Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Concepting a character

All characters start with an idea. Sometimes it's very vague, other times you get a detailed description with full biographies from the writer. Here I'll try to explain a bit about my process when imagining characters.

It starts with inspiration. In this particular case it's obviously heavily inspired by the plague doctor mask from when the black death ravaged Europe. I've always found it to be a really cool visual, but apart from that I'm fascinated with how they would fill the beaks of these masks with fragrant herbs, since they believed that the disease was caused by bad smells. (According to miasma theory.) This is something that i found interesting, and somehow wanted to include in this character.

His weapon is based on an incense burner I've seen used in catholic rituals. Whenever I'd see one of those things I'd think "That would make an awesome weapon!". So combining the idea of an incense burner with that of a flail or a morning star seemed like a good match. (As a side note it's an interesting juxtaposition how "morning star" is another name for Lucifer, and I'm combining it with something used in supposedly sacred rituals.) So the idea of having toxic smoke coming out of the weapon to do additional damage to enemies seemed cool to me.

Which brings us back to the mask. As a child i was fascinated by greek mythology, and how oracles would inhale certain vapors to have their visions. So by adding this to the fact that the plague doctors put fragrant herbs in their masks, i get a character who has smoldering herbs in his mask, giving him protection from various things like poison etc. A side effect would be that inhaling all this smoke makes him kind of loopy, staggering and drunk/drugged-like. This again ties nicely into the weapon, which i can see being a good fit for a character that staggers and swirls around. The smoke coming out of both his mask and his weapon ties the whole design together both visually and conceptually.

I do the whole concept sketch in photoshop. At this point in the development cycle it's all about throwing ideas at the wall and see what sticks, so this kind of 2 hour sketch is perfect for that purpose. If this character ends up making it into the final game it will probably go through a process of refining, but not necessarily. Sometimes it just works early on, or you hand the concept over to someone who knows where to take it to make it awesome. When painting a concept like this i try to put some life into the character, some hints about how he moves, his posture etc. Here he is, swinging his flail, trying to keep his balance while also hitting the enemy.

I hope you enjoyed this little writeup, here's a timelapse of me painting this character. The original painting time was pretty much 2 hours on the dot, it's sped up to around 10 minutes for a less boring watch.

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