Character Design, Where we at?

I've been playing around with proportion and simplicity. Trying to find something interesting and unique. I know for I want simple colors, and by that I mean use colors from a color palette and no gradients in texture, or no "texture" at all. Objects can have 1 color per part, and value changes with in that as needed. Meaning lighten the top of the belt with a highlight of the same color.

I started off with the simplest of simple. I loved having no feet, and detached hands. It makes a lot of things easier, and I like the simplification. This is whats currently in the game:

The simple 4 blocks turned into the main character, who I derived from that to make the zombie enemies and the skeleton on the end. I knew they wouldn't remain that way so I played with color and just kept it loose to move forward with designing the game.

But I felt like it was too simple and too cartoony. I asked myself what kind of style would represent me? Is this it? I don't think so. Its just a little too simple. I'm not sure the big head cartoony was me. I always liked a cartoon, anime, comic book style. (I know all those are very different) but meaning I liked simplifications of characters.

Well the question of what style lead me to ask some more questions. Like if the body was bigger so we can see the outfits a little more how would that look? I actually kept the arms detached but then when I made the small legs, it started to make less and less sense that the arms were floating detached. So I simply added the remaining arm piece to attach them and with a lot of testing got to this point.

The game is is a "top town" but with a good amount of angle on it so the in game would look more like this:

Now the blocky heads are not as strong a motif as they were before. Now the arms seems kinda crazy big, but I still liked it enough to keep exploring, but its not "there". I sent it to my friend who said, "I like it. Everyone seems just a bit wide in the body though. Maybe bring it in by 10-20%? Maybe its not the width but the depth? It's close, but I think it needs just a little tweaking. I know its the style you are going for, but it just seems a bit too exaggerated. They seem a bit stiff, but that is probably just their pose. I'd like to see some animations." I agreed. I had an idea for animation but I thought I'll push the design first.

I took the main character, and game him legs. Full on, but small legs. Refined the hands and re did the face to be more of a rounded cube. I kept the "Mini Gore" mouths but I'm not convinced that it works. I don't plan on having mouth animations in game. And its not very visible from the camera angle. Anyway that got me here:

I took that and brought it into Mixamo to just test it with animation. And maybe its the motion capture data but I felt like am I going in the right direction? I'm not so sure. Time to make this blog post and send it to another friend who's a concept artist. See what he thinks. :D (I actually made this post instead of putting it all into an email and sending it to him)

UPDATE 02/24/18: I continued to work on the proportions, studying a lot of Disney, not that it matters, but trying a lot of new directions that didn't work. Went back to what I had and tried to find what it is I was feeling. Eventually I got here:

...and I'm happy with it. You can see a lot of influences from previous designs, and I think it merges them well.

Game Dev vlog #4 Art Process

My partner Andrew is converting the game to C++ and setting up the weapons in a better way. So a bit of a pause on the direct development as I look to update the style of the characters from the placeholder Mini Gore characters. I'm been sketching and modeling trying to find a place that feels right for what I'm trying to make. Still working on finding the right level of detail and proportions for the characters. I think its getting there, but hard to say just yet. More work to do.

Current Game's Inspiration

There are 3 games I'm drawing from when designing this game. Cat Quest, Bastion, and Mini Gore 2.

I love Cat Quest's simplicity. Its not feature rich but it works and I don't feel its missing anything. It feels tight and well made. I've played it through twice and leveled my character up over 100 both times which means I kept playing well after the story line was over. I like how the enemies tell you how and where they will attack with UI, and you learn to dive roll away. I also loved how you find weapons again and it levels them up. Made for a limited number of treasures but you were happy to find any one. I played Cat Quest on the Switch.

Bastion is an inspiration to many developers, so it may come as no surprise it is to me as well. Its the only game I bought twice. I've replayed Bastion a few times on PC and also on iOS. Theres a lot to love about it. Every feature they added they made sure you learned and got the most out of. I loved the 2 equipped weapons. I'm currently straight up copying their control scheme with the xbox controller. Currently copying the healing mechanic where health potions abound in the world, and you really just need to manage them, and ideally get more currency when you're full. I love their variety of enemy types. Love the variance of weapons, and how well they each work. I'm doing things a little differently so far as I'm locking the player to 1 melee and 1 projectile weapon.

Lastly Mini Gore 2, which is a rather old game, but I love everything Mountain Sheep does. I think Timo Vihola is the artist who designed the characters.  Anyway its always inspired me for art direction. I love the simple beveled cube shape language, I felt they they didn't stick to it as much for their enemies, but still it really worked well for their game. It really just a base in the back of my mind that I just always loved the mix of cartoony style and simplistic design.

Game Dev vlog #3 Melee Weapons & Dungeon 1.0

This week I wanted to get the melee weapons implementation dialed in. Be able to swap weapons and have the attributes change. I still want to get more animations for different weapons but for now this will do.
I also wanted to get the start of the dungeons going. Get a feel for what that will look like. Its tricky to figure out the walls since I don't want the character occluded to easily, yet I also don't want to only have cliffs as boarders. I think I found a nice mix that will give me a few options for making interesting dungeon loops. In Cat Quest they use one kit to make all dungeons and it works. I wanted to go for something similar, with addition of more filler assets. I also have other colors for crystals and mushrooms to make some simple variations.

Game Dev vlog #2 Art Directing

I said I wasn't going to get into the slipper slope, for me anyway, of making assets and art directing along with re-doing over and over, but I can't stop myself. I need the game to look at least fairly well for me to enjoy playing it. Its a weakness. I will probably art up a little more, but not the whole level. next is getting the enemies to swing their melee weapons and cause damage on "connecting".