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  • The Aesthetics of Unique Video Game Characters

    [05.20.10]
    - Shaylyn Hamm

  • My first step was to determine which two classes would be most fitting to work with, within the scope of the project. Since I was only redesigning two classes, and not the full set, I wanted to make sure that the characters I picked contrasted each other in terms of their attitude, age, and body type. I sketched a set of possible base designs for eight of the nine characters (excluding the Pyro), and with this image I began seeking feedback from the internet community. I wanted to gauge the reactions people might have to certain kinds of features, to test the limits of how "unattractive" or "provocatively" a character could be before there was a strong opposition to them. For example, in the below image (Fig. 14), the second Sniper in the second row, has a bit of her midriff exposed. In the fifth row, the first Scout is wearing her hair in pigtails. The reactions to these two features were rather polarized, on the websites that I posted them. Many viewers voiced a preference for these designs, but others (including several females) strongly disliked them, finding them too suggestive and "girly." The reactions to the Spy designs (row six) were the most extreme, with feedback strongly for and against each one of the sketches. In the end, I chose the Medic and the Heavy, in favor of their contrasting character types. In the links posted in the above paragraph, the full discussions of each image can be found.

    One of the main sources of inspiration for the Heavy design was female World
    War II-era Soviet snipers (Fig. 15). Despite being rugged and fearsome in battle, many of them were rather, and served as role models to other women and girls. Similarly, I wanted my character to be intimidating and massive, but have a slightly charming aspect as well. I didn't want to design an oafish "Helga" character, as that would rely too heavily on default stereotypes of heavier women. From my concept sketch (Fig. 16), I began constructing my model. Since I posted work-in-progress screenshots of the model throughout the process, I tried to respond to similar suggestions by changing and adding details along the way. Examples of such changes are adding some more bulk to her side profile, defining the shape of her rear more carefully, and deciding the colors of her hat (Fig. 18-20).

    I followed the same process for the Medic character. Originally the model had round eyeglasses like the original male version, but I wanted to change the style to something a bit more unique to this character. Through the community, I was able to decide between several styles of eyewear, and ultimately settled on cat-eye glasses, which had first become popular for ladies in the 1940's. Another example of an improvement I made along the way is to her neutral facial expression. The concept drawing (Fig. 22) depicts a "classically attractive" woman in a style that would be popular in a World War II propaganda poster. My feedback suggested that her expression could be more stern and her facial features more angular and distinctive, so after re-imaging the character slightly (Fig. 25), I reworked her face to give her a slightly more evil and crazed base expression.

    Slight changes to the characters continued well into the rigging process. Some of these changes were responses to my feedback and suggestions, while others were necessitated by the limitations of working with the bone structure of the original characters. The arms of both the Heavy and Medic are now longer than I originally planned, in order to ensure that the animations are as natural as possible. The Medic's shoulders are a bit broader, her coat longer, and the Heavy's upper body is somewhat bulkier in the most recent versions (Fig. 22 and 27). These restrictions have created an interesting "balancing act" to my development process, in which I must sometimes compromise between what will look most ideal for the character, and what will keep her from breaking in-game.



    Figure 14 - Early character design sketches


    Figure 15 - Female Soviet snipers, a big initial source of inspiration for the Heavy


    Figure 16 - Final design sketch for the Heavy


    Figure 17 - Concept sheet for the Heavy


    Figure 18 - Early progress of the Heavy model showing two possible hat colors


    Figure 19 - Early progress of the Heavy model showing changes to the geometry


    Figure 20 - Early progress of the Heavy showing improvements to the silhouette form


    Figure 21 - The Heavy model with weapons and taunts


    Figure 22 - Early female Medic concept sketch


    Figure 23 - Concept sheet for the Medic


    Figure 24 - Early Medic model WIP


    Figure 25 - A slight updated concept sketch of the Medic to reflect some changes


    Figure 26 - A collection of improvements and changes to the female Medic throughout the project


    Figure 27 - The Medic model with weapons and taunts

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