IGF finalist We Are OFK (now also known as Pop. Love. Panic!) is a beautifully animated game/interactive series about a virtual indie pop band’s origins. In this free GDC Vault video (embedded above) co-art director Nafisah Tung dives deep on how they and the team contributed to the style and personality of the characters. In the talk, they go from early concept art and storyboards through the nitty-gritty of specific lighting decisions and animation style in order to bring these vibrant personalities to life.
“The project was incredibly collaborative, and every new person that came into the project added their voice and their flavor,” says Tung, showing off some very early concept paintings from co-art director Jenny Yu. “We wanted, as much as possible, to have something that felt authentic and human. And so we thought we couldn’t do that without having all the people—the humans working on this project—be their authentic selves.
“Jenny has this really beautiful painting style that uses light, staging, and mood that evokes a sense of loneliness,” they say, highlighting some evocative early painting work.
Tung took those concepts and started adding more specific personality and features to them, in order to eke out a sense of who these individuals really “are”. There was a lot of back and forth and collaboration at every stage, and Tung notes a bit later in the talk just how crucial an art bible was for guiding the concept and refining process.
“I focused a lot on the characters’ personae, their archetypes, poses and postures, their senses of emotion and how they portray those emotions, and also the personal fashions,” they say, noting a slide that shows some of that art.
“I did deep dives into each character. I actually created an art Bible for the characters specifically, and even talked about certain psychology that went into the design, like ‘why does this character look this way?’ ‘Why did they choose these kinds of clothes?’ ‘Why did they choose to express themselves this way?’ I did it so that even visually we could have representations of their arc and story development,” says Tung.
“Once again, because we were making a band, I wanted them to feel like they were distinct from each other. So they all have very specific color palettes… And they all have varying skin tones, heights and body types,” they note.
“One thing that I did have a bit of a learning curve with is that once again, like I mentioned at the beginning: We are OFK was meant to be a ‘forming of the band’ story. They were not supposed to be global superstars… on a world stage yet. They were supposed to be the artists that have not made their band yet. So we had to make sure that they felt stylish and recognizable… but they still felt like they could be your friends in LA.”
Tung goes all in on more technical aspects of shading and animation, and just how collaborative the process was amongst the artists and designers on Team OFK. Click play on the video above for the whole talk!