Post news RSS Character concepts: Early process and Uncanny features

Our 2D-artist shows the early stages of making concepts for humans in horror games.

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Hi, Louise here, the 2d-artist of Guru Games and I´ll be making a post about my process while creating concepts for our characters. This time I focus on the priests that will inhabit the island of Medusas Labyrinth. I´ll skip the research part, but of course having a large library of material before you get started is highly recommended!

When working with character concepts I start out with very basic shapes, in the form of silhouettes which I create using the lasso-tool and fill with a grunge brush, to get some texture and interesting shapes into it. The silhouette of a character is one of the most important aspects in the early stages, since the player must be able to recognize and tell different characters apart at first glance.

Priest concepts
First shapes made with lasso tool and grunge brush.

Once I finda shape I like I take that silhouette and start filling it out with more details in a greyscale sketch. The main inspiration for the priest characters comes from the temple of Hades, Necromanteion, and the palace of Knossos. When making the concepts I try to incorporate visual elements linked to the locations into the characters clothing, jewelry etc. The priests are brought to the temple island while very young. They are sent there to serve the gods and then spend the rest of their lives there, and they have to be able to fend for themselves as a whole community to survive. This includes farming, herb collecting, healing of sicknesses, pottery etc. The priests have their own hierarchy, where the more prestigious people live in the temple areas while the majority stay in the less exquisite part of the temple. These concepts are mainly focused on the lower standing priests, the ones roaming the catacombs, piling bones, burying bodies, doing the dirty work, which will show in many ways. The priests back will be deformed and hunched over, from years of hard labor and working in cramped spaces, creating a very distinct and easily recognizable silhouette.

Priest concepts
Playing around with different shapes of the hood and fabric.

Exaggerating is a good thing if you ask me, many of the concepts turns out too theatrical and weird to actually be functioning in the game, for example the concept priest to the far left, with an overgrown face and flags stuck into his upper body. This design wouldn´t work logically, or historically, but motivate the design in the games story, for example as a way of treating a skin disease, where wooden needles dipped in herbs or oils are used as acupuncture healing, and you can get away with the weirdest stuff! In my opinion the motive behind the design is always more interesting than the actual final look. If we decide to go with the black cloaked plain priests I´m going to make sure there is a good reason behind their look, more than just “it saves time and assets!”.

Another idea to keep the priests unique and varied is to incorporate theatre masks into their designs. This is a relatively easy change to accomplish: switching between and creating versions of masks is a lot less time consuming development wise than sculpting a number of human faces. Masks have been used since the earliest societies were created, and are often associated with shamans, rituals, ceremony or entertainment but are also very easily perceived as uncanny. “The uncanny is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be both familiar yet alien at the same time, resulting in a feeling of its being uncomfortably strange”. This phenomenon can be illustrated by the eerie feeling one gets from humanoid robots, with faces almost realistic yet not quiet humanlike. The same goes for masks, the frozen faces, usually with shielded eyes, makes us uncomfortable because we can´t read any expressions or reactions, which is a very befitting emotion for the player to experience in a horror game.

Priest concepts
Concepts of masks from a year back, inspired by mythology and stories from ancient Greece.

These are some of the thoughts and a part of the process that we have gone through with the priests of Medusas Labyrinth. Hope you enjoyed the read! We are still in a very early stage of development and a lot might change, but if you have feedback on this post, or the game in general, we are happy to hear it! Also, this will be the last devblog from us this year. With Christmas coming up we´re taking a short break to celebrate Christmas with friends and families, but we are already looking forward to coming back again in January and continue working on the game!

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year to all of you!

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