View Full Version : How to describe a character and get people to understand what you mean?

04-22-2011, 03:42 PM
Hey guys i am posting like mad lol i am working on a GDD and am writing the descripotions of the characters and would like to know if i am on the right track take a look. (This is just a draft)

Evil Doc Description:
The evil doc is long thin and bony with knobbly knees, He has a big round nose with two nostrils that pop out at each side he has hair the down to the base of his chin but is completely bold on top his hair colour is gray and white he has a long lab coat that swings with his movements white in colour his chin is long and bent upwards a bit his trousers are black and skin tight like lykra his shoes are like plym soles and white in colour with some marks of the being worn a little

Head: Big round skull with a lengthy face and a long chin.
Nose: Is big like a plum with two nostrils popping out at either side.
Ears: smallish ears that are perfectly round and in line with his eyes
Arms: Long skinny arms with bony shoulders and elbows
Legs: Long skinny legs with knobbly knees
Feet: A bit on the large side with long feet that stretch like a clowns
Hair: He has hair that is all the way round from the line of his eyebrows and bald on top
Eyes: Big round evil & funny looking pure white with a black pupil
Mouth: Smallish mouth with a Popeye grin when happy
Knees: Really knobbly so that you can see his knees through the trousers.
Hands: Very skinny and bony hands with long fingers
Fingers: long and bony fingers
Eye brows 1 eye brow that stretches from one eye to the other with a mc Donald’s type arch very hairy though and not the exact same as the golden arches
Facial hair: NONE
Hair colour Gray with white streaks
Eye colour Bright blue the player must be able to see this
Skin comp lection: Caucasian
Wrinkles: under eyes, and mouth
Voice: Very old and crackly
Features: Evil eye brows, and a dimple in the middle of his chin.
Weight: Slender (Thin)
Body type: Tall and thin
Teeth: Pure white

04-22-2011, 03:58 PM
Why do you need to explain them in such detail? Is it relevant to the game-play? I understand your having an idea in your head, but I would sketch out the character and the style of the game, trusting the artists to come up with something better than I would have imagined.

This is the hardest lesson for anyone in the industry, but it helps to stick to your discipline(s) and have faith in your colleagues' abilities. I can (and will) happily give details on story-lines, because I am a writer and stories are what I do. I could give blueprints of buildings drawn on graph paper because I started out as a level-designer and feel confident doing this. I might even give some UML diagrams if I need the code to work a certain way, because I trained as a software engineer. In the end, I am unlikely to do those things if I am the designer; I might write the storyline out, but I am not going to step on the toes of the artists or programmers any more than I have to because I am no artist or programmer.

Explain what you want, give examples and then give feedback once you have something back from the artists. If you are an artist, even a middling one, then more power to you and produce some concept art for the artists to develop. If you are not an artist, try to imagine what this kind of micro-management looks like to someone who is.

That kind of details would put many artists off; it tells them that you have no faith in their imaginations, that you have one fixed vision that you will not budge from, that you expect to micromanage every step of development, that you will have reams of feedback for them if they differ by even one iota, even suggesting that you want it right first time and yet still does not actually tell them what you want in enough details that they can be sure of getting it right first time.

My advice is to work out what you really want, the core five or six details, then let your artists use their own initiative. Quite often, they will surprise you. Sometimes, they make you bow down in awe. Mostly, giving an artist free reign will just remind you of why they are artists and you are not.

04-22-2011, 04:27 PM
Thanks for that also what details should i give. As the concepts that are coming out are really good

04-22-2011, 05:41 PM
Having read both your main description and your breakdown of every individual feature I have to agree in most parts with what Anthony said. you just need to have a basic description without every intricate detail. By going into so much detail you don't give the artists the real creativity to conceptualise your idea and bring their own character into it. Obviously giving them some free reign may take them slightly away from what you may have initially thought but may also open you up to new ideas.

