LDD Dev Log 4 – How We Design The Characters
Hello! This is Daisy Spiers who’s doing all the pretty pixels for Laser Disco Defenders. I’m going to write a bit about my process for designing the main posse in the game.
First off Alex sent me a copy of his style guide which was invaluable for getting me on the same page as him. He also told me that each character needed to be distinct, have their own colour and look like they are part of a team.
Before even looking at a piece of paper I set about doing my own research and image gathering. It’s important to gather material from different sources and not just from the medium you’re creating art for. Of course it’s easy to say that for space disco, but it’s not uncommon to fall into the trap of just looking at other games for inspiration.
To get myself into the zone I took on the immense task of listening to disco 24/7 whilst watching cheesy, budget, 70s sci-fi flicks. It almost drove me mad, but it had to be done, for the sake of the mission. Gathering up pics into a pinterest board has been super helpful to refer back to when needed, and gave me something to send to Alex to make sure I was still on the right track.
So with disco now taken up residence in my brain I could confidently start sketching out some ideas. There were a few of things I kept in mind throughout:
- Keep it simple – from playing Alex’s build of the game the characters would be quite small on the screen, so small details would likely be lost
- Distinctive silhouettes – to make them stand out from the other characters as well as distinguish players from enemies
- Diversity – disco was enjoyed and created by a wide audience so I wanted the characters to reflect that, as well as help differentiate the characters from each other
- The cheese element – this is 70s disco sci fi, it’s important to not take things too seriously and keep it light and fun
Initially I started out drawing Tommy with the aim that he would be the ‘leader’ of the Disco Defenders. I didn’t see how a moustachioed, leisure suit wearing fan of Saturday Night Fever could be anything but, especially since he was descended from Alex’s placeholder.
However, that was until I started sketching out Mr Baker, who had a tonne of personality from the get-go and stood out with his rather angular afro. People who saw the concept art assumed he was in charge so he naturally became Captain.
After approval from Alex I moved on to sprucing up the designs.
Liz underwent the most changes out of the four. I didn’t have a solid idea for her in mind other than she had roller skates as a reference to roller disco. Alex suggested making her a young girl in contrast to Donna, and also decided against having long flappy pigtails since they would be difficult to animate in the game.
I had a basic shape in mind for each character for me to try and incorporate into their design and silhouette, so Liz was eventually assigned a triangle which brought me to a design both Alex and I were happy with.
There’s not much evidence in these pictures but I would very much recommend numbering your sketches before sending them off for feedback. With some of my earlier drawings I neglected to number the designs and there were some mix ups in regards to which designs were being talked during feedback.
Apart from Liz the rest of the designs mostly stuck so it was a case of tidying up, refining the silhouette and trying out a few variations. It’s not a process that’s completely straightforward, sometimes I would try out several variations to improve part of the design, only to arrive back at what I had originally drawn (for example Mr Baker’s helmet went through tonnes of versions only to end up hexagonal again). It’s all part of finding out what works and what doesn’t though; even if you feel you’re going backwards there’s still progress being made.
However if all else fails just add googly eyes, it’ll be a laugh at least.
If you want to check out some more of my art you should check out my portfolio. Thank you for reading!