Week 11: Character Design for Zeta / by Valzorra

Analysis of Suitable Hairstyles

After my series of realizations described in Week 11: Initial Iterations for Zeta, I decided to approach the character design from a slightly different angle and focus on Zeta’s personality even more so than I had done in previous versions. Zeta is one of the best professional gamblers and Poker Players in the world, taking immense joy in the game, in risk-taking, and in the high standards of professional casinos. Everything she does in gambling halls is a fun game to her, which is why she can seem so casual and lighthearted, especially when she is winning. Gaming and gambling are an essential part of who she is and of her personality. It only seemed natural to investigate what some of the Best Female Poker Players in the world looked like. The women who are thriving in a game normally dominated by men ought to provide at least some of the inspiration behind Zeta. I familiarized myself with legends such as Annie Duke, Maria Ho, Vanessa Rousso, Sofia Lovgren, and most notably Liv Boeree (displayed below). A common element between all of these Poker Players was that each had her hair down and flowing freely for comfort. What’s more is that most of these women have rather long hair, well past the shoulder. This brief analysis instantly told me how Zeta should be wearing her hair in a way that would distract her the least from her gambling sessions.

Zeta’s Clothing

Another common element between these poker players is that they are all playing professionally at tournaments in the photographs above. However, this is not applicable for Zeta at any point of As It Lies. In the game, Zeta is playing at the best casinos in the world, however, she is not doing it officially as part of a Poker Team, but rather for herself. Therefore, the clothing depicted in the images above would not be suitable for Zeta. Our protagonist is located in that universe’s equivalent of Las Vegas and plays only in the most notable and prestigious casinos and gambling halls. As such, those establishments expect their visitors to maintain a certain level of elegance and grace in the way they dress. Much like in many Las Vegas casinos, both ladies and gentlemen are required to be formal and up to standard. Therefore, Zeta would need to wear some sort of formal dress during her gaming sessions. Zeta values comfort, so her dress would not be too tight around her body. Additionally, Zeta is rather clever and well aware that she is a reasonably attractive woman. Even though it’s a cheap trick, by picking a relatively revealing dress, Zeta could potentially distract some of her opponents and gain an advantage over them. Keeping both of these requirements in mind, I browsed the web for a series formal and sexy dresses that would be fitting for a fancy casino, until I had decided on a design. The most notable images I took a look at are showcased below. I will most likely aim for a combination between the first image and Jovani dress.

Analysis of Appropriate Poses

Now that I knew what type of clothing Zeta needed and how her hair would look like, I had a much better understanding of the character and how she would appear visually. Her hair would be down and flowing, while her dress would be fitted around the waist, free-flowing at the bottom, and would reveal her cleavage rather cheekily and playfully. Zeta would not wear a lot of makeup to the casino, because although a dress is mandatory because of the strict dress code, no rule mentions anything about the amount of makeup women are to wear. Additionally, putting cosmetics on is a dull and time-consuming affair for her. Knowing these vital bits of information, I then conducted quick posture study in order to see how a professional Poker Player would normally sit at the table. Luckily, Zeta’s dress is very comfortable and not restraining at all, which is why these poses can be discussed. I analysed a few images of Liv Boeree (displayed below), and discovered that most commonly she keeps both of her hands on the table, focused on the task ahead of her. She is known to occasionally slouch and shift one of her hands away, however, those occurrences are not very common.

Concept Art Pieces

After taking the time to properly analyse existing Poker Players, and bearing Zeta’s personality, preferred casinos, and story line in mind, the Concept Art came so much more naturally and with ease. Whereas before I just seemed to be drawing random women in awkward poses, it felt like I was drawing Zeta now, and her personality started to show through so much more. Applying all of my research into professional Poker Players and into what casinos with dress codes may expect made the whole design flow naturally and intuitively. For example, the image below is a very good representation of Zeta on a particularly good night out and on a winning streak. Zeta is slightly over-confident, she enjoys showing off occasionally, so if she were wiping the floor with her opponents, she would absolutely make sure that they know how easy it is for her. She would have a smile from ear to ear, boldly holding her cards away from the table, a move avoided during standard play. Additionally, Zeta would not deny herself a few drinks provided that she believes she has earned them through her masterful play style.

