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Artist’s Perspective: The Main Character of Road Not Taken

Brent Kobayashi's Avatar + Posted by Brent Kobayashi on Jan 24, 2014 // Lead Artist, Spry Fox

Road Not Taken on PS4 and PS Vita

Hi everyone! I’m Brent, the lead artist for Spry Fox’s upcoming PS4 & Vita game, Road Not Taken. We’ve gotten a lot of questions and compliments about the look of the game’s main character, so I thought you might enjoy reading about the process I went through in creating it!

First, I guess I should say that designing a game’s main character/avatar is always tricky. The avatar has to work as a functional asset within the context of the game, has to look good in marketing materials and screenshots, but most importantly, has to feel right as something that represents you, the player! Easier said than done.

Road Not Taken on PS4 and PS Vita

In Road Not Taken, the main character is a forest ranger of sorts (who happens to be blessed with mystical powers of levitation). Although the theme of the game superficially calls for it, I knew right off the bat that I didn’t want to go with a typical “park ranger” motif. The forest of Road Not Taken is mysterious and enchanted, and I wanted the Avatar to have the same vibe. So instead, I drew inspiration from more delightful/whimsical figures. Some of my key inspirations include:

  • I had the great pleasure and fortune of working with Robin Hunicke (Journey) in the past. (Hell yeah, name drop!) Her philosophies and discussions on aesthetics and her talks on the creation process of Journey has always carried a huge level of inspiration in my works and has carried over into design decisions made in Road Not Taken in a big way.
  • As a tile-based game, Road Not Taken demands characters that are generally 1:1 in ratio to comfortably sit in a given cell. Like many 8-bit tile games (Zelda, Lolo, Bomberman), you’re not afforded a multitude of sizes and scale to play with when designing within the confines of a grid. 8-bit design serves as big inspiration in communicating so much with so little.
  • I was previously the Art Director on an MMO called Glitch. I created hundreds of NPCs for the game, but one of them that stuck with me was the Smuggler character. I always wanted to use him again for something, so when it came to designing the characters for Road Not Taken, he was one of the first characters I dug out of the ol’ brain archives to re-iterate on. (Wait… did I really just reference myself as a point of inspiration?? Tsk tsk. Shameful.)

Road Not Taken on PS4 and PS Vita

The general look of the avatar hasn’t changed a whole lot from its earliest sketches to its current iteration. I knew I wanted the main character to be holding a staff to signal a “lone traveller” persona. And I knew s/he needed to be hooded to hide his/her gender, so everyone could identify with the main character.

But when dealing with a character of such a stout stature that a tile-based game calls for, nailing down the overall shape of the character is everything. You could see by the early sketches and prototypes that the general theme and look of the character did not change through the process. Almost all of my sketches and concepts were iterations on the character’s head/hood shape and size. I was barely concerned about what was inside this silhouette until I was settled on the shape. In the end, I wanted the character to be whimsical — almost elven or wizard-like — yet still remain human in nature.

The blue flame was one of the last elements I added to the design, and I did it for three reasons. One, to give him a signature element to elevate him from being just “some hooded dude”. Two, for thematic purposes: the flame acts as the character’s life meter. When the flame dies, so too does our hero. And three, because why not a blue flame?

Road Not Taken on PS4 and PS Vita

So, what’s under the main character’s hood? We are currently experimenting with having the player reveal themselves to townsfolk. (Get your mind out of the gutter; I don’t mean it like that!) There are currently hundreds of possible avatar combinations, and we are working on allowing the player to have the option of fully customizing their character. Above is a sneak peek at some of the possible combinations! Which one are you?

I hope this glimpse into the artistic development process behind Road Not Taken has been interesting to you. If you have any other questions about the look and feel of the game, please leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. And if this is your first time hearing about the game, please check out some of the video teasers that we’ve previously released here on the PlayStation.Blog!

//Add Your Own

18 Comments   4 Replies

1

+ DrApollo on January 24th, 2014 at 8:05 am said:

Adorable! Nice work!


2

+ DrApollo on January 24th, 2014 at 8:09 am said:

As a video game artist myself I’m always looking to see interesting video game art. How hard was getting that particular style to animate? I created a similar look for a game I had been working on but the characters were kept still for dialog boxes. The animation was done by recreating the characters in maya.

Fantastic look! Cannot wait!


