Character Designs in "James - Journey of Existence"
Character design is the first step of creating the art style that will carry on throughout a game project. In "James - Journey of Existence," a game that relies so much on art (for better or for worse), the importance of character design is especially important. But like all great ideas, it all started simply with pencil and paper.
The main character, James, didn't need too much revision. I knew from the start that I wanted him to be a young boy, somewhat generic, wearing what appeared to be pajamas with a housecoat. It was the image that inspired me when starting to develop the dreamlike, abstract world he would explore.
One part of James' design that I played with was his face. The shape of the head and the eyes can vary drastically, and would again ultimately determine how the rest of the world and cast of characters were designed. I decided to go with a look that was a mix of "Disney" and "anime" (a terrible description) because that was what I was comfortable with that were expressive enough, but every day I wonder if I made the right decision, the eyes especially might have better suited the story.
Not only the look is important, but also how the character would be animated. I new that I would separate the body into separate segments for animation purposes (see previous update). With that in mind, if the clothing was too complicated, I would need to separate it into too many parts for it to be practical to animate and implement. At the same time, the more parts to the body, the better it would look. James' housecoat would be separated into up to three separate parts when animated, but any more than that would exceed the maximum amount of RAM I was able to access (3.4 GB for a 32-bit game). To date, not all the animations for the main character have been added, but I certainly plan to later this year.
And this is all for James. I didn't even mention the other characters yet... I can say they required a lot of revision, as I had to do a lot of thinking as to who they were and what they would look like. How exaggerated could I make them? How stylistic should I make them? How would they look when animated? Even now, I'm not sure exactly what they will all look like, although I do have a good idea:
Still interested in the concept process in the character designs? The "Artwork Archives" reward will give you plenty more to see!
Oh, and the free demo for the game so far uses HD art, but some people with 4 GB of RAM may still see it crash upon opening. I uploaded a new, identical demo with standard-definition animation frames (512x512), which can run on almost any computer with at least 2 GB of RAM, and still looks fantastic as long as the character isn't taking up the entire screen. Give it a try at http://james.fromdustscratch.com !