As the main character of the game, it was imperative to me that Hope had distinct visuals that made her both personable and memorable, as well as a personality and age that was relevant to the story I am trying to tell.
I decided quite early on that I wanted her to be in her early to mid teens, because in order to tackle the subject of grief in a thoughtful way I deemed it necessary for her to understand her situation, but also be young enough not to have the emotional control that would be found in adults. Vulnerable but capable – that’s what she needed to be. Eventually I settled on her age being 14, a time full of changes and a development of emotional awareness.
I knew I wanted her to be female in order to represent a currently under-represented demographic, but also wanted her to appear slightly androgynous so that players of all genders could relate to her.
My first iteration of her (found on page 41 of sketchbook 1) was done without any research to inspire her design, it was a simple outpouring of imagination very early on in the proceedings of the idea to help me visualise what she might look like, considering this piece is heavily character driven. I knew from the start that I wanted her to be fragile in appearance, with that slightly awkward growth-spurt lankiness typical to a lot of teenagers.
Having a vague image of Hope in my mind meant that I could better focus on the essential experience of the game and other areas of development, so when I came back to her I had a fresh set of eyes through which to consider her visually. I gave her a simple, elongated pear-shaped body upon which I could iterate different outfit designs that would be situationally suitable for her to wear whilst also being memorable. These designs can be found on page 57 of sketchbook 1.
I wanted her to look current but distinct, and believed I could achieve that through her wearing a pair of dungaree shorts with her hair in buns. However, after playing around with colour schemes, I decided that the shape I had chosen for her had really pulled away from my initial idea of her fragility being represented in her physicality. I researched a variety of cartoons that deal with adult situations through a childlike lens, (pages 58, 59, sketchbook 1) and from this research pulled the lanky design of humans in Adventure Time and combined it with the wide-eyed cuteness of Hilda. I also adapted Hope’s design to be more suitable for autumn – gave her a pair of leggings to wear under her dungarees and a bobble hat for extra warmth.
From that design, I iterated several others using the art styles of Dana Rune, Yana Bogatch, and my own style that I use for personal artwork. I collated the opinions of numerous people around me and agreed on the last of the designs shown below.
From there I developed her design further, using her character as a baseline for colour palettes, textures, and line weight used in the rest of the game. I believed that too much line-work would make her appear too cartoonish, but I wanted some fine lines that made her pop against whatever environment was placed behind her. To reach this ideal, I decided to colour the lines, and played around with the contrast until I found what I believed to be clear lines but not overwhelming lines. I kept the shading clean and simple, as to give the character designs a crisp finish that would distinguish them from their surroundings.
Finally, I mocked up some concept art that wouldn’t be used as assets in the final game, but gave an idea of Hope’s physicality and her activities, as shown below.