Hello folks, and welcome back to our development diary. This installment and next are going to come at you rapid-fire, because we’re going to be showing off some of the characters and creatures that live in the world of Phantastica!Today we’re going to look at the development of the Gunslinger, and her evolution from concept to screen.
When developing characters, we always start with a concept. What are we looking to accomplish with the character and how does he or she fit into the game? It’s important to remember that before anything else, we are making a game and thus there are rules that everything has to abide by. What can a player do? How do they do it? That sort of thing.
In this case, Legends of Phantastica is a dungeon-crawler, a roguelike. So we expect players to navigate our dungeon mazes hunting for treasure, evading traps, fighting monsters and so forth. We also want to give players the chance to experience the game in different ways, so settled on multiple character classes, each behaving in different ways. There is the straightforward path, where players just brute force their way through the challenges before them, there is the circuitous route where players rely on magic or skills to get by, and then there are the in-betweens. One of these approaches, for instance, would be to attempt force but minimize contact, that is, handle things from a difference. And within our fiction, which is something we’ll touch more on later, the most logical concept for a character would be a pistolero, or as we know her, a Gunslinger.
From that point we come to deciding the character’s look. Here at Variant we like our hero characters to be diverse, both in their traits but also in their expectations. When you think of western settings and you think of the gun fighter trope, most people think of the Clint Eastwood or John Wayne rough-and-tumble sort of character. We decided to go a different direction and draw upon other figures, like Annie Oakley.
Indeed, in our development bible the entry for the Gunslinger describes her as “a sassy, Annie Oakley type with red hair in a long braid. Not so great up close and personal, but she can handle herself in a fight. Clad in a beige leather duster, tight blouse, practical brown pants and black flat-brimmed hat, her gun skills are without equal. Suitable to her profession, she wields cards of the Gun suit with added authority.”
That’s actually the entire entry as regards her appearance.
You might be asking, “Well how come? Why don’t designers be more specific when it comes to her look? That way the artists know what they should be putting together!” To an extent that’s true, but we think it’s important to get our team members involved in the creative process as much as possible. This way everybody gets to have the same ownership stake in the project, and plus, it’s more fun that way!
To the left you can see artist Phil Manning’s first take on the Gunslinger. (To see sprite artist Raf Domingos’ take on the Gunslinger concept, click here!) Immediately you can see that he’s taken some liberties with the character description, going from a standard leather duster and fedora to a ranger’s hat and green overcoat. He also added a little bit of sex appeal with the bared midriff, and the belt bands and medallion add some flair to what would otherwise be a pretty dull design! What’s especially interesting is that she looks so very, very innocent in this picture. Her calm demeanor and doey eyes almost convey a different type of character than that you’d expect from a trained shooter – perhaps too much so.
So we sat down with Phil and went over these concerns, and he went back to the drawing board: Literally.
Meanwhile, the design team spent time on her abilities. What, really, is the Gunslinger capable of? Pinpoint accuracy with a firearm, no doubt. But what else? We did specify that she’s not so great up close, so it’s okay that she’s got those skinny arms and legs. She might be able to take care of herself, but she won’t be picking any fights in the saloon anytime soon. Also, she might be a gunfighter, but she’s an adventurer too. She’d have to be ready for anything, and maybe a big heavy coat might restrict her movement? It’s possible that it might afford the protection she needs to get by.
After a few more revisions, Phil came back with a new draft for our Gunslinger gal.
The differences are subtle, but they’re there. Her coat is now clearly a leather duster, which would indeed provide her protection from the elements as an adventurer. Her hat is a more stylish cowgirl hat, and her colors contrast more, making them really pop. Even her expression is changed, now a little more sassy, a little more world-aware. This was the Gunslinger we were looking for.
Once approved, we sent the concept work on to our character sprite artist Raf Domingos. His job involves translating Phil’s concept work into game sprites, which is no easy task when you consider all the detail in Phil’s artwork!
The trick is to seize on the key details and work down from there.
Raf builds his character sprites off a standardized mannequin, adding in the details and designs that bring the character to life. Here, the obvious pieces are the hat and coat, and the tied-off blouse, from which the rest of the sprite gets built, according to Raf.
After he gets to work, we check and recheck to make sure the sprite fits within the boundaries she needs to fit within – for example, on the iPad she needs to fit within 128×128 pixels. And as he works on and finishes up the Gunslinger, we start the process all over again with the next character!
Stay tuned for the next installment, friends. Next time we’ll look at another character, the Brawler, as well as some of the creepy crawlers that infest the Clockwork Tower. Thanks for stopping by!