Throughout this blog, specifically ever since Project Proposal 4 was introduced, I have continuously mentioned Zeta, the protagonist of As It Lies, giving little snippets of information about who she is and what she is like. I have been thinking about her as a character, what her major personality traits are, how she would behave, and what her story is. Based on those explorations, I have also thought about how Zeta might dress, how she might walk, what her posture is like and so on. I would like to take this opportunity to document my rather long iterative process for Zeta, how she was created, and how her visual style and appearance were determined. The very first step was to solidify Zeta’s personality, because that is what would drive her visual appearance and what she might wear. After all, an individual chooses their clothing based on what they would like and what would be of most use to them. I should also note that I did keep some of the details of the world in mind, more precisely the existence of the Alteration Implants, which may leave a visual trace.
In order to come up with as complete an idea of Zeta as possible, I decided to employ some of the techniques we learned during our Character Jam in Year 2. The specific method I used was to ask myself dozens of questions about the character, their habits, and their intricacies. Examples of the questions I addressed are “Where did the character grow up?“, “What is their daily schedule?“, or “What are their ambitions?“. The entire list of questions and answers regarding Zeta is detailed in the Characters Section of the Games Project Proposal. As they are rather relevant to the finished designs, I thought it would be better to include them there rather than repeat myself in both the GPP and the Blog. Once that process was complete I had a much better idea of Zeta as a person. She is intelligent, focused, creative, innovative, lighthearted, an adventurous risk-taker, a total gamer, slightly over-confident, extremely determined, and would do anything for the win. She frequents exquisite casinos, which would normally require a dress code, she casually hangs out with her friends in the city, and commonly stays at home to game as well. These three most common locations Zeta can be found in dictate that she would have at least three separate outfits we could see her in, namely her formal casino attire, her everyday clothing, and her clothing at home.
Casual Clothing: Initial Iterations
When beginning to visualize this character I thought I would begin with her casual and everyday clothing, as that is the attire we are likely going to see her in most frequently for the duration of the game. After all, it would be absurd and inappropriate to solve complex environmental puzzles in a formal dress. Thinking about what Zeta would wear, I imagined she would enjoy something rather comfortable that she wouldn’t have to assess and consider for too long. She is not the type of woman that would stay in front of the wardrobe and consider what to wear for more than a couple of minutes. That is why my initial iterations of her outfit featured rather baggy shirts, with plain jeans that would all work well with any combination of clothing. The back of the shirt is slightly elongated, because that would make Zeta’s overall silhouette more distinct and the flowing fabric would make her movement more dynamic. To contrast her baggy shirt, Zeta would need to wear fitted jeans or leggings that accentuate the shape of her legs. These would be a rather plain color such as black, grey, or denim, so that she can wear them with nearly everything else in her closet. In terms of shoes, Zeta is most likely to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers, which would go perfectly well with the rest of her casual and plain attire. Below I have included a carousel of fashion inspiration for the first set of iterations in the character design process as well as a few notable examples of the hairstyle I was going for.
Having described her clothing, its now time to discuss Zeta’s accessories and other physical characteristics such as her hair and body type. Zeta is rather fit and healthy, with a naturally slim figure, which does not require a lot of maintenance. Her body would likely be highly styled in the finished version of the game, which is why I have not focused on it too much just yet. In these initial iterations, I was trying to create a visually distinct and memorable character, someone that would look and feel special. I made Zeta’s hair rather long to help achieve that goal, and styled it similarly to other notable female leads such as Queen Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, and Lagertha from Vikings (displayed on the images above). In addition to that, I made Zeta’s Implant rather visible, with it leaving a series of marks and scarring all over her body. Finally, I added the three dice that she would continuously use in the game as three long necklaces around her neck, so that she could keep them safe and close to her. Following these basic rules and decisions, I made a few different concept pieces of Zeta, with mild changes to the outfit, such as drawing her with a hoodie or with shorts. In terms of poses, I was mostly looking for what seemed most exciting and dynamic, what would be striking and grab the eye. The results from my initial concept art and drawing session are displayed below. Most of the images below were drawn by hand with the exception of the last one, which tried to breathe life into Zeta by adding color.
Reflection on Initial Iterations
Upon reflecting on the concept pieces I had done until this point, I grew increasingly displeased with them. Although at the time I thought I had very good reasons for making the decisions that I did, I came to the realization that those images were not a good representation of Zeta’s personality. She way very well wear the same clothes as they are quite casual, however, Zeta would not wear her hair like that, pose like that, or even bother with accessories. In order to achieve the hairstyle showcased above, Zeta would need to dedicate quite a substantial amount of her time in front of the mirror in order to get the braids right, which is something she just wouldn’t do. Additionally, most of the poses, with the exception of the right image on the middle row above where she is leaning against a wall, are all very staged and unnatural. Zeta is completely natural in her behavior, she is the heart of the company, and is not feminine at all in her day to day outgoings. What’s more is that although the images above are good concept pieces in themselves, they do not really reflect any sort of style that would feature in the game. Overall, there were a lot of problems with the first set of iterations for Zeta. However, they were a very important step in the design process as they helped me understand what direction I needed to take my design and art in. What I needed to do now was to start the process again, and try to get to the core of who Zeta is through my designs.