Designing a Devil


I would like to take this opportunity to explore the inspiration behind a character’s design.  As I am the principle artist, this article will focus on Rack, a demonic wizard and the star of the upcoming game Rack ‘n Ruin.  The mixture pictured above is representative of some characters that I believe influenced Rack, who as a character has a little bit of each of them in him visually or in his personality.  In this article I will explore influences and how they effect the end result of a character’s design.  A quick note here, during the creation of Rack I didn’t specifically use any of these references as a starting point.  Rather, this article is an attempt to deconstruct the process of that creation after the fact.

It is my belief that any concept, idea, or work can be reduced to its individual influences on some level.  Each of these characters has influenced me in a way that I perceived as positive at some point in my life, and Rack’s overall personality, motives, desires, and visual style can be seen as an amalgam of these influences.  Now not every last detail of Rack was taken directly from these sources, instead each contributed some general idea toward the overall result.



So let’s look at Rack.  He’s a short demon wizard who stands about a 4.5 feet tall.  Like most of the references above, his power is derived from his intellect.  He’s actually quite frail, and it isn’t clear if his dark little arms are even attached to his body.   His head is ginormous compared to his body, accentuated by a large pair of horns as if he was born a bobblehead.  He has furry little goat legs, but with 2 toed demon clawed feet instead of hooves.  The influence for his attire is probably the easiest to spot, a Dracula red collared cape and nice white shirt.  In terms of the visual design, a particularly important aspect in a video game, the influences go back even further to early judo-christian symbolism of the devil (horns, goat legs, etc) and even to popular depictions of grey aliens, which could most likely be seen as an amalgam of what had come before.

His personality is largely carefree with an intense love of chaos.  Yet that chaos is not enough, he is very picky about when and where his plans unravel, as if to get the maximum amount of entertainment out of the whole experience.  He won’t just roll into town and murder all the villagers–He is perpetually upping the ante.  Sure he could just blow the planet up, but why should he have all the fun? So he sets about destroying the pillars that hold a world up, releases the captive demons, and in the end when the world spirals out of control everyone will get to join in on the fun.  After all once Ruin, his boss, has his sights set on a world nothing happy will come of that situation.  Armed with a sharp tongue, an a eye for the ironic, a dark sense of humor, a complete lack of obedience, a love of sarcasm and just a dash of nihilism he is the anchor of the apocalypse, the showman of sorrow, and the MC of misery.

Where does all this come from? Well lets take a look at each of (what I believe to be) the inspirations on Rack’s personality.  First up to bat is Zim, who was exiled to a wayward earth simply due to his incompetence.  This comparison is largely thematic where Rack suffers the same fate after a string of intentional failures.  Zim and Rack share a desire for the theatrical, and are both exceedingly over confident.  Which leads us to a glaring fault, a Joker like infatuation with the journey and no desired to ever reach the end.  Rack is entirely capable of ending the situation he has found himself in, but has no desire to take on any more responsibility and maintaining the status quo has become his primary motivation.  Black Mage is a similar character in that sense, but where he is acutely aware of his failings, Rack revels in them.

The intent of this article is to deconstruct the influences that drives the work of any artist, whether they are aware of it or not.  Perhaps at a later date a similar analysis should be performed regarding the gameplay mechanics of Rack n Ruin.