Game Character Design Tips from Yoko Taro, NieR: Automata’s Director

By Febrianto Nur Anwari

If you want to make a compelling and memorable game character, Yoko Taro has some advices for you.

Yoko Taro, the mastermind behind NieR: Automata shared his insight on creating a good character design process.

Some games become popular by its gameplay. Others become memorable by its story. But sometimes, a game can become a blockbuster by its engaging characters. So, if you want to create a game, character design is one of the important phases that you should pay attention more.

But how to design engaging and compelling characters, thus, making them memorable for the gamer? Yoko Taro, the Director of NieR: Automata shared the best practice on how to do a character design. Yoko shared this when he attended the inaugural SEA Summit that was held in the last October in Singapore.

Here’s the process that he always does in order when he designs a character.

Clarify the Budget

First thing first, make sure about the budget that you have. This step is very important as it affects the scaling of story and content that you create next. By knowing this, you can start to think how big the scale is and maybe think about how many characters you want to create.

Know the Period

After clarifying the budget, next thing to do is knowing your timeline when making it. Period means any accurate or rough timeline given to create content. This can affect the number of characters and amount of interactions that you will create next.

Character Design Tips

Yoko Taro while in The SEA Summit 2017

Research Your Target Market

Make sure that you research your target market first before you design a character or story. What is wanted from the market you’re targeting? What platforms that your game will be released on, and what would be the game genre? You should know all of the answers before continuing to the next step.

Think About Balance

Next, you should start to think about the balance of your creation. You should balance the gender, percentage of male vs female characters, and also the number of characters. For the number of characters, 3-5 is a good number he usually starts or works with.

Listen to the Fans

You might already have had a fan base, especially if you’re starting to make a sequel. If the game is a sequel, you should listen to the fan base. What do the fans want? But, don’t listen to everything they say. You are very well allowed to go against their wishes and try something new.

Character Design Tips

2B and 9S, two of the NieR: Automata’s character

Think About the Game

And the next step is, you can start to think about the game. Make sure your characters will fit into the genre and the gameplay specification. And also, think about the additional cost for your characters to integrate as content in the game. Maybe you need more cost to do motion capture or animation?

Observe the Drama

The last and important thing is to think about the drama that will involve the characters. Think about the game world and characteristics, and also how the characters will interact with the environment. And don’t forget also to think about the interactions between characters, either playable or non-playable characters.

Character Design Tips

Yoko Taro with Yosuke Saito, Producer from Square Enix

Other Notes

Sometimes along the way, the timeline becomes constrained and some things such as one character per level can shift the content balance. If it happens, you should carefully split scenarios to accommodate sufficient content for individual character.

Attended by Over 24,000 People, GameStart 2017 and SEA Summit Set New Record!

GameStart 2017, the fourth edition of Southeast Asia’s premier game convention organized by Eliphant, concluded with resounding success.

If you are new in character design, it is really important to know about the budget. Why? Because when a real budget really occurs, creators often try too hard to merge multiple characters into one character. This practice usually happens in Japan, but it does not rule out the possibility to happen in other parts of the world too.




About Writer

Febrianto is the Senior Editor of Duniaku.net and the Lead Editor of Gameprime.org. He started his career in game industry as a game journalist since 2008, and was one of the initial members of Duniaku.net since 2011. His biggest interest is local game developer scene. Currently, his mission is to spread the news about Indonesia’s game industry to both local and international game and creative industry’s enthusiast.