As mentioned before, I collaborated with Games for Gummie to produce the graphics for their iPhone game entitled Shuriken Chicken. This included character design as well as hand cutting and assembling the characters out of felt.
Right from the start, the character design for Shuriken Chicken was very much driven by the way that the graphics would be created. Games for Gummie had settled on the idea of creating the assets by photographing physical models of the characters made out of felt and so that was our starting point.
So, knowing that I had to make these characters out of felt and also that the assets would be appearing quite small on the iPhone screen, it was essential to stick to simple geometrical shapes. Anything with too many fine details would have been really difficult to create using felt and would have been lost when sizing it down for the iPhone screen. But at the same time, I wanted to create something that would immediately come across as a chicken that's also a ninja as well as a quirky, memorable character.
I tackled this challenge very much in the same way as I tackle designing my own Hooby Groovy products. First of all was researching the animal in question; in this particular case a chicken and figuring out what are the stand out features that immediately identifies a chicken. For Shuriken Chicken, I decided to go for a simple rounded comb, tail and beak as means of 'chickening' the character. As for ninja-ing him, well I already had experience in ninja-ing up something :). From there, I drew up various sketches of different shaped chickens, making sure to keep it to a very simple geometrical shape. I showed these to Games for Gummie and we settled on the basic look of Shuriken Chicken.
Just one more note on how I went about designing the character, during my first few sketches, it was really about just thinking up geometrical shapes and putting a comb, tail and beak on it just to see what it would look like and whether it would work. And then I thought about how Shuriken Chicken is meant to be a ninja that's hellbent on running through this world, bypassing or shurikening all obstacles that get in his way. With that in mind, I adjusted shapes to make him appear to be leaning slightly forward to show his movement and determination. There was a point during the game design phase where there was talk that maybe something was chasing him and so while there was that idea bouncing around, I played around more with shapes that leaned backwards, sort of a comical run where his body leaned backwards and lagged behind his feet.
Then came to sculpting it out of felt. I drew up a pattern for it in a nice big size and used that to cut out the basic felt shapes that I needed and then refined it by putting it together and working it until Shuriken Chicken looked just right. This meant playing with proportions of his body, comb, tail, hands (wing?), beak and eyes. And of course his funny little shoes. His peanut shaped red sneakers are my absolute favourite part of his character design!
When designing Shuriken Chicken, I had purely thought about him from a side profile view because that is what he is throughout the game. But then Games for Gummie also wanted him on the Main Menu and icons so that meant translating him into a front view too. Luckily and maybe because I'd kept him so simple, this was easy to do. :)
Besides his forward-leaning running stance, I also used his eyes to convery his character and mood. I created a few types of eyes and it was just a matter of swapping them in at the right moment and Shuriken Chicken would turn from a perfectly friendly, harmless wide eyed chicken into an angry I-mean-business chicken.
I handed off all the felt assets to Games for Gummie to be photographed and then converted into in-game assets. There's a run down on how that was done over at the Games for Gummie blog.
I'm really happy with the way Shuriken Chicken turned out and I think he really does convey the spirit of a determined ninja, despite being made up of only about 8 or so little pieces of felt. :)
Shuriken Chicken is available on the App Store so do check it out! :)