#3 The Characters of Dead Block: an insight into the character design for each of the characters
Answered by: Andreas Hackel and Chris Simon
1. Talk us through the Character design process from start to finish.
AH: We start out with a bunch of reference images, most of which have been compiled by Jens (Creative Director). We then create the concept art based on these reference images, undertake the high-resolution modelling and sculpting in Zbrush, with normal maps baked onto low-poly meshes. These are then imported into the Unreal Engine, where we create the materials and shaders. All the character animation was done by Chris in 3D Studio Max, using CAT. We also generated multiple texture sets and a set of props for the Zombies so that they all look different.
2. How long did it take do make a character that was deemed good enough for the game – how many different types of characters did you come up with before you settled on the final 3?
AH: When we started with the first concepts for the characters, we only really had a vision of Jack the grumpy builder. There were also vague ideas of an overweight, smart ass boy, a hysteric secretary and a police man. At some point we combined the last two ideas and came up with Foxy, the tough meter maid who has waited her whole life for some real shooting action. The overweight boy became Mike, the always-hungry, always-smiling boy scout.
The whole design process took about two months, during which were of course doing other things like designing the Zombies and some of the levels.
3. What made you choose 3 quite unusual characters as the main heroes for your game?
AH: We didn't want to have superheroes in the game but instead some "people from the street" who just happened to meet in a building into which they fled from the Zombies. Though being very different in terms of their abilities and backgrounds, they have no choice but to work together in order to survive the Zombie onslaught. The movie Night Of The Living Dead inspired us very much during this time.
4. What is the individual background story of each player character?
AH: Jack is a grumpy builder who likes to get things done on his own. His father came from Italy and was the hero of another game a long time ago. It may have been a Platformer but we're not sure ... (Bio: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=178556975534348)
Mike is a nosey, smart-ass boy scout and nothing can spoil his good mood even if the whole of mankind turned into Zombies. He is always hungry and so is always looking for something to eat. (Bio: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=179807452075967)
Foxy is a tough, well-trained meter maid who sleeps with her colt under her pillow. There were not many police-women in the 50's and most of them had to do unexciting jobs such as dishing out parking tickets. She always yearned to do something more important and is full of action. (Bio: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=180047695385276)
5. Which (player or non-player) character in the game is your favourite one and why?
CS: My favourite one is Grandpa Zombie because he is unique, interesting but still deadly!
AH: Besides our Main character Jack, I like Mike the Boy-Scout because he is so funny from his behaviour. Especially when he is doing is little Mike-Dance, it still makes me laugh.
6. What was your inspiration when bringing the characters to life with animation?
CS: Coming from a 2D background, I have always been inspired by the early Disney films and Tex Avery's work. My aim was to bring the traditional feel of cartoon animation into the game which is not always easy since you have to strike a balance between creating brought motion and usability.
So snappy, funny and exaggerated animation is what I went for in Dead Block. The oversubscribed nature of our character designs is reinforced by cartoon-like timing, easy to read silhouettes and bold poses. I focussed on achieving as much contrast as possible between each character and pose.
Idle animations gave me the most opportunity to communicate personality. I created a wide range of characteristic fidgets that reflect persona in a theatrical manner through gestures. We went for mundane heroes, trying to keep away from iconic idealisation as much as possible. Dead Block's protagonists are quirky, everyday folk with entertaining flaws and habits. I guess it does not come as a surprise that the general public was a huge source of inspiration of mine.
7. How many different Zombie characters are there and how do they differ from each other?
CS: Dead Block has five types of zombies. We created large sets of props and textures to create a variety of different looking zombies for each type.
The Grandpa zombie: this small old zombie is the weakest of them all. Since they lost most of their teeth when they were still human, one Grandpa on its own is harmless. But be aware of whole congregations of zombie pensioners ... their strength lies in numbers.
The Normal zombie: these are office workers, post men, mechanics. They are tall and skinny and stronger than the Grandpa. They are especially tough enemies when fighting them in melee combat.
The Soldier zombie: a very strong and tough soldier who wears a gas mask. These brainless Jarheads are very dangerous and immune to certain traps!
The Astronaut zombie: Astronauts from the nearby training camp have also turned into zombies. They are as strong as the soldiers, but their astronaut helmet makes them deaf and therefore immune to certain traps.
The Mighty Boss zombie: humongous and powerful. Good luck trying to take down this massive zombie with your melee weapon! You will have at it for quite a while and most likely be dead at the end of it. Their attacks are menacing, but if you choose the right traps you can use them to your advantage.