose as inter dimensional beings spill into Gordon's world what seperates him from other FPS characters is that he is probably one of the most under qualified charcters yet.

His appearance isn't that typical either, with a tidy goatee and thick glasses, the only thing that makes Freeman recognisable as the Hero is is bio-suit, deisgned to keep him safe on his exploits.

Much like Isaac Clarke from Dead Space, what makes Gordon Appealing is the fact he isn't just another meat head. Half Life keeps up the tradition of the silent protagonist and many NPCs don't really draw attention to it as such is the tradition. Gordon shows players that given the right ciorcumstances anyone can be a hero.

With that done I've looked at Empire's Top 10 Video game characters, through it there's been a range of different characters for different games, some break the mold of convention like Gordon Freeman, others fit their role perfectly like Mario. Through this I've learned there is a variety of different characters that can be cast in a tale and often it's a combination of elements that makes a character truly appealing.

Next I'll be looking into Concept art to further see how professionals design their characters visually.

Looking at Characters : Identifying Appeal (Part 1)

When it comes to creating a character with lasting appeal, you first need to figure out why other characters are so appealing. To do this I will be looking at the top 10 characters in Empireonline.com's list of 50 greatest Video Game Characters, identifying why they're so appealing and then comparing them against one and other. This will give me a better understanding of wht people look for in their games and also potentially influence the choices I make when developing my characters.

10. Sephiroth
First Appearance: Final Fantasy VII (1997)

The main Antagonist of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth already has an appearance that demands attention. A Limited colour pallet of black and silver, long hair, pretty boy looks, a cold calculated personality and an insanely long sword Sephiroth already has an iconic look. His back story as a genetic experiment created from alien DNA to be an elite soldier for Shin-Ra, Sephiroth's define moment was when he murder's the protagonist's love interest, completely removing a member from the player's party.

The Player then has to defeat several forms of Spehiroth at the end of the game with the ultimate form being a large celestrial angel like being.

With an Iconic look and actions that would be memorable a character like Sephiroth is bound to stick in players minds, his back story is also rich in content should players want to seek out information about this character.

09. The Lemmings
First Appearance: Lemmings (1991)

Originally appearing as nothing more than a few pixels, Lemmings were small creatures who depended on the player's wise strategy and choices to get them from the entrance to the exit using a variety of tools on hand such as digger lemming, bridge making lemming and the likes. Created by Rockstar North (Formally DMA Design) part of the fun of Lemmings is the control you had over these tiny, cute/charming creatures, you could either assist them or send them to their firey/watery/free-falling death.

It's the dependance that the lemmings have in their players to guide them to safety that makes them memorable as you could easily betray them ultimately you were their god and it';s this sense of power over them that makes them quite memorable.

08. Master Chief
First Appearance: Halo (2001)

A cyber/genetically enhanced super soldier, Master Chief burst onto the scene as the debut game for Microsoft's X-Box. Being an almost silent (he has spoke but only when needed) and tough as nails Marine, Master Chief has quickly become one of the go to action heros of modern gaming.

When playing in the single player modes you feel like a genuinely unstoppable force, with NPC's constantly exclaiming at your presence and since you never see the Chief's face it's assumed that even through the tightest spot underneath his now iconic green helmet he's as cool as a cucumber.

With an air of mystery and a generally calm demenor whilst delivering one liners, Master Chief is this generation's Doom Guy and the fact that other human's in the game respect him for beating up aliens just adds to his coolness.

07. Guybrush Threepwood
First Appearance: The Secret of Monkey Island (1996)

A youthful and excitable character Guybrush is the main protagonist of the Monkey Island games. With moments of self assurance and use of sharp wit (some of which do back fire), Guybrush starts off with dreams of wanting to be a pirate, as the series progresses the character develops aswell but is ever a bumbling pirate.

His appeal is in his ineptitude and that often things don't always go to plan but ultimately Guybrush succeeds. Coming from a point and click adventure game it's important to have charcaters the player would invest in and Guybrush with his bumbling charm and under dog like qualities adds to a wide range of characters that appear in this list showing that coolness isn't everything.

06. Link First Appearance: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The silent protagonist of the Zelda series has become one of the most iconic characters of video games, with instantly recognisable clothing and a willingness to rise to the occasion to fight Evil. Link has become a poster boy for the Hero Archetype, players only insight to his personality beyond his pure and noble role of being "The Hero" is through NPC's interaction with the character.

