Character Costume Design

Simon D. Aelsi

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How much thought do we really put in to the costume design of our characters? How much "real-world" logic are we going to allow into our game(s)?

What are your personal methods? Do you give that one chick gravity-defying hair, knowing fully well that hair doesn't work that way IRL? Or do you give the island native barely anything at all, knowing fully well that he must be hella cold under that island loin cloth?
I'm curious... when designing costumes, what makes YOU tick? Do YOU apply real-world logic to your outfits?

Why or why not?

Talk to me!
 
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Andar

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I'm no artist myself, but when I commissioned pictures in the past I usually try to make the cloth descrption sensible.


Especially idiotic are the pictures of winged people in formal suits - do people think that wings are detachable and can be glued on the back after they donned complex clothing with very small wingholes?
 

Euphony

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I've played games where the characters had strange outfits and totally pulled it off, and I've played games where I've looked at a character's outfit and gone WTF.

Personally, I prefer simple, realistic clothing. In the case of a traditional RPG fantasy setting: tunic, boots, cloak, maybe an interesting hat or piece of headgear depending on the character. Certainly nothing crazy or physics-defying. I'd rather a character's words and actions tell me who they are, not some fantastical outfit. Of course, what a character is wearing can supplement their personality. But unless the character has a very specific job that needs to be reflected in their outfit, it's not a top priority for me.
 

Prodigy 1216

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Maybe it's for the uniqueness of character. If all characters in every game wears real world costumes then game designers would have ran out of materials.
 

Einreicht

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It's fantasy, of course it could be anything that you want. Go wild for it!

Jokes aside, while I never designed any character (yet), I prefer a bit of real world logic for it. Unless you're going for a low fantasy one, having a pure logical thinking for a fantasy setting somehow defeats its purpose for being 'fantasy'. Sci-fi should be the same I think.
 

Simon D. Aelsi

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  do people think that wings are detachable and can be glued on the back after they donned complex clothing with very small wingholes?
I lost it at that. 

That's a good question. :p   I know that in my case, and with one character, such a winged creature would be able to raise his arms high, cross his wings in front of his chest, then lower his arms again, allowing him to wear "more normal" clothing.

(It makes a little sense because non-humans are common in my world, but not so much winged ones.)
 

Probotector 200X

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I think about it maybe more than I should. Character design is one of my passions and I've been studying fashion (like literally taking fashion classes)

It depends on the project of course, but that's a boring answer.

I actually tend to mix things around. Like sometimes humans have realistic outfits, while fantasy races have...fantastical outfits! Practical function is something I try to do, but at the same time, look at fashion. Look at human beings in general. Clothing's number one purpose isn't really practical function. Style is important too. I know most people won't agree with me, but I think stuff like bikini armor looks cool. Form over function, but it's fantasy so function follows form.

The wing thing is a major pet peeve for me. I often make winged characters go shirtless for comfort and convenience sake. Also, consider how sometimes winged characters have hollow bones, like birds. Hollow bones make you lighter, it helps birds fly! So maybe characters with wings couldn't wear heavy armor (although the full body armor + wings look is REALLY COOL)



So if you see a character with heavy armor and wings and think it's cool, don't roll your eyes at bikini armor!
 

TheOriginalFive

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Since my current game doesn't have a lot of characters with unusual body parts such as wings or tails, most of my costume designs follow a general theme. Keep it simple, much like the current modern world.

Here's how I designed the other three heroes of the Mechanical Armageddon so that they'd stand out (from left to right):

MekageddonTitleShadeVSS.png

Herakaris (Blue-clad giant): A woman with music on the brain, who is also far too tall for her age. Her clothes reflect a band conductor's, with the twist that most of the items are too short or small for her.

Artisa (White-clad woman): Since her powers are based on artistry, especially oil or watercolors, her white coat evokes a painter's smock. Her brown handbag is for keeping art supplies.
Atroxia (Black-clad woman): Her outfit both outlines and hides her stick-like frame. The belt across her chest is to store poison vials. There's very little for her limbs to get tangled in since she uses bare-handed combat.

