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Oddfellows: Character Design The Oddworld Way

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Oddfellows: Character Design The Oddworld Way

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  1. Oddfellows: Character Design The Oddworld Way

  2. Who We Are Farzad Varahramyan Senior Production Designer Contact Info: Farzad@oddworld.com Paul O’Connor Senior Game Designer Contact Info: Paul@oddworld.com Chris Ulm Assistant Director Contact Info: Chris@oddworld.com

  3. What’s a Senior Production Designer • The “Does it look cool?” Guy • Visual Design for both games and movies. • Sketches • Renderings • Color Illustrations • Blueprints • Sculptures

  4. What’s a Senior Game Designer? • The “Is it fun?” Guy • Conceptual game design • Tag design and region layout • Puzzle design and game story • AI and Behavior

  5. What the hell is an Assistant Director? • The “Is it entertaining?” Guy • Virtual Social Worker: Get game designers, programmers, and artists to “dance together” and not lose sight of the vision • Overall story collaboration with Director • Conceptual game design (characters, mechanics, layouts) • Feature direction • Animation and F/X oversight (movies and game)

  6. What We’ve Done • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee • Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus • Currently developing Munch’s Oddysee as a first party launch title for the Xbox.

  7. What We’re Going To Talk About • About Oddworld • Character Vivisection: Genes, Brains and Hearts • The Bones: How it all connects • Some Advice • Question & Answer (time permitting)

  8. Oddworld: The Straight Poop • Founded by Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning in 1996. • Committed to creating interactive experiences in a fully realized world with cinematic storytelling, larger than life heroes and themes “Stories for adults that kids will love.”

  9. What We Believe Oddworld’s beliefs inform and shape our approach to building characters and games. • We believe the war for your living room will be won with characters. • We believe that highly designed characters and stories will resonate with the audience and generate a hit. • We believe characters and stories should have nutritional value – we try to create stories that have a point and carry lessons.

  10. Our Modest Mandate for Munch’s Oddysee • Create a living breathing three dimensional world populated with immortal characters that will stand the test of time. • Oh yeah – and make it really, really fun to play. • And it has to look good too.

  11. On the slab: Character Vivisection • There are three key elements to interactive character design: • The Genes: character conception and visual design • The Brain: behavior and gameplay • The Soul: empathy and story

  12. The Genes: Character Conception & Visual Design • Inspiration • The Visual Read • Anatomy & Physics • Lifecycle • Irony • Everything’s a character

  13. Inspiration • Method A: The real world: Study the way people, creatures, and machines work and move. If you’re going to build a predator that lives in the water, look at how different water predators have actually evolved. • Method B: Play with pattern and form: Start with interesting shapes and see what develops. • Method C: Mix and match existing life forms with completely unalike objects or machines.

  14. The Visual Read • Scale • Focus of attention • Example: Abe’s hands and feet • Challenge of designing characters for both real time game and pre-rendered movie use

  15. Anatomy & Physics • Anatomy: The anatomy and internal structure of the design must support it’s physical reality. If it doesn’t, the audience will subconsciously reject the character. • The further we get away from real life, the more we have to have confident designs that LOOK LIKE THEY REALLY WORK in the real world, with real physics, muscles, bones, etc.

  16. LifeCycle! • Mommie! • Every character must have a mother, an upbringing, a reproductive cycle. • The character has a life, memories, emotions, wants, needs. It’s alive! • Every character must fit into the world -- it has a history and an evolution.

  17. Irony • Physical • Historical • Situational

  18. Everything’s a character! • Vehicles • Architecture • Objects and artifacts

  19. Huh? • Here’s some examples: • Train • Splinterz facility

  20. The Brain: Gameplay & Behavior • Gameplay Functionality • Player Interface • Requirements of play • Requirements of Code and Layout • Behavior

  21. Gameplay Functionality • Constraints and Opportunities • Possession: Determines control paradigm for all of our actors – the player needs to be able to quickly take control of a new character. • GameSpeak: Characters need to be able to speak and respond and have simple dialogue, animations and voices.

  22. Character Types • Character types need to be quickly understood by the player (and follow a consistent art direction and design) • Enemies – Characters which are dangerous to the player • Example: Interns, Sligs, Big Bros, Glukkons. • Allies – Characters which are helpful. • Example: Fuzzles and Mudokons. • Neutral – creatures or machines which may be enemies or allies. • Example: Scrabs and Greeters

  23. Player Interface • Characters must fit within a consistent experience for the Player. • For Oddworld, these are simple button mapping, character control flexibility, no on-screen meters or displays, simple inputs yielding complex results. • Example: One handed shooting.

  24. Visual Requirements of the Character • Visual designs push gameplay functionality • Physical and visual aspects of the character indicate what it must do • Will determine both advantages and weaknesses • Examples: • Abe’s Exoddus: Greeters (wheels, spindly legs, wings, fins) • Munch’s Oddysee: Interns (no mouth – cannot gamespeak)

  25. Requirements of Play • Characters need to fill specific play requirements • Layout Functionality: • Guards: Slig Security – brutal, deadly and lazy – the perfect basis for puzzles within Industrial complexes. • Power Ups: Shamans give you extra Spooce and watch your back. • Navigational hazards: Fleeches are enemies that followed Abe UP the sides of cliffs • Environmental: Slurgs acted as “natural” alarms (when you stepped on them, they squeaked) for outside areas. • Water: Stangs serve as “shark/jellyfish” in water areas.

