My first game development task was to come up with four unique playable races. I decided to work with an evolution theme, imagining what kind of civilized people might have evolved on earth from different branches of the animal kingdom, had it not been primates.
One of my favourite races that came out of this process was the Ornithite, evolved from the bird/dinosaur branch.
I started with a fairly hideous pencil sketch and some brainstorming.
I drew a few more sketches to continue brainstorming and refining the idea, taking inspiration from velociraptors, secretary birds, parrots, owls, eagles, and the prehistoric flying reptile, archeopteryx.
When I started to feel comfortable with the Ornithite concept, I spent a bit more time with a mechanical pencil and drew a detailed side profile.
Here I took a lot of inspiration from the secretary bird for the body shape, while also looking at modern birds of prey for the feet. I also looked at the structure of ostrich legs because while this creature can fly, I imagine as a civilized race they would also spend a good amount of time walking around on the ground interacting with each other. It was challenging to put hands on their wings in a way that would look anatomically feasible and not too awkward or ridiculous, but we agreed that it was important for them to have hands with fingers in order to do things like crafting. I decided that they should have reptilian lips instead of beaks mainly because it would make them look a little more humanoid and it will be easier to show facial expressions later on.
At this point the race was beginning to develop some personality and I also started working on writing up a detailed description of them including sketching out some of their special abilities and racial traits.
When I was satisfied with this, I moved over to the Cintiq and did a detailed digital avatar that we can use in the game. Painting feathers was a daunting new experience for me, but it turned out to be nowhere near as difficult (but exactly as tedious) as I was expecting. I had fun learning how to draw different kinds of feathers and understanding which types of feathers should go where. Sometimes when I paint for a while I feel like I go into some kind of trance, and my hand sort of just does its thing. That experience is super cool and something I cannot force or call up on demand. Sometimes it doesn’t work and nothing I do looks right, but when it does happen I just welcome it and enjoy the results 🙂
Eventually I’d like to do more of these with lots of different colours and patterns in the feathers, different shapes of the ornamental feathers, etc.. and players should definitely have some ability to customize the way their Ornithite looks. This will all come in time 🙂