video game character design

By juegoadmin | Art & Design | August 18th, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide to Character Design in Video Games

Try commemorating any favorite video game. You will likely remember the protagonist, a particularly challenging villain, or even NCPs, specific monsters, or animals. All these are characters in the game. The success of game character design lies in creating memorable characters. From Mario to Kratos- if you look closely, there are subtle technicalities that make the characters stand out alongside their background story and characteristics.

To design characters in video games, you must know the basics of character types, classes, and features. The foundation of memorable characters is the teamwork between game designers and writers. Technical advancement, compelling storylines, and creative freedom of concept artists together help to design video game characters that stay with us forever.

Read on to find out about the basics of character design such as types, classes, and characteristics that a game art outsourcing studio must consider.

What Is Character Design in Video Games?

Samurai game character

Character design is an intricate part of video game production. It is a complex process of building different characters from scratch- from their physical form to their personality traits. It includes conception, style, and artwork for the character. The artist analyses the storyline and the character’s personality to design the visual representation.

The video game character design differs significantly between 2D and 3D games. The most prominent difference is the complexity of 3D character design. Unlike 2D video game characters, 3D characters appear fluid, dynamic and have better expression and movements. 

A video game development company must emphasize character design to build memorable games. The artist must establish the personality while making the character relatable to the players and complement the fantasy world of the game, altogether. The character type, physical attribute, personality, and class play a significant role in engaging the players. A well-designed character can evoke the right emotions in the players at the right time.

Remember the jump-scares evoked by the various monsters in the Doom franchise? Even the most hardened player would feel the chill when they encounter the “Cyberdemon”. Or consider Paimon from Genshin Impact. You may not remember the names of the four players, but Paimon’s chirpy personality and goofy antics between quests make sure we remember the name.

In the end, the game designers must have a thorough understanding of the character types and class to establish the context when they get used. It also helps them create characters that enhance and complement the gameplay and storyline.

What Makes a Memorable Character?

A memorable character is a combination of several factors ranging from personality to its appearance. The character designer is responsible for visualizing and giving shape to the initial idea of the character conceptualized by the writers or creative director. A good character design would combine the following:

  • The character design should complement the style and tone of the video game to make it realistic. Imagine putting Scorpion from Mortal Kombat in the flowery terrains of Genshin Impact– an incompatible character and video game environment can ruin the immersive nature of the game.
  • The costume design of the character adds to the realism of the game. The outfit design must complement the game environment, character class, and purpose.
  • The posture and body language of the character should be in sync with their personality, backstory, and purpose in the game.
  • The character must contribute to the storyline or the scene and have a purpose for being introduced in the gameplay.
  • The character design is memorable when players can recognize it simply from the silhouette. Imagine the impact of iconic characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pikachu, and Popeye- the silhouette is so unique, anyone can recognize it without the other details etched out.

Relation Between Character Design and Gameplay

The characters make the game memorable. Rather the interaction between the game environment and the characters together makes the game more immersive and hence, worth remembering. From backstory to game mechanics and how seamlessly the character fits into it- all influence the success of the character design as well as the gameplay. 

Elements of Video Game Character Design

The design needs to be coherent, believable, and aesthetic to appeal to the players. To do so, certain key elements must get considered during game character design:

  • Appearance

The first impression is crucial to make your game memorable. As a result, the character should be aesthetically pleasing and believable in its environment. This is where shape language comes into play. 

  • Circles and ovals are shapes generally used for friendly characters. These shapes can evoke warmth and approachability. Take the example of Baloo from Jungle Book or Pikachu from Pokemon Go.
  • Square and rectangular shapes are used generally to represent strength, formidability, and even daunting. Batman, Superman, and Ryu (from Street Fighter) are classic examples.
  • Triangular and pointed shapes are rather versatile. It generally depicts chaotic, dangerous, and mysterious personalities like Maleficent. But it can also depict a sharp mind and intellect as with Kaeya from Genshin Impact.
  • Backstory

The game storyline significantly influences any character in video games. The character’s posture, body language, outfit, voice, and choice of words- all get impacted by their backstory. 

The game character design will appear believable when all these factors are in sync with the storyline.

An aggressive and dominating character will be believable when it displays relevant body language and posture. It can be a dominating stance, straight back, confident stunts, and so on. Similarly, a submissive character gets easily depicted by body language and postures like a hunched-back or jittery and shy behavior.

The backstory lets the players perceive their character’s traits, strengths, and weaknesses. It also makes the gameplay realistic and easier to connect emotionally for gamers. 

  • Alignment

The backstory and alignment of the character go hand-in-hand. Alignment refers to the character’s moral inclinations. It will affect its decision-making and actions, especially in RPG games. This allows gamers to explore different personas while gaming. It also dictates the course of gameplay and the storyline, adding complexities that challenge and engage the players.

The character’s alignment also affects its relation with the other characters in the game and affects the storyline. The choices given to a character in an RPG game also get designed based on their ethical alignment. Thus, players get the scope to explore a wide variety of outcomes depending on the character they have chosen.

