Video Game Beards (And Hair) Are More Interesting Than You Think

Know why Eidos and AMD made such a big deal about Lara's hair in the new Tomb Raider? Because video game hair is normally pretty ugly, and something incredibly hard to get right.

The Last Of Us gets it about as right as the current generation probably can, though, with all those wavy curls and bushy beards, and having seen these terrific examples earlier today, I thought it'd be interesting to show you how it's actually done.

In the old days, hair was simply sprites. When games shifted to polygons, hair became immovable clumps of polygons and then, a little later, 2-3 slightly movable clumps (like crude ponytails) meshed together.

Video Game Beards (And Hair) Are More Interesting Than You Think

Today, though, in order to get hair looking "natural", artists basically (and I'm simplifying here) arrange sheets of polygons atop each other, which when textured give the appearance of layers of hair, which not only look real in screenshots, but can move independently (and thus realistically) when you're playing.

You might not notice this when you're playing, if the developers have done a good job, and in the Last of Us, they've done a good job. For that, thank people like Michael Knowland, a lead character artist at Naughty Dog.

Video Game Beards (And Hair) Are More Interesting Than You Think

These are some of the character sculpts he made for the game, which he's shared today, and while the quality of the models is amazing, I was more interested in the beards. I'm always a sucker for seeing the man behind the curtain, the secrets behind the tricks, and these images definitely ticked those boxes.

Especially since they make Joel look infected. You should check out the rest of Michael's post on zbrush, it's got loads more terrific sculpts from the game.

Video Game Beards (And Hair) Are More Interesting Than You Think