  26. Requirements of Code & Layout • Environment and code “determine” the range of available behaviors • walk, swim, fly …? • Rendering power of the engine – some characters are complex, others are very simple (like Fuzzles) allowing them to be everywhere. • Simple rules of A.I.: rules that fit on a postcard -- rules the team understands, and rules the player can perceive and rely upon. • Abe’s Oddysee example: Paramite • Munch’s Oddysee example: Intern • Work with limitations to achieve stronger characters

  27. Behavior • How does the character interact with his world? • Character capabilities • Seeing • Hearing • Emotions • Social Status • GameSpeak • Feeding

  28. Tools • How is behavior implemented? • AI flexibility • Simple but powerful scripting language

  29. Real World Analogues • To make behaviors seem real, study the real world • Scrab – Half Rhino and half lion. • Paramite – a cross between a spider and a hyena • Slig – everybody you ever hated in High School

  30. The Soul: Empathy And Story • Goals • Variation • Personality • Subtext • Game Story

  31. Goals • At Oddworld, we want all of our heroes to provoke an emotional response from the audience • Heroes – Empathy • Enemies – Fear • All Characters - Entertainment value

  32. Variation • Strong character types lend themselves to functional and emotional variations • Accessories • Example: Flying Sligs • Paint jobs • Example: Shooting Interns

  33. Personality • Great characters should have “tells” – memorable aspects of their characters that we can’t forget, aspects that make them unique and unexpected. Often this is accomplished by conflicting the dominant aspect of their personality with an unexpected aspect. • Abe’s long lost Mommie has been trapped by the Vykkers – but she can also be a pill-popping bitch • Fuzzles are warm and cuddly – until you get them mad. Then they turn into homicidal killers • Vykker scientists are sadistic and nasty, liking nothing more than to autopsy live test subjects – yet they love each other

  34. Subtext • Great characters are relevant – they tie into the audience’s world in a non-threatening way. • Subtext acts as a fishhook into the audience’s brain. (Ideally, they don’t know its there – until it’s too late!)

  35. Subtext - Examples • Abe is an ordinary schmuck who thought he had a good job at the Rupture Farms meat factory until he finds out that all of his buddies are going to be chopped up into Tasty Treats. (Subtext: consumerism, junk food, alienation, modern primitivism, loss of roots, big business) • Munch’s fellow Gabbits have been fished to extinction – and now he’s been abducted by critter-torturing scientists in search of the perfect shampoo brightener. (Extinction, animal rights, conservation, fishing industry, drug companies, UFO abductions)

  36. Game Story • All characters should support and tie into the game story to create a seamless experience. • Abe and Munch have to work behind the scenes to promote an incompetent Glukkon named Lulu in order to gain entrance to Vykkers Labs, save Abe’s drunken Mommie and get the last can of Gabbiar (Gabbit eggs) left on Oddworld.

  37. Game Story “Opportunities” • Often what works in the story proves problematic. • Linear stories form problems that must be solved with character design • Example: Role of Lulu: how does the player interact with him? Does he become an equal to our two characters? We examined this and went through a lot of pain to figure out how we can still achieve our story points without making Lulu the central figure.

  38. The Bones: Our Process For Creating Characters • Character Origins • The Grind • Keep it simple • Names

  39. Character Origins • Physical conception • Classic production and character design. • Necessity by game function • Villain, hero, obstacle, vehicle, victim ... • Necessity by dramatic function • Movie characters • Necessity by prototype • Discovery that a certain type of play needs help • Spontaneous inspiration: wild ideas that work.

  40. The Grind • Iterate: give yourself and your team creative choices • Iterate more. • Don’t settle on something you know is weak.

  41. Keep it simple! • The best characters can be summed up in a couple of lines. The more complex you make your characters in terms of their backstory, their inner conflicts and their immediate relationships, the harder it is to keep the interest level of your audience.

  42. Names • The last thing we do, like wrapping a present • Seek a name that rolls off the tongue, communicating something about what it names, creating an instant and valid emotional connection with the audience … they don’t have to be clever, they just have to be right • Use a thesaurus – find words that convey the character’s essence, then mix and match. • Great Names: Sauron, Darth Vader, Oz, Camelot, Mordor, Dracula, Buzz Lightyear • Oddworld Names: Slig, Slog, Mudokon, Glukkon, RuptureFarms, StingRing, Vykker

  43. Some Advice… • How can this process reconcile the differing priorities of art, programming, game design, and marketing? • Accommodate input • Let characters evolve: It doesn’t matter whether the idea starts as visual design, a story character or a gameplay function • Don’t fall in love with your ideas: You don’t have all your best ideas at the start of a project • Use story structure, movies, design, code or production constraints as opportunities to solve character design problems • Good ideas aren’t convenient – but solving them yields huge rewards • Listen to your gut instincts • When something is good enough, it isn’t – keep polishing.

  44. Questions & Answers • (Image of Abe & Munch shrugging)