Sunday, March 25, 2012

Process Log 9: Progressions 2 (Ryan)

For this Process Log, I wanted to share 3 years worth of ideation and exploration of a single character I've been fleshing out for quite some time: Ryan Zaneth, the main character of my story called "MOTH" (work in progress title).

Ryan's Base Appearance
Progressions read from left to right:

Ryan's character was born from my sudden interest in parkour. After delving myself in the sport for a year and watching both Banlieue 13 (District B13) movies, I came up with the dynamic posed sketch in the top left. Key attributes of his appearance were spiky black hair, facial hair, a large, tribal tattoo on his left shoulder, and scars on the right side of his body from an accident he had several years ago. His backstory was that he worked as a courier in a place called the "Underground Network" and he had a girlfriend who was forced to leave him because her father hated him for social and political reasons. He was also called "Raien" at the time.

Then I went through a phase of just drawing his head, experimenting with various styles. I changed his name to "Ryan" because when I did some name research, "Raien" is apparently a girl's name in other languages. :'D Ryan's backstory went through some dramatic changes, too: I scrapped his original backstory and came up with one that involved amnesia (hence some of the head sketches have a patch on the forehead) and an ability to conjure holographic armor onto his body. His design also lost the tattoo and accident scars.

In the cloud of all the head sketches with different expressions to the rest of the image above, that was when I had finally settled on an art style. As for his final design, he lost the patch on his forehead and instead gained a glowing blue infection on the left side of neck that trails up to his lower jaw and a surgical scar that travels down his torso. His backstory also developed into the story that it is now (I will not spoil it here). Even though he went through many changes, going from being a simple courier to a stealth super soldier, he still maintained his abilities as a traceur.

Ryan's Armor Design
When I scrapped Ryan's first backstory, I gave him this armor conjuring ability that turned him into a stealth super soldier. The design for Ryan's armor changed over the course of 3 years as well:

The very first design I came up with for a stealth super soldier was for a game design assignment. Key attributes of the design were seven "eyes" and blade-like protrusions on the helmet, built-in weapons on the forearms, and sharp, thermal claws. The armor was also form-fitting as it was supposed to allow mobility.

The second iteration of the design involved adding visual noise. I felt the functionality of the first iteration didn't make much sense, so I tried reworking the placement of the armor bits. I also played around with the idea of its "eyes" by adding more all over the body. This eventually became the armor's signature look. I brought this second iteration into Photoshop and began painting in the details, but something about its silhouette bothered me: the helmet's design looked too Power Rangers.

Going back to the drawing board, I tried to come up with a sleeker helmet design. As I was exploring different blade-like shapes to attach to the head, I looked back at the second design and found that I didn't like it. The segmented armor didn't look like it would function properly. Now I had no satisfying design. Coincidentally, I was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution at the time, and I loved the sleek look of the augmented characters. Taking this inspiration, I redrew Ryan's stealth armor, brought it into Photoshop, and ended up with final result that it is now.

Ryan's armor became my mascot and branding because it encompassed everything I like in sci-fi armor: stealth, sleekness, mobility, and "eyes". Unlike Ryan's human appearance that went through key attribute changes, his armor maintained its key attributes from the first iteration to the last.

Conclusion
For Ryan's base appearance, my main focus was to have storytelling elements included in his design - I wanted hints of his backstory shown on him. For his armor design, functionality was the number one hurdle I had issues with. I had fun coming up with the different design iterations, but each one was a step towards a better understanding of armor function and maneuverability. I tried to envision myself wearing this armor: would it be comfortable? Is it flexible? Does it look unique while at the same time remain practical? Developing this character has been a thoughtful and exciting journey and overall, I'm pretty satisfied with both of Ryan's appearances.

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