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Designing Nikole Tesla — With Warren Marshall

November 3, 2021
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Hi there! My name is Warren Marshall, Art Director on Town Star, back with another in the “Designing” series. I think these sorts of peeks behind the curtain are fun for people who aren’t involved in game development and are curious about how things get created.

This one is interesting in that it’s a lesson in how creativity and inspiration can come from unexpected places. Great! Let’s get started.

Initial Idea

We knew that we wanted to add a tesla coil unit to the game, something that could generate power for the town and do it in a stylish way.

We also decided that we wanted a character to be associated with the highest tier of this new tesla coil because characters are fun!

My initial design was based on the man himself … Nikola Tesla. I was basically reimagining him as a Town Star character. The initial mood board looked like this:

You’re probably imagining him in your mind right now and I know exactly what he looks like … in your mind … it’s weird, but I bet I do!

Unexpected Inspiration

But then one of the newest members of our team said, “Hold up”, and showed us a napkin sketch he was working on for a character whom he described as a distant relative of Tesla, young and interested in the family business!

As soon as we saw these doodles, we knew we were changing direction.

Cute! Fun! These are things I like.

We quickly came up with a name for her, “Nikole”, which just feels right in every way and it was time to start designing her for real.


Before getting to the visuals we did have a question or two to answer. Since a tesla coil isn’t a building, she can’t go inside when she isn’t needed on the playing field. It was quickly decided that she would maybe just sit on her hoverboard and listen to music or something while she waited.

What’s that? Oh right, her hoverboard!

My initial thought for her was to give her a skateboard so she’d be able to get around easily. She’s young, and it seemed fun, but the team felt it was a little low-tech for a girl like this.

Team: “What about a hoverboard?!”
Me: “ … Fine.”

Initial Sketches

Now, I wasn’t about to let a little kid play with a tesla coil — not on my watch — but I was willing to let a teenager do it. So we aged her up some.

The first round of concepts came in and looked great:

But something wasn’t feeling entirely right.

She seemed … too old. The pendulum had swung too far. So I took the ideas from these sketches and frankensteined a new version. Keeping the sass factor high, I moved the age dial a little to the left. I think this strikes a good balance between her being a kid and being an adult.

My initial paint-over feedback looked like this:

The artists took those notes and created a final version of her. As a wise man once said, “Pretty good!”

Wrapping Up

Working on characters like this is always a blast. I love the collaborative process that this team does SO well. Here’s a bonus shot of the object of Nikole’s affections — the Legendary Tesla Coil!

See you next time!

Tesla Coils will be hitting the Town Star store very soon, so prepare your towns for some serious juice!

Join the Discord, watch the website, and get your NFTs in the Town Star store! Tesla Coils are coming!