I'm at the early stages of developing a 2D side scrolling open ended platformer (think Metroidvania) and am having a bit of difficulty at enemy design inspiration for something of a scifi, nature, fantasy setting that isn't overly familar or obvious. I haven't seen too many articles, blogs or books that talk about the subject at great length. Is there a fair rule of thumb when coming up with enemy art with respect to keeping your player engaged?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you specifically talking about character art? (Design, in game development, usually refers to gameplay mechanics and rules.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Kylotan
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I would have though designing an enemy encompassed art + form + function (but I most certainaly could be wrong). But any info at all about art or gameplay mechanic inspiration would be most helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Terrance
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 21:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's rare for a single developer to be in charge of the fine detail of both the way a character behaves and the way a character looks to the player. Both sides could possibly have useful guidelines, but since they are largely unrelated it wouldn't make much sense to cover both in one question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kylotan
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 23:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Since the question was tagged 'art', I assumed the design aspect was focused on that and edited the question accordingly. Polling for guidelines on overall enemy design would probably be overly broad. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Updated for clarity... Any takers? \$\endgroup\$
    – Terrance
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 17:10

2 Answers 2


You should look at your design document. It should contain background information about the world your game plays in. You do have a design doc, do you?

If not, start by thinking about the setting...

Medival european fantasy? Arabian nights fantasy? Cyberpunk megacity with a hint of magitech?

What kind of places would you find in such a world?

Who would live in such a place?

Rats and mutants in abandoned sewers?

Why are they living in the sewers? Poverty? Social Stigma? Choice?

Asking questions about the world your game is set in can guide you towards certain design decisions, or might even imply certain art choices, e.g. sewers - dim & gritty, metropolis - clean and shiny.

Where does the enemy come from might allude to what they look like. E.g. soldiers from kingdom X might wear wooden armor because they don't know smelting.

The design might also be influenced by the needs of the story, e.g. you might want easy enemies for the start of the game, so you might want to limit enemies in the first stages to grunts, while in the later stages, you can go wild with ubergrunts and elite troops with shields and katanas and rolleskates (or jetpacks, or wings) or something.

For more on creating worlds, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldbuilding

There are a lot of recurring 'tropes' you could use, too: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Trope e.g. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UniqueEnemy

WARNING: Browsing tvtropes.org can lead to excessive wikiwalking!

Finally, you could get inspiration from other games. I watched some speedruns of the contra series on youtube lately... lots of different enemies in small 30 minute packages.


I found this to be a good source, in an attempt to address similar challenges that I faced.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ -1: You linked to an "answer" that contains only a link. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marton
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ My understanding is that to avoid duplicate posts, I should link to my previous answer that was similar to this. Apologies for the misunderstanding. \$\endgroup\$
    – ramizmoh
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 9:14
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ We usually try to avoid duplicate questions, not duplicates of valid answers. Also, a single link is rarely acceptable as an answer. In cases like these, you should write an extract of the article you're referring to, which is relevant to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marton
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 10:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lol. Agreed. Strangely enough, this is what I usually do on stackexchange. Will attempt to be comprehensive in future. \$\endgroup\$
    – ramizmoh
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 10:39

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