Mar 05 2008

Imperium Project Character Drafts: Girls’ Side

So I actually got around to working these past few days and finally finished drawing the female Heirs. I don’t have too much time right now so I will edit this post later with more detailed descriptions of my character sketches and insights into my design process. Thankfully I was able to make the self-imposed March 5 deadline and I think I was able to come up with some pretty good designs overall.

Sofiya Katukov Non-Combat Design Draft 1

First off is Sofiya. I already posted her draft but I thought it would be nice to have all the girls together for comparison. Below in block quotes are Zanaikin’s character notes which I will also include for every character:

Name: Sofiya Katukov
Gender: female
Age: 16
Role: tactical analyst, fleet navigator [Heir]
Available: automatically joins ??when??
Distinctive Traits: slow-to-react, meticulously, analytical
Blood/Zodiac: AB/Virgo

Other Notables:

  • An extremely detailed and creative thinker, but this method of processing information causes her to be extremely slow normally
  • Her thought process works in a pipelined method, with interruptions turned off
  • Lacks social skills
  • Gifted in divination magic, has limited foresight ability that grants her visions of possible outcomes.

Supernatural Ability: magic (medium-high potential)
Combat Ability: low

  • Uses rifles for sniping
  • Zero evasion and no defense modes (other than field spell) due to her slow reaction speed
  • May use defensive, boost, and healing spells

Starting Rank: Junior Lieutenant at Federation Steel Legion Military Intelligence
Starting Location: ???
Source: Named after Mikhail Katukov, Soviet armored troops Marshal of WWII and twice receiver of the Hero of the Soviet Union title.

Since this was my first draft, I wasn’t sure what sort of style to go with. To be honest, throughout most of high school, I designed mainly sci-fi and fantasy style uniforms but during my senior year, I moved towards more realistic clothing because of a Visual Novel concept I came up with (although there was a lot of sci-fi and supernatural occurances in the story). Anyways, that topic deserves it’s own post. Back to the original topic, since I wasn’t sure where to start, I decided to use Nanoha-style clothing as my starting point and see where it would take me.

Since I didn’t envision Sofiya being out in the field too often, my main concept was too keep her looking relatively plain and not deviating too much from a standard uniform. I also thought that it would suit her personality better to look plain since she doesn’t seem like the flamboyant type. The thing that stands out the most is her hair ornaments which I like but I could deal with them being smaller. As for their actual use, I was thinking given how the story has been designed so far, that they could be some type of memory suppression device given to her after her rescue scene.

The greatest thing about this design is that it gave me a basic design on which to build my other designs off of. For example, her holster can be found on many of the other characters and I will most likely try to incorporate some version of it into at least one version of every female Heir. Since it is somewhat relevant, I might as well mention that Sofiya is my favorite character and that I am her path writer.

Rika Ye Design Draft 1

Name: Rika(?) Ye
Gender: female
Age: 16
Role: vanguard commander [Heir]
Availability: automatically joins (when?)
Distinctive Traits: energetic, outspoken, impulsive
Blood/Zodiac: O/Aries
Likes: candidness, camaraderie
Dislikes: insincerity

Other Notables:

  • Impulsive but not reckless, does give moderate consideration to details

Supernatural Ability: inherent heat manipulation (medium potential)
Combat Ability: medium-high

  • Pilots a METAAC in open field engagements, the machine customized to make use of her heat manipulation abilities for improved cooling in order to maximize performance.
  • Uses sword-and-pistol for personal combat (may not need implementation)

Starting Rank: Corporal in (undecided military academy)
Starting Location: ???
Source: Named after the Chinese Greater Marshal Ye Jianying

Rika’s sketch was the one that took me the most time to do and I won’t lie; she’s the only one that did not turn out as I had imagined in my head and that’s probably why I got a lot of criticism for it. I won’t say it’s bad because I like the actual drawing (the original 0.5 version that has not been posted at least) but I agree that it doesn’t fit her character well. Most likely, I will keep the drawing in my unused ideas pile for later reference and for when I decide to compile a “making of” book near the completion of the project.

I originally did not draw this in my sketchbook but I was desperate to stay awake during my RELG104 lecture so I just used a piece of notebook paper and had at it. My original idea called for a very light-weight uniform and you can see that under her coat. The problem with that though is that it would not match the style set by Sofiya’s uniform so I tried desperately to re-draw it several times to make it match but to no avail. I set it aside for about a week and came back to it but with now further ideas, I pretty much said screw it and traced the original and made a few minor changes and that is what you see here.