She would have a smile from ear to ear, boldly holding her cards away from the table, a move avoided during standard play.

In addition to the personality peeking through in the concept art piece below, this is also the first instance where I started to design her dress. As described above, this dress is to be very comfortable, fitted around the waist and more spread out towards the legs, made from a very lightweight and fine material. The dress has a rather cheeky cleavage, with an elegant opening going down from her chest to her waist, much like the Jovani dress displayed above. Zeta has purposefully chosen this type of clothing as it may end up distracting her opponents from the game. You will notice that the dress has certain pieces of embroidery on it, which are meant as a homage to the Riemann Hypothesis. The Alteration Conundrum, which you can find out more about in the Narrative Section of the GPP, is based on the importance of the Riemann Hypothesis and is what sparked the idea for the entire story. Therefore, I thought it would be rather neat to add the curves of the Riemann-Zeta Function onto the design of the dress. Being the geek that she is, Zeta would also highly appreciate having something as significant embroidered onto her gown.

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Posture and Style

Whereas the Concept Art Piece above was more lighthearted and fun, displaying Zeta at her best games, I thought it would be rather useful to have an illustration of her under normal circumstances, perhaps at the start of a Poker game. This meant that for this drawing, Zeta would have a much more composed look, adopting the traditional Poker Player position discussed above. I based this drawing on the first image of Liv Boeree under the Analysis of Appropriate Poses Section, with her holding a chip in one hand, while the other is rather stretched out. When it came for the face, I went for a cartoony style, making the eyes quite large and the nose quite small and button-like. Not only that, but Zeta’s head in the image is constructed from one large circle for the skull, and a trapezoid for her jaw. I chose this style, because I felt it would be closer to what Zeta will actually look like in three dimensions. The 3D Modelling Style in this game would be rather low poly, with simple shapes and not too much detail. Therefore, in order to make characters stand out, they would need to have slightly tilted proportions, making the more important bits such as the eyes bigger.

Examples of the 3D Modelling Style I will strive to employ in As It Lies.

Examples of the 3D Modelling Style I will strive to employ in As It Lies.

Color Palettes and Choices

Moving on from proportions, it feels necessary to justify some of my color choices in regard to the Concept Art Piece displayed below. I’ve given Zeta very warm red hair and blue eyes, because there are very few people who process those traits in that combination. Therefore, Zeta having both would indicate that she is somehow special and significant, making her stand out from the other characters one would encounter in As It Lies. Additionally, Zeta’s dress consists of a series of vibrant shades of blue, which further accentuate that idea. Both Red and Blue are primary colors, so placing them against each other makes both stand out that much more. Not only that, but the blue of Zeta’s dress is also meant to accentuate her eyes and make them pop a bit more. Zeta’s skin color is rather ordinary, albeit quite pale as she does not spend much time in the sun at all.

Technical Execution and Reflection

Technically speaking, the image was created in Procreate, with the use of the Technical Pen from the Inking Section for the line work. It should be noted that I slightly changed the default settings, Streamlining that brush to its maximum as I wanted really smooth and gently curved lines in this illustration to give it a more polished and professional look. The Opacity of that brush remained consistently at 100%, however, its width varied slightly around 5%. I colored the piece using the Round Painting Brush Tool for most of the work and the Soft Airbrush Tool for the shades of the skin. Finally, in order to make the scene more atmospheric, I added a dim light and shadows over Zeta’s head. I applied some color over Zeta, decreased the Opacity of that layer, and then added a noise filter to really give the impression that this is a late night game. The finishing touches involved adding a series of Bokeh Lights in the background to give the illusion of activity behind Zeta and to make the image more dynamic. Overall, I am really pleased with how this turned out because through this process, I achieved a greater understanding of Zeta as a character, I refined my approach to character design, I managed to capture her essence in the finished piece, and I improved my skills in Procreate, which is a new software for me. The finished Concept Piece is displayed below.