Color Palette

As you work on your character's appearance, also think about creating a color pal­ette for him—specifically, for his clothing. People in games seldom change clothes, which saves money on art development and helps to keep them visually distinc­tive. In the early Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft wore a teal-colored shirt unique to her; no other object or character used that color. If you spotted teal, you'd found Lara. Comic-book superheroes furnish another particularly strong example. Superman wears a lot of red in his cape, boots, and shorts; blue in his suit; and a small amount of yellow in his belt and S logo. Batman wears dark blue, black, and again a small amount of yellow as the background to his logo. Characters can share a palette if the proportions of the colors vary from individual to individual.

Choose your color palette to reflect your character's attitudes and emotional temper­ament. As upholder of "truth, justice, and the American way," Superman's colors are
bright and cheery; the red and blue of his uniform recall the American flag. Batman, the Dark Knight of Gotham City—a much grittier, more run-down place than Superman's Metropolis—dresses in more somber colors.


Hero characters are sometimes accompanied by sidekicks. A tough hero may travel with a cute sidekick (or vice versa) to provide some variety and comic relief. The cheerful look of Miles "Tails" Prower, the two-tailed fox who accompanies Sonic the Hedgehog, complements Sonic's expression of determination and mischief. Sidekicks appear in many action games: Jak and Baxter, Ratchet & Clank, and so on. Link from the Zelda series has had various sidekicks. Banjo and Kazooie were, in Banjo-Kazooie, really only one avatar; they could only work together (Kazooie rode around inside Banjo's backpack). Later in the series, they began to operate indepen­dently some of the time.

Sidekicks offer several benefits. They allow you to give the player additional moves and other actions that would not be believable in a single character; they extend the emotional range of the game by showing the player a character with a different personality from the hero; and they can give the player information she wouldn't necessarily get any other way. Link's fairy in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for example, doesn't do very much, but she offers valuable advice at key points in the game.

Additional Visual Design Resources

This is not a book about drawing or modeling, so it can't address the actual tech­niques of creating character artwork. However, these crafts are an essential part of the process of character design, especially if you prefer the art-driven approach. If you would like to know more, consult Game Character Development with Maya, by Antony Ward (Ward, 2004), and Digital Character Animation 3, by George Maestri (Maestri, 2006).

You don't have to purchase expensive software to learn to draw and model charac­ters. There are many free tools available. Among the best are GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, for editing bitmap pictures; Inkscape, for editing vector graphics (line drawings); and Blender, a 3D modeling tool that approaches the quality of some packages costing thousands of dollars.

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