Hikari Kuribayashi Non-Combat Design Draft 1

Name: Hikari(?) Kuribayashi
Gender: female
Age: 18
Role: chief researcher [Heir]
Availability: automatically join after reaching Astraea base
Distinctive Traits: taciturn, detached
Blood/Zodiac: A/Capricorn

Other Notables:

  • Always preoccupied with one of her projects, one has to draw her thoughts in with an interesting topic before she will actually pay attention

Supernatural Ability: psionics encoding (medium-low potential)
Combat Ability: medium

  • Uses pistols and crystal-shurikens with contingent psionic powers encoded in its molecular structure.

Starting Rank: Major, chief researcher of psionics encoding technology
Starting Location: Astraea system Federation fleet base
Source: Named after General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, defender of Iwo Jima.

I started drawing Hikari during the lunch on the Friday that I came back home for Spring Break so she was the first drawing of the “character design rush.” Since she is the lead researcher, I had to give her some type of lab coat despite how stereotypical that may seem. That’s because let’s face it, she actually needs clothing that can protect her in case of some sort of work-related accident. The coat was actually the hardest part to design because I wanted to keep the short, Nanoha-style jacket but I also had to extend it to cover most of her body so I tried several variations and somehow came up with the one-piece, split jacket design.

I also wanted to keep her more “professional” looking like Sofiya since she probably won’t be in the field too much, at least as a combatant, so she is wearing almost the exact same thing underneath. I didn’t intend for her to have headphones or glasses originally. I wanted to give her a headband but I accidentally made a wrong pencil stroke which developed into the headphones and I thought it looked good and would look better with glasses.

One thing I am unsure about is her height. I drew all the characters to the same scale and Hikari ended up being the tallest at about 170-180 cm in height. I’m not sure if I want to keep this mistake although it would be somewhat unique character trait.

Aorin Zanaikin Combat Re-design Honya ver.

Name: Aorin Zanaikin
Gender: female
Age: 17
Role: secretary, bodyguard [Heir]
Availability: starting character
Distinctive Traits: compassionate, selfless, devoted
Blood/Zodiac: A/Cancer
Likes: cooking
Dislikes: herself (see below)

Other Notables:

  • Her character has all the typical traits of an ideal girlfriend and wife, except for her combat skills as demanded by role
  • Reluctant to use lethal attacks in combat
  • A contained superweapon, she knows what she is but was determined not to let it develop.
  • Loses control during the breakout battle after Aleksandra dies, weaponizes, wipes out the opposition but also kills Erich Rommel and most of the friendlies, causes Exelar the loss of his left arm.
  • Reality hits her hard after the battle on just what she is and what she did. Began hating herself.
  • Develops a split personality. Her alternate appears only when she weaponizes, and always has exactly the opposite of her personality (not feelings). She’ll always be cold-blooded and evil, but certain other traits may change depending on your actions toward Aorin
  • Aorin will eventually exert some influence over her alternate in her path, but won’t be able to take control of it

Supernatural Ability: semi-virtual psionic (medium potential)
Combat Ability: medium-high/astronomical

  • Uses swords, may? wield (must for her path) Aleksandra’s artifact sword Basileur after its recovery
  • Weaponizes for astronomical attack power, where she stops using swords and gains access to energy cannons and missiles. However, she loses control, still attacks foes but has no regard for friendly casualties.
  • Immune to most magic spells
  • May utilize psionic boost powers

Starting Rank: First Lieutenant in the Marshal Guard Company of the 1st Guards Brigade, apprentice to Aleksandra Apraksin
Starting Location: Federation High Command at Archiry, Tyumen Oblast, Western Siberian Lowlands

Aorin is the only one I did not design from scratch and is a modified version of Zanaikin’s sketch which I think he took down. Because of that, I don’t have much to say except for changes I made and why. The most notable thing in my opinion is her facial structure which is flatter than everyone else’s and is to some extent Key-like so I tried to balance it out by making her hair bigger thus slightly elongating her face.

As far as armor is concerned, I thought the original was too much like standard medieval wear so I tried to make it more unique by adding embellishments such as the “brackets” and making it curvier. I also shortened the lower half of her armor because I did not like how it looked when I tried drawing it long. The original boots were supposed to be leather-like but I decided that they would not match the re-design that much so I made them metal-plated. All these changes together also gives me a better template to design her “weaponized version” later. I don’t really have much more to say since this is Zanaikin’s main heroine and I can’t say I know her very well.

