A Really Interesting Post About Heads And Scale

There’s a really interesting post over on Gamasutra about proportion and scale when making game characters. I feel like that still sound a bit dry given I’m trying to tell you how interesting it is, but essentially it takes a look at how different head sizes and body proportions make you see game characters differently as well as affecting tone and mood.

Some of that stuff I knew anyway because of my art education background but the way designer Yuriy Sivers, who authored the post, explains it is really clear and helpful. It also adds in practical advice – a lot is aimed at mobile gaming, but the general principles are transferable.

The main point to take away here is the size relationship between the character’s head and the rest of the body. For example, if you design a character that is 8 heads tall, what you are saying is that the body is 7 times more prominent than the head. Most of the communication and detail will happen in the body and the head/face will play a somewhat secondary role. This is not to say that the head will not be important; as humans, we are primarily drawn to faces and hands (and a few other protruding body parts). But the 8-head-tall silhouette puts facial detail and expressions at a disadvantage.

I can’t do it justice because it’s illustration-heavy but go read. Apparently it was originally on the Kongregate developer blog so I’ve also added that to my bookmarks.

The header image is from the novelty “big head” mode Blizzard added to Heroes Of The Storm for a brief while. I miss big head modes, although I guess their modern iteration is in the form of those Funko Pop figurines which seem to infest merchandise stands.

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  1. TheChaya says:

    What’s a chibi??

    • Ghostwise says:

      A character drawn to be small and cute, often with child-like body proportions.

      • LTK says:

        Really with exaggerated proportions: a huge head and a tiny body and limbs, out of proportion even for a child.

      • TheChaya says:

        No, I mean, this is why chibi are done in such a way. With a huge head. You get the same effect in every other media. Such as the big head mods of old, and this blizzard thing.

      • Poor People says:

        I think he was being sarcastic.

  2. VCepesh says:

    And then you have Bayonetta, with her eleven heads. I have to admit, the first time I saw a (short) gameplay video of the game, I felt almost an instinctive revulsion at the exaggerated design and behaviour of the main character. But once I’ve gone through a full LP, I started to appreciate it much more. The movements and body language, fanservice aside, made that character.

    • tehfish says:

      Heh, that was the first character that came to mind for me reading this.

      Bit different for me in that to this day, Bayonetta’s tiny head really puts me off in a major way yet i’m perfectly fine with all sorts of odd ratios at the other end of the spectrum…

      Though with Bayonetta, i think the fact i find the actual characters annoying personality rubs me the wrong way certainly didn’t help matters on this :)

    • Baines says:

      I like Bayonetta, but her proportions are really messed up, to a visually disturbing degree. It makes her look like an alien life form, when she’s supposed to be human.

      It isn’t just the head, though the head is the most obvious. She looks like a character where the individual parts were made to at least three different scales, and then combined.

      The design mostly matches the original concept art, though in the concept art Bayonetta was also thinner (making her look even taller.) Worse is that Platinum then recycled Bayonetta’s build for their other female characters both in that game an in others like Anarchy Reigns.

      The sadly funny thing is that when Smash Bros gave Bayonetta more human proportions, there her head now looks like it is too big.

    • Shuck says:

      10-11 heads is fashion illustration proportions (with actual fashion models sometimes coming close to the ideal). It does look weird.

  3. gou says:

    the child’s head in the recent mad max game seemed over sized to me, it was disturbing and made me put off doing that story mission

  4. criskywalker says:

    More games need bigheaded mode!

    • criskywalker says:

      And by bigheaded I obviously mean big-head. English not being my native language a no edit button is not cool…

  5. Chillicothe says:

    Exist Archive’s proportions are still 10 gallons of wrong in a 5 gallon jug.