Fashion is a language, and whether you consider yourself fluent or not, you’re making a statement every morning when you get dressed. Sweatpants and a hoodie? You’re dressing comfortable, and you probably don’t have any big plans for the day. Button-down shirt and khakis? You might be heading out to restaurant, or an event.
Fashion is deeply personal, and the message an outfit puts out can be interpreted a variety of different ways. Character design is the same way, so here’s your challenge — how much can you tell your player about a character without saying a single word?
In Chasing the Sun, the player follows Harper, a young college student plagued with visions of the future. Harper was assigned male at birth, but they’re deeply unhappy with their appearance and gender presentation. At the start of the story however, Harper hasn’t seriously considered the idea that they might be trans or presenting in a different way from the norm.
How can we communicate all of this at a single glance (or at least try?)
Telling a story in design
Starting with Harper’s silhouette, their posture is slouched, and their limbs are turned inwards. Harper avoids looking at the player head-on and is always shielding themselves with an arm or by turning away. Because of this, Harper looks anxious or insecure.
Harper’s hair is long and shaggy for your typical college boy. To some, this looks like Harper is procrastinating a haircut for some reason. To Harper’s friends, this may look like laziness or forgetfulness. To Harper, you could probably guess there’s some sentimental weight there.
Long hair can also be a shield to hide behind, just like Harper’s hoodie. If it wasn’t for the fact that Chasing the Sun is set in August, I could imagine Harper would be wearing jeans or sweats as well. Harper’s exposed legs contrast the rest of their outfit and could represent them being forced out of their comfort zone (whether that be by the heat or the crisis of the story).
Strong colors are strong choices
Color is another deal entirely, but as a general statement, I wanted to avoid lots of color in Harper’s early design. Strong colors are strong choices, and Harper struggles making those fashion choices on their own. As Harper comes into their own throughout the story, we wanted to experiment with how we could bring color and life into their wardrobe, and what that might look like.
Brainstorming concepts for a femme-presenting Harper was a super exciting time for us. Most of us take being comfortable in our skin and expression for granted, and so we really tried to find a perfect fit for Harper along her journey.
At its core, Chasing the Sun is a story about people doing the important things because they know their time is limited. For Harper, that means coming into their identity as a trans woman and taking their happiness into their own hands.
Like many trans people across the globe, Harper doesn’t have access to gender affirming care like hormones or surgeries. Regardless of this, throughout the story Harper still is able to enjoy things like romance, sisterhood, and their own expression. While gender affirming care is a privilege, not every trans person wants or needs it — trans joy is innate.
While I can’t share Harper’s final sprites with you all yet, I’ll leave you with this: Harper’s current sprite reveal!
I’m excited to share more about our project in the coming weeks! For those looking to dive deeper into Chasing the Sun’s characters, please check out our socials for more information and art! And if you liked this development log and you want to stay in the loop with all the Chasing the Sun updates, please sign up for our monthly newsletter to get everything first!