Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shree: Evolution of a character

I thought I'd take a moment to elaborate on my current game project. After this, I promise I'll shut up about games for a while :)

A while back, I had an idea for an RPG (or rather, ideas on how to tackle major design issues I have with RPGs). I decided to follow up on the idea and do what I can to try and make a game that is fun to play and great to look at.

One of the things I've changed the most about the game is the characters. They've changed as a result of the my drafting different stories, environments, and even mechanics in the game. I was under the original impressions that RPGs were best when you had multiple characters to play with, but I've determined this to be wrong and have since boiled down to controlling just one character.

Being the JRPG-phile I am, I decided to make a very young lead character with a mound of issues and enemies to tackle. I also decided to make the character female. I have a tendency to make up unusual names for my characters... and I called her 'Shree'. This was the first pass at Shree.

Simple, young, vulnerable. She was supposed to be a very nimble and dodgy thief.

But her design was a bit too plain. So I tried to spice it up a bit.

Yeah, this is-- wait... no... no... still too plain. Let's try this again.

Alright! Now she's looking a bit more thief like. This was also the first appearance of her trademark "chaos" symbol on her shirt. But then my friend Coppelia (who is now my girlfriend :D) pointed out that the pants were too baggy for a thief. So some minor adjustments had to be made.

Better! I was happy with this design for quite some time.

But as the idea progressed, I thought a bit harder and said "hmm... what sort of character have I not seen in an RPG before?" Followed by, "Well... I rarely see black females. Maybe...."

And thus began a whole new debate with myself. Casting a black female as the lead in a game is extremely uncommon. Black males are more common (though still rare) because they are usually regarded as strong characters and, in some cases, have quite an attitude (at least in western games... Eastern developers still seem to hold on to a number of stereotypes about us, like big lips and afros >.> )

After a few weeks of thinking her design and character, I decided not to try and tap into the attitude of a black female because, well, that's just waiting for someone to scream out in anger at me. So I simply left it at she just happens to be black.

In terms of color, I tried to take a more earthy tone while dwelling on a bit of innocence. Perhaps some unnatural hair color as a result of some sort of chemical poisoning to add a bit of sympathy to the character? Hmmm... And I thought, for some strange reason, I should make her kind of resemble a tomato...


But because my mind is constantly wondering, I realized I was attempting to tap into the typical fantasy setting for the game. There's nothing wrong with this, per se, as it offers a lot of chances to make incredibly creative environments and cities.

But what if I went with something a bit more urban? What if the game took place inside of a city? It still had fantasy elements, but there were signs and public transporation and pollution. How would the character look then? Another thing that came to mind... I didn't want to make her too girly, but I didn't want to make her to be a complete tom boy. So, maybe a shirt that could almost be long enough to be a dress... but with pants?

Wow. Not bad. She actually looks like she could live in an urban setting.

...And then I moved. I had to shelve my game for a few months while I concentrated on other things. Eventually, I decided to work on webcomics again and was plotting out a number of characters. When I got to Jordan, I thought it would be a good idea to re-use Shree's design because I didn't know when I was going to get a chance to use it for anything.

Now that I'm actively thinking about the game a few months later, I decided that I still wanted to use Shree as the lead. But I didn't want to make her a kid anymore. She needed to be older to comprehend the story ideas I'm bouncing around in my head.

And perhaps make her slightly more feminine? Hmm... So today, I came up with a few sketches of Shree as a teenager:

Yeah! These seem nice! Long, slender legs for kicking ass running away from/to danger.

Another sketch to illustrate the idea:

Yeah... I think I'll stick with this design for a while.

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