I wanted to expand a bit on that post with some additional points.
In my first journal I talked a bit about the things I avoid doing when designing characters, but I think I’d like to spend some time & attention on what I *do* focus on.
1. Avoidance of the overly remarkable visual hero syndrome
Now I know that title sounds like I’m once again talking about what I *don’t* do, but listen up; Most people do FINE at designing recognisable party members & protagonists.
And … to me that’s a bit of an issue. It reminds me a lot of playing an old RPG where they reuse the same NPC sprites in every town 5 times and then there’s one character in the town who stands out like a sore thumb, visually. Every time I see that my head just instantly goes: “GEE, I WONDER WHO MIGHT JOIN MY PARTY IN THIS TOWN”. Rather than care about various unique characters that make the town alive, visually those games already tell you “ignore the other stuff, this is the important thing."
These four people are hanging out in the local pub, guess which one joins your party/is the final boss?
Now obviously you can argue "Hey but sometimes important people stand out more!” which is fine, but here’s the thing: When your party member is supposed to be a totally regular villager who just happens to aid you (often the case), or when a village/location is meant to be filled with badass characters … inappropriate visual cues can ruin the illusion.
In the image shown above we’ve got dirt poor villagers & an arrogant isolationist hero who outright avoids hanging out where the regular villagers do. He’d stand out but he should and wants to.
These four random villagers are hanging out in the town square, which of these will give up their regular life to go adventure!?
Uniformity of style & wardrobe is a tool you can use to make it clear a person really was a regular villager until adventure got in their way.
Nobody expects the plain village girl clad in brown rags to step up and save our extravagant hero at the last moment, so it makes her step towards becoming a full fledged hero all the more impressive. She wasn’t someone designed from the ground up to be “miss iconic hero”, she started out wearing scraps and being just like the other villagers.
A GREAT example of this principle in action is the manga/anime Attack on Titan. The forced uniformity surrounding the entire cast combined with an avoidance of absurd haircolours/traits makes the characters feel far less significant and unique. Whenever you see people wearing the same uniform die horrid deaths you feel like it could’ve just as well been one of the characters you love, because everyone’s a redshirt.
Okay that all makes sense, but tons of your characters still have unique larger than life designs, what’s up with that?
Good question with a simple answer: Because the extreme can be taken two ways:
Here’s my comic’s 3 protagonists when compared to equals/peers of sorts.
Noah (line 1) has a strong social uniformity due to him and other students from his story all wearing school outfits. They’re uniform because they have to be.
Tobi (line 2) has what I call a strong cultural uniformity, she’s from an isolated location with minimal outside influence on fashion and wardrobe + strong environmental influences.
Burk (line 3) is hard to pin down because he’s always on the move, aside from arguably camping him in with pseudo-nudists his peers are other hero-like characters like himself. Usually anyone of this status has quite a bit of fame, a lot of travel experience and *a lot* of freedom in choosing how they present themselves. Considering it’s usually not a role taken by people who’d rather not have notice taken of them this leads to more extravagant outfit/colour choices.
The important thing I try to do is have these choices all be possible alongside eachother. Eventhough a character’s role & interests will obviously dictate who they’ll interact with, I never try to lose sight of the fact that every group, no matter how uniform or unique they might present themselves, is still a group compsed of different characters. The visuals simply que us in on how they present themselves.
This brings me to the final point of this particular post, character’s faces. (and to a degree body type/race/etc)
Would you believe me if I told you these were all the same guy?
As I mentioned earlier, changing a character’s clothes can indicate a change of attitude or role. But this does rely heavily on your character being unique enough to have a significant change in style/wardrobe without them turning out near-unrecognisable. And that brings us to an important point: If you give a villager clad in brown clothes a generic face you use over and over … spoilers: people know this character could never ever matter. And this isn’t a matter of actually making every villager significant, it’s a matter of not designing your world to feel centered around a few unique individuals while everyone else feels like a carbon copy extra in a low budget play. (high budget enough to clone identical twins*)
To summarise, these are some weak mooks at the start of Burk’s story. (weak, as in, Burk can take out 5 of them in one punch)
If you asked a reader which one is Norman, they could tell you. Because Norman is allowed to have a recognisable face.
Anyway that’s all.
1. As always, this is just my opinion & some insight into my thought process when designing characters, as I often hear people asking about it. I’m not saying how I do it is the best way/ideal or that other methods are a sin against creativity. Thanks for reading and I hope it helps some people out!
Ages ago I used to make these neat “PIXEL CARDS”, but I quit as I kept shifting styles and what not over the years.
Now that I’ve finally settled on a pixelart style for my comic & other works that I’m so satisfied with that I doubt I’ll ever fully replace it, I realised it might be a fun idea to start creating pixel cards again.
They’re honestly just little ways to showcase my sprites in a fun way that includes a small backgrounds, character name etc. But I’ve always found them a lot of fun to look at.