201: Ready Player One: Character Design

Character Design


Though this is NOT a direct example of what we’re doing (we need to draw the avatar along with the clothes, and we are concerned about more than costs), it is a visually interesting diagram that relates to video game characters. See more examples at The Real Costs of Video Game Fashion.

Imagine yourself in the possible future described in Ready Player One. If you lived on earth as it is described by protagonist Wade Watts in Ernest Cline’s novel, and you also had access the the virtual world of the OASIS, what avatar would you create for yourself? Where would you stand in the hunt for Halliday’s Easter egg? For this project, envision specific answers to these questions using Screenwriting: Great Character Profiles as a point of departure. Then, using vector graphics and typography tools in Adobe Illustrator, visualize and diagram your OASIS avatar, focusing not just on outward appearance, but also on abilities and motivations. Your final product will be an 18 x 24-inch poster featuring your avatar. You will be required to get your poster printed at BCU printing services in time for the DTC Showcase on April 26th (so you will have time to make revisions after you initially turn in the project).

Once you have composed a written Character Profile, focus on learning both drawing* and graphic design options available in Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector graphics program. Vector graphics, unlike bitmap graphics, can be scaled up and down without losing quality because they are defined by series of points and the lines that connect them, which can be recalculated as scale is adjusted. Vector graphics tend to have crisp, well-defined edges, as seen in designs for logos. However, use of gradients and other Illustrator tools can give the suggestion of 3-dimensionality. Consider how your avatar should be rendered: Will you choose a flat, geometric drawing style, as you might see in a 1980s video arcade game? Or will your avatar be drawn with incredible realism, as you might expect to see in the virtual reality of the future?

* Make sure you are drawing/creating your character from scratch, even if you are using reference images or drawings that you place into Illustrator. Please DO NOT use the Image Trace panel for this project.

Again, this is not a direct example of what we are making, but it illustrates a very inventive way of utilizing the visual aspects of text in combination with an image. Is the hierarchy clear in the poster design? Why?

In addition to drawing your avatar, consider your graphic design readings on Hierarchy and Diagram as you design your poster. Use typography (fonts) in a visually engaging and appropriate way to diagram the abilities and motivations of your avatar. For example, particular items of clothing or accessories may provide special powers or have interesting back stories. You might also choose to present your avatar’s inventory of weapons or other tools. Typography should also be used to present the name of your avatar in a visually interesting and prominent way.

We will have a brief introduction to the Illustrator workspace in class, and you are expected to follow the required tutorials as homework and when time is available during class. Your instructor will provide as much one-on-one assistance as possible. You are welcome and encouraged to seek out additional tutorials to supplement your knowledge.

Trading cards, though much smaller than your poster design, could also provide some strong inspiration for how to present your avatar’s history and abilities. Garbage Pails Kids would be an another appropriate 1980s pop culture example of trading cards.



What you will bring to group critique:

Bring a nearly complete draft of your collage, ready to open in Illustrator to share with the members of your group. Be ready to walk your group through the ideas behind your work and your plans for the finishing touches. Write down their feedback. Also make notes so you can write a critique of the work of one of your group members. Two printed copies of your written critique will be due next class (one copy for your instructor, one for your group member).

As a group, you will also decide on one Character Design Poster which you will present to the class next time. All group members should be prepared to make comments about the work in your presentation, with relevant references to your readings. The person whose project is chosen should have it ready on his/her thumbdrive for next class, saved as both an AI file and PDF.

What you will hand in for the final project:

On your thumbdrive, in a folder named “yourlastname-project2”:

  1. Your finished Illustrator file [18×24-inches, Color Mode: CMYK, Raster Effects: High (300ppi)] with well-organized layers (you have to be a bit more intentional about this in Illustrator than you do in Photoshop). Convert type to outlines before handing in the files so you do not have missing fonts.
  2. Your finished file saved as a PDF
  3. Your finished file exported as a JPG

Printed to hand in:

  1. A typed explanation of your work (1 page, double-spaced, 12 pt. font), addressing:
    1. How your character/avatar fits into the virtual world of the OASIS (reference specifics from Ready Player One and screenwriting videos).
    2. Why you feel the drawing style used to depict your avatar is appropriate.
    3. Why your graphic design and typography choices make your poster design clear and engaging (reference specifics from Hierarchy and Diagram readings).
    4. How specific Illustrator tools and techniques influenced your creative process.