In a couple of weeks, there will be a new set of Box O Zombies toys demoing at C2E2. I was fortunate enough to design several of the new figures. Among these figures, is a special edition that will debut at C2E2 and will only be available at trade shows. That special edition figure has been named, Zomic Book Guy. In this developer diary I will take you through a relatively brief overview of the process of taking something from my brain, to paper, to the imaginary world of a computer screen to the imaginary world of reality. So if that sounds very uninteresting to you, just scroll to the bottom to see what the final digital sculpt looks like.
(A few images collected for inspiration. These are all sources that capture elements that I would like to learn from. So the idea is not to imitate, but dissect their appeal and understand the principles in a way that will strengthen my work.)
The first step was wide open for this character. Unlike the others, he had no written description. All I knew was that I needed to have a figure ready for C2E2 and that they wanted it to be a play on a convention visitor. I usually let things cook in my head a bit before putting them on paper. Meanwhile, I gather reference and inspiration. This process helps be develop a better idea of who the character is and where I might find the appeal. This is something that is a pretty standard approach and for good reason. It usually works out for the better.
For quite some time I had made the full transition to digital. However in developing this character I was reminded not to phase out the traditional materials completely. I came up with some initial thumbnail sketches while away from my desk. It was the early stages of transferring thoughts to a page. It was a small sketch pad and a relaxed moment when I found something that clicked (A good reminder that it is best to forget the certain pressures and trust your stream of consciousness). I found a shape, posture and personality that struck a chord. In most cases I would keep going through a couple more iterations to see if something better comes along or just dig out some other ideas. Unfortunately time was dwindling and I needed to trust my instinct and run with something.
(I eventually decided to go with cartoon-ish damage to the eye to help cut our the silhouette and make it stand out more. I also played around with different hats and bag designs, trying to find a proper balance of shapes and line work.)
I scanned the pencil and ink sketches and brought them into Photoshop and began to knock out more rough iterations of a particular design. I hacked away flesh, swapped hats and played with accessories until I found a combination that worked best for the character, printing constraints and thegame’s art direction.
Early on there was concern over the character’s size. I chose the size in order to create an interesting silhouette, movement and some character contrast. This contrast not only comes with the body size in comparison to his accessories, but his intimidating size paired with his somewhat nervous expression. Also, the contrast in size and accessories helps create define the humor. I wanted this character to have immediate pay off in the game’s universe, as a reference to the sights of C2E2 and as a statue you wouldn’t mind having displayed amongst your collection. I felt his size and the motion in his pose helped create the appeal we needed with out mocking his wright.
(These are the iterations building up to a near final concept. I tried different color and accessory combinations. In some cases I’m figuring out the logic of the details and in others I am looking for something that just feels right. Usually, there would much more iteration, but deadlines change things.)
(An early look at the sculpt progress, as well as a glimpse of what Zomic Book Guy looks like under the mask.)
(This nonsense is a sheet calling out the color codes for the printers. This is always tricky, for there is no way to say for sure how accurate the colors will translate. In some cases I trust the printers, while in other spots I call out a few colors within a gradient.)