Dev Blog #1 - Art Style & Characters in Multiverse

Dev Blog #1 - Art Style & Characters in Multiverse

Multiverse Team

Originally written 10/30/2019, some information may be out of date or have changed.

Making Content Easy

One of the first questions we had to answer when building Multiverse was how to ensure you can bring any character to life, without compromising aesthetics and design. We are prioritizing making the process easy, it's always important to us to make something that is accessible to players across the world.

Pixel art was the natural choice. It's timeless, a bit nostalgic and it's one of the most popular game styles out there. It was flexible enough to match any campaign.

Seeing yourself in Multiverse

Multiverse is about roleplaying, we wanted to make a character creator where anyone could bring their vision to life. As we started talking about character generators, we knew we wanted to value inclusion. We researched what had worked in other games, and what tradeoffs looked like in order to make that happen.

The Squint Test & The Tradeoffs

A way of measuring this was something that we called the "Squint test". We found that for many games on average if you squinted, all the characters made within character generators ended up looking the same.

Monster Hunter can change eyebrow styles but not body types.

The "squint" test is telling of the tradeoffs that a character generator has to make. Customization such as skin color, eyes, noses, etc. are almost trivial to add, but any change to a body type or silhouette multiplies the amount of work you have to do. Every new body type needs new animations, with adjustments to any armor or clothes you design, etc.

Regardless of the workload we still wanted this level of customization because it's important to us and we knew it would be important to others as well. We want to be represented and want others to feel represented as well.

Silhouettes & Body Types

Besides inclusion, the reason we are prioritizing a wide variety of silhouettes and body types is the point of view in game. In order to keep characters recognizable from this birds-eye view demands non-interchangeable body types. It's also what makes for more compelling designs.

So which character generators were good at the squint test? One example we liked was World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft launched with 8 races (now up to 18), each with distinct silhouettes and male/female forms. You could never mistake a Troll for an Orc no matter how much you squinted.  Further, classes had their own armor silhouettes, so a paladin looked distinct from a sorcerer. Now there is an issue with how the exaggeration of silhouettes are limited on gender lines, but that's a conversation for later.

The Multiverse Generator

Alright, these are the goals:

  1. To have the tools for variety that can keep up with a player's imagination.
  2. Make it easy for the average player to make characters with an accessible style for creators to add content.

This was what our first pass at humanoid figures looked like:

It didn't quite pass the squint test, variety wasn't clear enough when models lined up next to each other. Height range was the main distinction, but body types weren't there yet.

This was our updated character templates -playing around with race options as well- after review and revision. A clearer distinction in body types, a more significant difference in silhouettes. We attempted redistribution of proportions, and suggestions of build for more interesting results.

With variety comes complexity. For example, if you make a new piece of armor you now need to make 18 different versions of it.

By adding this complexity, we need to take it out somewhere else. If our "complexity budget" is too high, no one will make their own characters on Multiverse.

Animations: Characters vs Effects

Another solution to reduce complexity was a tough one to come to terms with: removing animations from characters altogether. There would be only one static image per character. Instead, we would double down on effects.

Walk animations can be done simply with a bobbing motion.

Animations like this are additive. They can be used on any character, human or creature regardless of body type assets, etc.

A system like this always leaves room to add, and we believe limitations allow for more interesting creative solutions.

Your Turn

Again, this is all in the service of customization. We're building Multiverse so that as a creator you can make characters, armor, weapons, NPCs, ability effects, environments, decorations, and more using tools that are familiar to you

We can't wait to see what you make... we just gotta do our part first.