The different designs of the Boy in Shadow Puppeteer

Character design: The Boy

Today’s post will take you through the design process for the boy, from the first sketches in 2010. to the final, refined look.

The very first concept of the boy was presented for the Dare to be Digital contest to show the idea behind the game. It was team member, Torgeir, that designed the look and feel of the early style for the game. Torgeir is no longer an employee in Sarepta studio, but he will always live on in our hearts (and in the game, as several other members of  the team has pointed out the resemblence between the two).  But he didn’t start out like that.

Very first idea for the look of the boyVery first idea for the look of the boy (March 2010)

The boy’s original apperance was almost like an older version of Bill Waterson’s Calvin, with blonde hair and a striped shirt. The strong primary color red and bright white contrasting against the darker less saturated world. It was imporant to us that the design of the boy worked not only for the boy, but also as a recognisable silhouette for the shadow.

A slightly less modern-looking design

With the development of the setting and world the design quickly changed. The design became less modern. In the first draft for the story the boy has just woken up from a dream and was exploring in a nightshirt, pants and hat. His innocence and naïve nature evident through his big eyes and typically scandinavian blonde hair.

In addition to having a strong silhouette the boy needed to be vulnerable. He was never meant to be a great hero, just a small ordinary boy. We believed it would harm the dynamic between the boy and shadow if the boy was portrayed as too resourceful and athletic. In stead, we wanted the two to compliment each other, and as a team become a believable adversary to the Shadow Puppeteer.

Ideas and variations for the Boy's design

Ideas and variations for the Boy’s design (October 2010)

After the development of the prototype began the boy and world underwent another round of redesigning. The idea for the setting was from very early on inspired by a Victorian style London. The current design still felt too modern. After examining the era and its fashion a lot of sketches exploring different ideas were made.


Final sketch for the Boy's design

Final sketch for the Boy’s design (November 2010)

Stil drawing inspiration from the Victorian age through books, films and pictures, the character was redesigned and changed to be a poor lonely boy. We felt this created a stronger starting point for him to connect with his shadow when it would come alive. It was essential to us that the character had to «feel» right, so when the final sketch was made it was obvious that we had found the look for the boy.

Comparison: Old 3D model og the Boy (left) and refined 3D model (right)

Comparison: Old 3D model of the Boy (left) and refined 3D model (right)

So, right about now you might be asking yourself: «But what happened to his mouth?»

Well, there are several reasons. Mainly, that he looks better that way.

It started with the team seeing the final sketch before it was finished, and falling in love with the design. After the sketch was finished with a mouth and all it didn’t feel quite right anymore. There was never any intent of having dialogue in the game, so a mouth wasn’t really a priority.

The symbolism of having a mouthless character, and letting it add to his vulnerability worked well in the game. Also, visually, it created a resemblance with puppet theatre dolls, which we thought fitted the game and its title.


So, that’s the design process behind the character of the Boy. We’re going to do a post later on the design of the Shadow Puppeteer.


Shadow Puppeteer available on Steam

289 thoughts on “Character design: The Boy

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