A game of any genre contains characters. In some games, characters are the heroes the users use to play with (Action shooters, RPG, MMO, MOBA). In other games, the characters act as guides through the game’s story or tutorial (puzzles, building, and time management games). Characters can also be additional background elements that fill the game world and make it come alive (NPC all different game genres). In story-based games that contain story cinematics, the characters play the role of heroes who tell the story and whom users observe.

However, in every game, the character is one of the key elements of the user’s connection with the game. The connection can be interactive, story-based, or visual.

When creating a new game, our team adheres to a set of guidelines and phases to create characters that are unique and suitable for each specific game. These include choosing the visual style of the characters, determining the dimensions, proportions, and what part of the characters will be created (front, back, side or all angles, full height or portrait), finding original ideas for their visual display in accordance with their lore, description, parameters, capabilities, and functions that the characters perform in the game.

Also, depending on the type of graphics in the game, the characters can be 2D or 3D. 2d characters are usually easier, faster, and cheaper to develop. 3D characters have a more complex pipeline, longer terms, and a higher budget. But they also have wider possibilities for further use.

2d characters pipeline
2d characters pipeline

Creating 2D characters includes the following steps:

  1. Collect references and create the moodboard with examples of visual styles.
  2. Create black-and-white sketches of shapes and ideas of what the characters might look like.
  3. Add color options for selected black-and-white sketch options.
  4. Finalization / rendering of the selected color solution.
  5. Prepare for animation. This usually involves cutting the character for animation and creating the character’s skeleton and all the moving parts.
  6. Create character animations.
  7. Prepare files for developers so they can integrate character animation files into the project.
A useful tip when creating a large number of 2D characters for animation is the ability to create characters with uniform proportions. Thus, at the animation stage, it will be possible to apply the skeleton that has already been created for the first character to all characters with uniform proportions and save time.
3d characters pipeline
3d characters pipeline

The process of creating 3d characters is longer and has several options for the sequence of stages depending on the requirements for the final result and how the 3d characters will be used in the game.

The initial stages are generally repeated from the 2d pipeline:

  1. References search, and creation of a moodboard with examples of styles.
  2. Black-and-white sketches design of shapes and ideas of what the characters might look like.
  3. Add color options for selected black and white sketch options.
  4. In parallel with determining the color scheme, the selected 2D sketch is drawn in several additional angles (usually front and side), in which the character is depicted in a T pose. These angles are necessary for 3D artists to create the correct proportions of the 3D character model and to match the 2D sketch as closely as possible.

Further stages of the pipeline are performed by 3d artists:

  1. Creation of a 3D character model. Depending on the requirements and type of project, high poly, mid poly or low poly 3D character models are created. Different polygons are used for different purposes. For example, a mid poly or low poly model is used in a game engine, while a high poly model is used to create textures or animations.
  2. Creation of UVs and texturing.
  3. Rig and skin of the character.
  4. Character animations.
  5. Preparation of models and animation files in the required formats and transfer of files to developers for integration into the project.

If the 3d character is integrated for the game engine (Unity, Unreal Engine) that may require additional works with specific shaders and materials, and further stages should be done directly in the engine:

  1. Materials and shaders creation in the engine (programming or creation using nodes system).
  2. Apply materials and shaders to characters. Customization is necessary for display, lighting and effects.
NFT characters pipeline
NFT characters pipeline

Today, the pipeline for creating characters for NFT collections is relevant. A feature of this pipeline is the creation of one or more characters with a huge number of interchangeable components (traits).

At the stage of the characters planning and brainstorming their structure, it is important to take into account all the traits that will be subject to customization, lay down the number of traits and decide on their rarity so that you can generate the required number of unique character conbinations for the collection.

The traits of such a character (such as eyes, ears, mouths, clothing, headgear, and other accessories) are designed so that they can fit into the appropriate places, maintaining the look of the character while creating a unique combination of components. The rarity of components (how many times each component will be repeated in the entire collection) is determined programmatically and allows you to set the uniqueness of each component.

Generated NFT characters are released in collections on various marketplaces (Opensea, Rarible, SuperRare etc.). One of the option is the use of these characters in play-to-earn games and other platforms built on blockchain. By purchasing one of the characters on the marketplace, a user receives (in addition to NFT which has some value) the access to additional content, functionality or other features that can be provided for each NFT asset.

What’s next?

Where to start when creating characters for your game? First of all, you should decide on the setting, gameplay and the role of the characters in the game. Then find examples of other characters that you like. We recommend to collect all the notes in a document format, as this will be easier and clearer to work with in the future. What’s next? Find the right vendor to turn your ideas into reality.

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