The Making of the Clones Character

May 14, 2009 - 2 Comments

When we first started working on Clones it was all "programmer art" (since we were both programmers) and the main focus at the time was on the multiplayer gameplay. When we made the decision to go commercial we knew we needed to hire a professional artist and come up with a new look for the clones to make the game more appealing. This article explains the steps we took to design the Clones character.

We decided earlier on that the character animations would be sprite based so the question was whether we should get the animations drawn by hand as they had been previously, or to get them animated in 3D. After finding the right talent, we decided that the character animations will be modeled and animated in 3D as it allows for faster and better quality production of the final animations.

The first thing we did was to ask our new graphic artist to come up with 30 different concepts for the clone character. These were all hand drawn and colored. We then did a survey and we asked about 50 different people (friends, family, co-workers etc) to choose their top three favorite character designs. Part of the survey we asked to indicate their age and gender. Once the results came in, we tallied the votes and identified the top three designs. From the top three, two of us on the team chose the final design as a combination of two of the concepts (see below) based on technical and artistic merit.

The reason why we chose the top design is because of the "big body" characteristic. Not only does this "chubby" design looks cute, but it was required for the characteristics of the clone. Clones have the ability to morph their bodies into different shapes and thus the body morphing wouldn't work well with a thin character. We really liked the head features on the second design because it allows more parts of the character to be animated (i.e. the antenna bounce up and down while waking) and it provides more configurable features in our avatar creator. The final character design, after all the 3D modelling and texturing ended up as:

As mentioned earlier, the clones have the ability to morph their bodies to perform actions. This decision originated from the fact that we didn't want to introduce tools/equipment out of thin air when they interact with the landscape and so we explain it by indicating that the clones are made up of a quantum goo which can deform. In total there are 10 unique morphs that you can give to a clone: Clob, Drill, Atomize, Spin, Puff, Mold, Lop, Doppel, Gulp, and Nova. Check out the guide for more info on the morphs.

In total we have over 42 unique animations for the character for each of the 8 different colors (yes, that is a lot of animations files!) In addition to the Clones, we also have the CloneMaster characters in the game, but we'll leave that for another article :) Let me know what you think of the character design in the comments!


nexus000111 says...
On: Jan 9, 2010

The characters look great! I think that rendering them in 3D was a good idea, it makes the game look less 'indie', and more 'mainstream'. Looking forward to the realise, you have clearly put a lot of time, thought and energy into this project, so fair play.

tom says...
On: Jan 28, 2010

Ya, it's a lot of work, but it's fun work :) Having the animations done in 3D really allowed us to do a lot more than we initially envisioned. For example, we added support for Clone decorations (stuff that Clones wear), and this would be difficult to add if the characters were drawn by hand.