A process of trial and error
Strong character design can be a way to instantly connect with your audience, be it through a debut trailer or gameplay itself. On the other end of the spectrum, character designs that don’t match up with personalities and gameplay traits can really take you out of an experience.
The team at Monolith Soft has had a ton of experience creating characters that resonate with players the world over, but that doesn’t mean they’re experts. As a matter of fact, the team had an incredibly tough time finalizing designs for the cast in Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
In an interview with Nintendo, Monolith Soft producer/director Koh Kojima and senior director and chief creative officer, Tetsuya Takahashi, spoke at length about the ‘hellish’ process of nailing down designs that worked for the game.
Kojima: …it was a hellish process of trial and error… (Laughs) We especially struggled to decide on the design concept for Noah. During development, Saito-san came to the MONOLITHSOFT office and worked with us. His seat was in front of Takahashi-san’s workspace. We used Takahashi-san’s words to conjure up an image of the characters and convey the intended feeling to Saito-san, who drew various illustrations based on that. However, Takahashi-san looked at the illustrations at the end of the day and said, “No. This isn’t it.” (Laughs) We had to repeat this process again and again.
Takahashi: We particularly struggled with Noah’s design. Saito-san came up with all kinds of illustrations, but somehow none of them quite looked like Noah… I think I mentioned earlier that I wanted Noah, the main protagonist, to be positioned as a philosopher or poet, but I didn’t want him to be seen as a weak-willed character. However, I also didn’t want him to look too pompous.
Kojima: The drafts he drew seemed to be at the two extremes. Some made him look fierce, while others looked somewhat gentle.
Takahashi: I was also worried that his speech might sound pompous if the character design was too noble. We struggled to come up with a design concept that made us think, “Yes, this is Noah!”