Dear Game Developers, We're Not All Idealized Androids (Some of Us Are Wizards)

Illustration for article titled Dear Game Developers, Were Not All Idealized Androids (Some of Us Are Wizards)

You know how in many video games with character creation your attempts to make an older, wizened sort of character always result in the buffest old man you've ever seen due to their only being one body model for all male characters? In today's Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter jacobgermain points out how ridiculous that is.

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I wish developers actually put some effort into making more than one model for each gender. It's stupid that in 2012 if I play a wizened mage character in something like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, I still end up with the same mesomorph body shape, sporting a six pack I clearly earned in between reading books or something. It's even worse when all of the NPCs have the same exact body shape, only differing from race to race or by clothing.

This is the sort of thing that makes me want to scream at people who argue that in order for Skyrim to be "realistic" you need to be able to kill kids. In order for any game to be realistic, we ought to stop populating them with idealized androids.

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My 0.02¢

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.

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DISCUSSION

stinkhorse
Stink Horse

All of what you're describing is significantly harder than it sounds if you want it done right:

1. For starters you need a few rounds of concepts to make sure it's in the style of the rest of the game. This is relatively easy and low cost as it just requires you to doodle up some new character designs on paper. Unless you hired an outside freelancer or studio to handle the concepts for you, in which case you might have to bite the bullet and rehire them with a new round of contract talks and payments.

2. Next up you need to model the new body type. You might have various levels of detail depending on where and how the model is used so let's say you have to build that model five times instead of once. Oh right! You might also have this character appear in a cinematic which changes based on which character the player chooses. Right so that's a CRAP ton of extra work and time lost creating the high rest assets and animations. Oh well, we need to get rid of those abs so let's forge ahead without thinking of the costs this will accrue.

3. Now you weight and rig the model so the bones will deform the shape when you move them to animate the character. Now you could potentially skip portions of this step if you use the existing animation rig, but would those burly, young-man animations look good on a palsied, old-man character? Probably not. I mean if you're complaining about six pack abs on an old man, which could have been earned by carrying MOUNTAINS OF BOOKS, then I have to assume you wouldn't accept non unique animations either.

4. Which brings us to the animations. Every time you produce a new rig you have to reanimate everything. By hand. That's like two hundred to a thousand animations depending on the depth and detail of the character. OH! Did you think you could easily skip this part by dropping in some motion captured animations? Yeah, sorry to burst that bubble, but that's super goddamned expensive. It often requires the contracting of an outside studio to handle both the hiring and direction of the physical acting necessary to get those movements and poses done right. Few studios can just pony up the dough like that. Secondly bringing the animations into the file isn't perfect either. They often arrive with strange jerks and pops that are referred to as noise. These still need to be cleaned up by hand, which is still a whole lot of extra work.

All of this is a very strong argument to having a variety of characters because in game development you have Time, Money, and Quality, and you can only pick two. Having a handful of really well defined characters works for some game, but in an RPG like Amalur you have a lot more content then you would find in another type of game, so sometimes quality has to take back seat to both time and money.