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ArenaNet on designing the Charr: "A fire-worshipping race of hell cats"

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Guild Wars 2's Charr week continues today with a look at Designing the Charr. Artists Katy Hargrove, Kristen Perry, and Kekai Kotaki sat down for this round of information to talk all about the past, present, and future of the Charr race and the process of designing it over a period of years.

We won't keep you waiting: Follow along after the jump for all the latest on Charr week!


Katy Hargrove is the mind behind the Charr. She created the original look, and today's blog post carries a fascinating look at the process behind designing and refining the race to make it what it is today.

The core of who the Charr are was fully formed before Katy began the design process, but it carried a heavy focus on their attitudes and behavior rather than appearance -- something that was both a curse and a blessing. Katy pointed out that she had "a lot of artistic freedom when it came to designing the Charr," but with that freedom came a bit of a struggle to create an appearance the artists were happy with: "[T]he original concepts just seemed like cat-men, which wasn't that impressive, and even came troublingly close to being cute."

The plan was clear, though, and that helped: "The Charr would be the main threat to the humans of Ascalon, so we wanted something inhuman, iconic, and intelligent." This mindset, combined with the feline look that the design team had planned from the start and a hefty dose of horns and fire, led the artists to what Katy refers to as "a fire-worshipping race of hell cats." Most Guild Wars fans can agree that she struck just the right design chords.

Catwoman she ain't

Oh, they were always around, of course. The introduction of female Charr in Guild Wars 2 caused a huge buzz among fans, though, because the females were never seen in Guild Wars 1. Artist Kristen Perry was responsible for translating the monstrous Charr into a feminine form -- and proving that "fantasy genre" doesn't have to equal "buxom, wasp-waisted catgirl." As with the original Charr design, there was quite a bit of discussion and some uncertainty along the way.

Trying to add a more human-like feminine appearance to the Charr in an effort to gain the best of both worlds wound up watering down the entire design too much: "The human part of our Charr catgirl wasn't human enough to be cute, and the Charr part of her wasn't Charr enough to be fierce, let alone look like a female of the same species. So while this experiment was very important for visualization, in the end it didn't give us the result we wanted."

Ultimately, Kristen struck a satisfying blend of fierce, strong, sleek, and feminine that has pleased the fanbase almost universally. Charr females are undeniably feminine and beautiful but no less dangerous than their male counterparts, and that comes through loud and clear in their design.

Finally, yes, there was in fact a huge discussion regarding breasts on Charr females: "Finally, there was a matter of what to do with the chest. It really didn't make any sense to have boobs on a charr female, particularly with all the effort we took to make her sleek and fierce. We thought they should have no breasts at all, or at least hide them under some fluffy fur. Above all else, we needed to be true to the race, of course!

"There was still some debate, however, so I gave them a choice: either be subtle and downplay the breasts (it wasn't a point of the race, anyway) or go full-on realistic. Yes, that's right -- none or six!! But really, the armor augmentation required for six boobs would be just as ridiculous. So none it was!

Final thoughts

Last but not least, Kekai Kotaki was the one responsible for bringing the Charr 250 years into the future. How did he do it? Easy: "My approach was simple: make the Charr bad ass. And then make them even more bad ass."

Well done.

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