Types and Classes of Characters in Video Games

Types and classes of characters in video games

Especially in RPG games, there are few specific video game classes for different characters. There are sub-genres of these characters too. Here is a list of possible characters you will come across in any video game:

Type of Characters in Video Games Sub-Classes
Fighter / Soldier / Warrior Paladins, Knights, Cavalier, Weapon Master
Assassin/Ninja Ranger, marksman, Blade-singer, Samurai, Martial Artist, ronin 
Mage / Wizard Witch, Druid, illusionist, Shaman, battle priest, Warlock
Archer / Hunter / Ranger Scout, Duellist, arcane archer
Berserker Stalker, trickster, trap-master, bandit
Cleric / Priest / Enchanter Alchemist, Binder, Conjurer, Dreamwalker, Animist, acolyte
Necromancer / Shadowknight Shadowmancer, Horizon-walker, Channeler
Summoner Psion, Geomancer
Dancer / Bard Strategist, diplomat, inquisitor
Dragoon / Lancer Fencer, Dragonslayer,
Blue Mage / Jack-of-all-Trades Red Mage, Battle Mage

Traits of Video Game Characters

Every character class in video games serves a different purpose and has specific skill sets. Gamers must be strategic with their choice after carefully studying the traits of the characters in video games

  • Fighter / Soldier / Warrior

They are usually the most robust and powerful characters in video games. Such characters have high aggression, stamina, and strength. Usually, their HP is higher than other characters, and have the strongest assets like armor, weapons, and fighting skills. This character class is a favorite among gamers who have an offensive gameplay strategy. This game character design is done in many forms and you will find various subclasses of it. 

  • Assassin / Ninja

These character in video games is known for stealth and speed. Unlike the warrior class, Assassins and ninjas rely on stealthy actions like stealing and stalking to complete their mission. Their weapons are more sleek and discreet. Moreover, they have powers like disguises and can easily hide. Gamers who prefer ninjas as their characters generally have a cautious gaming style. At the same time, they enjoy speed and the occasional adrenaline rush that accompanies these character classes.

  • Mage / Wizard

Mages and Wizards are magical classes in video games that rely on spells and totems than brute strength to fight. They are the best choice to fight from a distance. Their armor is the weakest and they are generally much slower and fragile compared to fighters. However, they occasionally have regeneration powers which the other character classes lag. Any character that has defensive or offensive magical powers is a sub-class of this category.

  • Archer / Hunter / Ranger

These characters are apt for long-distance combat and mostly use bows and arrows to fight. However, they may use spears as well depending on the game. Archers and hunters are as useful in close combat situations. However, they are generally weak against multiple attacks from all sides. 

  • Berserker

Video game character design for berserker is inspired by ancient Norse warriors known as “berserk”. They are oblivious to damage from the attack and unable to distinguish between friend and foe at battle. Their brute strength and fury at war made them more of a weapon than a soldier. This is the concept behind Berserker’s character in a video game. These characters can inflict massive damage on the opponent in a short time and move quickly, regardless of the damage in battle.

  • Cleric / Priest / Enchanter

They are similar to mages and wizards but have somewhat battle skills too. They are more like a blend of fighters and magicians with the best of both worlds. These characters are most suitable in multi-player RPG games to strategize and control large groups and navigate them in taking the right course of action.

  • Necromancer / Shadowknight

They are useful characters to cause bursts of damage in an instant. They weaponize diseases in the game to cause mass damage to the opponent. They can also summon the undead for different purposes that aid in vanquishing the opponent in the game. However, they do not have the skills to engage in direct combat and hence generally useless in single-player games.

  • Summoner

As the name suggests, they can summon monsters and even animals as a defensive or offensive strategy. There are several sub-classes of summoners such as animists. They do not have fighting skills but are strategic choices to inflict mass damage on the opponent using their summoned creatures.

  • Dancer / Bard

Dancers and bards are strategic characters in video games. They generally have a defensive role and use strategic instruments and tools to weaken the enemy or disrupt their attacks. These characters usually have musical skills in exchange for fighter skills. Their importance entirely depends on the game type and storyline.

  • Dragoon / Lancer

They are subclasses of the fighters which specialized powers to fight magical beasts, especially dragons. They are versatile in attacking as well as defending. These characters are boosted to withstand dragons making them a strategic and wise choice in relevant combat situations.

  • Blue Mage / Jack-of-all-Trades

These are versatile characters who can learn from the enemy’s abilities and accordingly strategize the move. They can adjust their powers and skills as per the opponents’ ability to help you customize your game strategy to inflict maximum damage.

Wrapping Up

Character design in video games blends technical skills and a highly creative approach to render the best results. A game development studio can create memorable characters when they have a clear vision of the gameplay and take inspiration from the generic character classes in video games.

Juego Studios can provide you with the best solution for designing dynamic game characters. Our offerings range from 2D and 3D modeling to game concept art, 3D character design, and so on.

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