Creating a loveable character
There are many uncertainties in life. But one thing we all know for sure; if your mobile game has a character it needs to be loveable and cute! Of course this should be taken with a grain of salt but we knew we wanted it for 99 Bricks. The nature of the game is very unforgiving and challenging so we tried to make everything around it as friendly as possible to compensate for that. Since our players will probably try to identify with whatever character we put in their faces, the tiny wizard in 99 Bricks serves a great part in setting the mood of the game.
We wanted him to radiate joy and fun, never giving the player negative feedback. During the meeting in which we discussed the setting of Wizard Academy I was already doodling for the main character. Even though you never really do anything with the character in 99 Bricks I still wanted it to be on the screen during the entire game. This meant it had to be small so it wouldn’t distract or obstruct any of the relevant game elements on the screen.
Because of its size the amount of detail in the outfit couldn’t be too high. In fact every dark line would quickly be too much. This meant I had to prioritise what would make him look like a happy wizard most. Besides that, we had a wardrobe system in mind allowing the player to mix and match different cosmetic elements to customise their wizard. This meant its shape should be generic enough to fit different costumes and it should be as easy as possible to produce so it wouldn’t take too much time to create a bunch.
This is also the reason our character only has 7 different frames of animation. The 12 basic principles of animation had to be stripped to the bare minimum; only anticipation, timing and exaggeration remained. The 2 action / casting animations have 1 keyframe for anticipation and 1 keyframe of the action itself. All the in-betweens were left out. Obviously the result was a bit too static, so to disguise the lack of frames I added 2 small effects that do have more frames. This makes it feel more dynamic because something is always moving. On top of that we made sure the cloud the wizard is on gently floats around (originally we planned to have the wizard standing on the highest brick. However, while we were prototyping this system, we figured it would be much easier to have him fly around the screen on a cloud instead).
So, big smile, easy to reproduce shape, simple details and effective animation. It was time to add some sound. We wanted a broad range of voices so we decided to record some stuff ourselves. Apparently, if you pitch my voice up with 15% it’s enough to make it sound like a tiny wizard. We made up some words that didn’t sound like any particular language at all and went for it without too much thought.
The final result looks and feels alive enough to help set a positive mood. We left out all negative reactions the wizard could’ve had, when you drop a brick or when a jealous wizard appears, to accentuate the happy moments. When you pickup some magic he cheers. When you accidentally tap the wizard, he waves at you and blarbs something that sounds like a baby trying to talk. This almost always resulted in a smile on the play-testers’ faces. Earlier versions of 99 Bricks would test your temper. Now, when you drop a brick or your tower collapses, there’s a tiny fellow there to remind you it’s not all that bad.