The Evolution of a Clay Character in Kahoots™

Closed Public Beta participant and Untold Entertainment enthusiast kaolinfire asked about our creative process on Kahoots™, our upcoming fun crime-themed puzzle game which we’ve modelled entirely in clay. We’ll talk more about the overall game development approach in another post. Today, i wanted to show the evolution of our game’s tutorial character, The Captain.

Step 1: The Sketch

The Captain – the blustery, jowly, and slightly daft head of Londonton’s Spotland Pond municipal police force – began his life as a sketch on our office whiteboard. From there, our Art Director Mark created a doodle to use as a placeholder in the game:

Kahoots: The Captain v1

i didn’t feel like this rendition was quite on the money, so i offered my own take:

Kahoots™: The Captain v2

Ah – much better. (?)

What i meant to convey with this stellar rendition is that the captain should be older, with a big white poofy moustache. The brown-moustachioed Captain was too young-looking and friendly. Mark took another crack at it:

Kahoots™: The Captain v3

This sketch was much closer to what i pictured the captain looking like. But the eyebrows seemed too meek, and the moustache looked like it had given up all hope and was about to jump off his face and out of a fifth-story window. Still, we worked with this sketch in the game for a few weeks and got pretty used to it.

Step 2: The First Model

When it came time to model the Captain in clay, blue was an obvious choice for a police officer. We used a different, lighter blue than the one we used for the criminals. Mark also suggested the bullet body shape for the Captain and the two other irregular characters, again to distinguish them from the rabble who appeared in the rest of the game. We modelled the Captain long before we were ready to use him, most likely because we were sick of modelling interface pieces. The interface stuff was very straight-edged and meticulous. You can really stretch out your legs when you model a character or a prop.

This was our first clay version of the Captain:

Kahoots™: The Captain v4

He sat on our props shelf for weeks on end while we modelled, photographed and integrated the interface and props. At long last, once most of the essential game elements were complete and integrated, it was time to build the Spotland Pond HQ set that would house the Captain. (We’ll do a separate diary entry to tell you all about the sets!)

i had a few problems with our first clay Captain:

  1. Too much blue – i decided i wanted a black cap.
  2. The moustache was too flat and not billowy enough. (It’s hard to see here, but from other angles, the moustache became a pancake)
  3. The eye-to-moustache-to-eyebrow ratio, and the gap between the eyes, were off. Eye placement is absolutely crucial to my concept of good character design, and there was no way i could convey this to someone else. It’s just a very personal, particular thing.
  4. The eyebrows were too stern.
  5. Overall, the Captain was too angry and not appealing enough.

The sternness issue came up again as we auditioned voice actors for the role of the Captain. Many of the vocie tests came back sounding angry and unfun. The type of character i wanted was comically gruff – a kind of vaguely silly Monty Python-esque bag of hot air that you couldn’t take too seriously. Finally, one of the voice actors we auditioned came back with the PERFECT take on the Captain. His read actually inspired me to remodel the character to suit the voice. Here’s what we came up with:

Kahoots™: The Captain v5

Bingo!

This was the Captain i wanted for Kahoots. His eyebrows are somewhat stern, but you can’t take him too seriously with that poofy moustache. The enormous star on the cap is more cartoonish. And the eye-to-moustache-to-eyebrow ratio was just what i pictured. This is the Captain who will appear in the final version of the game.

End Cap

Here’s the evolution of the Captain seen all together:

Kahoots™: The Captain v5

For more insider info on the creation of Kahoots, be sure the check out the Kahoots™ Designer Diary! You can talk about Kahoots™ on our Message Boards.

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