At Face Value: Character Portraits!

Posted on August 22, 2013 by Adam

We may be going to pun-hell, but at least you get pretty pictures out of it, courtesy of our friend Björn Sorensen. Check out his portfolio!


Building a Face

This is our first art prototype for building drawn character portraits from various layers. The goal is to combine and re-use various parts (face shapes, clothing, backgrounds, body parts, scars, decorations, alien features) to create a great variety of portraits.

Notice how much variety you get with just 2 variations for each body part! The final game will come with many more to fill in the ‘circular spectrum’ (explained below).


While the racial Variance stat has a significant impact on starting stats of characters, one of the other ways it comes into play is in how much people’s appearance varies from the ‘stereotype’ built in race creation. A Variance of 0 means everyone from your race are clones matching your ‘stereotype’ perfectly, whereas a Variance of 10 would give them appearances that run the gamut.

Toying with Tinting

Another source of variation is tinting layers. This gives us the opportunity to create variations in skin color, eye color or even scar and decoration color.

The problem with tinting is that you can’t just change the hue of a face and expect it to look natural. We started out with the faces in black and white because we thought that it would be easier to tint to whatever color we’d like.

It turns out that if you start with a caucasian light skin, it’s easier to tint to different colors using value, hue and saturation. This is because the skin has a lot of subtle color variation (the chin is colder than the fleshy cheeks and eyes).

Race Creation Facial Spectrum

The way that we define this variation is by creating a sort of ‘circular spectrum’ of shapes for each part of the portrait, where neighbouring elements are considered similar and opposites are, well, opposites. When choosing each part at race creation, you are in effect defining the center point from which the generated portraits will stray away based on how high the racial Variance stat is.



What do you think of us favouring 2D drawn portraits over 3D models? Any special facial features or decorations you’d like to see?

We’re counting on you to help us get the word out! Share our fan page on Facebook, talk about or retweet us on Twitter, chase strangers down the street, whatever it takes!


  • MaxShields - August 24, 2013

    This is a great way to approach variability in character appearances. Does this also mean that as characters develop, their appearance may change as well? Someone on the receiving end of a plasma grenade may end up with scarring that he didn’t originally have? Do characters age?

  • Adam - August 26, 2013

    Most definitely! As I’ve said before, we want to find as many ways as possible to convey the crew’s story. We definitely can see the value in character portraits showing the scars of epic battles and to be reminded who’s been with you since the beginning. Glad to see we’re thinking along the same lines!

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