Creating the main character of a game is always going to be a tough task because he/she/it should be able to represent your game both in sense of style but also what the game is about. For example, the main character should look like it belongs in the environment of the game or suit the role that the character is assigned within the game universe. At least that is my opinion and there could of course be many exceptions to this. Another main focus of creating your protagonist is making him recognizable, people should be able to look at the character and make a connection between game and character. This will in time help the game stand out if the main character is memorable.
In our case, the game we made is about shooting blasts of air to knock opponents off platforms. My goal was to make this core mechanic as visible as possible in the design without sacrificing the opportunity to make the character look cool and memorable. The character concept should also be practical to model and animate in a 2.5d state and should easily be able to jump and ledge grab onto platforms. Having an idea about what type of game you are making and what mechanics you will be using helps a lot during this process.
Since the character should be able to jump, shoot air and grab onto ledges and still be memorable I decided that he/she would be a humanoid (have two legs and two arms). I also wanted the character to able to shoot air without the use of a weapon. We did however try that out during the early development stages and having a special weapon to do the core mechanic takes away from the uniqueness of the character. It makes the weapon an integral part of the game and that is totally fine if that’s to your liking.
Here is the early concepts I came up with for the two characters.
I wanted the characters to be colorful and easy to distinguish in-game and they had to differ enough from each other. The big character “Toot” got a leotard while the smaller one “Noot” just got underwear but longer gloves instead. The colors should be player dependent and are prone to swap so a base color and a secondary color was the easiest way to go. We wanted to give them some balloon-like qualities with the ability to manipulate air in some way. I incorporated the air blowing ability in their design by giving them a funnel as a mouth, just like an old airhorn, with the part you squeeze as the small balloon on the back of their heads.
Final concept version
In the final versions I chose to make their mouths more a part of their anatomy instead of an attached brass horn. I felt it made them look more alive this way and that they had evolved naturally to be able to blow blasts of air. Their cheeks was more puffed out to show how they can transfer smaller amounts of air from the balloon on the back of their heads to the cheeks, before actually releasing the air from their mouths.
/ Majk, 2D artist at Babloon Studios