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    + Brent Kobayashi on January 24th, 2014 at 1:39 pm said:

    Thanks for the comment(s)!
    That’s a good question. There are definitely positives and negatives of trying to animate in this style. Because the characters are relatively simple (stubby arms/legs), you can get away with a lot of implied animations. Like playing with Lego dudes. The trickier things are when you want precise animations in particular scenes. For example, in one sequence we need the avatar to bend over and pick up an object. Bend over??? Without a neck or waist??? As Louis CK once said of his stature, it’s like trying to fold a bowling ball.
    Aside from a few tricky sequences, the style is fairly simple to animate if you prepare the assets with animation in mind. I learned that the hard way getting yelled at by animators in the past for not preparing art for animation. Then once I learned how to animate, I was able to yell at myself.
    Would love to check out your work some time. Send me an email at brent@spryfox.com if you have work to share!


3

+ italodancemp3 on January 24th, 2014 at 8:14 am said:

Brent it’s fantastic,can’t wait to play it on my vita :) just when is the official release date?


4

+ DrApollo on January 24th, 2014 at 8:20 am said:

@#3

Vita/PS4 cross play would be fantastic if it runs well on the Vita. Dragons Crown had lots of big flat textures so I looks like it’s possible. Not sure whats going on under the hood though.


5

+ TetsuyaKenshi86 on January 24th, 2014 at 8:21 am said:

“some hooded dude” hahahahahaha

I love these artistic video games, do not need hyper realistic graphics make for an excellent game.

I’m sure it will go to my collection along with Journey


6

+ CommandingTiger on January 24th, 2014 at 8:32 am said:

It’s a nice looking game.


7

+ dpk5e7 on January 24th, 2014 at 10:13 am said:

I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. With the hood and glowing eyes, the avatar looks like a jawa to me. Pretty cool.


8

+ stemitchellusa on January 24th, 2014 at 10:27 am said:

@dpk5e7

And Vivi from FFIX!


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    + Brent Kobayashi on January 24th, 2014 at 1:43 pm said:

    Yeah, Vivi! I totally could’ve thrown Vivi in the inspiration pool. Love that character.
    As for Jawa, sorry I am not too familiar with Star Trek (trying to start a war)

    No but for real, I am the only person on earth who hasn’t watched Star Warses! So I didn’t use jawa as inspiration, but I can totally see aesthetic similarities!


9

+ esteban_d1d0 on January 24th, 2014 at 10:31 am said:

LOL, I never thought to see a character frome the store of the front (The every day smaller “N”) posted in this website jeje.
I really hope one day Sony can use this characters in an PS exclusive game :D


10

+ Tarvitzu on January 24th, 2014 at 10:39 am said:

One question. Is this game going to be a PSN title or will it have physical copies? (I’d like physical copies please!)


11

+ CrispyCanuk on January 24th, 2014 at 12:29 pm said:

I loved Glitch and I knew that the guy looked familiar!


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    + Brent Kobayashi on January 24th, 2014 at 1:44 pm said:

    *emobear highfive*, former Glitch player!


12

+ butcherknife on January 24th, 2014 at 1:37 pm said:

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.


13

+ Elvick_ on January 24th, 2014 at 2:08 pm said:

Can’t wait to play this. :D


14

+ tusunami on January 24th, 2014 at 2:34 pm said:

I can’t wait for this to come out, this looks to be a amazing game for PS4!!!!!!!!!!!!


15

+ Deeke777 on January 25th, 2014 at 11:49 am said:

This game looks absolutely amazing! I love the artwork and the visual style, it’s so distinct and unique, and would love to hear more about the game in the next coming months!

Might I be able to ask if the game is a roguelike or if it has any RPG elements? If so I think it’ll do very well on the PS4, as gamers have been looking for games like that for a while. Even still, I think it’ll do well–it’s just so darn enamoring!


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    + Brent Kobayashi on January 25th, 2014 at 12:19 pm said:

    It is a roguelike, but definitely has some RPG elements as well including character progression by way of boosts and upgrades, relationships with townspeople you enhance over the course of several games.

    Thanks very much for the nice words! Hope the game can do those words justice!


16

+ littlenoun on January 27th, 2014 at 5:27 am said:

It’s so cute!


17

+ zingakun on January 27th, 2014 at 8:53 am said:

Y u no have a PS3 version?! :(


18

+ Kchow23 on January 28th, 2014 at 11:24 am said:

Adorable! :)


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