I'll often refer to an animal as a creature as there is no real distinction between the two nor should there be. A creature in a film or a game is simply an animal that is other worldly or of a different reality other than our own. If we can't relate to a being as having derived from our own world and in regard to its intelligence or lack there of, we determine it to be a creature, alien or extraterrestrial. If we had never seen a Hippopotamus or other large mammals such as the Rhino and Elephant, they would seem so alien and strange as each have such distinct and unique physical designs IE; the long flexible trunk, the long sharp horns, the enormous tusks and wide jaws. The Hippo oddly enough is an aquatic mammal or semi aquatic mammal and then there are marine mammals like the dolphin. If the Hippo thought of in regard to other classifications, it might seem that it is a large amphibian considering its life style. The Hippo is more at home in the water than it is on land and this is where it's capable of maneuvering with little effort whereas its weight hinders its mobility on land - though they are much quicker than they would appear in short spurts.
When you take a second to think about various animals on Earth, we have birds that don't fly and spend more time in water than they do in the air, and mammals that fly and spend more time in the air than on land IE; Penguins & Bats - We have mammals that without scientific evidence and observation might at first glance be considered a species of fish IE; Dolphin or species of Whale. With such odd diversities even in regard to what seem to be simple classifications, would it be so hard to conceive of mammalian-like creatures with more than 4 limbs? Most large mammals on Earth are quadrupeds or bipeds, but this is only due to the restrictions of environment or our laws of gravity and the affects of evolution in reaction to such rules. Although it's important to recognize these rules when designing creatures it's not necessary to abide by them. However, understanding the rules is what makes for more believable designs. What might a mammal like a Hippo look like if it consisted of an exoskeleton and a chitinous shelled body similar to a beetle?
In the third portion of this series, we'll conclude by discussing how environment, habitat and ecosystems affect an animal and what affect that would have on why a creature is comprised of various choices in anatomy. You'll see this question "Why?" quite often as it's always best to have an answer for why you chose to design a creature with distinct types of anatomy and how that relates to its history. - Mike C
Guest blogger Mike Corriero is a character, creature, and conceptual designer and illustrator living in New Jersey. Since graduating from Pratt Institute in 2003, Mike's client list has included Breakaway Games, Fantasy Flight Games, Allied Studios, Kingsisle Entertainment, Radical entertainment/ Vivendi Universal Games, Liquid Development, Zynga Inc, Challenge Games, Paizo Publishing and Hasbro Inc, among others. Mike's book "PLANET to PLANET creatures and strange worlds" includes hundreds of his sketches of creatures, robots, alien life forms and their environments. I recommend it for students focusing on visual development for games, or anyone who loves creature design. - J. G. O.