Blizzard on character design across game genres

At his panel on character design across game genres, Blizzard concept artist Arnold Tsang discussed some of the particular requirements of character designs in fighting games, online arena titles and third-person shooters as he took suggestions from the audience and worked out a character concept on stage.

After letting the audience decide what kind of concept he would work on, Tsang began his fighting game character, a stealth-based pirate. As he worked, he took a number of suggestions from the audience on character attributes to fold into his design. This began with a basic outline of the character's physique and a hook as her defining characteristic.


Tsang explained that it's important for concept artists to begin with broad strokes rather than fine lines and detail, so that teams can rapidly iterate on ideas without committing too early on anything overly specific. He also explained that concept art isn't about finished illustration, so action poses and exciting composition take a back seat to the need to show a character's identity.

As he worked, Tsang explained that the biggest differences between character designs from genre to genre start with the camera angle that defines the games in question. Fighting games show characters from the front and the side, making it important to focus time and energy on those parts of the character. Online multiplayer arena games show characters from an overhead angle, making a strong top-down silhouette key for players.


Third person shooter character design starts from the front generally, but special focus needs to be paid to the back, since the player will spend so much staring down their shoulder. But across genres, Tsang emphasized the need for strong, immediately intelligible silhouettes — concept art and character design are all about communicating what a character is, what they're about, and what their basic story is as quickly as possible.

More from Polygon

Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King Overview

  • Spacecom: a fast 4X built for multiplayer

  • Pillars of Eternity builds on role-playing classics

  • Tour the 1 KB hard drive built inside Minecraft

  • Diablo 3 - Xbox One vs. PC comparison

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.