We've started preproduction this week on The Family Starr. One of my roles is art director and visual designer for the project so, in parallel with the development of the first prototype, I've kicked off with the development of some of the characters. Posted below you can see some of the very first basic sketches for one of our principle characters.
I start the process by thinking about the basic character biography and role, and try to find a face that I think fits and inspires me. In this case we're creating a young male character, who has a lot of responsibility. After several drawings that are pretty mediocre and act as 'warm up' I start to get a better sense of what I'm going for. From there I will isolate and repeat the design that I like, refining the features and making notes of the thought process that I'm having at the time if its relevant -- this sort of thing becomes very useful later on when you're trying to get back into the character during animation.
After I've refined the face a bit more, I start to do more dynamic drawings that show the character is situations and poses that fit with our predetermined biography and personality. At this stage you're really trying to bring some emotion and personality into the character and at the same time remember that because this is an adventure game, the character needs to function amongst other characters. It can't be too extreme or over-designed because then the rest of the visual treatment will have to match that tone for consistency.
These are just very preliminary drawings, that will definitely go through another set of big revisions before we arrive at anything final. The most important thing at this stage is to take several characters and locations to this stage of basic pencil sketch development so that you can see how the designs work together. I want to keep things really fluid at this stage so that as we discover the game through prototyping we can tailor the broad character types closely with the gameplay.