Tutorial: Character Design

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I’ve been asked a few times recently to share my process for designing characters! I think it’s a fairly weird and not quite optimal process, but I’m gonna share it anyway and someone might learn a thing!

Alright first things first, you’re gonna need some type of image manipulation program. I use Photoshop CS6. The version doesn’t really matter. It’s really rad for changing colors and it does pretty much all the stuff I need. Second things second, go over here http://al.chemy.org/download/ and download this really rad program called Alchemy.

Alchemy was intiated by Karl D.D. Willis and Jacob Hina as a way to explore and experiment with alternative ways of drawing. There are a lot of weird tools and settings that you can play around with in this program to make different sorts of designs that your otherwise conscious stupid human brain might not immediately think of.

I like to put the “Create” setting under pull shapes, which picks shapes randomly from folders in Alchemy and then places them onto the canvas rotated and resized randomly. I also click the “Affect” setting tab and set it to limit the number of shapes that can be on screen before it begins removing them. This is good setting because too many shapes and your screen quickly becomes an indecipherable mess.




You’re gonna make a bunch of crap for awhile, but every now and then you’re gonna come across some combination of shapes that speaks to the ghoul inside your brain that says “Hey this is actually pretty interesting”. When the ghoul says that, that’s your cue to export that combination of shapes to .PNG or some other file that you’d like to manipulate.

What I tend to look for are combinations of shapes that

A. Fit together in a way that looks like you might be able to explain why they are fitting together that way( E.g. oh maybe that is their arm connecting to their torso, oh maybe that is is a sheath on their back, oh that could be a mask or helmet they are wearing)

B. Almost balance if they were to be placed on a flat plane (if your character flys around this isn’t as important, but for us folks with legs we gotta figure out a way to balance our weight on our appendages)

C. Are interesting in their juxtaposition with each other.( Big stuff near small stuff, long stuff near short stuff, curved lines near straight lines, organic looking shapes near mechanical looking shapes).

“OK” designs

Make a bunch of these darn things(Like 30 or 40) and put them in a folder called “OK” no matter how cool you think they are at the time that you make them. (this is actually a really important step). I like to give these things weird file names that might spark my imagination if I decide to actually go further with them. Some notable examples:

Unknown Death Shaman, Cloaked Metaphysical Knight, Abandoned Waiting, Windswept Peacekeeper, Haunted Arm.

These names don’t really need to mean anything, they are just things to keep your brain all juiced up if you decide to use them.

Alright so then after you do that go get a cup of coffee or something and try not to think about the things you just made. COME BACK TO IT WITH FRESH EYES. Go through your “OK” folder one by one with a critical eye and move the best designs to a folder called “GOOD”. Try to do this as quickly as possible. If a design does not immediately inspire you right away cast it away like the GARBAGE THAT IT IS and move on. Don’t get sentimental about things that you think could “maybe perhaps work if I just spent a bunch of time moving stuff around”. YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT STUFF.
“GOOD” folder

After that go through your folder called “GOOD” as quickly as possible and move the best ones from there to a folder called “VERY GOOD”. Be relentless with this process. Hopefully only 4 or 5 end up making it to the “VERY GOOD” folder.

“VERY GOOD” folder

Once I got a few in the “VERY GOOD” folder that I’m excited to work on I drag ’em into photoshop and upscale the image size to like 8000 px at 300DPI because I’m eventually gonna put all these into a book so I need them to be big enough to print.

From there I carve away at the lines with the eraser and try to logically reason what certain forms could possibly signify. DESIGN IS COMMUNICATION. I want to communicate certain things about the world that this character exists in to the player immediately. What species are they? What materials are available to these characters? What kind of clothing do they wear? How does “Tower culture” dictate what they might find fashionable or practical (Are they a character who is even aware of these things?) . Interpret these abstract shapes with these questions in mind! And feel free to completely subtract parts you don’t like. Don’t be tied to the original shape formation completely.

Then I make a new layer on top of the lineart and set the blend mode to “Multiply. I pick like 4 or 5 values fairly far apart from one another and fill these shapes in a way that clearly separates them from one another. I do this because I’m eventually going to recreate these designs with pixel art so I need to keep them fairly simple and readable!

That’s it basically! Coloring these is probably another tutorial entirely. I don’t have a very optimal process for that part. I usually just make a bunch of “Gradient Map” layers and set them to different blend modes and adjust sliders for minutes upon minutes and try to remember an ounce of color theory.

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Whelp that’s about it! I hope this helped! Go out and make a bunch of cool characters really quickly ! Also feel free to share character design tips in the comments. HOW DO YOU DO IT?tumblr_nz96fgzpzi1u7bhjlo4_1280.pngtumblr_nyt3jdnzh91u7bhjlo2_400.pngUnknown.pngOld Musket.png


Thank You!!


 HECK YEAH!! We did it! In thirty days the Doko Roko Kickstarter raised over $42,000.00! Had you told me when I was a kid that I’d be making a videogame that had this much support behind it, I think I would have flipped my lid. My lid is being flipped at this very moment. This is a severe lid-flipping.

