Turbo Shot has a large cast of characters and I enjoyed designing them. I thought I’d show some of the development process here. As they often do, these characters started out as pencil on paper roughs, then went through a few drafts to the final designs, on to 3D modelling and the renders you see below. One of the design challenges in creating these characters is that they all had to share the same skeleton, that way we were able to have a shared animation library for all the characters. You might notice the design sketches are all drawn in the same pose and are more like orthographic drafting views. The reason for that is we were outsourcing some of the modelling work and these images would be brought into Maya to be modelled. I usually prefer to design characters in more of an “attitude pose” as it helps establish who the character is a little more.
The models you see below are also my work. Where you see designs with no models associated, it means that work was outsourced.
Jin is the co-protagonist of Turbo Shot. This character started life as part of a cast of characters I created at Wizard Games as part of an entirely different project. That project never went past an early demo, but parts of it live on in Turbo Shot.
Above is the first draft of Jin from a previous project. He’s a little older and taller than the version in Turbo Shot. This early version of Jin has a weapon system consisting of a hacked Nintendo Zapper “Duck Hunt gun” and a Sega Dreamcast unit as a hacked power source. There is a downloadable skin in the Turbo Shot that references this early design.
For Turbo Shot we decided to make the characters a little shorter and cuter so Jin was redesigned to fit that aesthetic. The inspiration for the character is an amalgam of my son and our homestay student from China, Xinhao. Originally this character was named Xinhao, but we decided the name Jin fit the project a little better.
Skylar is Jin’s older sister and the heroine of Tubro Shot.
Skylar’s prosthetic hand is another easter egg for Wizard Games. I based the design for Skylar’s hand on the Cowbot hand design I created for the VR title Cowbots and Aliens.
When tasked with creating a villain for this project I decided I wanted to create a character that was basically a frown with a haircut. I went into it knowing that the villain is a character we poke fun at, so rather than look to external sources for inspiration I opted to make fun of myself and based the character’s appearance loosely on my own.
The Blerphs are a species of animals on the world of Turbo Shot. They were inspired by three animals: the Desert Rain Frog (for the spherical shape) , A Chameleon (for the tail spiral) and Decorator Crabs (for the “hats” they give themselves). I wanted to create a little pet like creature that was round and cute like a ball of jelly, but with teeth that lets you know not to mess with them.
Keeley is a field scientist employed by Stinchcorp. She’s on the side of the corporation when the game begins and gradually sees the error in her ways. This character started out in the same prototype game as Jin and changed quite a bit for Turbo Shot.
Kanan is a little older and more sure of himself and definitely cooler than Jin. Kanan is the most outwardly rebellious character in Turbo Shot and has no reservations in his fight against Stinchcorp. For this design I based Kanan’s face on my cat, Max, and the heterochromatic eyes were based on a friend of mine from elementary school.
Friden is an engineer who designs and builds robots. I was inspired by the style of NASA staff in the 1960s (apart from all the mechanical gear he wears). His name comes a mechanical calculator used at NASA before the digital era.
Jihu is an android invented by Friden who developed in exceptional and unexpected ways. Jihu was initially developed at Stinchcorp to be a soldier robot G-412. After it became clear that G-412 had little interest in fighting Dr. Stinchcomb ordered the robot to be destroyed. Jihu wound up surviving, albeit badly damaged and ran off to the woods to rebuild.
Jihu has repaired themself with with whatever materials could be found, bits of wood, bamboo, cloth, an old tube sock and a water wing. What looks like a crooked mouth is just some electrical tape holding the face plate together. Lichens and vines have grown on Jihu from sitting for long periods out in the woods studying the flora and fauna.
The symbol on Jihu’s chest is the Chinese character for the number four, implying that Jihu was one of a number of such androids built. The number four is an unlucky in Chinese culture as the spoken sound of it is similar to the word for death.
When naming this character I was thinking of how the character was only half built so I thought of Quasimodo, the name of the character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (one of my favourite books). Quasimodo is the name given to the orphaned infant in the book by Claude Frollo which he states comes from the latin for “semi-made”. I arrived at the name Jihu, meaning “almost” in Chinese.
Below is a drawing for where Jihu began, with our earlier prototype game. This design came from wanting to make a tall, thin robot character. After the first rough sketch of the character I looked at it and the legs reminded me of chopsticks. We had a Chinese homestay student living with us for a few years and one night at dinner we were all using chopsticks to eat our rice. As we were eating it occurred to me that the name “chop sticks” seems like an entirely North American name. I asked our student what she calls chop sticks in China, and she told me “kuaizi”. So that is the name of the character below: Kuaizi.
Amaruq is a communications expert and a hacker/gamer. He lives alone in the snowy mountains and created a yeti costume for himself. Amaruq also has roots in our earlier project – as a much different character, Hiroyoshi, the sushi chef.
Hiroyoshi is a sushi chef. He’s a fighter character who uses a salmon as a melee weapon and “wasabi-fist” for ranged attacks.
Dwayne is something of a company mascot at Wizard Games. He began life as part of a large cast of characters in a game called Redneck Rush. There was just something about his goofy, lovable nature that wound up making him the face of that title. We have included a version of him in as many titles as we could ever since.
In Turbo Shot, Dwayne is an inventor who gifts a homemade mech-suit to the protagonists. The mech suit is built out of an assemblage of tractor parts and various other debris he had lying around.
The Blerphs in Turbo Shot are for the most part peaceful and easy going creatures. Saki, on the other hand is a Blerph who wants to take on the fight against Stinchcorp and is helped by Friden who builds her this mech-suit.
Saki started out as a completely different character in the same prototype game that Jin and Keeley began life in. In that title Saki was a Japanese school girl – with wrist cannons. That incarnation of Saki wasn’t a fit for Turbo Shot, but I like to think some of her DNA lives on in this version.
I often base my character designs on people I know. It’s often little things from several people combined into a single character. For the drawing above I was tasked with creating a Japanese school girl character. She’s named Saki after a Japanese student that lived with my family. The pink hair is a reference to another student that lived with us named Hiroyoshi. He was obsessed with the colour pink. All his outfits had at least one pink element to them. He had pink highlights in his hair and even a pink smart phone.
Leinani is a character from our previous game Merge Racers. In that title she’s one of the drivers, while in Turbo Shot she’s a demolition expert. There is an easter egg in this character design in that she has a stuffy tucked into her belt which is a character I created for Wizard Games called Kitten Fluffy Hugs.
Kitten Fluffy Hugs is a recurring character in several titles like Guns.io and Dinos Royale, both PVP shooter games. I thought it would be funny to counter the hyper masculine vibe a lot of games in that genre have. I was fully prepared to have this character design be rejected outright, but the team loved the idea of the character, so it stayed.
This character came out of a conversation about how middle aged women are really under-represented in video games. Ahdria is a scavenger you meet later in the game at a seashore the main characters discover.
Part of the character creation process for me is coming up with an interesting name. “Ahdria” is just a name I invented after finding other characters already with name choices I was interested in. The name was inspired by the Adriatic Sea.