Character Design

Make sure you can draw it from all perspectives (not always necessary for 2D videogames and stylized animations)
Test it in action
If you are planning on using close ups, make sure that your design allows the facial expression you need
Facial expressions are not the only way to convey emotions
Allow for consistency across characters (using a limited palette helps)
What are the features that makes your character instantly recognizable?

Realistic, Iconic or Abstract?

Notes on cuteness

Cute characterization seems to appeal to people across generations and cultures

Cutesy Japanimation and character industry (Hello Kitty etc.) influenced a lot of contemporary Western character design (Powerpuff girls etc.)
The expectations that come along with cuteness can be subverted
Gloomy Bear
People like to look at cute things, but your expressive goals may be different.
The original characters in Unmanned were a bit cuter


How can your character communicate its state and features?
The proportions of the main character in Braid were dictated by the platforming gameplay. In cognitive terms, the player has less work to do to calculate the movements of a short squareish object.
Don’t let the technology dictate your expressive modes
Some of the best character design in contemporary games is iconic. Originally Mario’s distinctive big nose and mustache was a low-res necessity.
Low-res style is a widely used strategy for small teams to save time in content creation.
…same as limited palettes or silhouettes
In 3D too!
…turning a necessity into style

In short animations, characters may have specific built-in affordances. They are designed to perform certain actions:

This happens more frequently in videogames, where characters are defined by what they can do and the actions they perform are limited.

Character design as level design:

Game designers often need to communicate threats, goals and roles without going through narrative character establishments. To do so often “effectively” recur to problematic strategies such as stereotypes and stock characters: zombies, princesses in distress etc..

We’ll talk about the problem with women representation in games in a few weeks
On a sample of 20 recent FPS with “realistic” setting

Playable characters in games tend to be overwhelmingly white and male. When there’s “diversity” it reflects the overwhelmingly white male and conservative composition of the game industry today.
Ethnic and racial stereotypes are a common (lazy) characterization for fighting games.

Modern day Native American wearing feathers… Magic-Yoga-practicing, skull-wearing Indian… traditional-but-sexyfied chinese dress… evil Russian brute…

Transposing elements from existing cultures in fantasy settings can also be debatable. The Na’vi in Avatar are the ultimate embodiment of the Noble Savage. The struggle between good and civilized humans and vicious and primitive Horde in World of Warcraft has colonialist undertones. The Horde has totems, tents, face paint, Trolls even have a Jamaican accent.