After last week I asked on Twitter (ooh, getting into the swing of things now) for other examples of good character design in games. A lot of people took this as an invitation to just list characters they like. But someone did link me to Jack Monahan's interesting design blog, which I spent an enjoyable few hours reading. At time of writing the current post is a re-imagining of the characters from Clive Barker's Jericho so they're not, you know, total shit.
Anyway, let's examine some examples people put forward on Twitter:
Bayonetta herself: Fair enough, she does have a very distinct silhouette. It's just that you'd be hard pressed to identify it as the silhouette of a human being, rather than one of the Elder Things from the plains of Yith. Besides, my reading of elegant character design is how many elements I need to add to the default ZP character before the character is recognisable, and with Bayonetta I could only stop at the glasses, the ice cream cone hair and a jumpsuit with a moon-shaped cleavage.
Big Daddy: Definitely very good design. Monstrous but still recognizable as a deep-sea diving suit. In itself, indicative of Rapture as a whole - once human, now reduced to this filthy, monstrous thing with only the vaguest suggestions of human intelligence. Also easy to spot with the bright glowing lights on the face, but that does strike me as cheating a bit.
Mario: I dunno. Certainly very brightly-coloured, iconic, and simple, but I think the laws of Mario's universe are a bit too arbitrary for character design to effectively communicate much. I don't look at Mario's appearance and think "turtle-hating high-jumping twat."
Agent 47: Another good one. 47's a good example of stark, contrasting colours: Black suit, white shirt, bright red tie, away we go. With those alone you could be forgiven for thinking you're looking at a dude on his way to work at the offices of Scowly & Sons, but it's the simple addition of black leather gloves that imply a bit of menace that lets you know you'd better keep your baldy jokes to yourself. I always thought the barcode on the back of the skull was overdoing it a bit. It made me picture some kind of underworld assassin/slave market where transactions are made with a supermarket checkout scanner.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.