What does a goblin look like?

I’ve been working on getting the look of the goblins down. You play as a goblin, so I want their faces to be likable and sympathetic. I need them to be emotive, easy to animate, and quick to draw from all angles.

goblinstandingThe proportions of eyes to head to body have varied a lot in my drawings.  The body shape has shifted from more realistic to more cartoony. The ears started small and upright, and have become bigger and droopy-er over time. The image on the left is the latest idea.

I’ve been having trouble with dynamic poses and side-view angles, so this last week I started sculpting a model.

I haven’t really done much sculpting before, so this project was much slower than I expected. I wasn’t too happy with the head above, but I moved on to the body anyway:

It took working on a fairly realistic body to realize it wan’t the direction I wanted at all. After about 5 hours of sculpting, I called it a night.

The next day, I had an idea for the head, and made a model I’m much happier with!


I still am working on a body model that better matches the drawing up at the top of this post.

Modeling has been a great experience! It’s forcing me to make concrete decisions about the structure of a goblin face.  I’m feeling confident about drawing the difficult positions that the goblins will find themselves in (i.e. jumping down a well, climbing a house, sneaking into the castle, etc.!)

The Title Text

I’ve been working on the look of the title today.  There’s a lot to consider in the design – the title text is part of many people’s first impression, and should communicate some of the game’s spirit.

I’m hoping to make a title that conveys:

  • The naïve nature of the goblins
  • The gravity of their mission
  • That this game features hand-drawn, 2D art
  • The name of the game in a unique enough way that it stands out in a grid of similar title images


I began with this outline. I don’t want to use a font, as the hand-drawn art is (I hope) part of the game’s appeal. I was very happy with the “G”, but the rest felt a bit too cartoony.

I tried smoothing the rough edges, and straightening the characters into a more sedate procession.



I think the straight verticals and even spacing make the title calmer.  I like how the big “G” and “D” suggest a “gd” acronym – I think it makes a memorable image.  Making up this font as I went along, I really liked how the diagonal mock serifs turned out.  But I couldn’t get an “m” that I was happy with.


After fiddling with the “m” for a long time, I gave up and started shading.  I like the texture that it gives, but unfortunately I think it looks quite wooden – it might be better for a game like “goblin gardener.”

For now, though, I’m going to leave it like that.  The next step will be looking through other titles for shading ideas, and looking up various “m”s!

Goblin Phonetics

The main goal of each conversation is finding the right word.

Once you find it, however, you still need to pronounce it. Visually, you’ll see the word break into a number of short phonetic constructions.  You’ll have to rapidly choose the correct one – or, in the case of polysyllable words, the correct sequence.

This challenge works best when a word’s sound is very different from its spelling. Luckily, the English language is dependably obtuse.  A word’s pronunciation is often shockingly detached from its spelling.

This aspect of gameplay couldn’t work in Finnish, for example – an language where the spelling and pronunciation of words are nearly always identical.

There are a couple dangers in designing this.  The first is regional pronunciation. I think of words with an American northeastern accent, and I have to make sure that somebody in Maryland, Oregon, or Britain can all sound-out the word in a way the game accepts.

Also, I need to make sure my phonetic suggestions are being interpreted correctly. I believe everyone will pronounce “moo” the way I imagine. But what about “Mui”? How would you pronounce it? “Moo?” “Moo-ee?” “Mwee?”

Sometimes simple words have given me surprising challenges. For example, take the word “iron.”


It has two syllables. The second syllable isn’t too tricky – just “yearn” (or “yern” or “yurn”). But what about the first? It’s a simple – just an “I” sound! But if I put in an “i,” it would both be inconsistently short, AND still be unclear – “i” could sound like “ih” or “ee.”

You can see my solution above. “Eye” was the most dependable way I could think of to get anyone to imagine the correct sound. But it came after half an hour of consultations and brainstorming.  How can we not have any simple way to express such a basic sound?

As someone who has spoken English all my life, it’s impressive how bewildering the language becomes once you start deconstructing it. I have all the more sympathy for the goblins, trying to make sense of it with their life on the line.

Goblin Diplomat: The Mission


Goblin Diplomat is a game about nonviolence and miscommunication.

It features some unusual mechanics.  You spend the game mostly inside the mind of a panicked goblin, struggling to recall the correct word of a foreign language.

You have a simple mission: Reach the human king, and convince him to make peace with the goblins.

Unfortunately, most humans will attack a goblin on sight.  You don’t know how to fight or sneak.  All you have is a few words of the human language and your good intentions.

By talking with the people you meet, you learn more of the human language and culture.  Those lessons give you a chance to speak to the higher classes of human society, and eventually the king himself.  Getting to the king alive will be a long and difficult journey…but how will you convince him once you arrive?