Hellblade, Ninja Theory’s upcoming action game that explores mental illness, wants a protagonist that looks as believable as possible. This means two things, as far as the developers are concerned: nailing the protagonist’s expressions so they look human, and giving the character a body with realistic proportions.
Two weeks ago, Ninja Theory detailed all the work that went into creating Senua’s face. This required the usage of a special device that allowed the developers to capture even minute skin details:
Hellblade also hired a company that specializes in high resolution 3D scanning. The actress depicting Senua had to make a ton of expressions, which the scanning equipment then captured. Yes, even the silly expressions. Humans make all sorts of faces!
In addition to that, Ninja Theory also messed around with make-up a whole lot, to try to nail the look of the character’s face paint:
The result of this attention to detail are expressions that look pretty damn good, actually:
You can watch Ninja Theory detail this process in the video below:
That’s just the character’s face, though. More recently, Ninja Theory took to YouTube to share what was involved in building the rest of the character’s body. “Our intention has always been to make Senua feel like a real person, with the body of a fighter—and not someone that looks like a mannequin in a dress,” Tameem Antoniades, chief creative on Hellblade, said in the video.
Hellblade’s first crack at this goal wasn’t successful, though, so Ninja Theory followed up their first attempt with straight-up body scanning. Ninja Theory used this equipment...
...because it allowed them to accurately capture the way real flesh and muscle moves and contracts. Ninja Theory also made sure to model Senua after a personal trainer, who you can see above. The trainer, obviously, is pretty built—but that’s Senua too, so it works.
The difference between a model built from scratch and the one based on an actual person is obvious, even at a glance:
You can watch them talk about all of this in the video below. NSFW warning, be warned!
“It’s very common for video game characters to have quite unrealistic, stylized proportions. But we felt in this case that sticking to the original shape of a human body, an actual human body, we would reach a level of believability that we would otherwise not attain,” Antoniades said.
It’s fascinating to see all the work involved in making a character model in a game—and I say this knowing full well there’s something kind of funny about there being any mystery at all to how a woman’s actual body looks like. I just hope that, with all the effort expended in making sure Senua looks just right, they also make sure to write a good character, too!