Creating the characters for Dance Central was a serious breath of fresh air for me; not just in the sense that it was a thematic shift from a "world of rock" [Rock Band] to a more hip-hop / pop infused universe, but because this was the first time in roughly four years that we re-visited designing one-off characters.
There has been a huge movement in the games industry this console generation to give users more and more control: more tools, customization options, and influence over the look of their avatars or in-game player characters. Franchises like Rock Band and many others, including the latest Call of Duty title "Black Ops", utilize a paper doll like character creator that allows the player to assemble different combinations of pre-constructed clothing assets to achieve their desired effect. While a fun time for the end user, from an artist's perspective you lose a ton of influence in regards to how your designs are perceived during a given play session.
In Dance Central we have pre-designed and constructed characters which gives us as developers more flexibility and freedom in the early design stages, and less to worry about down the road as it pertains to animation and clothing movement. It also allows us to dig a little deeper into the personality of the characters and how they interact with one another. By eliminating the variables [thousands of possible clothing combinations], I'd like to think it creates the kind of environment suitable for spawning the strongest, most iconic type of character [and as a result, one that the player appreciates and grows attached to].
When I'm designing a character, I always go into the first sketch trying to find the answer to one question, "what's their deal?" By that I mean, what is the seemingly insignificant detail that makes this character unique, believable, or memorable? In the case of Mo, the thing I narrowed in on early during the concept phase was "obscuring the eyes". I talked a bit in my last post about Mo's "default" hoodie outfit [posted below] I consider this his more iconic look. I wanted to carry some of those themes into his secondary "unlock" outfit for consistency's sake, and also to ensure that Mo felt like Mo, even when he didn't have his hood synched tight. [which is where the oversized knit cap comes in].