COMCEPT CONCEPT WEDNESDAYS: A Hero is Born!
Mighty Greetings, Mighty Beckers -- and welcome to another peek behind the scenes (screens?) at the process of developing the imagery for the world of Mighty No. 9!
So far we’ve taken a look at the step-by-step evolution of the design for Mighty No. 5, Mighty No. 1, Mighty No. 3, and our enemy footsoldiers, but what about Mighty No. 9?
That’s right -- today, we’re going in-depth on the main robo-man himself, where all this started in the first place: our hero, Beck!
Once again, we’ll turn it over to director Koji Imaeda and lead character designer Kimo Kimo to provide the details...
PHASE 1: “MAKE HIM CUTE”
Kimo Kimo: It began with a simple order from Inafune: "I want to make him cute." So I started off aiming for a design with an overall cute vibe, but with eyes that showed a strong will. Even before I arrived at this design, many other people had worked on their own ideas as well, but ultimately, Inafune felt we were all trying too hard to draw in his style, so he told us to instead try drawing Beck however we liked. And so it was back to square one...
PHASE 2: CORE IDEAS
While Kimo Kimo got back to work on Beck’s design, Imaeda put together some documents filling in details about Beck and the world of Mighty No. 9 to try and provide some help for the design process.
Imaeda: It was around this point that we decided that the central concept of the game would revolve around “xel” technology, which we started to flesh out in these early documents. (We’ll talk about “xels” and “cores” -- the building blocks of the Mighty No. 9 world -- in a later update.) As an aside, I actually drew all of the simple illustrations in these docs myself, so I could let Kimo Kimo focus on his designs.
PHASE 3: SUIT UP!
With Inafune's feedback and Imaeda's reference materials, the initial Beck design took another step forward:
PHASE 3: INAFUNE’S FEEDBACK
(referring to the two Becks on the far right) “I think there are too many lines used in the design as a whole; we can do without the thin lines on the feet and such. Also, let’s try an actual round nose rather than just holes. And why don’t we make the red parts blue instead.”
Imaeda: Looking back on it now, from here on to the final design, there weren't really any major changes. Although I seem to recall it still being a lot of work...
Kimo Kimo: While looking over Imaeda's concept materials, I kept the enemies in mind as I proceeded with Beck's design. With the instruction to "draw him however you like," and the sense of nostalgia I saw in the game, I decided to incorporate the sort of designs that made me excited when I was a child. I did a lot of research into what was popular in the 1980s, and I asked all sorts of questions, like what Inafune himself liked at the time, what his key influences were, etc. In the end, his basic thoughts on Beck were, "He may look different, but we're going to imbue him with the spirit of everything we've cultivated over the years," so I took that to heart and did my best to try and capture those same feelings and emotions in my work.
(above) Some of the older influences used to tap into a nostalgic look for Mighty No. 9 included (left) Kikaida and (right) Giant Robo. For more on character designer Kimo Kimo and his design process, tune into this Friday’s MightyCast for an extended interview!
I also figured, if we're talking science fiction devised in the 80s, it's got to have space suits! So I patterned the design after a space suit, making sure not to get too futuristic, keeping it more like a diving suit. And since this is his default form before transforming, I made the base color grey to give it a neutral look.
When I was a child, there was a scene in Astro Boy where Astro Boy puts on his red boots. It really surprised me at the time. "He's putting on clothes even though he's a robot!" Beck is supposed to be fairly human in nature, so I made his design look like he’s wearing clothes, boots, gloves, and a helmet over a metal body. In my head, I imagine him perhaps wearing a different, simple work outfit while in the lab -- not that I expect there to be any scene of him wearing something like that in the game. (By the way, I should mention these thoughts are just part of the design process, not anything official!)
Anyway, Inafune told me to draw what I liked, and the end result (the Beck on the far right in the image at the top of Phase 3 here) is something I like a lot, even looking at it now. Say, Imaeda -- any chance of this version making it in as an alternate costume?
PHASE 4: EARLY TRANSFORMATIONS
Once the basic design was set, we had to start thinking about how best to present the game’s transformation concept in order to prepare our project pitch document. Imaeda explained to Kimo Kimo how he wanted Beck to transform, and had him come up with a variety of transformation ideas:
Imaeda: Looking back on it now, trying to come up with transformations when the enemy and boss designs weren’t even decided yet was a pretty tough assignment. Still, Kimo Kimo drew up a huge variety, from minor, straightforward rearrangements all the way to complex machines that no longer resembled Beck’s base form at all.
Kimo Kimo: Imaeda only gave me some basic instructions, but with modern tech, it’s possible to do some really cool-looking transformation animations, so I had a blast coming up with all sorts of unique ideas.
PHASE 5: INTI CREATES...CREATES!
Next, we passed the completed project proposal to Inti Creates, who then came up a bunch of their own ideas for Beck. They were really motivated at Inti, and after seeing all the great work they did, we felt really good about having them onboard for the project.
(above) The gang over at Inti Creates whipped up a bunch of line drawings for potential Beck designs...
(above) Here, we start to see colors added. Isn’t the orange scarf cool? And how about the more realistic Beck? Maybe we can use him for the cover of Mighty Crunch! cereal...
Imaeda: In the end, we went with a design closer in style to the concepts we came up with on our side, but we continue to take ideas and hints from the suggestions Inti provided us. Call's initial tentative design came about during this period, too.
PHASE 6: THE FINAL POLISH
With only a couple of weeks to go before the Kickstarter launched, Imaeda pulled together the final design!
Imaeda: Using Kimo Kimo’s illustrations as a base, I tried to achieve a stylish, professional look, making sure to include all of the key points of his design (above left). Then we had Inti Creates take that and add the finishing touches (above right). This became the final design for Beck -- a design born from true collaboration, which fits perfectly with the theme of Mighty No. 9!
And thus, a hero was born! We hope you enjoyed this beck-stage pass to our design process -- maybe enough to share with a friend, or at least to let us know what you think in the comments here, on our Twitter account @MightyNo9, or our official Facebook page!