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· written by Juha Paananen

Easy Character Design for Your Video Game(Complete Guide)

Characters make your game come alive. From the main character that your players will control to the lowliest vendor, the characters’ quirks and motivations will make your world feel real. For this article, we're going to focus on how to rock this aspect of your video game. There are a few key things you need to consider when designing your characters. First and foremost, who are they? What's their story? Why do they exist in the game world?

Designing your hero is much like creating any other kind of protagonist. You want someone with a clear motivation, a captivating backstory, and a personality.

This article will uncover why your character's background is vital, a step-by-step guide on crafting your character, and how you'll be able to create that character in Soba eventually.

Your video game character design matters

Before we explain how to craft a compelling backstory and archetype, let's establish why a game character is essential to your game. Your character design draws the player into the game world and gets them more invested. Maybe it's because your character is relatable or because they want to be like your character since it has special powers.

And before you can put your character straight into your game, you should start with the basics.

Understanding your character's role and archetype

The main characters you create for your game will have a unique role to fulfill, whether you intend it or not. For instance, you might choose a slender archer as the protagonist and a beefy monster as the antagonist. Keeping in mind your intention with characters is important because you'll begin to create their archetypes and aesthetic based on their role and the setting of your game.

Your character's role might also shift and change as your game develops. For example, it's likely that your character will grow and change throughout the game. They could start as a weakling and end up being the strongest character in the game.

Additionally, their development should be organic and believable. Make sure that their abilities make sense for their character arc. For example, if they start off not being able to use magic, but later on in the game, they somehow gain the ability to use fire spells, there should be a logical reason that they learned how to do that.

All of these factors go into understanding your character's role, but it all starts with your backstory.

Creating a believable character backstory

Your character's backstory is the foundation for their character development. It should be detailed enough that you have a good understanding of why your character does what they do and how they got to where they are today. One method authors use to create a character is determining their want, need, ghost, and lie. The ghost is a traumatic event in the character’s past. The lie is something bad the character believes about the world because of that event. The want is what the character is trying to get. And the need is the lesson the character needs to learn. For example, maybe your main character is Joe, a tough street kid whose father ran out on the family when Joe was a little boy (the ghost). Because of that, Joe is fiercely independent and believes you can’t trust anyone (the lie). To make the neighborhood he lives in safe, Joe has to take down the local gang leader (the want). But, to accomplish that, Joe is going to have to make friends and learn to trust them (the need). This process will help you create a character your players can really get behind. There's no need to explain or answer every question in-game. Sometimes it's best to leave some mystery and give players something to talk about. For example, we still don't know why Mario only wears gloves.

Additionally, consider your character's personality. Will they be a hero or an anti-hero? Do they have any character flaws that make them human?

Remember your character's personality and backstory is crucial to how players interpret the game. You should reveal just enough information to get players intrigued but don't bore them with endless facts.

Sketching and creating your first character

Now, you have a character who has a backstory and personality. It's time to create the character's aesthetic and turn your ideas into reality. This will take three steps:

  1. Initial 2D design
  2. Assemble and render a 3D model
  3. Exporting

1. Sketch your character

Start by sketching out your character on paper or with digital software like Photoshop. Your sketch should include details such as clothing, hairstyle, facial features, etc. Include as many details as you can — although you might not be able to keep every detail in the 3D model.

Remember to be intentional with every part of your character. The colors your character wears are a representation of their personality and aesthetic. You want your character to be relatable to a broad audience, so don't be afraid to play around with different colors.

Once you've got a few character designs on-hand, consider fine-tuning them and making them even better. Maybe it's adding accessories, contrasting colors, or changing their body language.

When it comes to character design, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The best thing you can do is experiment with different designs until you land on the perfect look for your character. When done right, these character behaviors can bring your character to life in the game world and make them truly believable.

2. Render your character

Now it’s time to bring your character to life by rendering a 3D version. Blender is a popular and powerful open-source 3D modeling software that can help you achieve this. It's an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced artists, with a user-friendly interface and a wealth of tutorials available online.

To begin rendering your character in Blender, start by setting up your workspace. Import your sketch as a reference image and align it with the 3D viewport. This will help you accurately create the model based on your design.

Next, create a base mesh, which is the foundation for your 3D model. Use Blender's sculpting tools to shape and mold your character according to your sketch.

Once you have the basic shape, it's time to add finer details such as facial features, clothing, and accessories. Focus on capturing the unique characteristics that define your character.

After adding the details, restructure your character's geometry to ensure smooth animations and efficient in-game performance. This is called retopology.

Apply textures and shaders to your character to give them a realistic appearance. You can use Blender's built-in materials library or create custom textures to match your character's aesthetic.

Rig your character with a skeletal system to enable animations and movement. Then, test your rig to ensure the animations turn out to be smooth.

3. Exporting

Finally, once you're satisfied with your character, export the 3D model in a compatible format for your game engine! This will differ depending on the platform and/or engine you’re using so you should refer to the documentation provided by the developer.

Final thoughts: how to design a video game character

Designing a character for your video game isn't easy — it takes time, effort, and patience.

Start by creating a character's backstory and personality before you work on their aesthetic design. You'll need to be intentional with every part of the character, from color palettes to facial features.

Every hero goes on a journey. Give your character an inside story that players can explore at their own pace. It's how you'll create the best game possible.

Good luck and have fun crafting your character! And let us know what you think of Soba!

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