Posted by: Xalthorn | October 4, 2007

Character poses and outfits

One thing that I will be doing with the Mondestia site is allowing a great deal of variety for displaying the characters in the game.  This will include the player avatar, the heroes for Dungeon Escape, and the NPCs found in the various games.

Rather than having to select from a range of pre determined graphical images, all characters will be drawn like the various ‘dress up’ dolls and avatars found on the web.  This means that there will be a base image, and then clothes and equipment are layered on top of that image.

The whole process is very straightforward, but planning ahead is essential.  For example, if I was to offer a single pose (and facing) and body type for male and female, then the layered clothing is easily done.  Create a single image for each piece of clothing for each sex (two if it wraps behind the character) and we’re done.

The complexity and planning comes in when you offer more poses, more facing directions, and more body types.  The body types having the greatest impact.

Now, for each item you want, you need the following number of images:

race * sex * bodytype * pose * facing

So if we had the following options:

  • Race : Human
  • Sex: Male, Female
  • Body Type: Standard, Thin, Heavy
  • Pose: Standing, Sitting, Combat
  • Facing: Forwards, Left, Right, Backwards

This would mean for each piece of clothing that could be worn by both sexes, I would need 72 images.  If I added another race that could also wear the same clothing, that would be another 72 images, and so on.

If I took the easy route and only allowed characters to stand up, and had just one body type, that would drop to  8 images per race (16 if I had a fighting stance as well). Certainy more manageable, but is it varied enough?

Top down RPGs usually have simple graphics for characters.  A walk cycle of three frames, the centre one doubling up as the ‘standing still’ frame, a total of 12 images per character with animation.  The combat system usually has a completely different, static image of the character which is usually larger and much more detailed.

Characters are rarely shown sitting down, the only other pose being a dead, or prone pose (rarely for heroes, usually random townsfolk or guards).

Taking this view, and incorporating the combat stance in the same system, I could limit the poses for each race to:

  • Sex: Male, Female
  • Body Type: Standard
  • Pose: Standing, Combat
  • Facing: Forwards, Left, Right, Backwards

This would give me 16 poses for each item for each race.  Not too bad, definitely manageable, but is it enough?  The last thing I want to do is decide later on that I want a sitting pose and have to go back and do new graphics for every item already designed, meaning that the new pose cannot be used until the graphics are complete.  On the other hand, I don’t want to spend time creating a whole bunch of images that I’ll never use.

As an aside, the standard body type works really well for anime style graphics where all people are pretty much the same, however it doesn’t allow for the huge brutish warriors.  Also, although they are unlikely to try to wear the same clothes as smaller body type characters, they may well want to equip the same weapons.

At the end of the day, it will come down to making a decision on the poses that will be available in the games, and sticking to it.  A little time spent roughing out the design for the other games I have in mind (the RPG being the main one) and what poses I think will be needed.



  1. sooo many combinations…this is why in Aethora you only get to choose from static models 🙂 I suppose it helps to have some artist talent (looks like you got it, I struggle). I’m going to be watching to see what you come up with, Xalthorn.

  2. Unfortunately it’s another one of those decisions where the desire to cover all bases needs to be reined in.

    It’s too tempting to say ‘ah what the heck, let’s do everything with a huge amount of diversity’ and then find yourself with a mammoth art task each time you want to add a single item.

    Scale this up each time you release a new character race, and before long the game becomes a victim of its own expectations with updates and releases taking longer and longer to get ready.

    At the start of the game, I could simply restrict the players to the Human race, but thinking that it will stay like that would be very short sighted. New races are a great way of adding more variety and interest to a game.

    I could argue that characters do not need to actually sit down, simply draw them next to or on the same square as a chair. This is certainly the way most RPGs work. In fact, as I mentioned, most RPGs work very happily with just the 12 images for each character and that gives animation.

    As I’m not having characters being animated as they ‘walk’ around the map, each view being a snapshot in time of the world, I can take that approach.

    This would mean that at the base level, I would only need four images for each variation of race/sex/build and that’s only if I also opt for build.

    I could also argue that the build is only used for significant differences, perhaps incorporating age. The build could also restrict the clothing worn, but not weapons as they are simply picked up.

    In other words, a child is unlikely to wear an adult outfit (especially in a work of fantasy) and the huge brutish warrior will probably wear clothing appropriate for his build rather than the lab coat worn by his studious companion.

    Having the player go to a shop and only be shown clothing appropriate for his character isn’t hard at all and would help reduce the graphic count significantly.

  3. I’ve been thinking again and I’m wondering how bad this is actually going to be.

    My intention is to render all of the artwork in the game using 3D character models and their associated clothing and equipment.

    Most outfits are designed for a particular model, certainly for a particular sex. For example, following accepted fantasy stereotypes (which Mondestia will be doing), men don’t tend to wear women’s clothing.

    The character models I’m intending to use are as follows:

    Standard man (young adult to old)
    Hugely muscular man
    Young male

    Standard woman (young adult to old)
    Hugely muscular woman
    Young woman

    These six models have outfits designed for them. Although some are designed to fit more than one, it’s not common.

    Racial differences are usually around the head, unless the race has a certain stance or build (dwarves are obviously shorter and stockier, orcs tend to be bulkier and stoop, etc).

    I’m wondering how acceptable it would be to players to only have outfits appropriate to their race and sex. In other words, set certain standards or outfit styles to reflect the general style of the race.

    I certainly intend for the characters to look physically different rather than the standard anime avatar look where everyone has the same body type (gaia online or most top down RPGs for example).

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