Monday, October 07, 2013

Something About Concept Design

Work for my group in FB

My version of Noella Luplux from my FB Group. Ownership of the character doesn't belong to me.
I'm just creating a variation of how she should look like. But the artwork is all mine, all sweat and
tears alright. Anyways, I want to bring forward a nagging issue debilitating young artists alike all
across the world today.

Originality. Wikipedia's description is fair enough, so go read it if you haven't
already grasped the full meaning of that word as of yet.

Now, lets talk character creation. Or character conceptualization.

Ask yourself, are you trying to recreate a Final-Fantasy-ish world or Rental Magica/Negima? 
Or are you going towards Atelier/Mana Khemia or Ar Tonelico or the Tales of- series? 

All the titles mentioned before has a very distinct way of portraying in their aesthetics. 

But what do you want to do?

How is your character a symbol of the life you create in the world you created?
What if you wanted to create a character that heals?

You feel like being an original creator. And you come up with a name.
You seem to vaguely remember the relevance of a healer as opposed to a medic.

So you thought maybe you could call it a Medicast, or some sort.

Then I donno, maybe you've loved Rita Mordio's design and concept from Tales of Vesperia,
so maybe you thought you could incorporate the scroll thing into your character.

image from here



Ok, then what's your setting? Is it a place that uses blastia or fonic artes or electricity?
Or is it fueled by Magic?

Let's just say you set your character in a futuristic world like Cocoon in FF13, 
but not as apocalyptic, and magic is still very well present.

So you think to yourself again, and ask, "And a medicast that uses scrolls? 
Hm why not a Medi-Cannon like the ones you see in Scarlet Blade?"

Image from here.


Oh right, Scarlet Blade is a place where Magic technically doesn't really exists
because everything there is done through super-tech, even the skills it seems. Ok fine.
Then proceed with asking yourself questions like, "If she uses a scroll, then how does it work?
 Is it fueled by ancient magic or is it a product of super-nano technology? Or is it just a skill
 that needs to be mastered like throwing kunais?"

If you're suggesting the skill as a form of mastery with scrolls, then you might want to check 
up on the cloth type weapons Dancers use in FF:Tactics.

By now, you should have already answered some questions to your design problem. 
Lets say you already decided that your character uses cloth like a ninja and can 
do megatons of damage with raw cloth whipping awesomeness.

Then how about her overall outfit? Where does she come from? What culture?
What ethnicity? What environment does she come in contact with? Are her 
clothes for battle, for everyday use, for chilling or for just pure fashion?

And why a scroll as a weapon above all things when she's a healer-type character?
Is it because she casts spells using scrolls and it's convenient to just whip at people
while chanting a spell's mantra or is the scroll metal plated and can smack like a razor
and shred everything to pieces? Depends if you're going for badass or not. But if I
really wanted to be badass, I'll get a super gigantic sawblade.

image from here


Anyways, if you need a good example for world creation, it can be seen in Magna Carta. 
I mean, seriously, look at everything there. They always have a hint of Eastern-influenced 
aesthetics and fashion. And as bizarre as a lot of all the clothes look like, they share a common
theme: they all collectively fall back to the world they were set in. 

To put into plain words, they just make sense.

The gaming experience is another thing however. Whether it bodes well in your book or not,
I'll leave it up to your own internal discussion.

Alright then, how about an intentional flaws? 

You want intentional flaw that works? Ok, I'll show you an intentional flaw.

I mean, ok, look at Alisa from Tekken.
image from here.


She looks weird as fuck. Her costume is so out of place. But wait, look at the entire scope
of her background. When you think about it, she is supposed to be out of place. She's a friggin' 
cyborg which isn't supposed to exist in the first place.  And she's created by that weirdo Dr. B.
It's no wonder her outfit looks so fetish-y. And because of all these details, yes, her entire 
design is an intentional flaw. This is done with good reason, and is justified based on her
background story.

Ok, now lets return to your character from before. She's a Medicast/healer who uses a scroll
to knock people off shitless and sorta lives in not-so-post-apocalyptic-Cocoon.

If you think about medics, real medics in our world scream a sense of urgency with their
outfit don't they? The white and red. The first aid symbol as an icon. I mean, if you're gonna
associate your class type's name with something real in our world then go all the way.

Don't dillute that effect unnecessarily like adding in needless clutter like like a girl who wears 
a pink uniform-ish outfit with a nursecap : Medicast.

I mean, you can, and there's nothing really wrong with it if you're looking to do intentional flaws.
But you get this epiphany that your idea might sell as a game, and you want to create a game from
your idea, so why not do something distinctive that'd identify her as a jobclass you've set? If not, 
then don't bother with one. Just create a character with normal character-ish explanations.

Like Lollipop Chainsaw.

image from here

The character design has no need for further explanation. All you need is a cute chick with twin 
ponytails and blonde hair with a bomb body going around shredding zombies into pieces while
spreading lovingjities everywhere using a ridiculously awesome chainsaw. And her world is a 
high school by the way, so why not just make her a cheerleader too to justify her awesome body
and athletic prowess? See? Fits the character description completely.

Going back to the Medicast, if you really were to make her outfit pink, then does that mean 
that the ambulance or medical vehicles/hospitals and such are all gonna be all pink? Or is it 
just her special outfit and she's somewhat of a super girly-girl, so you wanted to go for pink 
no matter what?

Ok, now, remember when I first mentioned originality?

You see, if I were you, I won't even call her a Medicast in the first place, even if it's for originality's
sake. You've got to understand that sometimes originality doesn't come from being completely different 
from what already is. It just has to be something that fits all in the right places. 

I mean, you're listening to the guy who created the word See-Yer-Ri-Zeel. 

So bear with me on this and think about it, if she uses healing magic with technological arts, why 
not a Scholar then? Scholar sounds like a pretty apt profession which can pretty much do anything 
ranging from alchemy, to magical or runic studies, to magic and being a chemist or herbalist. 

Or ok, why not just create a theme for all your classes, with the suffix -whatever for each class.
Lets just say the suffix is -heart. 

Like maybe a Whiteheart is a healing class,
Redheart is a warrior class
Greenheart is an Archer/Scout class
Blackheart is a Thief/Assassin/Prowler class
Blueheart is a Mage class

That sounds original enough. And you don't even have to create a unique name out of it. 
But what is your purpose for doing so? Will the colours be the only deciding factor to the
character's total design?

Of course not.

We artists don't need to be so amazingly original with our heads as to create a word or 
pronounciation like l'Cie or fal'Cie from FF13. Names are the same too. Do you just 
blindshot a name that sounds good, or do you research name meanings before putting
them forth?

Just pick something that matches the context, and it'll do. I mean, Jesus, we already have
Cloud Strife and Squall Leonhart. Do you need any better examples than those?

Like maybe lets say you fancy the name Noel. But the name's already kinda caught on with
the Blazblue fad.

image from here

So you decide to put a twist to the name by adding the suffix -ella to the name. So... Noella?

Noel means Christmas. Are you implying that she's like a Christmas present or a Christmas Nutella?
If you do, then good job on Noella. I hope she is a sweet character with chocolate hair too.

Now, if you want to mindblow yourself with names that are super relevant but isn't all that original,
you should try and check out Digital Devil Saga and check the name of the Demons and characters, 
you'll feel a connection with them instantly.

image from here. And since I'm already talking about this, you might want to listen to this too.

Like for instance:

Serph and Sera are one. They are to merge to become Seraph. Serph by itself has no meaning, 
because he isn't a real character. He was part of a computer matrix program that came to life. 
And he was created by Sera. So it makes so much sense when they become one, because they 
came from the same web of conscience, Sera. Seraph is just a vessel for the two consciences to 
become one again. And because the two of them merged, Seraph is an androgenous being with 
no gender.

And well, Seraph basically means angel or burning one

Whatever floats your boat Yang-Dibakar.

Then there's Heat, a brash hot-head.
Gale, a quick-thinking collected and calm guy.
Argilla, a kind-hearted soul who refutes violence whenever possible.
Cielo is a guy who speaks like a Jamaican and loves freedom.
Roland is a guy of considerable status, wise and responsible.

This is a directed, and deliberate way to put meaning of names into good use. I mean, if you're
looking to try out Searizeel like I did, hey, suit yourself. Tell me if you still like it after 12 years. 

I'm still trying to convince myself to like the name and pretend it sounds good, but people,
I don't need to lie man. It sounds fucking terrible. But I guess if I were to look on the bright
side, I'm pretty much the only damned living person who could even come to terms with
such an abhorrent name with such optimistic sanity.

Anyways, if you want to mindblow yourself with the demon names, feel free to go to the 
wiki page and click or the links. Maybe you'll learn a thing or 2 about cool name generation
that doesn't need to be absolutely original there.

Going back to your character, other than what the character does, how is your character like
as a normal human being/persona? 
Does his/her wardrobe match his/her character? Is it a satire of sorts? 
Do the colours he/she wear reflect the personality? 
What does the costume say about the character? Is he/she good or bad? Kind or cold?

And ultimately, you character design should identify and highlight what your character does
on the first impression itself. If it doesn't then.. well, it's not that you're wrong or anything,
we just live in a very manga-flooded world filled with mangas that always create the same
recurring styles and even students can become magical girls. It's sorta developed an unhealthy
mentality of linear-ness in everything.

If you compare mangas to Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks or any form of Western animation
and comics for that matter, you'll find more often that not that Western graphics have stronger
graphical identity compared to the conventional Korean or Japanese mangas you read.

