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In my previous post about the creation of Nott I showed some concept art of Nott’s potential sidekick. As soon as the theme of the game was decided I pictured Nott with a cuddly friend on her side. Since Nott is night personified in Norse mythology, I figured her friend needed a name that stood for both night and sleep, hence the name Nox.
It was obvious to me that Nox would play a significant role in her story, like stuffed animals do in our own childhood. They make us feel safe, their texture and smell means everything. I remember my own favorite stuffed toy (“Beer”): a white dog with a small bright red bow on its head. After years of cuddling and drooling on it, it looked hideous, but it was my hideous thing.
Here are some early concept sketches of Nox. I decided to put him in a sleep outfit, just like I did with Nott. The big version of Nox was based on an idea for another game concept of ours.
“Nox concept sketches”
I started designing in Illustrator. The color changed from blue to a more greener tone, because it complements the purple of Nott’s outfit and makes Nox stand out. I added extra elements like a patch and buttons. It was a lot of fun creating all of Nox’s expressions.
“Nox character design”
Nott’s helping friend and means of transportation is Koddi, her soft fluffy pillow. Koddi symbolises a connection between the bedroom and the outside world. I struggled at first to find a definitive form for Koddi, in part because it functions both as an interactive and as a thematic element.
These concept sketches and Illustrator concepts show Koddi’s development.
“Koddi concept sketches”
“Koddi character designs”
The time came to create Nott’s forest friends. I wanted these creatures to be iconic in shape and line work. They had to be recognizable and animal-like, but still be unique and not direct copies of animals. Some of my favourite inspirations were the fox, owl, deer, tarsier, lynx, koala, hedgehog, and wolf. I wanted to differentiate between species, so for example I didn’t include a wolf and a fox, because they’re the same species. Also, they had to be nocturnal. I asked Developlay about animals that young children know, love and hate. From my and Developlay’s research I chose five animals: deer, hedgehog, owl, fox and koala.
Once the animals were decided I immediately started to think about their looks. I made a quick sketch that included all the animals so I could define their shape, height and features. After that I sketched all of them separately.
“Forest characters idea”
Their names derive from the Dutch identifiers and are inspired by short sounds children make: Hett, Ogg, Oll, Voss and Berr.
“Forest character sketches”
Here are some process designs of the changes and coloring of all the characters.
“Forest character designs”
Finding the right color for each of them was a challenge. They need to stand out from their environment and fit the color tones of the overall style and world. To make them more imaginative I used colors that were bright and distinctive.
You can see I changed mostly the deer’s face and looks. He looked a bit too scary and his posture needed to be shifted to the middle.
“Final Forest Friends”
For the animations I had to turn the animals into different states, like happy and sleeping. Fortunately I had help from our amazing intern Koen de Graaf and talented 2D animator Iwein Reimerink. Koen created drafts of their sleep states that I then edited and finished. Iwein helped with detailing, postures and proportions. He created all the walk cycles and the animations of the animals falling asleep, based on the character traits that I had created for them. For instance, Hett is a dorky, clumsy creature that likes to be silly. Berr is big and strong, but has a heart of gold and a soft touch.
“Forest Friends proportions & states”
I want to give you a look into the process that led to the creation of little Nott, the main character of our new iPad game for toddlers, Nott Won’t Sleep.
Before creating this character Monobanda came together with literary novelist Renate Dorrestein to discuss the game’s theme. Inspired by Renate’s short story about a girl who will not go to sleep we decided to go with night time.
After this session I formed the following associations:
Secret places and hidden life, building your own world beneath your fluffy blanket. Hugging your favorite cuddly bear, how sweet it smells. A music box turns and plays, shadows move, spots of light touch the wall. Sounds that keep you up, rain against the window, shuffling of feet, your cuddly bear snoring.
Thinking about night and going to sleep as a child I remember being very resilient in not wanting to go to sleep. The sleeping itself was fine, but you made sure to delay it all by stalling, saying “Again!” after your parents told you a bedtime story or just being insufferable. Time means something different when you are younger, getting to stay up late felt like you had ages before it was bedtime.
Out of these memories and thoughts a character began to form. Someone who was sleepy, yet so adventurous and curious bed time just had to wait. Maybe this character was wearing pyjamas or a nightcap, or looked like an animal (thinking of Max from Where the Wild Things Are) or is highly energetic. It was time to sketch!
You can see that at this stage I was already thinking about a sidekick/cuddly animal to complement the main character. From what I’ve learned from Game Seeds and animations I love, a side kick really adds to the character. It validates them in a way. I’ll talk about the side kick and friends in my next post.
At this point, there were a lot of character sketches to choose from, so I decided to develop some of them further in Illustrator to see which one would stand out. I also started thinking more about the background of this character: a name, its characteristics, likes/ dislikes. The search for a name didn’t take long, we knew it had to be short and catchy. I was looking into mythology and found out that Nótt is night personified in Norse mythology and means night in old Norse and Icelandic, plus she’s the grandmother of Thor! And off course kids at the age of 2 – 5 say “No!” and “Not!” a lot, so there’s that.
Here you can see the character designs beginning to take shape.
And here are the characters we preferred.
These three personified most what we looked for in the main character: cute, endearing and neutral. At this point other things became important as well, such as the way it was going to be animated. We all felt the one on the right had the most possibilities due to the shape of the hat and body. That’s when I dove into fine tuning the character and finding the right colors.
The moment I found a purple/red color for her outfit, I knew we were almost there. That color in combination with the shape of the outfit radiated a sort of soft and velvet-like feel that fitted the theme perfectly. So here she is in final form, Nott!
Just a small update to let you know what I’ve been up to. I want to show a sneak peak of concept art and illustrations I’ve worked on. Within a few weeks I can post a whole lot of extra stuff as well, so keep watching this space ;)
First up, Remembering, a poetic exploration game driven by sound. This was a collaborative passion project of sound studio SonicPicnic and Monobanda. Our goals were to explore the possibilities of sound and to create an experience that will lead players to the far corners of their mind. We decided early on that we wanted to include visuals to help guide players and to not leave them completely in the dark. We wanted to create the right atmosphere and a sense of depth while using as few elements as possible. So I started out with designing all kinds of shapes, researching colors and creating mood boards, all to find out what would work. The following illustration is a combination of some of these shapes and colors.
Second, Nott Won’t Sleep, an iPad game for toddlers created by Monobanda and commissioned by Developlay. The game revolves around a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed, because first she wants to say goodbye to the moon, to wish her animal friends goodnight and to find her cuddly toy Nox. I was art director and lead artist for this project. The game will be launched very soon!
“Nott in her treehouse”