One of the keys to Link's fame is the many different versions of him through various games as none of them (bar the odd sequel are connected) each Link is a different from the others and Fan's believe there is some kind of over arching timeline to the Zelda universe, this along with the various events that happen to the ever mute protagonist be them heroic or humorous it's easy to see how this plucky young hero captured the hearts of gamers.

Already from looking at this five characters I've got a range of arche types and why they're appealing, from cool methodical bad guy Sephiroth to ever trusting Lemmings theres a wide range of characters for different styles games, oddly for a less action oreintated game like mokey island the character has a much more robust personality but in the action/adventure Zelda Series, Link is nothing more than the personification of the player. Both are still characters in their own right and fufill their purpose wonderfully but just in their own idium.

I'll be looking at the top five game characters in Empire's List next.

Looking at Characters: Identifying Archetypes

Once I had finished looking at Character Archetypes I thought I'd be best to look at a range from characters from different mediums and identify which of the new archetypes I've discovered recently do they come under, this is to help get to grasps with defining the characters I have yet to create through the use of examples.

The Punisher / Frank Castle

Frank Castle is one of the many Vigilantes that feature in Marvel Comics but with a drastic difference from many other Heros in the Marvel Universe. After the deaths of his Wife and Children at the hand of The Mafia during a gangland execution in Central Park, New York. Castle, becoming obssesed with vengence began to wage war on all forms of crime with the brutality that the Mob showed his family. Using a variety of weapons and skills from his tenure in the army as a war veteran The Ounisher as Castle now calls himself has a no limits and isn't beyond Killing those who have done wrong making him a very different type of Hero than conventional ones such as Spider-Man or Thor.

The very nature of The Punisher already builds up and interesting ways to approach what archetype he is. His willingness to Kill and general violent streak is often traits of The Shadow but the punisher does this for the greater good making him and "Anti-Hero" his past events and catalyst to becoming The Punisher earns him the title of "Tragic Anti-Hero". Due to many of The Punisher's exploits he can also be seen as "The Judge" as he not only declares who has been evil or good but also punishes them accordingly. By the Chinese Zodiac Archetypes Frank Castle would "The Dog" who "Believes in justice for all. Fights for principles. Sometimes bad tempered, self-righteous."

Vincent Vega

Vega is one of the many characters that appear in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. Working for gang boss Marsellus Wallace, it is Vega's job to collect items from clients/customers and use aggressive negotiation skills, often with a handy tool such as a fire arm. In the film Vega has been tasked with keeping Wallace's Wife Mia company for the evening, taking her to a movie or restaurant whilst Marsellus is off negociating Business deals of the sort. Ultimately Vega's stash of Herione is the main catalyst for the events to follow, Mia mistaking it for Cocaine overdosing.

Essentially Vega is a hired goon who in other parts of the film is just that but in his own segment is the main character. Through out the film Vega can be veiwed as a "Caretaker" or "Performer" for Wallace but within his own segment in the film Vega's Behaviour and mannerisms can dub his as a "Cycnical Anti-Hero". Pulp Fiction is a great film at showing that character's archetype roles can change by simply presenting a story told from their perspective or centre upon them and that it's the audience's point of veiw that also makes the archetype.

Kaepora Gaebora

Kaepora Gaebora is the Wise Owl that appears in several Legend of Zelda games, often providing hints and clues as to what the player should do next or giving backstory to the events unravelling. It's said during "Ocarina of Time" that Kaepora is the the reincarnation of a Sage adding to the reasons why he knows so much and can guide the player.

Clearly Kaepora can be identified as a "Sage/Mentor" character in that his sole purpose is to guide and inform the player but he can also be viewed as a "Catalyst" in that with out some of his clues the player would not know where to progress from their current stage. The Character has appeared in some kind of essence/symbol in other games but not as Kaepora, In "Link's Awakening" an Owl appears and guides the character but is not Kaepora, in "Twilight Princess" a large bird like entity protects the forest areas showing the role of the Owl being a "Guardian" rather than a "Sage". Through out other games there are Owln Statues that provide useful information showing that not just the character but the form of the character can be an archetype.

Looking at existing characters and trying to figure out their archetypes is a good way to establish how you want your character to be like being through influence or inspiration. With my research into archetypes coming to an end I will be looking for more sources of inspiration for ym own characters.