design sketch for p for pistol

How to design a character for a game like P For Pistol

TLDR: To design a character for a game, get a core concept and iterate on the ideas a few times. If you are using 90% of the ideas you create then it's a sign that you aren't going in the direction of creativity.

Here is a simple step by step infographic explaining the design process I use to create characters in my next game, P For Pistol.

  • 1: Create an idea using MSPaint.exe
  • 2: Beg an artist to draw it and make it good.
  • 3: Beg the artist make it good-good!
  • 4: Pat yourself on the back.
infographic how to design a character for p for pistol

It's really that simple. It helps if you can find an amazing artist willing to entertain your non sense and is great in their own right.

If I can do it then you can do it even better as long as you stop pontificating or procrastinating.

The infographic is oversimplified but its accurate enough. I start with a question that has no business being asked in the first place. In the case of Debula here the thought was "Oh, what would one of those silly social media ladies look like in P For Pistol".

You know exactly what I'm talking about! You've seen them on instagram. Wolverine nails, Duck pouting lips and Sword like eyelashes. You have to admit artistically its quite a unique look.

1: Create a core concept

Before I ever bring an idea to anyone, the bare minimum that is needed is a fleshed out character concept with some pre-existing reasons for why the look the way they look that has been clearly thought out.

  • 1: Open up MSPaint and start a timer, you have 30 mins maximum.
  • 2: Draw 12 different versions. They must be different and have 1 focal point.
  • 3: Delete the worse 4 ideas and write down 2 setences for each ideas backstory.
  • 4: Re-draw the remaining 8.
  • 5: Delete the worse 4, and rewrite the idea and backstory for each one.
  • 6: Re-draw the remaining 4
  • 7: Select 2, these are our candidates worth exploring.

We can always modify the character later based on the gameplay, plot or whatever else comes.

If you look real closely then you should be able to spot the 3-4 core focal points used in the initial concept.

Our character at this stage is basically Oblina from the 90s cartoon Ahh Real Monsters, some of the hands modified from a long nailed model and Felicia from DarkStalkers.

At the end you'll have something similar to this, a fleshed out character that can be used as a base design to iterate on. A beautiful starting point.

mspaint sketch of debula in p for pistol

2: Solidify the core character design into one simple character reference

At this point the character has no name but she does have a backstory of working in the fashion industry. It's at this point you need to flush out the thoughts in your head or your notepad.exe so it can be shared with others.

I personally use Google Slides and make one clear document with specific instructions as to what I personally envision the character being.

I've named our MSPaint.exe monstrosity Diva Debula and her Debouches Debut with the axiom of a triangle. I am but a simple man.

I cannot tell you what the P in P For Pistol stands for but it is not Pistol. (One Piece is the greatest Manga)

Your Google Slide should look something like this.

Its vital that you write down fundamental truths about this character, aspects, features or ideas that must be present no matter what happens in the future.

As we go further into the process you will have ideas flying at you left and right but need some kind of rule in order to filter out the noise.

The words written here will come back to haunt us in the ideas of the future so be very careful. If you accidentally leave an image on the page, well, the Art Overlord will assume it's supposed to be there so triple check your character design reference.

NEVER send an artist, writer, designer or whatever a giant wall of text expecting them to work miracles; Even Gods have limits when it comes to your word salads.

It's time now to send this Google Slide or Image document that was created over to the Art Overlord, then beg.

google slide for a 2d character debula

3: Iterate with a purpose!

So, our Art Overlord heard our cries and has blessed us with their artwork using the reference we sent over.

sketches 2d humanoid p for pistol

As you can see, Art Overlord took the slide and interpreted the character as they saw fit.( Between you and me, I can honestly say I do not deserve our Art Overlord. You are looking at the work of a person in the 1%, If you attack our Art Overlord I will wag my finger at you!!!)

Our Art Overlord is one of the few people I trust to design a character, I give crappy references, magic happens and I take credit for it :D.

Your Art Overlord will have their own process for how they design a character. So this part is kinda on you to figure out with them.

In our case, it's as simple as giving clear short feedback as to which one we want and creating another MSPaint.exe drawing if needed.

This is where having a clear truth is mandatory! Our Debula character must focus on triangles, fashion and whatever else we laid out at the start. From the iterations our Art Overlord sent back we can see a clear direction we must go down.

We do have the option to go completely left subjectively if we received that "IT" idea, but in this situation I did not feel it. I felt our original concept was on point, so let's continue down the triangle route but store these other designs for later.

Lets use MSPaint.exe again to focus on the ideas of a triangles more then send it over to our Art Overlord with a few sentences. Then give the Art Overlord time to colour it and see what we get back.

3 humanoid sketches for p for pistol

4: Operation Design a character is almost done.

The hard work design side has been done, its all on the Art Overlord to take it away and design the rest of the character. Our job is to stay focused and be a kid again in the candy store. Pick the colour!

Note: We were lucky that we needed a 3D model created to test out P For Pistol so I asked Art Overlord to create additional poses for her so we can see what she looks like from different angles.

We now have a character that needs a game and compelling story to execute! Debula, I will do you justice!

humanoid black white sketch 2d game

Thanks for reading my jargon, I hope it helped in your design process.

Note: I may have said making a character was simple "just do it". I never said making a good character was easy ;)

P For Pistol - The Legacy Begins

thumnail for the game p for pistol

The Pistol has arrived to thrust his hips at anyone causing mayhem.
P For Pistol is the 2D shooter game you didn't realise you needed to have in your life.

Don't get scammed when releasing your indie game

Chicken Wants To be A Dinosaur

Game scams are an incredibly common issue in the world of indie game development. If you fall prey to the Steam Key Scam or Influencer Scam don't worry, here are some ways to handle it.

How to make a game and stay motivated

The Pistol Running Sketch - PForPistol

To make a game is very similar to running a marathon, its difficult but there is a path forward.