Pandoo Nation is a casual MMO with a strong narrative, which encourages players to think about their impact on the real world.
With primary character designs locked down, it’s time to focus on the avatar that the players would use to explore the game. What follows is a time-lapse demonstration of the processes involved during development.
[0:00] Artists increasingly work directly onto a digital canvas via a tablet, but — despite working on a Cintiq — I frequently initiate concepts in my trusty sketchbook. There are several benefits to this. A consistent log of development sketches that I can refer to often helps the design process. I'm also able to carry it everywhere, as you never know when inspiration will strike! But it primarily comes down to the tactile experience of working pencil on paper that has yet to be matched.
[1:45] Once I've developed a character on paper, I scan the sketch into Adobe Photoshop and manipulate and amend it until I'm confident I'm getting maximum potential from the design. That said, here we’re developing a character that deliberately needs to have room for the players to project personality onto, as it will be serving as their avatar in Pandoo Nation in this context, the design needs to function as a blank canvas.
[1:58] I then begin blocking out the character using flat colours that were lifted from the existing palette of Pandoo. This palette was developed by studying both the natural world, and the traditional cultures of South-East Asia. Researching real world elements helps ground even the most far out fantasy, resulting in a more believable creation.
[2:42] Once the blocking is complete, I add the shading to bring some form to the character, and finally some highlights to emphasize structure and to lift it from the ‘paper’. We now have a ‘nude’ avatar, devoid of customisable costume elements and with non gender specific hair, ready for the player to begin personalising.
[3:47] This image is now used as a template, over which many costumes are sketched, by several artists. Dozens of costumes are required, many based on real world occupations such as fishermen, bee-keepers and farmers. The initial sketch, based on the concept of a Sherpa, is worked up in black and white, this time digitally. Once again, shading is added at this stage
[4:33] Finally, work begins on the colour costume — in this instance, a water carrier. Importing other characters from the game provides material that will be regularly referred to in order to make sure the lighting, colours and textures fall in line with the art style.
Throughout this project, a digital brush was used that had texture to it. This was to generate a style that had an organic feel to it, as though it had been painted traditionally, rather than digitally. This helped emphasize the hand-crafted nature of Pandoo Nation’s aesthetic.
This finished illustration will join dozens of others that will be broken up and customised by players as they begin to explore the fantastic world of Pandoo Nation.