Sometimes it takes a look to the left to get a clearer idea of where you might want to be going. In this case, the left in question was to Tim Conklin’s “Antihero” table at the recent Google Play Indie Games Festival. We were there with “A Matter of Murder” and Tim was demo’ing his Dickens-inspired title which features wonderful art in a lovely, gritty, cartoony, gas-lit London. Of particular note for this story -- the characters all had wildly disproportionate head sizes in comparison to their bodies. And, while the extreme contrast of “Antihero” gives it a strong feel that’s not appropriate for Austen, it did inspire our Art Department to take a second look at the more “classical” proportions we were originally planning on -- and to do a little experimenting.
Note how serious and adult the character with the smaller, original head size appears to be. She’s prim. She’s the babysitter. She probably flosses daily. But the character with the 200% head size? She’ll be the one cutting tags off of mattresses while she eats three-day-old sushi off her boyfriend’s motorcycle helmet. We like her more. We connect with her.
Now Disney and anime have long exploited our fondness for characters with big heads and especially big eyes. Cognitive psychologists would point to humans’ hard-wired reactions to infants (with their large heads relative to their bodies) as the root of this almost visceral connection we tend to feel more for characters like the one on the right. We looked at larger (300% and 400%) but larger turned out to be a game of diminishing returns, and after 200% began reducing the clothes and hands to a scale where they were losing too much detail to carry story. So we’re thinking 200% may be about the sweet spot for “Austen."
As an added plus, the larger head/eye size also focuses player attention on facial expression, which may help solve the problem we talked about in an earlier blog entry about communicating reactions.
Tim may have inspired us to start thinking about character proportions (thanks, Tim!), but I blame evolution for making us love the big-headed freaks-of-nature my old life drawing professors would be appalled by.