There are so many things that make a game captivating: its plot, its gameplay, its outstanding graphics, and other things. But one of the most important things is its characters. They add spice to a game and encourage the players to play more
Characters like Sonic and Super Mario are great examples of that. They were created long before high-quality realistic graphics became a thing — but they still are likable and remembered years after. Nowadays, as the games become more complex, the characters become more complex too. Read further to learn which skills you need and what to keep in mind if you want to design characters for games.
The basics of video game character design
What should you learn to become a character designer for games? First, you have to be able to visualize your concepts. Graphic design courses and arts education help with that. Second, you have to master 3D modeling software. While it isn’t always necessary, it will still give you more flexibility and ways to express your ideas. It is also a generally good skill to have if you’ll be working in the game development industry.
Speaking of soft skills — you need to have a great imagination. Coming up with all those unique character traits and stories is not an easy thing. Luckily, just like any other skill, imagination can be trained.
And that’s actually a pleasant process: besides doing some creative exercises, you can consume various content (books, movies, and games) to gain new insights and ideas and get these creative juices flowing.
Communication and collaboration are also important. Most likely, you won’t be working alone and will have to communicate your ideas to the concept artists. That’s why you need to deliver them clearly and be open to discussions. Furthermore, there’s only so much you can learn from courses alone.
It’s always important to network with other professionals working in the industry and to share your thoughts and experience with them. Learning someone else’s approach on how to design a game character might help you come up with your own amazing solutions and insights.
How to design a character for a video game
In video game character design, the visualization should come after the idea. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation where the initial draft illustration doesn’t match with an image you’ve created. But how to build this idea to create a detailed concept? Here are some tips to consider.
1. Understand which character the game lacks
Naturally, not only the main protagonist should have their own unique design, background, and traits. A game has to be filled with various characters, from players’ potential partners to villains, and each of them has to be original.
If you already have some in-game characters created, try to come up with the one with a totally different background and personality. Maybe it will be a really good guy who somehow became a pirate. Or a sweet-looking fairy who is actually quite cunning.
2. Write their backstory
A personal story is what makes a character complex, interesting, and whole. Each of the more or less significant game characters needs to have their own story to help players either relate with them or understand them a bit more. Keep in mind that this story won’t be revealed at once and maybe not even be revealed totally.
There will be some information given at the beginning of the game. There will be some details to be added later. There also should be some kind of a development arc, especially if it’s the main character we’re talking about. Maybe they will undergo a serious transformation — and it’s up to you to decide how serious it will be.
It’s great if you’ll come up with as many details as possible. Even if they won’t be mentioned later in the game, knowing which food or TV show your character likes will still help you give them more depth.
3. Come up with character traits
Traits make characters look more relatable and vivid. You have to make a list of character’s quirks, words they use, certain mannerisms, and literally everything else that will add details to their personality. Mind that they have to align with their background and overall make sense for the person that you want to portray.
It’s extremely important to keep the balance here. For instance, even if your character is greedy, you have to somehow show it in their design, but you shouldn’t highlight it in their story or storylines all the time. Otherwise, it would look like they have only one trait. This would be just as ineffective as coming up with too many controversial traits for one character.
4. Work on the aesthetics
This is probably one of the most challenging parts of designing a character for a game. You have to come up with a design that doesn’t only look appealing but also reflects the character’s personality. This could be especially hard if you’re designing someone for games like RPGs, where players could customize their protagonist as much as they want.
But in every other situation, everything from posture to clothes has to contribute to the personality you’ve created. If they have a weapon, its look and even type have to match the character’s image too.
For instance, a brave, sharp-tongued character would probably stand in a power pose with an ax in its hand. A timid one might stand slouched and avert their eyes but hold a gun or a bow with an arrow — something that helps defend themselves without getting too close to the enemies.
To sum up
How to design a character for a video game? To do that, you have to build both hard and soft skills. Take art and graphic design courses, master 3D modeling software, constantly boost your imagination and learn how to communicate your ideas.
Designing a character requires a comprehensive approach when you both have to invent their story, come up with a captivating personality, and then support it with a strong visual. We hope that these tips will help you do that easily!