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'We Are OFK' Artist Heads to GDC Showcase to Talk About Designing a Virtual Band

From Alvin and the Chipmunks to Gorillaz: Virtual bands have been around for decades, giving fans a unique music experience they can't get anywhere else. We Are OFK brought this phenomenon to the game space, taking players behind the scenes as four friends (and one cat) started a band. But to make the music work, the characters had to work. Character concept artist Nafisah Tung joins GDC Showcase to share how their designs helped create a band that players wouldn't forget.

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Living Paintings of OFK: Art Directing the Style and Lives of an Indie-Pop Band is a brand-new session happening at GDC Showcase, taking place entirely online this June 27-29. We Are OFK features four virtual band members who were created from the culmination of the development team's varying backgrounds and visions—from different art styles to differences in approach. The characters are the living, breathing, virtual friends made by the devs after years of careful style search and technical exploration. In this session, attendees can join Nafisah and the art team as they explore and reminisce on the development history of OFK, from excitement to frustration to breakthroughs, and why the characters feel so real.

"We're talking about character creation, specifically in regards to how we had to integrate them into its painting style—and how we had to transition from very specific mood in the concept art to making it be mood about these specific characters," Nafisah told GDC in an interview. "How much of the storytelling needed to meld together with the idea of a virtual band, because they needed to straddle this place where they had to exist in real life. But then, most importantly, for the interactive series, they had to bring the story, and all of the emotions of that, to life."

They shared how the characters were designed before the voice actors were brought in, so Nafisah and the rest of the team had more freedom when it came to creating Itsumi, Jey, Luca, Carter, and the "magical realism" that is the digital cat Debug. 

"Before they sent me the character bios, they had deleted all of the physical descriptions of them—except for important things, like their racial ethnicities or general heights. But other than that, like how they generally looked, body type, their fashion styles and stuff were very much up to me," they said. "I think a lot of it was also that the early team—not many of them were part of the LGBT community, but all of the characters were. I'm queer, and so I think the director really wanted me to bring a very authentic queer design sense to them, without anyone else's biases."

Nafisah originally planned to present this session at GDC 2023, but unexpected circumstances arose. They told GDC they were relieved to have the chance to bring their talk to GDC Showcase, because they want people to experience the "unique process" of developing We Are OFK (while also expressing sadness that they weren't able to attend the 2023 IGF Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards, where We Are OFK was nominated twice). They noted that there are a lot of game devs who, for various reasons, may not be able to attend an in-person event. For that, virtual events like GDC Showcase can step in to fill the gap. 

"As games become more global, and a lot of jobs in general become more global, I think more online events are very important and necessary," Nafisah said. "GDC does upload a lot of videos online, so people can access them through the Vault and such. But I do think having a live event is still ultimately different, and [Showcase] will be able to open up to a lot of people who otherwise might not be able to go to something like this."

This session is a great opportunity to learn about how a virtual band came into being, and the art that brought its members to life. It's all part of GDC Showcase, an online event happening June 27-29 dedicated to bringing 3 days of great content and networking to the global game dev community. 

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The all-virtual GDC Showcase is happening this June 27-29! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDCShowcase hashtag on social media.

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