As for Demolicious, the last girl, her outfit is already based on what she wears in HeroSmash, because she's an NPC from the game. For the purpose of my project, she's the playable main character. I think whoever designed her was thinking of dominatrices.
 
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Sharm

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I like to try and make my character designs say something about the character.  Not just on a "this person is a business woman so has to wear suits" level, but "this person has felt restricted their whole life and so likes to wear very loose clothing, but they're still very fashionable because it makes people react to them a certain way, they also have to be fully covered because of a sun sensitivity" level.  For me, character development is inextricable from character design, I do them both at the same time.  I draw interesting clothes and make up a character to suit them then refine the interesting clothes as I get to know them better, or maybe I'll start with a character concept, draw the clothes that suit the character, then use the design to help me further understand the character.  I don't fully know the character until I've drawn them at least once.

As for clothes fitting the setting, this is something that bugs me all the time in games.  Sorry, no, I don't believe that a girl wearing only a fur bikini is tough enough to go up that icy mountain without at least losing some toes.  In general I try to design everyone so that they don't look out of place when visiting multiple environments, but if I ever make a game where the tropical islander goes to a frozen area, they will at least be wearing a coat and will probably complain more about the cold than the other, non-island characters.  Yeah, it means more art, but I'm okay with that.  That sort of realism is important to me, and it helps with immersion for the player.  The more small details you get as accurate as possible, the more forgiving the audience will be with your large hard to believe fantasies that make the world work as fiction.
 

Probotector 200X

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I'm conflicted on having characters get outfits to match the location. On one hand, that's a nice attention to detail and really adds a lot. On the other hand, character customization is a ton of fun.

My in-between solution is to have characters get new outfits for certain locations, then after completing that story segment that outfit is unlocked to be able to wear whenever. Yes that would mean you could have an islander outfit in the snow or layers and layers of warm clothing on a sunny beach...but it would be after the story of that location is done. SaGa Frontier does something somewhat like this in Emelia's quest, but it's more about wearing different disguises on different missions, and when you are playing normally you can use whatever outfit you've unlocked so far.
 

SOC

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I really like medieval England with and without some fantasy, especially with anime-style graphics like from Ragnarok Online, La Tale and Tree of Savior.

I don't like stuff too over the top, but a little bit of fantasy is okay. I like red hair for instance, like actual red anime hair not the real life orange kind of red hair. But I also like authentic weaponry as well.

I love this:

I hate this:

But I do love Diablo 3.
 

trouble time

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Layers and layers of warm clothing on a sunny beach
I think this is the first time someone has ever mentioned wearing clothes too warm for the setting.

As for me, I LOVE character design it's something I spend a lot of time on, and it's one of the most important things in fiction, and it's actually the reason I can't enjoy a lot of games, their character designs are just really boring for me. I'd prefer something be over designed like recent Final Fantasies or World of Warcraft (always wanted to try the game, can't convince myself to pay 15$ a month though). I actually design stuff a bit more simply myself, at least on my current project. Many characters have modern-ish clothing with fantasic elements added to it, thematically it makes sense since the world the characters live in is built upon ours many years in the future after a dark age and the discovery of magic so the fantastical elements are put on over a modern base. For a couple of examples

This is one of the two main characters of the game.

Most of her clothing is rather simple but she also has a few fantasy parts namely her few bits of armor. I think the bright red coat kinda marks her as a hero well too. Her costume is actually based on Raoh from Hokuto no Ken, her twin tails are his horned helmet, her red coat is the red cape he wore (sometimes his cape is black), and her fighting style is similar to Raoh's in that she uses a very hard style of martial arts (as in hard in the hard/soft forms of martial arts). 

This girl on the other hand has slightly fancier clothes, to refelect her haughty and arrogant attitude that comes with her position as one of the settings goddesses. Since her wings are made of matter from outside the physical plane of existence they look off purposefully. Since there was a discussion of wings earlier, her wings aren't physical matter, they pass through the clothing, even if they didn't her magic controls space she could literally fit them through the holes between the atomic structure of the fabric if she needed too. Also if you look at her feet, she's actually floating above the ground, cause walking is beneath her.
 

