How Do You Simplify the Character Design to Work Within the Platform’s Constraints?

Until recently, it was useless to design a game character with flowing clothing or hair. The game platforms simply couldn’t render the character in real time, or the time and cost required to animate the cloth for pre-rendered characters was prohibitive. Simplifying a character design is not really that hard. The main thing to remember is to work from the general to the specific. If you need to simplify a great but very complicated character design, look for the most basic general shapes that make up the character. Use the basic shape that remains as the basis of your simplification process.

Will the Character Be Close Enough to See Facial Expressions?

You will have to know if you need geometry to represent facial features or if a texture map will be enough in the final product. Obviously, if the character’s expressions will be important to the role the character is to play, you must include additional detail in both the texture maps and in the geometry to be able to convey a convincing expression. While you, the character designer, will not be building the actual geometry or maybe not even working on the texture maps, it is important that you keep these issues in your mind.

Will the Character Need to Speak?

A character that speaks will have different geometry requirements than a silent one. A character that speaks will need a mouth that articulates and moves. This requires additional geometry in the model. The person that will be modeling the character will need a clear picture of what is expected and needed.

How Much Detail Will You Need in the Hands, Feet, Hoofs, Talons, Paws, Etc.?

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when hands were represented by blocks of geometry with painted texture maps. Characters that held items in their hands were often modeled with the item as an integral part of the hand. Now we are seeing characters with articulating appendages. You need to know if your character will be realistic, stylized, surreal, abstract, or something completely out of left field.

Will the Character Be Simple or Complex?

This depends completely on the end use. The only exception would be when your design may be much more detailed than the end use justifies because of potential multiple uses. An example is when the character that you are designing for a game will also be used in print advertising. While the game character would need to be somewhat simple, the print character could be more detailed and complicated.

Who Does the Character Need to Appeal to Visually?

Know your audience and design the character appropriately. The character you are designing for a target audience consisting of teenage boys would be entirely different than a character that is designed for toddlers or an elderly audience.

Can the Character Stand on Its Own Design If Taken out of Its Environment?

You need to check that your design would be understandable if you showed it to someone without any of the surrounding environment. For example, if you are designing a villain, could you take that villain, put it into another context, and still tell that the character is evil? If you could, then your design is working.

Is the Character’s Silhouette or Profile Readable on Its Own?

A character with a strong and recognizable silhouette will be visually stronger, more understandable, and more appealing than one whose silhouette isn’t. If your character is casting a shadow on a wall, does that shadow enhance the perception of the character? If it does, then the silhouette is enhancing the look of the design.

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