Showcase: Pierre Collet-Derby
Character Topic: The influence of technology on character design


August 7th, 2012

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Character Topic

During the course of this discussion in our Linkedin group a Designer and Illustrator said that in long established game properties such as "Super Mario Bros." or "Street Fighter" the iconic characters remain true to their 2d origins, despite the fact that technology now allows for additional bells and whistles. The newer characters of such games often push the bounderies in terms of design though, given that the technological restrictions which were responsible for the simple, yet highly recognisable, designs of the original characters have disappeared.

A 2D Artist for mobile games thought that this was a good point. He added that designing characters for a Game Boy, for example, meant reducing the shapes down to the bare minimum, so that it could be recognised even if it was only made up of a few pixels. Given how many polygons we have at our disposal today, it seems that the only limit to what we can design is our imagination.

According to this group member this did not necessarily make for better character design, though. He wondered how characters such as "Ezio" from "Assassin's Creed" or "Lightning" from "Final Fantasy XIII" would look, if they were placed in a Game Boy game. Would they remain recognizable? He even thought that such a test might be a good way to determine whether the defining design elements of a character actually work.

A German Character Designer then asked, "Do you think that as characters increasingly exist on more than one platform, the different technical requirements of the different media they exist on will all have an effect on their design?"

In response a 3D Artist from Finland said that the fluidity of motion in gameplay, regardless of the design style, is the key to any great and memorable character, and that, therefore, the technology that makes cross platform portability possible needs to be able to preserve those qualities of a character. Otherwise we might face the uncanny valley effect from all directions.

A Lithuanian Supervising Animator then made the profound statement that, "character is beyond technology".

The German Character Designer replied by saying, "the question is... which parts. Given that a character only exists in media (unless it is a physical object, such as a toy) and has to be created for media using technology, which aspects of a character exist beyond technology? What is the importance of those aspects? Are there aspects of the design of a character that go beyond the technology used to create and animate the character?"

The Supervising Animator thought that there will be a new generation of creators for whom the technology will simply be a set of tools. Technology, according to him, will never replace the creator, and creativity is where a character is born.

What do you think? Is technology an important influencing factor when it comes to character design, or merely an extention of the mind of the character creator? Join our discussion... here.


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