Empty Slot Idea 1
The new yet to-be-named Heroine

This once empty slot was probably the biggest headache for me and Zanaikin to create but was by far the most surprisingly successful drawing to date. After months of having no clue as to what to make of this slot, we finally came up with some ideas the other day and I compiled the basics of them but did not get around to drawing until a few hours before midnight and decided to do a speed drawing to make my deadline; you can see some of the guidelines I didn’t feel like erasing. I was also not even sure if this was going to be accepted so I didn’t bother to do the standard standing straight pose and decided to go with something more dynamic. For this type of project, I usually have an overall image I want to portray in my mind but because of time constraints, I decided to go with my usual methodology and draw randomly. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to make her pretty gender ambiguous. There is not much to say except that I love this design and in retrospect, this is closer to what I wanted Rika to look like minus the cloak.

Character-wise, we came up with that she has a dual personalities. You can see her public face clearly in this picture but she also has a darker side that she shows in assassin mode. I originally intended for her to talk very bluntly and thus rudely normally but I think it would be better for her do to that only in dark mode right before killing her target. In public, she would project herself as pretty playful and sometimes seductive in order to lower everyone’s guard allowing her to more easily extract intel. Because of her looks, I want to have one or two scenes where she plays the reverse-trap role during a recon mission and maybe even a gender misunderstanding scene sometime soon after you meet her. The CGs for that have a lot of potential. Zanaikin also gave to go ahead for her being a dual assassin and mage type which I was really happy about.

This is pretty much it as far as the female Heirs are concerned. I might have forgotten to mention a few things but they most likely are not major enough to worry about. Now, the biggest thing is getting the male Heirs done which although I only have three to do, will prove much more difficult because I rarely ever draw guys. However, I’ll pretend like I do know how to draw men and hopefully churn out some decent designs or I will have to default to my normal method; draw a girl and say it’s a guy. I won’t have to worry about that until I finish all my school-related work over break so I won’t be online too much in the next day or two.

On a more serious note, although I think I can I can draw all the character portraits and CGs for the game, I think it will be hard for me to color all of them well and make additional drawings if we plan to expand the story as much as I think we will. Preferably, I would like two other artists to work with me but even one partner would reduce my workload by half. Ideally to maintain graphic consistency across the entire game, my three-person team would be divided as such; I would be the lead artist and do most of the actual drawings for the game and one person would do the coloring while the other did the backgrounds. Sadly, artists are the resource that is in shortest supply. I only have one person at the moment, Narika/Quyen, whom I can ask and I can only hope she accepts. I’ll ask her to please join the dev team in person once break is over. In the event she accepts, The work load would be divided up by category such as serious scene or comic-relief scene and divided evenly to maintain consistency.

Good lord, this is a massive post and in completely unrelated news, thanks to Aya Kyunik I decided to order THEiDOLM@STER: Live for You! Limited Edition so that should arrive here at about the same time as Makoto but not soon enough for me to spend time with them before I go back to university.

Permanent link to this article: http://honya-ch.com/2008/03/05/imperium-project-character-drafts-girls-side/


  1. Zeroblade

    Anyway, the designs look neat, but they all seem familiar to me in one way or another, but I can’t exactly pinpoint what makes them look familiar.

  2. Zanaikin

    That’s probably cause it’s near impossible these days to create any character without its appearance resembling another, since pretty much every variation that’s pleasing to the eyes have been done.

    Sofiya and Hikari are relatively standard designs, thus obviously they’ve been done prior.

    Rika reminds me too much of Hecate (do not want! xD), except with extra teeth.

    Aorin struck me as being too similar to something too, I think it’s the style in which Honya drew her face. Though, her hairstyle is also pretty standard.

    In case you haven’t seen them Honya, here’s my Comments

  3. Honya

    I suppose the heavy Nanoha influence led to some familiar looking designs. I could have tried to make them more unique but I wanted to refrain from making ridiculously absurd designs.

    Also since I forgot to add this, one early scene I want to do with Hikari is a scene where she is missing from breakfast so you go look for her. You go into her lab and you see some strange device such as a toaster and a couple of slices of bread floating around. You go look behind the desk and you see her with an egg, sunny-side up in her mouth while she tinkers wit her current project.

    Another thing I think I neglected to mention is that I think the unnamed girl would be better suited for my “dream sequence” idea.

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