I’m very excited to resume work on the game and realize this idea that has been marinating in my brain for quite some time now. I’ve got you all to thank for it! All 1987 of you! I just checked to see what cool stuff happened in 1987 and lo and behold it turns out Final Fantasy for the NES was released in December of 1987. I’m going to take that as a good omen!

I’m going to continue with updates every month about what I’m working on and what progress I’ve made, but you can also follow my Twitter account @DokoRokoGame and my tumblr, dokorokogame.tumblr.com for more frequent posts as well!

I’m going to be sending out backer surveys in the coming weeks to ask of you all some information regarding your tier choices and your preferred method of contact so stay tuned for that!


Also you may have noticed that it is now possible to support development and pre-order the game, beta access or the beta & OST with the buttons on the sidebar of this page that’ll take you to the Humble Store. If you pre-order beta access you will also receive the full game at launch!

Again from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for joining me on this crazy adventure! LET’S DO THIS.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Kickstarter’s Live!




Yes! Well! It finally happened! I pressed a big green button on a page and my heart was beating fast and now it’s out there for everyone to see! Very cool. I feel like I haven’t been this excited about something in a very long time and to see people genuinely enjoy the stuff I’m making and see value in it is a very novel sensation. I’m still trying to process everything I’m feeling. And maybe that’s the nature of excitement is not being able to process all the stuff you’re feeling at once. It feels good. I feel nervous, cynical, eager, excited and happy. There’s a certain rush I get from being uncertain in these circumstances!

Any who, thanks for stopping by and I really do appreciate every single person who has seen something in this project. It’s awesome that a bunch of people I’ve never met before could potentially allow me to work on the stuff I really love.

-Stay handsome. Try your best. Enjoy a variety of snow-related activities this holiday season. OVER AND OUT.


Hello! Hi! I just wanted to give you all an update!

Doko Roko Title Image TEST

I’m launching the Doko Roko Kickstarter one week from today. Tuesday, October 20th!( I have been informed that Saturday is an awful day to launch kickstarter campaigns. WHO KNEW) I’m really excited to show you folks the trailer and all the concept art me and my friends did! It’s been a crazy year working on the game in retrospect. I went from knowing very little about game development to having this crazy weird project that I can point to and say, “Whoa, look at this game I built! It’s a real thing and it moves and it breathes and it jiggles when you touch it!” I’ve got a solid plan for the direction it’s going and i’m only getting better at developing it as time goes on.  I’ve grown very attached to working on it and in some respect it’s become a strange extension of myself that I’ve gotten to share with other people.

The strangest thing was seeing it appear to resonate with people almost immediately. The Doko Roko twitter account has 2100 twitter followers at the time of me writing this and the tumblr page is fast encroaching on 1000. I’m extremely grateful it’s worked out that way and I hope the Kickstarter succeeds so I can really put in the time and effort I feel the project deserves!

I just wanted to really say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Sometimes developing a game can take a weird emotional toll on you and sometimes you begin to seriously wonder if all the work you’re doing is really going to be appreciated by another human person. And Well! It god darn has. It’s been appreciated by a bunch of god darn human people. And that’s a really cool feeling! That feeling has gotten be through a bunch of tough days of development! So Yeah! THIS IS GETTING LONG-WINDED AND TOUCHY FEELY SO I’M JUST GONNA SAY THANKS.

Stay hydrated! Be kind to animals! Stay weird!




Okobu is a one-man independent videogame studio based in Boston, Massachusetts. My name is Eric Mack or @EricSmack on twitter. I do the art, design, programming, and business for Okobu! I am currently developing a game called Doko Roko (@DokoRokoGame or dokorokogame.tumblr.com). It’s a game about strange magicks, weird swords, and how ideas can spread and mutate over time.

I wanted to start a company that makes games.

I have ideas and they come out in drawings, and in music and in storyboards, but I have never been satisfied with these mediums. There is no interaction. You are meant to look and listen to these things, but never to interact with them. I want to make worlds that people can walk around and spend time in. I want people to discover things and poke at things and learn things and find secrets. I want the player to soak in the atmosphere of these games through osmosis and feel something.

And that’s why I’m really doing this. To take an idea that’s in my head and try to get it into yours as clearly as I possibly can. Every other mode of communication has failed me. Every form of communication is really a miscommunication. Language, written or spoken, is constantly misinterpreted and I am being misinterpreted by someone reading this right now. But video games are very good at communicating complicated things very quickly and concisely to a person.Maybe not always the right things, but the ideas themselves feel very tangible. a simulation that took someone a year to code can transmit ideas into your head instantaneously. It takes a long time to form that idea and shape it into something that can be digested by another mind, but I believe it’s worth the effort!

I am one-man studio Okobu! Drop me a line at emack500@comcast.net or @EricSmack and we can talk about games and art and other nerd shit.❤