Game Character Design: How It's Done Pt.2

The second part of our guide to creating a game character based on Uprising.

 

In the first part of this article, we’ve pointed out the questions you need to ask yourself when creating a game character and answered some of them based on our experience with Jack from our mobile action game Uprising. We’ve discussed where does the action take place, what’s the origin of the character, what does he look like, how did he got trapped and what’s his attitude to the situation. Now let’s move on to the rest of the questions.

 

Who is helping him?

 

Well, being alone might have some benefits, but that’s not a game about loneliness. The world is still in the early days of post-apocalypse, so Jack’s former squadmates should still probably be somewhere around. So, as support for Jack, we introduced the main protagonist from the main Rise of Colonies game – Matt Denvers. He is Jack’s former squadmate and battle comrade. Supporting characters are necessary for better and deeper protagonist presentation. The way Jack speaks to Matt, makes jokes about him and takes his jokes helps the player better understand who Jack is. Matt is a virtual character to whom Jack chats over the radio once in a while and the one who helps Jack with power strikes or in-game abilities if you like.

 Matt is a virtual character to whom Jack chats over the radio once in a while and the one who helps Jack with power strikes or in-game abilities if you like.

 

It is quite a simple story presentation with voice-overs but that’s fine – it is not reasonable to make full-scale animated cut-scenes with a casual game budget.

 

How does he defend himself?

 

Now that we’ve got a character, a story, an attitude, and comrades, let’s give the guy a gun he deserves.

 

It is actually not only about guns, but also about the environment. When he escapes the facility he finds himself at the barricade of garbage, metal plates and wood. The reason why the barricade is here is not disclosed in the game but, as a game designer, I know that the employees of the facility tried to barricade the entrance to give personnel enough time to evacuate with valuable data.

 

Of course, since we are talking about the research facility of one of the leading corporations, players are expected to find some hi-tech toys left at the barricades. These become available as Jack progresses through the game. He is not a very intelligent person, so he’s just glad to find and use them to his advantage without asking too many questions.

 

Jack’s guns include 3 main weapons with different control mechanics: a pistol, an automatic rifle, and a rocket launcher. While the game is set in the future, we could assume that there will be some advanced weapons like laser pistols or blasters. But our Jack is keen on old things like natural human powers, friendship and strong will, so he would gladly use traditional firepower as opposed to the modern one. That’s why we gave him traditional guns and moved hi-tech stuff to the toys section.

 

Jack’s toys are out of scope for this article, so they will be covered in one of the other ones dedicated to ROC: Uprising game.

 

Where does he go after the game?

 

So, how does the story end for our character? You’ll need to know that from the very beginning in order to prepare your players for that. You don’t have to reveal all the details throughout the game, but having protagonist successfully resolve story crisis, having a happy end and all that stuff and then walk the character into the sunset as the camera shifts to the sniper rifle scope aiming at his back will not be tolerated by player. If it is a bad ending, it should lead to that bad at game’s key plot points without those spikes like “they lived happily ever after until one day everybody died”.

 

Regarding Jack, we have a sequel planned for his further adventures, so he is definitely going to survive the game as does Matt, since he is the main protagonist of another game title, taking place roughly 3 years after the events of Uprising.

 

This is a close-to-final screenshot of the game:

 

This is a close-to-final screenshot of the game

 

So, let’s sum up this long read and outline the main items that make believable characters:

 

  •       Character Legacy – it is about the world he/she lives in and his/her life. He/She can’t be a person from nowhere, sudden surprises just won’t work out.
  •       Motivation – he/she has to be certain of the things he is doing and why he is doing the things. Actions and events that lead to in-game character behavior should be clear.
  •       Attitude – a person’s character should also have a mentality, not only visuals – the way he/she moves, the way he/she speaks also helps character development. That’s one of the reasons why generic “walk, jump, run” animations from the internet and stores won’t work here.

 

In the end, it all comes down to developing a believable environment with characters that fit gameplay mechanics well.

 

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Now, about that bonus part

 

While it may be clear why the main characters should have a lot of attention, as they are unique and something that the player has to control, secondary characters, on the other hand (or enemies since we are talking about ROC: Uprising), are repeatable and recyclable. And this is the very reason why they should be designed well because you’ll be seeing a lot of them at the same time on the same screen. So, they shouldn’t be boring – if you fail to make them appealing players will likely leave the game sooner than later.

Who are they?

 

So, who are our enemies in Uprising? Well, according to the story, they are people that got technological enhancements installed into their bodies. But due to the incident, they lost their minds, conciseness and became aggressive. Before that, they were regular people so they should look normal. Take a look out of the window in any big city and note people on the streets. You’ll likely won’t notice anything special, just a crowd walking. These are our enemies in this game. But you can’t put real-life clothes’ colors into the game, especially in the night setting, because there will be a lack of contrast and players will struggle with identifying enemies on the screen. So, we are taking advantage of our futuristic game setting and adding some bright colors. This would make them what we need them to be – a part of the game world.

 

Why they are who they are?

 

Answering this question, we’ll define the looks of the characters. As stated above, they were once regular people, so, let’s start drawing basic forms:

 

As stated above, they were once regular people, so, let’s start drawing basic forms

 

Moving further, they are the people with enhancements, so they end up losing their human identity and turning into robot-like creatures, therefore, we can try several different looks from minor body enhancements to total armor and limb replacement.

 

Moving further, they are the people with enhancements, so they end up losing their human identity and turning into robotic-like creatures, therefore, we can try several different looks from minor body enhancements to total armor and limb replacement

 

The above concepts look great, in my opinion, and the ideal choice here would be to have all of them in the game, however, there are few catches:

 

  1. A big amount of small details – those can’t be caught on a mobile-sized screen and will just be a mess, so we need something more simple.
  2. It is hard to get all those distinct models, textures and animations on a casual budget. As we mentioned in the first part of the article, the characters have to be believable and we all agree that moving style of a person with mechanical legs will be different from the one with real ones, so it is necessary to create not only models and textures but also a complete set of animations.
  3. ROC: Uprising game genre assumes that players should be able to quickly distinct enemies by the looks (here’s the strong one, here’s the quick one, etc.), so having a lot of characters with minor differences works somewhat against the gameplay. (I personally hate those sacrifices, but any game development company is used to compromises)

 

So, let’s make more of a contrast and generic character while keeping them somewhat hi-techy.

 

So, let’s make more of a contrast and generic character while keeping them somewhat hi-techy.

 

Here we have the main color, which we can randomly change in the game to add some variety.

 

The above concepts all have faces covered up, which again leads to less human-like creatures, so we decided to make faces visible in the final concept.

 

The above concepts all have faces covered up, which again leads to less human-like creatures, so we decided to make faces visible in the final concept.

 

And that’s how it looks in the game (close-up shot).

 

And that’s how it looks in the game (close-up shot)

 

So, in this article, we’ve answered the rest of the questions from its first part – who’s helping our main character,  how does he defend himself, where does he go after the game. Also, as a bonus, we talked about creating secondary characters – the enemies. Of course, there are more characters in the game – there are walkers, gunmen, riflemen, rocket-men and they partially reuse resources, but that’s additional gameplay tips and tricks, which we will cover in one of our next articles.

That’s it for today, folks. Till next time!

 

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