Finding Tove


Hey everyone, we hope you've had a cracking week so far! We've recently been sharing some of Tove's animations for #ScreenshotSaturday on Twitter and they've gone down a storm so we thought we'd write a series of blogs focusing her and where she came from.

The first (this one) will cover her concept design and its evolution, the second will look at how we've set her up for animation to get maximum impact, and lastly we'll take a look at her facial set-up and all the bits and bobs that we use to bring her face to life. We'll try and keep the last two quite broad and palatable (for the non-cg wizards out there) but not shy away from the detail for those that are interested. Sound good? Great, let's begin. First up let's look at the evolution of her design.

We knew from experience that this would be a real challenge so we pretty much started on her design immediately, developing and iterating it alongside our work defining the broad vision for the game. This way we could allow her design to cross-pollinate with the evolving broad sense of the game, they could influence each other to create a cohesive whole (that was the plan anyway).

We knew that we needed to have a main character that people found super appealing, a character that was expressive and characterful in her motion and also had bags of personality whilst also not feeling generic or tired (whilst also not becoming outlandish or weird). With all the different criteria to hit you can see it's a challenging task to approach. We're hoping that people will be spending a fair amount of time with Tove on her adventures so it was essential for us to find the sweet spot and deliver someone you'd actually like to get to know and enjoy spending time with.

The other key aspect we had to consider was more practical. On a brute force visual level we knew we wanted her to 'pop' (by this we mean stand out from her surroundings), so that at a glance it would be easy for the player to see where she was on the screen. You can do this in a number of ways, with motion, with visual noise (or lack of) but one of the key ingredients to achieve this is colour.

Early on we knew we wanted to use red as a key colour in her design. There was something very clean and simple about this approach and we thought the loose idea of a contemporary Red Riding Hood was a really strong jumping-off point. You can see in some of Tom's early concept work that he sketched Tove with a more traditional Red Riding Hood outfit (see below). We'd also flirted with more traditional Scandinavian clothing as an experiment but this didn't sit well with either of us so we settle on evolving a more contemporary Tove.

One of the other key factors we iterated on was the size and readability of her facial features. To begin with we'd drawn her features quite small and minimal (see the far left example in the image below), which I initially quite liked. As is often the way with these things as soon as we did a quick Photoshop mock-up to see how this would hold up when she was in an example game scene it became quickly apparent that it wasn't going to cut it. Her features were too small, you couldn't read her expressions at all. We went back and did a second pass, scaling up her features and increasing the contrast in the colours used to allow her face to be more expressive and readable at a distance. We tried these new versions in out mock-up scene and it was a huge improvement.

I guess the key thing to take from this is the importance to prove out and test your designs in the manner that they will be seen in your game rather than just working on than as an isolated image. Just mock it up, it won't take long. It's something we've learnt to do over the years and it's best to do it sooner rather than later. you'll save yourself some nasty surprises and a tonne of work developing concept art that isn't fit for purpose. As early as possible make sure your foundations are solid and go from there.

Let's look now at some of the specifics of her design. From an animation standpoint we knew we wanted to have the opportunity to have a shed-load of secondary motion on Tove as she moved around. For non-animation types this I'm talking about elements of the design that would lag and bounce around as Tove moves, so the bobble on her hat, the drawstrings on her hoodie, her ponytail and hair strands and finally her backpack. Secondary motion elements look great. It can add a great deal of sophistication to your work and if they are physics driven can also soften and smooth the transitions between the blending of in-game animations (more on this next week). Now, this is all great but you have to have those elements in the concept design in the first place otherwise you won't be able to do squat, so we considered it up-front as part of the design process.

The final two parts of her design we'll talk about are personality and practicality. We added a number of little pin badges to her backpack to give a touch of personality, make her feel more like a real person with tastes and preferences of her own. These also helped to add some visual frequency of detail to her design, rounding it out. The graphic design of these elements, and the logo on her hoodie, also help to ground her, there is something about adding a logo/graphical design elements to a design that makes it feel very real and tangible (I'm guessing because logos and graphic design is everywhere in the real world, just look around you), someone who actually exists in a real world rather than an imaginary one.

And finally for practical purposes we gave her a backpack. I know it sounds a bit 'Simple Simon' but we knew we wanted her to be able to pick up items that she finds so she'll need somewhere to carry them right? You might have heard people yammering on about 'Form and Function' and how they should be considered together, well, this is a very simple example of that. The backpack also helps make her profile silhouette much more interesting and helps to balance out the mass of her rather large head!

Right, that's it for this week everyone! Hopefully that was interesting, have a lovely weekend and we'll catch you next week.


Alex & Tom

Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou