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<  3D Aesthetics  ~  Stylisation in character design and modelling

Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:12 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
At Tale of Tales, we have always been interested in stylisation. We don't see much point in striving for visual (photographic) realism. Mostly because we consider the quality of realtime pieces to depend on a harmony between all the constituent parts. A realistic looking character with a wooden walk cycle in a rigid interaction scheme (i.e. most commercial games) is the opposite of this. Harmony can (theoretically) be achieved by making everything look and feel photographically realistic (never achieved on this planet to this very day) or by simplifying some parts of the whole so that everything hovers at the same level, where a high quality experience can be achieved.

Stylisation in game character design is most often found in humorous games. But we are currently interested in finding a style that is suitable for serious topics.

This thread aims to be a survey of different attempts at stylized characters in 3D (realtime or otherwise). Please add any examples that you know. Thank you.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:17 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


The Psychonauts characters, in my opinion, are very nice in stills. But don't work in realtime somehow.



Grim Fandango (also by Tim Schafer) is more succesful in my opinion, in terms of character design. And also more suitable for non-humorous topics. But the stylized skull heads are of course an easy solution (though I have nothing against easy solutions, as long as they are clever and original).
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:25 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Animal Crossing proves that a believable universe can be created with cartoon characters with big heads as long as the other parts of the game are on the same level of simplification. I have doubts if this style can be used for serious topics, though. Especially because the seriousness might require a little less simplification in behaviour, animation, expression and textures.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:31 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Although you hardly see them in the interactive parts of the game (they are tiny), the characters in Katamari Damacy are great. Perfectly unsuitable for an serious topic, though, because they have very limited potential for expressiveness.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:21 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Viewtiful Joe and Okami may seem like obvious examples in this thread to some. But in fact, I think they're not. Because they simply make their 3D look like 2D and that's not what we're looking for.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:25 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


A more interesting approach to 2D characters, in my opinion, is Project Rub, though I have yet to see this game in motion.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:28 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


There's of course, always, the sublime example of Ico. Especially the design and rendering of Yorda is fascinating, though it may not go far enough in terms of stylisation for our current purpose.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:39 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Michel Ocelet's Azur & Asmar animation movie has an interesting style that combines lush 2D backgrounds with simple flat surfaces of clothing and pelt and fully 3D shaded heads and hands. Not sure how well this would translate to realtime, though.

Also of interest is the "stiffness" or "abstraction" of poses and the (often symmetrical) composition of the screen that add to the stylised feeling, as if the characters are meant to be archetypes or symbols rather than humans (which may be what we're looking for...).


Last edited by Michael on Sun Oct 29, 2006 7:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 7:35 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


The smooth characters in Shadow of Memories show another approach that stays closer to realism than we are looking for at the moment.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 7:39 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


There's something about the characters in Beyond good and evil that rubs me the wrong way. But there's no denying that they are one of the most succesful attempts at making a kind of stylisation that we usually only see in 2D, work in realtime 3D.

But I feel that what we need, is a kind of stylsation that is purely 3D. Not a translation of a 2D original. But a style born out of realtime 3D.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 7:46 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


The ultra-flat shading in Killer 7 and the special effects are definitely born out of the medium, even though the result looks almost 2D. But there is very little stylisation happening on the level of shapes: everything has normal proportions.
So, as in Project Rub, it's more a matter of stylisation in rendering than in design or modeling of characters.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:16 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Bad Day LA is not exactly pretty, but -as far as I can tell- features a unique approach to fusing 2D and 3D styles: weakly shaded 3D shapes with hand-drawn 2D details.




And though a lot of the fan art it inspired tends to look better that the game, American McGee's Alice is also interestingly stylised (even if it was partly for technical reasons).
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:48 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
And while on the topic of low poly beauty, we should mention the first Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto III.



Coincidentally, both masterpieces in both aesthetics and game design that had a large number of sequels that never matched the original in either.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:57 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


Galleon also tries to render in 3D a style that works very well in 2D, but less succesfully, in my opinion, than Beyond Good and Evil.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:05 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium


The characters in Forbidden Siren show not so much stylisation, but a rather creative use of the Uncanny Valley. It seems like the characters are walking around with video textures pasted on their faces and it looks very eerie. Almost photographically realistic but not quite, which fits very well with the uneasy horror theme of the game.



The girl's body is very interestingly stylised, though. But the zombies wouldn't stand out in Doom II at all! Wink
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