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Cardboard Utopia was started from the belief that the best, most cherished games are the ones that engage you through gameplay, story, and characters. Games that are not just flashy experiences that leave your thoughts once you put down the controller, but make you think, plan, question and discuss. These are the things that create memories for future years. These are the types of games we make.

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, the game development capital of Canada, we are currently developing a Tactical JRPG that plays off our love of classic games like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a modern, boardgame twist.

The Ins and Outs of Character/Visual Design - Part 4

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The Ins and Outs of Character/Visual Design - Part 4

Erica Lahaie

Welcome back! If you missed the previous update in our five-part series on character/visual design for the Toran Empire in War of Zodiarcs, you can read it here.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 5

Now we’re getting into some more final exploration so it’s time to shift focus a bit. We know what we want to do with the armor. We know what we’re looking to define here are: helmet, shawl, skirt, arm and leg armor. These will be the defining features of the base Toran armor.

We’re past the point of experimenting with rough sketches. Now, we break the ideas we want to push into easy-to-read shapes to really understand what we’re trying to nail down. The red parts are what we see as being the ideas we’ll carry across most Toran attire. They’re what we want to focus on, with the black areas being the supporting shapes.

Out of those, we determine that “2" is the best of them. The shawl is broken up in an interesting but not overbearing way and the armor is starting to look functional, something we realised we were kind of missing all along. In the heat of designing all this other stuff, we kinda left out the part where their limbs might need to, like, bend.

 Along with getting profoundly more annoying with my labelling of drawings, we explore more practical, layered armor. The standouts? Heart and PlayStation. (Ugh, now I’m annoying myself.) The overall color scheme is working really well together, the shawl looks ace, the coat skirt is starting to make sense again, and the armor looks thematically consistent with the rest of the outfit. Let’s tweak it a bit more. 

What we’re doing here is trying to break apart the armor a little. Though the base that we established in the previous exploration was good, there was still some things that could have been pushed further. With this, I started breaking apart the shin guards to not make them look like soccer equipment so much. I also tweaked the wrist and arm armor to be more practical in that hey—it has articulation points. 

It’s difficult to strike the balance between what looks hella cool in your head and what would actually function on a human being’s body. Or, it’s difficult largely because it’s very easy to get carried away with “YO THAT LOOKS RAD IMMA DO THAT.” 

The reminder that’s kept us in check (for the most part) is “would this be something a cosplayer could do with relative ease?” That’s perhaps a strange way to approach it but it makes designing this stuff way easier to tackle. It’s one thing to imagine how a piece of armor or clothes fits onto someone but it’s another to imagine them actually having to craft that item, fit it into a larger outfit, and then wear that for days without it falling apart. I’m not a soldier, a swordsman, or a cleric, (that you know of) but I am a ditzy artist who likes to dress up. Like explaining the solar radius of VV Ceiphei A relative to our Sun, it’s best to put it in terms you can understand.

(The answer to that is: VV Ceiphei A is really fucking huge.)

With some small last-minute tweaks, we have our armor set! Well, pending any changes that a couple days down the line we’re not like “Damn, actually…”

Right now, though, the helm is still a little underdeveloped. We settled on its shape earlier than the rest of the armor but it bears a little iteration. What’s it look like from different angles? Does it still make sense? How does the visor work?

Hm… okay, maybe the visor doesn’t really work if it opens or closes. But that’s okay! No one said it ever had to. It was just an idea and that doesn’t mean we need to pursue it. For the time being, that visor’s welded shut. What about the helm, though? Does it still look cool from every angle? It certainly changes my initial perception on it but I still think it works quite well. It makes them look intimidating while still keeping their humanity in check by having their face be (mostly) visible.

Cool! We got the final look of our sword-wielding soldier. At least, for the time being we do! The character, and Toran army as a whole, is likely to see some changes the further we get into the game--that’s just the nature of game development. For now though, we have an excellent base and, more importantly, some defining features of the Toran army that we can spread across multiple unit designs. Something that gives them a unifying, and cool, look. 

In the next and final post, we run with the style we established here to do final revisions and establish the look of our ranged unit. See you then!