You might not judge a book by its cover (Though I do regularly – I generally only pick up books with nicely illustrated front covers) but a character’s appearance can/does tell you a lot. It is an obvious and important consideration in character design. In this post I’m going to talk about simple character designs and why they work.
These simple game characters work well because they are appealing (cute lol) and because their design reflects their role in the game. Most of these characters are from puzzle games with fairly simple plots. Their simple design does not distract from the game play. Games with this type of character tend to be more about what you’re doing than who you interact with. Cordy (Cordy – a popular game for mobile devices), Sackboy (Little Big Planet), Toadstool (Super Mario Brothers) & Bob (Puzzle Bobble). You may have noticed I left the last guy out. That’s because his case is a little different.
#5, The “Moogle”, comes from the Final Fantasy series, which is a complex game that deals a lot with character interaction. Its world is equally complex. But the Moogle serves simple functions (to save your game, for example) and its design reflects that. It is one of the most doodled/tattooed characters from that entire series.
Some of these characters have a little more going on than is immediately obvious (Cordy, for example, has little mechanical doohickeys & the original Sackboy has a detailed texture overlay), but they can all be simplified into a big circle for a head & a smaller circle for the body. There is a lot of ’roundness’ in all of these character designs that adds to the appeal factor.
Game characters can get even simpler than that (Pacman & Kirby, for example). Simple characters are also common as company mascots and logos because they are easy to identify which makes them highly marketable. They also cost less to print which makes for good merchandising possibilities (Think “Angry Birds”).
How simple is too simple? Even stick men have their place in character design. Characters can really make a game (again, think Angry Birds. It’s similar to “Worms: Armageddon” in terms of game play but Angry Birds has many more fans and tons of merchandise. The poor worms really got the popularity shaft and it is likely because they lack the charm of the birds.