Getting the character right is one thing I want to get sorted before starting to work on the visual feel of everything else in the game. I think it’s really important that the character fits into the world, but that world is also in tune with the character. Working on the character first also means that I can start to make sprite animations for early prototypes with placeholder level design. It will help give an early impression of the game without having to work out loads of individual tiles for background imagery!
I began trying to design a character a while ago, but for the most part ended up sketching slight variations of the same thing, and it wasn’t working well or progressing. I mentioned already that I originally wanted to make the character a portrayal of a Japanese character, and found a site called 51 Japanese Characters which really helped. The site creates these “characters” based on Japanese personality stereotypes, for example your first thought of a Japanese woman may be a woman in a kimono and sandals.
Your first thought of a Japanese man might even be a ninja.
My original inspiration for the game character came from the Kawaii (cute) character. Thinking about David Perry’s explanation of Game Cliches, I thought the harmless, cute little girl in pink would make a good protagonist, as she looks as though she can do no wrong. Kawaii is almost completely unique to Japan, and therefore would have been good representation of a Japanese personality.
Before I really knew what the game was going to be about, my character designs reflected this personality in a very cute, happy way. I started to develop a chibi-esque cartoon style, which was very simple to draw and provided enough detail to get the character across. As the principles of the game started to develop, my realisations of the character also evolved to be a lot less smiley and cute.
I started to develop this idea further, but never really finished.
Developments in character design led me to realise however that the main character should be a foreigner, a representation of someone like me who dreams of going to Japan. For a fleeting moment, I though maybe I should base the character on myself. In a way, this would be ideal. I know myself very well, and probably be able to portray my personality quite accurately! The character would be a bit of a nerd, enjoying the geeky side of Japanese culture like anime and videogames, and definitely have a natural anti-social nature. While I’ll probably be using some of these ideas, the main character won’t be completely me, and here’s why:
Me= grumpy, dull, unmotivated, spiteful, boring. No one would want to play that game!
Before, I concentrated on tying together a personality from Japanese personality stereotypes. Instead my character will represent a Western, nerd, gamer grrl stereotype. It’s the type of person who would love to go to Japan, and I could probably still think up an accurate portrayal of her. As for a name, I’m currently rolling with Hannah or Hana, as it’s a fairly popular Western name, but also mean flower in Japanese (hence, HANA-mi).
As it would be cruel for the character to be completely alone, here I gave her a cat to keep her company. Perhaps I’ll add a twist that reveals the cat to be a super-villain.