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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 5 (Final!)

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The Ins and Outs of Character/Visual Design - Part 5 (Final!)

Erica Lahaie

Hey hi, welcome to the final post in our exploration of character and visual design for War of Zodiarcs! This is the final post, so... I don't know. Get hype? Yeah. YEAH. GET HYPE. IF YOU MISSED LAST WEEK'S POST, READ IT HERE. YEAH.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

With the last post, we got to the final steps of the Toran soldier. with it, we established both the look of the unit and the Toran army itself, so it’s time we put those ideas to the test. Time to design the Toran Rifle unit.

The Toran army consists of both genders so for the sake of properly exploring our venues, the rifle unit design will be on a lady model. First thing’s first is exploring some silhouettes.

With this, a new batch of reference was collected. This is for the rifle unit, so we started looking at armed soldiers and realised their overall look, across several armies, was roughly the same. Even across more fantasy/fictional inspirations, the general “feel” was the same. Worse yet—it was maybe too close to the sword unit in silhouette and style. The solution? Let’s take a specialised class used across most war games and turn it into our infantry. What does the typical fantasy sniper look like?

Alright, that’s… that’s pretty cool. What ideas can we can take from these? Hoods, capes, coat tails, loose-fitting clothes for mobility, very lightly armored legs and arms. Perfect, let’s go with that.

As you can see, the silhouettes aren’t too different from the Toran soldier. This is on purpose—they can’t look too unique, after all. Some features should look different, things that would likely catch your eye first, but the overall shape should still “feel” the same across similarly-ranked units. Since we already established the look of the Toran army, this process is a lot faster—we have some elements that are already there by default, so it’s now a matter of adding onto that/mixing it up to create something different based on the ideas we’ve gotten from references.

With this, we’ve kept the things we defined as Toran: the shawl, the colors, the patterns. What’s changed are slight alterations to make the rifle unit be its own thing, inspired by those sniper influences. A hood to look more distinct, no armor because they are long-range, and multiple pouches/pockets for ammunition or other on-field supplies and tools. A system for the Zodiarc relic is also implemented where it connects to the soldier’s weapon, to signify one can’t work without the other. This leads us to some immediate feedback: the relic should be something more analogous to a gun-wielding soldier. We’re thinking a visor, but maybe that’s too cyberpunk/steampunk? We’re also thinking about taking the hood off, maybe reserving that for an elite.

The rest though, we like. We like the shawl being shorter on their main arm, we like the bag idea in #4, and we like the overall look of #1. Let’s mix those in while exploring ideas elaborated in the last paragraph. 

Out of all of these, we settle on 4A because the visor looks unique and distinctive without looking too steampunky or technological. With the detailwork on it, it looks believable in what we imagine to be War of Zodiarcs’ universe. We also roll back on the hooded thing—we like the rifle unit best with the hood up and felt it defined the character as a story-critical person with it down. Plus, the hood being up is a cool look and helps separate the character’s silhouette from the soldier even more.

With another pass of internal feedback, we make some quick changes to more or less finalise our designs. We tighten up some shapes, add a bit  more detail in areas that felt empty, and harmonise a few armor elements to make both feel closer in style. With that, we’re basically done! That’s the Toran rifle unit and Toran sword unit, as well as the Toran uniform.

Oofa doofa... that's a lot of people.

Hopefully the write-up was an insightful process for y’all. I tried to cram in as much “theory” in there as possible but the truth is that for as much as there is of that, there’s a whole lot more of “What feels right?” and “What are we trying to accomplish with this look?” Striking a balance between “goal” and “hard science” (or whatever you want to call it) is tricky but it comes easy with practise and a strong vision. If you have a clear idea of what you want to do, you’ll be surprised at how fast your gut will take you there. When it doesn't, well, I hope I've helped light the way on some stuff that might've been unclear for you before. Thanks for reading, and we all look forward to sharing more about War of Zodiarcs with you~