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80 Level Digest: Great Resources on Character Design in Games

Today's 80 Level Digest will delve into a variety of helpful resources that can assist game designers and artists in enhancing their character design skills.

Character design is an essential aspect of game development that can make or break a player's experience. A well-designed character can engage players emotionally and make them invested in the game's narrative. However, designing compelling characters for games requires a unique set of skills and knowledge that can be challenging to acquire.

In this today's digest, we'll explore valuable resources that can help game designers and artists develop their character design skills. We'll cover a range of tutorials, books, and talks that provide practical insights and inspiration for character design.

Without further ado, let's dive in and discover the best resources for character design in games.

Let's start our list with a video by the HypeHype YouTube channel. This short and simple video is an ideal starting point for beginners who want to design game characters.

Despite its brevity, the video covers the fundamental steps required to create a successful character design, including sharing tips on where to take inspiration from, how to create a backstory of your character, and more. Additionally, the video provides helpful tips for developing a visual style, including choosing appropriate themes and colors, considering shapes, and creating a distinctive silhouette. 

Next up is Scott Flanders' tutorial on character concept designs. This video is part of a larger Monster Lab course. It is available for free and presents a comprehensive method for generating ideas and inspiration when designing characters.

In the lesson, Flanders discusses the importance of note-taking and creating a character trait list, drawing inspiration from iconic pop-culture creatures like the Headless Horseman, Swamp Thing, and Little Shop of Horrors. The tutorial also demonstrates how the artist uses these traits to create his own thumbnail sketches, providing a step-by-step guide to his design process. This video tutorial is an excellent resource for aspiring concept artists who want to improve their character concept design skills.

Another video that we recommend checking out is Ross Draws' tutorial on character design. In the video, Ross shares his personal tips that can help you create impactful and memorable game characters.

The author shares a design checklist that will help you make your characters stronger by focusing on key elements like the character's story and understanding who they are and what they need to be. The video also emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the character's shape, which can convey a lot of emotion and personality. Additionally, the tips on visual flow will help guide the player's attention and create a more immersive experience.

If you wish to improve your design skills, you should definitely check out Knight Zhang's video tutorial on character costume design. This tutorial is a great introduction to the topic, covering everything from the backstory conveyed by your character's clothing to the different design elements that contribute to their overall personality. What's really great about this tutorial is that Knight takes you through her process step-by-step, sharing valuable tips and insights along the way.

Designing costumes is the key topic covered in this tutorial as it is incredibly important when it comes to creating memorable characters. You'll learn how to use costume design to reinforce your character's personality and backstory, making them more engaging for players.

Another great resource for those seeking to improve their design skills is the video by the BaM Animation YouTube channel. The creators of this video take you through what makes a character design good or bad, helping you understand the nuances of character design.

The video breaks down "good" character designs and "bad" character designs using the three fundamentals of clarity: Silhouette, Palette, and Exaggeration. The authors of the channel provide examples and help you understand what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong, which can be incredibly helpful in improving your skills.

This video is an informative and engaging resource that offers valuable insights into character design.

If you're looking for fresh inspiration and insights from game industry experts, then you should definitely check out the GDC talks on character design in games. One such talk features concept artists Simon Stafsnes Andersen, Laurel Austin, Claire Hummel, Richard Lyons, and Justin Thavirat, who each offer unique philosophies and ideas on creating captivating characters from their diverse perspectives.

During this incredibly informative set of talks, the speakers share their experiences and expertise on how to create a compelling character. What sets this video apart is that instead of merely talking about their work, the speakers offer practical examples and share their ideas on the creative process. As a result, viewers are able to take away valuable insights that can be applied to their own work.

Another must-see GDC talk is by Scott Campbell, a renowned visual artist who served as Art Director on games like Psychonauts and Brütal Legend.

During his talk, Campbell shares his creative process for designing memorable and inspiring characters. By watching this video, you will gain valuable insights into how to create distinctive characters that will resonate with your audience.

Scott's presentation begins by describing his approach to character design, which includes showing past works that have been well-received by players and critics alike. He then moves into a live demonstration, where he develops a brand-new character design from scratch. As he creates the character, he shares his thoughts and insights into the design process, giving you a rare glimpse into the mind of an experienced and successful game artist.

If you're someone who prefers text-based tutorials and tips, you might want to check out the article on character design on Skillshare.

The article offers guidance for those seeking character design inspiration but struggling to find it, providing tips on where to look to unleash their creativity and offering several ideas for discovering inspiration for character designs of various styles and genres.

Another text guide that you may find useful is this article by Milanote. This guide will offer you a detailed step-by-step approach to help you learn the modern process of creating game characters, covering a range of essential steps such as defining character archetypes, building their backstory, brainstorming unique attributes, using visual references and examples, defining their gameplay mechanics, and more.

Additionally, 80 Level has a collection of insightful articles that may offer you valuable information and inspire you with new ideas, making it a great resource to check out:

You can also find a wealth of helpful information on character design for games by exploring various books on the subject. One of them is Character Design From the Ground Up by Kevin Crossley. 

The book offers a complete overview of the design process, focusing on the thought process behind creating compelling characters and providing fresh ideas for finding inspiration, accompanied by numerous character design examples. It covers the basics of materials, equipment, and software, and delves into the processes professional designers follow to create characters for film, games, and illustration, making it an invaluable resource for anyone looking to develop brilliant character designs.

We also recommend you check out this book from Tom Bancroft, the renowned character designer who spent over a decade working for Disney and was responsible for creating the iconic dragon Mushu from Mulan. Additionally, this comprehensive guide to designing and contextualizing characters features lessons from experts from various industries, including the game industry.

With step-by-step instructions and practical exercises, the book guides artists on creating distinct characters, contextualizing them within a script, establishing hierarchy, and maximizing impact through pose and expression, resulting in a complete and polished character design.

These were our picks of great resources for enhancing your game character design skills. Which resources did we overlook, and what has been most helpful to you in honing your character design abilities?

Tell us in the comments below and don't forget to join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on Instagram and Twitter, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

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