I'm not talking about kimonos or hakamas or cheongsams or sakuras. I'm talking about
character forms that create character identity. I mean, I went through Cartoon Character
Design class before and I was very offended and taken aback when my lecturer brought up
a presentation about poor character design and pointed out Ragnarok Online as one of them.

I was an avid fan of the game, and I still play it occasionally today on iRO servers. But 
when I gave myself to ponder on it, he's right in the sense that it's not only Ragnarok that's
suffering from this manga stereotype, is also basically every other manga out there.

But hey, occasionally, you get stuff like Doraemon, Detective Conan, Crayon Shin-Chan
and Chibi Maruka Chan. But if you wanna look into something really cool, try Karas.

Knowing this is good. Learning how to be in the global market instead of the manga market 
is a good thing. A good example of realistic drawings and proper character humanization
is Slam Dunk. 

image from here


Everyone looks a certain way because of good reasons, and they all show.
And the best part about Slam Dunk is that every single character introduced in the manga
always appear different from everyone else in terms of facial features.

And if you think Slam Dunk is good, wait till you read Vagabond.

Then, maybe you can check out the character designs for Team Fortress too.
Their character concepts are awesome man. All the body types and forms 
really tells what they're supposed to do. Their costume is just an accessory
to enhance that feeling and provide more detail.

image from here


The totality of your design should reflect on what the character does by itself if you're
opting to create great character design. Don't neglect simple things like the environment
the characters live in. It makes a lot of difference in clothing when the climate is hot like 
Sahara, humid like Malaysia or frigid as Alaska or absolute zero like space.

Everything counts.

And one more thing, have you ever thought about whether the outfit they're wearing 
would feel comfortable? 

Ok, let me juxtapose the question differently.

Have you ever thought how you'd feel if you were to wear whatever it is you're already
designing for your character? If yes, then good, if not then what's your reason for doing so?
Does it really look that aesthetically appealing to you? Does it match the culture?

I mean, by all means, dream big.

Dream that your interest will not just be a passing fad, but an ambition to create something
close to an intellectual property that can be worth a lot when sold to the right kind of people.
So don't dismiss all the small details that makes your idea uniquely you. Give them something
good to boast about.

And more importantly, have you seen all the cosplayers out there? They're wearing things that
feel like crap just to look like somebody fictional they really super adore and want to emulate.
Do them a favor and start being one of those first people who design reasonably comfortable
clothing in your games and animations for all your characters, will you?

Starting from good silhouettes is a nice place to start character creation. A Japanese guy
adopted this technique and put it into good news. Just Google up Monster Hunter artbook.

Then if you're ever sorta stoked with poses or stylishness, then try out Tactics Ogre.

And if you also have a copy of Tony Taka's book, do yourself a favor and look at the 
Shining Series outfits and costumes properly without a raging boner for a change. What do 
they really say about those characters aside from accentuating their female forms and all
their vivacious female assets?

It's not just eye candy man. Don't just look when you paid over a 100 bucks for that damned book!
If you wanna look and fap, buy Playboy. An artbook's an artbook. So don't waste it on your
godforsaken genitals and start observing with focus and study the techniques.

People, we're not living in 1866, where you literally have to Leonardo Da Vinci your way out of 
your head to be the most creative person evah. It's Y2K already you Y2Jackass. We've got plenty
of resources we where we can learn from online or offline.

It's really important to know that before we want to be good by ourselves, or as people say be 
original, we need to be as good as someone first.

So set your bar. Conquer it. Set another one. Conquer again. Repeat. 

Stop trying to climb up to Cloud 9 with your own self-woven rope and painstakingly create a path 
for yourself when you can do so later at Cloud 9 after you've reached Cloud 9 like the rest of all the 
other artists on your climb to Mt. Olympus. 

And all these good people, they even had the common courtesy to drop us ladders from above with 
the sign saying, "You can come up if you want to. All you have to do is decide to climb!"

So stop weaving your own shanty ropes man. Hardwork and good effort make a great combination.
But do that without leaving your smart part out please. I mean, if not, then what's the purpose of
you receiving education in the first place? 

Climb the ladders people already left for you. Learn all the basics they've learned too.
Be like them, than be better than them at what they do. Then, and only after that, figure 
out what you want to do with the rest of your artistic prowess and be as original as you 
can be. Hope you learned something here.

Thanks for visiting, and it's time for my grateful thingy:

So I'm grateful that
1. I completed the above artwork after much mental conflicts.
2. that I completed that same artwork within a period of no more than 9 hours.
3. I submitted the artwork to a place outside my comfort zone. 
4. I finished this longass post which was supposed to be a comment for a fellow groupie.

7-10-2013 I'm Grateful 007

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