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We interviewed our Character Designer, Van!
Her Interactive: How long have you worked at Her Interactive?
Van: "I have been here about a year now and am coming close to finishing my second Nancy Drew title."
Her Interactive: What do you like about working at Her Interactive?
I get to make video games along with many other talented and passionate people. How cool is that? I’ll just leave it with a short answer. Otherwise the list is long and could take a while.
Oh yeah, hacky breaks are great, too.
Her Interactive: Do you get to design all of the characters in the games?
Yes. I design all the characters you see in the games.
Her Interactive: Have you designed some non-animated characters that went into a game?
I designed the phone friend images for ASH which included Ned who is non-animated. I’m also designing a few non-animated characters in the next game but I’ll keep my lips sealed about that for now.
Her Interactive: What is your design process like?
I first read over the detailed description from the game designer and put together the pieces I’m given. Once I have a rough idea of what direction I’m going, I’ll go online to gather reference material and do a little research. Then I start drawing.
At this early stage of design, I think about it like I’m casting actors and actresses for a movie. My advantage is the entire population is at my disposal and I’m able to takes parts of one person and mix them with parts from another like Dr. Frankenstein except my creations look less scary.
I think a lot about what it is that makes actors and actresses playing similar roles so believable. Not only the physical traits but also unique characteristic traits considered. I try not to throw things in “just because”. I also make an effort to not have the characters look too much like any specific celebrity but familiar enough to relate to. It’s a bit of a balancing act.
My concepts are mainly drawn digitally because I can make changes very quickly. Now and then, I’ll scrap something and start over because no matter what I do, it’s just not working. A number of people in the office also see my progress at certain points and give great feedback. I spend a good amount of time on concept work so I have a real clear direction to go when it’s time for me to create the 3D model.
Her Interactive: What is your favorite step in the creation of a character?
I definitely love concept work. It feels like play time. I also really enjoy the final tweaks and finishing touches to 3D models. The last 2% really makes them shine.
Her Interactive: Were any of the characters in ASH hard to design? Any tough parts?
The toughest characters in any game for me are the ones who have a long history in the Nancy Drew world such as George and Bess. Characters like these have expectations and not everyone envisions them the same. I really have to be careful and respect the source material for these characters. Ned was also redrawn quite a few times.
Her Interactive: What was your favorite character in ASH that you enjoyed designing?
I would have to say Alexei Markovic. He’s such a kooky old guy. I was able to really let loose and go a bit crazy.
Her Interactive: Is there a character (genre/style, or specific person) that you would like to design in the future?
I have my fingers crossed for a monster like we saw in CAP.
Her Interactive: What happens to your character when you are finished with him or her?
They are handed over to the animators to be brought to life.
Her Interactive: Do you have any fun extra bits of info or fun facts about what you do? Any secrets or stories you’d like to share?
I know more about women’s clothing than I thought I ever would. Terms like “a-Line“ and “scoop neck” come to mind.
Sometimes, reference images of clothing I find online aren’t enough for me to accurately create a 3D model. I often can’t tell what the texture or pattern is like, how the material hangs or reflects light and other issues like that. I admittedly have been in the women’s clothing department more than once since working here, and no I have not tried anything on.