04-22-2011, 08:26 PM
I think without sounding too harsh, that the actual description gives me an image of the character that's incredibly unoriginal. I think you should think outside of the box when it comes to professors. Maybe look at the professor in Crysis 2...


04-22-2011, 08:35 PM
Further to the above, it would also be good to have an overall style guide of the game and characters. Are you looking at a skinny baron greenback character or a more photo realistic one, say a character from bioshock for example.

If you find a good artist to work with then between you you'd create both a story bible and an art bible, but as Anthony said, don't try to tell an artist how to do their job, or fix them with such a rigid design that they feel they have no real say in the game.

In working with CrystalSkye(designer), SmoothNShiny(developer) and Sleepless(music/soundfx) we have each brought our own ideas into the mix, with Crystal coming up with the basic character and story idea, general gameplay and then me adding my own twists to the characters, Smooth & Sleepless adding their own ideas to the art style and gameplay, and altogether we get the basic idea down so that we all know what we have to do.

Edit: perfectly ninja'd by N there with his screenshot from Crysis2.

04-23-2011, 11:42 AM
I see what you's all mean and the main character is going to be like a cartoon. We are going for something like splosion man with the funny side of things (Expressions and so on ) We have a mint concept artist and a professional modeller who are getting the art side of things done. I have taken the advice and just gave a quick description and true to what you have all said they surprised me and the charcter now looks better than it did in my head. Something like this is what i was going for

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Va3objv1cIE/Sf2Z4hTDhEI/AAAAAAAAAak/buQr9mzrwIs/s400/madscientist.png&imgrefurl=http://middleschooladvisory101.blogspot.com/2009/05/science-behind-drug-addiction.html&usg=__7Bt_R_0fPHwdO4tbqHhN51jiiTk=&h=374&w=400&sz=115&hl=en&start=0&sig2=WBDk8DA1szBK25C6ogi0Pw&zoom=1&tbnid=Pz-LPafS3BPOwM:&tbnh=140&tbnw=150&ei=NK2yTcekDoig8QP3mZWWDA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dmad%2Bscientist%2Bcartoon%26um%3D1%26 hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-GB:%257Breferrer:source%253F%257D%26rlz%3D1I7ACAW_ enGB420%26biw%3D1440%26bih%3D785%26tbm%3Disch0%2C4 00&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=477&vpy=180&dur=631&hovh=217&hovw=232&tx=134&ty=115&page=1&ndsp=31&ved=1t:429,r:25,s:0&biw=1440&bih=785

Thanks for the advice guys

04-23-2011, 01:42 PM
Cool, glad to hear it. The main thing really, especially with a team, is to find everyone's strengths and work together. Other than all the extra time you put in coming up with the description, you shoehorned yourself into one idea which as I mentioned before, with the input of others you could get a different twist to things that gives you more ideas. Obviously this doesn't always work and there is a point where you would have to stress more in depth what you were looking for, but if you get input from the others and work well with them then things should run a lot smoother.

04-23-2011, 02:59 PM
Thanks marty!

04-24-2011, 03:08 AM
If it helps you in anyway at all what I done is make about a page on each character with a blank patch on the side ready for concept art when it is made chosen to be used for the character. Then break up each component of their personality or behaviours.

Description - not as in depth as you got above, a basic outline of what they look like, what they might wear and any unique/defining features like Sonic's shoes for instance. A human would have a little description as we all know about them, where a mutated owl or a robot might need a bigger description to describe how they differ from the norm.
Personality and behaviours - How the character acts or reacts to other characters and their actions
Relationships with other characters - how they act or react to other characters actions, important for programming correctly without unnecessary questions.
Environment - What kind of environments do they live in, how to they work around that environment, are they bound by gravity, can they fly, do they dig, do they walk, what do they eat, how they eat...what ever you want.
AI - Obviously only if they need an AI, mainly how they act in the game world and react to the playable character.

I can't think of anything else I describe right now....but that's ruffly how I handle character descriptions. Obviously this isn't just for artists this would be an overall for the GDD for anyone who looks at it to see what you what.