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12.03.2021
Checklist: "Creating a Game Character"
Game development is a complex and multifaceted process. When the setting and the world of the game are written out in detail, it's time to work on the inhabitants of the created world. Anyone can make a good narrative in games, as long as you follow the rules. We have prepared this checklist for aspiring game writers and concept writers who want to prepare believable and lively character designs. Just follow the following steps:

1. Think about what the character is for, so you can estimate the amount of work.

Schedule the time needed: don't elaborate a bio for each bush. Characters serve a specific purpose: to walk around the city and set the atmosphere, to give out quests to kill ten boars, to advance the plot with their tragic deaths, to guard a chest of legendary gear. Each of these tasks requires a different level of detail: somewhere to write a whole backstory, and somewhere - limited to a couple of phrases. To estimate the amount of work, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you create a main character or an ordinary quest giver?
  • Does the character address story objectives, gameplay objectives, or both at once?
  • Is the character's development significant to the story you want to tell?

    The more critical the role, the more time you need to spend. For example:

    Role: be friends with the main character, get him involved in adventures, participate in a long side branch of quests.

    Level of elaboration: think about how to create a character, motivation, think about the name, features of appearance, developmental arc, allocate time to reveal the external and internal motives of the game character.

    Role: give daily quests, set the atmosphere. There are no plot purposes.

    Level of elaboration: a little backstory is enough to set the style, design, speech features, and behavior.

    Role: the main character of the game.

    Level of elaboration: depends on the situation. On the one hand - don't get carried away to allow the players to associate themselves with the character. On the other hand - Geralt of Rivia, Max Payne, Dante - bright and complex personalities with a powerful backstory that you want to emulate.


    Keep a balance: don't dump the complex inner world of each NPC on the player, don't make superficial and cardboard important people. Let the episodic characters get a couple of memorable details: that will be enough.
    2. Describe the character in a sentence to understand the details you have to consider.

    In other words, come up with his concept. Use clichés: wise mentor, femme fatale, good-natured fatso. Then make it more unexpected and multifaceted. For example:

    Cliché: unscrupulous assassin.
    Supplement: inconsolable father willing to do anything to pay for his daughter's treatment.

    Cliché: a humble farmer.
    Supplement: a wealthy man tired of secular living and who found peace in a distant village.

    Cliché: a kind and modest prude.
    Supplement: a succubus whose kisses kill.


    This technique helps to avoid unambiguously-good, or unambiguously-evil psychological portraits, which helps in creating believable female and male characters.

    Important: consider the target audience and focus on the general mood of the game. In other words - don't make Mario a godsend for the psychotherapist.

    Look at the types of characters created in similar video games. If the image worked there - it will work for you too.

    3. Think about the backstory to make your job easier.

    Personality changes and develops throughout life. It is affected by factors like social status, upbringing, environment, national and cultural characteristics, and even climate! Place an already invented character concept into the created world, live with it through the major life stages: growing up, the death of loved ones, relocation, the baggage of knowledge acquired. This way, the schematic concept will be supplemented with new details. Compare the images that emerge in your mind from the following backstories:

    The Eccentric Businessman.

    • Backstory 1: got rich all of a sudden (won the lottery, got an inheritance).
    • Backstory 2: made it through long and hard work.
    • Backstory 3: growing up in a wealthy family.

    Rarety Merchant

    • Backstory 1: impoverished aristocratic collector.
    • Backstory 2: a distant member of a merchant dynasty.
    • Backstory 3: a descendant of the lower classes who made his name digging graves, selling stolen goods, and looting.

    Details that will help you learn more:


    • profession;
    • hobbies;
    • social stratum;
    • religion;
    • nationality and place of residence.

    4. Look around to pick up artist references.

    Look around. One of the reference-gathering techniques: look for features of your game character in the surrounding faces and images from movies and commercials, mascots of advertising campaigns. Collect as many references as possible. Think about how to emphasize all aspects of the character you're creating.

    Unbreakable rule of game concept design - the appearance of the main character should create a story. So the Hogwarts student is defined by the cloak and wand, while the bartender's dark past is defined by his stern look and scar on his cheek.

    Reinforce the resemblance between the antagonist and your boss, give the mad scientist the appearance of your academic supervisor. Have as much fun as you can!

    At this stage, make the first few drafts. Later they will be fleshed out in detail and perfected.

    5. Add details to show personality.

    After the first drafts, the personality begins to emerge. Think about what else could emphasize it? For example, to create temperamental female and male characters, mangaka and anime writers draw ginger or red hair.

    To create a charismatic image, choose several styles of clothing.

    Focus on the following points:


    • Who is wearing the costume? What is the character's personality, tastes? What is his physique? What kind of situation is the character in right now?
    • What's the purpose of that costume? Is it uniform, formal or casual clothing? Does it have cultural or social connotations?
    • What is the key visual element of the costume? The color palette? From which simple figures can it be made up? What do its elements symbolize?

    Display all other minutiae:

    • How does he frown?
    • How does he get angry?
    • What are his habits?
    • Does he have a commemorative locket or tattoo?
    Write a developmental arc (internal path) for main and secondary characters if you don't want a story with static figures. For example, Alistair Theirin from Dragon Age: Origins transforms from an infantile boy into a wise king (or a down-and-out alcoholic, depending on the choices made by the Grey Warden). At the same time, Mario is always open, friendly, and brave.

    Show the character's changes by creating a game portrait reflecting each story stage. Make a series of sketches showing gestures and facial expressions.

    Congratulations! The work is almost over. Now look at the resulting stack of artwork and answer yourself a few questions:

    • Is it in nature for my character to act as the storyline intended?
    • What kind of relationship will he have with his allies or enemies?
    • Does he fit into the game's setting?
    Another technique is to supplement concept art with beautiful story sketches. This way, you can check how seamlessly the character fits into the world and the story. For example, a cartoon with a hypertrophied head will look strange in a noir detective, and Dovakin - in Equestria. Leave the work to the modders!
    That' all the intricacies of character design for beginners! If you have any doubts at all, run through the previous steps and make edits. It's normal for a narrative to redo something.