We tend to fall in love with characters not just the stories themselves, hence why every great adventure needs a great protagonist. And that’s where our development journey started, with the lead character of Windbound.
Video game development can be — particularly in the early stages — rather turbulent. Ideas large and small come rapidly and from everywhere, some get tested and discarded, others get discussed, iterated and tabled. Windbound was certainly no exception to this process. So it’s always great when an idea or concept comes along in the early days, which withstands all these tests to cross the finish line. For us, Kara was one of those ideas.
There were a few targets we knew we wanted to hit early on when designing our hero. The families of the 5 Lives Studios team members have a great deal of young daughters and nieces, and this drove us to want to create someone who they could identify with. While the landscape has improved with fantastic protagonists featured in several games today, we wanted to do our part to broaden the landscape of video game heroes.
We envisioned the world of Windbound being set approximately at the bronze-age level of technology and we drew inspiration from various imagery of that time to compile a brief list of the elements we liked. Kara’s tribe isn’t based on any one real-world culture, but we still wanted them to have an identity of their own.
We had quite a few ideas and experimental concepts before we found the right design for Kara. Concept artists Alex Allen and Brad Neilson helped us bring her to life in Windbound as you see her today. Over the course of dozens of character concept sketches, Alex used her talents to give Kara her form, her body shape, and presence as a powerful force in the world. She and Brad then created a variety of outfit designs before we arrived at the final design for Kara.
Despite her relative youth, Kara, at her core, is a survivor—you need to be when you’re part of a tribe who spends their lives at the mercy of nature, on land and at sea. While her people’s heritage is a patchwork of verbal history — much of it is fragmented or forgotten — one thing they have always remembered is their spirit of survival and the strength of community. Kara is a dutiful member of her community, never doubting that they can overcome whatever challenges face them. They see themselves as the masters of their domain, and this belief is what drives Kara to push on during the ordeal she finds herself in during the opening moments of Windbound.
In this unexpected journey Kara’s beliefs and abilities will be challenged like never before. While she faces familiar obstacles in the forms of waves and teeth and claws, a long-forgotten story will soon unfold itself before her, pushing her to reconsider the ideals she’s held her entire life.
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