Hello, everyone, and welcome to the February edition of the Legends of Equestria Artist Showcase! This month, we'll be focusing on some of the game's NPCs. For those of you not familiar with the terminology, an NPC, or Non-Playable Character, is any character in a game that isn't controlled by a player. In this case, we'll be talking specifically about two of Legends of Equestria's finished NPCs, Grassy Fields and Cocoa St. Lauren.
Now, the first step, as you could probably guess, is to write the character into a google document. Almost every finished concept in the game does, of course, start in a document of some sort, and we have a fairly large and extremely talented team of writers dedicated to creating the quests and NPCs that will go in the game. While it is possible to have a quest without any NPC involvement, most or all of the quests you'll find in Legends of Equestria will heavily involve one or more of our NPCs.
As you can see from this image, the very first step involved in creating a character is creating a physical description, as well as giving some important information about the character. In this case, Aurethius, the writer responsible for writing the character Grassy Fields, filled in the biography by listing the relationships and occupation of the character, as well as leaving a note about the character's voice. Any special information about the character needs to be placed near the top of the page so that the voice actors, concept artists, and possibly the animators, will know whatever they need to about the character's voice, mannerisms, and appearance.
A description can be as long or as short as the original author feels it should be, and in contrast to the two lines of text written for Grassy Fields, author Saddlesoap Opera decided that this particular character, Cocoa St. Lauren, would need a more in-depth background and description in order to properly convey every detail he had in mind for the character. There is no right or wrong length for a character, and the depth given to the description relies heavily on how prominently the NPC in question will be featured in the game, as well as how complicated their personality and appearance are and several other factors. When questioned about the conceptualization of this particular character, Saddlesoap had this to say:
Cocoa was written as a somewhat snooty 'Artiste' type, who sees herself as extremely cultured and important, looks down her nose at nearly everypony, and dotes on her ill-behaved little dog. She's a chocolate-maker, but she'd call herself a Chocolatier. In keeping with her high-society style, her name was based on Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
This is Cocoa's cutie mark story and general dialogues. The cutie mark stories are something that our writing team does a bit differently from what you might find in a typical game. We feel that it is important for each character to have a distinct personality and reasoning behind their every action, rather than just existing to dispense quests to the players. In keeping with this, any character that has a cutie mark must logically have attained it at one point, and this is a very important detail in the lives of the citizens of Equestria who have undergone this rite of passage. Therefore, it's required that every cutie mark has a backstory told by the pony who has it, in their own words. By giving each character a unique story to tell and having them describe an important event in their lives in such a way, we are forced to put a large amount of thought into each character and get inside their heads a little bit while creating them. The only exceptions are characters that don't have a cutie mark, are incapable of telling the player about their cutie mark, or refuse to tell the player about their cutie mark. Since the game is set in a land of happy magical ponies, the latter two categories are typically few and far between.
Under the cutie mark story in each of these, you'll see the character's general dialogues. The general dialogues are triggered whenever you try to talk to an NPC, but they don't have anything important to say to you at the time. Instead of having a box full of text pop up like you would if the NPC were talking to you about a particular quest or event, you'll hear them say one of these phrases. To avoid tedium, each writer is required to come up with at least ten general dialogues for each character, and they're almost always completely unique to that character.
Since Grassy Fields does give you the option to purchase pies, it's also necessary for her to have a few dialogues for this on her character sheet. Any set of dialogues like this, which aren't unique to any particular quest, but are unique to a particular NPC, are placed here.
Finally, there are the related quests. This is just an easy way for us to access the quests in which the character is featured without having to hunt them down. If any significant change is made to a character, it would be highly inefficient for us to go through every single quest in our database and search for the character's name in order to make sure the character stays consistent. It's also nice to have as a reference, in case someone is writing a character into another quest but isn't quite sure on the characterization just from reading the sheet.
After the character has been written, edited, and personally approved by everyone's favorite talking tree, it's sent to the concept artists' pile. Now, the characters as they appear in the final game are going to use the same model as the players, with their own color schemes, cutie marks, and accessories attached, so this concept art is never sent to the 3D modelers like it typically is for buildings or other objects. Instead, it's used as a visual reference to further determine certain aspects of the characterization for the voice actors, as well as the writers for any future uses of the character, as well as for implementing it in the game when it's finished. Many of our fans will be able to tell this just by looking, but the concept art for both of these characters was drawn by Sugarcup, one of Legends of Equestria's extremely talented concept artists. The above image of Grassy Fields was the first NPC concept art Sugarcup ever created for Legends of Equestria.
After the concept art has been finished and approved, the NPCs are sent to the voice acting team. Our audio lead, Hirosashii, personally reads through each character sheet and places them with whichever voice actor or actress will best match the character's personality. I've created a video for you all to watch below, which goes through each of the characters' general dialogues being read by their respective voice actress, as well as a few extras in the case of Grassy Fields. Grassy Fields is voiced by Emichwan88, and Cocoa St. Lauren is voiced by Flootershai.
After the voice acting has been approved, it's sent back to the writers where we have one of our team members build the model using the character creator, and put it in the game! The actual implementation process for NPCs consists of several different steps, and has yet to be entirely completed. But between the animations, models, and scripting beyond this point, we've got enough content to fill another artist showcase as soon as it is, so be sure to check back! We might just see these two again in a later edition!