Who’s that girl? A mysterious game sprite.

Venice 2017.05.01, written by Kuna.

I hope you all had a nice beginning of the year! I read on Twitter and on Gamasutra some dev’s New Year’s resolutions, and I can relate to many of them! Let’s be confident that 2017 will bring some good results to our efforts, whatever we’re aiming to accomplish! : D

This time I’d like to introduce a character you can already meet in Kujikawa Characters page: the one called “???”. In a previous post I wrote that characters’ complete names will always be visible in the textbox, regardless of being known or not by the protagonist Kairi. “???” will probably be the only exception in the game, due to the meaning her identity brings to the story itself. 

That being said, you begin the game as Kairi, our main character, and then you get thrown into a short glimpse of this mysterious girl’s reality. “???” does some decisions during these few minutes that will bring consequences. And this is basically her role. (Yeah, in Serenade who takes decision is not only the player, characters as well will make some moves lol)

As for the sprite, after prototyping Serenade last summer, I decided to approach it differently this time. I often find myself trapped in anime or manga way to portrait characters: since you draw them anew in every scene, you can give them a lot of ways to communicate their emotions, being these ways extreme poses or hilarious changes in their hair/clothes appearance. I’m conscious that in a game you have to decide your assets and work with those, or it makes no sense. Therefore, I thought about looking after these assets a bit more. I love otome games because their characters are usually beautifully drawn. I could learn a lot by their art books. Anyway, at the same time, I realized that these characters are also pretty static: poses are similar, gestures are not specific for each of them. Let’s say that Japanese otome games are a “different language” than a simple vn: a big role there, is the dubbing, voice actors are probably as important as the beautiful sprites. To say one, I never thought about a dubbing for Serenade, or to eventually gather money for a dubbing. I always thought it would be a game where you read, with an implied atmosphere of discovery. And pointing out this to myself, was really important in the process that is bringing Serenade to life. The choice of language you made defines the product you’re creating. 

So, I put away all those beautiful artbooks and focused more on what I wanted Serenade to communicate. 

Therefore, I decided to invest more time in body language and poses for my characters. Instead of make them simply representing the character, outfit, etc., I’m also trying to make them express some kind of emotions. Drawing a whole new pose is a lot of work, but I decided to try this way from now on. I’m not thinking of drawing extreme poses at all costs, of course! Besides, I’m still learning so I’m not confident yet that results will reflect 100% this way of thinking of mine. Anyway, I used this method for Cry and Kairi before, and now I tried it on “???” too.

“???” is a cheerful girl, at times funny, who doesn’t expect very much from others as she doesn’t want to feel perceived as a burden. So instead of expressing her frustration openly, she just gets silent and reflective. For this reason, I thought about portraying her both in a lively pose and also in a pose expressing more introversion and boredom. (Game at this point is set in early 2009, that’s why she holds an old model cellphone, but I think those phones reflected very young girls’ personality way better since you could decorate them with keychains, don’t them? :D)

From now on, I’ll try to draw up to three pose variations for main characters, two for those who have important roles but don’t show a lot through the game, and only one for secondary characters. I also aim to use few expressions and don’t abuse with variations. I guess the process of creating assets and, before that, to decide how to create them is always time consuming but it’s probably one of the pillars of a game, right? : >