Saturday, October 15, 2016

Club Penguin: Early Concept Art - Part 2 (Characters)

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On October 3, I launched my first blog post in a new short series that I announced was starting on Cheats with Dino, named: Club Penguin: Early Concept Art. In this series I talked about how I was going to feature and discuss pieces of early concept art from the very depths of Club Penguin's archives. The first post was a success, garnering lots of interest from the Club Penguin community.

Today, 12 days later, I am releasing the second part of the series! In part 1, I focused on rooms and the designing of rooms from the very fist sketch, to the final product. Today will be quite different, because—as you can guess from the title—we will be looking at characters. Everything from mascots to puffles will be highlighted in this episode. So, without further ado, let's dive straight in.

Let's start quite far back, how does 2005 sound? Good? Good. Firstly, I'd like to give a little bit of a backstory. In November of 2005 in Club Penguin, many sightings were being reported of various coloured balls of fluff popping up around the island. Unbeknownst to the users of the time, these would grow into one of Club Penguin's most iconic symbols: puffles!

As more and more sightings were being reported, Club Penguin began talking openly about puffles, and sooner or later, the Pet Shop was finally opened, and puffles became a thing. Users from around the island began to flock to the Pet Shop to pick up a fluffy friend, and to this day, they are still the most widely purchased adopted item pet across the whole island.

But, how did they start? We know they were being seen, but what gave the Club Penguin team the idea? Good, question, me.

Puffles had been a brash concept since the beginning; the team wanted to add a pet for all penguins to have to sort of, spice up the lives of penguins rather than just having themselves, they wanted a new species to keep us company. Since penguins in the real world don't have pets like us humans do, the game had to come up with something new. The idea for a puffle was taken from many of artist Screenhog's early sketches:

From the image above, you can clearly source the inspiration well. The first and second character stand out the most to me because they show clear similarities to the puffles we have today. The grey puffle's face bares very close resemblance to the face of the final puffle design, and the second puffle looks just like a blue puffle looks like today, except the hair is part of the body!

A quick side note: I love the fact that you can tell these were drawn by Screenhog. I mean, what other artist would draw a green foot with eyes on it and call it concept art? Oh, Chris, how we miss you.

Puffles weren't the only character to receive dazzling early concept art. Take Captain Rockhopper, for example. First appearing in October 2006, Rockhopper was the first mascot to show his face on Club Penguin island. The penguins loved him for the loot he brought from his ship, the Migrator, and his stories from Rockhopper Island.

Fun fact: Rockhopper has a close tie to puffles, as Rockhopper Island was where the first red puffle was spotted, and Rockhopper actually shipped red puffles over to Club Penguin island.

Rockhopper was conceptualised by the team as a way to introduce famous penguins to Club Penguin, and create user interaction and entertainment among penguins.

His very early sketches allow us to see where the inspiration came from to draw him: Captain Blackbeard, of course.

Of course when Rockhopper actually first appeared, whilst still maintaining his pirate-esque pose, he looked a lot different. Ditching the sword/cane that he had in the sketch and gaining a much fluffier black beard.

Rockhopper did see a massive character overhaul in 2013-2014, in which the team gave Rockhopper a coat, fixed with a belt, a stragglier beard, and a slimmer body. Concept art was created for this, too! You can see below an ink pen sketch was made, albeit it looks more like a mugshot than a sketch, woops!

I love his more fearsome and brave look, really adds to the personality Rockhopper has. His eyebrows have been more defined too which is, well, what can I say, I've never seen a pirate as good as Rockhopper with bad eyebrows.

Next we'll be taking a look at Gary the Gadget Guy, Club Penguin's favourite scientist. Gary's first appearance on the island was in 2008, at the Halloween Party.  But, Gary has been around in the Penguin Secret Agency missions since the beginning. Gary was the first character to wear intricately illustrated clothes, such as a shirt, tie and lab coat over that. Before, mascots typically had one layer of clothing, such as just a hat or a pair of glasses.

Because of Gary's design, lots of early sketches were made before he was put into the game. Below is an image from the Club Penguin blog of a prototype of Gary sitting and swiveling on a chair, which would later be used in a mission. The different poses of Gary shows you how the team draw penguins in a 360-degree motion, whilst still looking like their original character.

And the promising final product.

Ah, herby herby Herbert. What would we do without him? Except prosper as an island and have an uninterrupted bright future?

When Herbert first came to the Club Penguin island, it was a time of darkness. From his first appearance in a PSA mission to when he finally caused major destruction in Operation: Blackout, he was feared. And not just by the penguins, his sidekick, Klutzy the Crab, is obviously his slave rather than his companion. After all, Herbert makes him do all the dirty work.

When Herbert P. Bear's character was being imagined by the Club Penguin team, their first thought must've been: how can we make him look intimidating? After all, it's not everyday you see a cute fluffy polar bear turn into an evil maniac that wants to destroy penguinkind. The team settled on the character we see him as today, but what about before that?

Well, before that, the idea of Herbert was compressed down to three villainous concepts.

With another piece of early art looking like a mugshot, this famous image was born. The first polar bear shows a short, plump, frowning character which, although facially intimidating, doesn't really have the body of a villain.

The second polar bear shows a tall, lanky version of the same idea. I have to admit, he does look rather horrifying. But it's not until the third polar bear that we understand where Herbert's model truly came from. The third polar bear looks loopy and silly, but has the height of #2 and the weight of #1, making him the perfect balance. Just make him look actually frightening instead of silly and wham! You have your very own Herbert.

Well, there it is everyone, the second part in my Club Penguin: Early Concept Art series is done. I hope you enjoyed this series of random sketches and collected pieces of artwork from throughout Club Penguin history, and I hope you stick around and come back soon for more.

Thank you and goodnight!

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