(Ahh I’ve been holding back this pun for weeks, now I feel much better!) Please allow me to introduce Henceworth – pardon me - Professor Henceworth to you!
Henceworth is a cat, but don’t let his outer appearance fool you – he’s a renowned scientist with engineering skills that would put most humans to shame. Annha and Henceworth find themselves both stranded in an asteroid field and decide to help each other. Having said that Henceworth isn’t the youngest cat anymore and meanwhile somewhat forgetful…so when a cleptomanic pirate girl and a senile cat professor team up – unexpected things are bound to happen! Read on to find out how we came up with this character design:
Please note that all concepts and screenshots are ‘work in progress’ and not final yet.
We worked together with Trudi Castle (her blog) on the character design. I’ve known her since my days at Crytek and asked her if she would like to do a few sketches of Annha’s sidekick in her freetime. I thought doodles of cats with PHDs would be a welcome change from her day-work assignments (concepts of super soldiers and destroyed buildings presumably) and it turned out that she had been following the project for a while and would gladly help us. We explained to her what we have in mind when we think of Henceworth:
- In a nutshell: Nikola Tesla but as a cat.
- Old, but experienced and helpful (most of the time).
- He serves as a guide and dialogue partner but also as a sidekick in combat. He can stun enemies in combat by jumping at them, scratching them.
- He can repair machinery.
The first thing she did was sketching a few different styles we could choose from, in order to get a better sense of what we want exactly. It turned out that it was also a good way for us to find out what we want Henceworth to look like.
Soon it was clear that Soenke fell out of love with the idea to have Henceworth wear clothes. A more cat-like, less humanoid posture was also suggested. We also liked monocle 2) but were worried that it wouldn’t read well in-game. Our picks resulted in this initial concept:
We realized immediately that this cat certainly looked old, but it looked too evil/hostile/too much like a villain as opposed to a helpful sidekick. This was partly due to the eyes we chose, but also the mouth and hair. We didn’t want Henceworth to become another cutesy, annoying talking animal, but in this case we agreed to ramp up the cuteness a little bit. A different topic of discussion was the positioning of Henceworth. If we let him run after Annha, we knew we would open a can of worms and run into all sorts of pathfinding trouble. Therefore we decided to keep him on Annha, her shoulder to be precise. But when Henceworth jumps at an enemy to scratch their face, how would he find back to Annha? This is why we gave him a mechanical tail, which he can spin (similar to a helicopter) and hover back to Annha. The artificial replacement also gives him an additional sci-fi touch, as well underlines the fact that he has been around for a long time.
We are pretty happy with this look at the moment, so Soenke loaded up Maya and created a 3D model. It is still work in progress, but here is a screenshots of Annha and Henceworth in-game:
As you can see, Soenke is also experimenting with shaders! Maybe that’s something to write a blog post about another day?! :) For now: thanks again for the help, Truds! What does everyone else think? Let us know in the comments!