Sysen

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Well i care about logic when designing a character...

but my number one priority is a character design must match the personality and the backstory of the character

no matter what the environment and real world logic, i'll never give a Fire mage thick coat clothing that will make him or her looks like an ice mage even they're on environment with less than 10C
 
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A bit of logic never hurts, but fantasies will be fantasies and regardless of your argument in most cases it'll be countered with the old "magic did it".

That said I like to keep things mostly clean and simple: the clothes has to match what the character is, used to be, yearns to become and so on.

My biggest pet peeve is "defiance of common sense" like seeing a character that lives in cold, mountainous areas never wearing a shirt or people who live in the desert wearing heavy plate armor.

It's fantasy, but it still ticks me off like nothing else.

Regarding the "unusual body parts" issue, a manga called Centaur no Nayami handles this pretty well and I recommend people who likes to design character with wings, tails, unusual ears and even quadrupeds to check it out.
 

Andar

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Regarding the "unusual body parts" issue, a manga called Centaur no Nayami handles this pretty well
How is that "handling it very well"???

http://mangafox.me/manga/centaur_no_nayami/v01/c000/10.html

Wherever in that comic are any wings (at least in the first dozen pages, haven't bothered beyond that) the wings either look as if they were glued on the back of the clothing or have (like in the example above) tiny slits where the entire wing wouldn't fit through when trying to don or take off the clothing...
 

noctiluca

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Depends how much real world logic applies to the rest of your game. You also have to make this level-of-reality easily understandable to the player.

It's always a good idea to keep things in mind, but you have to decide what factors weigh more importantly in your design. There's nothing inherently wrong with adding things because you think they look cool, but you may sacrifice practicality or realism, and it's up to you whether you want to risk that because it can seriously bother other people to the point of discrediting your game... (an eyepatch? cool! two eyepatches? double cool!! oh wait, how does he see). Also, consistency is important. If you have a snow village and everyone is wearing big fur coats except for some random muscle guy in a chainmail thong (and double eyepatches) it's going to throw people off. Even if you write a tragic backstory of how he was some guy with a chainmail kink who had an Oedipus experience and in his self-inflicted blindness can't find his pants and wandered into a snowy village that was kind enough to take him in, but not kind enough to clothe him... yeah... probably not going to work. Chainmail thong and double eyepatches sounds like a pretty unique design though :p
 

gstv87

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I believe the root of the matter, when it comes to *artistic character design*, is wether the costume makes sense to be used 24/7 in the event the character was required to.

I mean, in games or stories, the characters don't often get wardrobe changes as they would in TV shows..... if you take a novel for instance, you have to be able to picture the character in your head every time you read its name.

so, their description has to be unique, short, and to the point, so you have to create a very unique costume for each one.

I'm not talking about complexity, but uniqueness.

give every character a distinct feature.

take animes like Dragonball, Bleach or Attack on Titan, where you have units of warriors that dress all the same (army!... duh!)

but add a scar here or there, a hairpin, baldness, a tattoo, glasses, a cape or a scarf... and it's a totally different character.

(school or university-themed animes work too)

TLDR:

purpose, universe and everyday usage = costume design

personality + costume = character design.
 
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Celianna

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Clothing should reflect the character and the culture they live in. Anything else is just artistic license in either pleasing the audience, or making things look cool for the sake of looking cool.


The worst is the over embellishment of school uniforms. Case in point:





No wait, probably the worst is not knowing how to draw clothing wrapped around body parts, all for the sake of sexualizing those parts:





Clothing folds don't work that way.
 

EternalShadow

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I like the actual design of the uniforms in the first picture, I could see an army general or something of the sort wearing those, even if they do look a little out-of-place in a school (unless it's some group which has overdecorated their uniforms and are being ignored rules-wise about it or everyone is similarly dressed)
 
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I have no artistic ability whatsoever, but I have one simple philosophy when it comes to character design:

If you make an outfit awesome enough, I don't care how stupid it is.
 

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