I think a good approach would be to show something like this, when the player first enters the character creation field to choose a fantasy Race...

[Linked Image from i.ibb.co]

Not that they need to be all silhouetted out as skiagrams like that (although I really do like that approach, because it simplifies the overall visual) but just the idea that the player is shown an exemplar of each fantasy racial type, all presented together in a single image. That way one can see the differences in phenotype (basic body shape or height) along with some of the major distinguishing features that are easy to recognize at a glance, like the pointy ears and whatnot.

Unlike what we'd probably find in a nicely polished illustration, where things like hairstyle or fashion/clothing or the surrounding background environment can all be used together to help differentiate the various fantasy races in more specific contexts, in a D&D game (where this stuff is more setting/culture neutral or undefined) I think it would help to strip away all the minor detailing to really highlight what's unique about each in general terms - or general visual forms in this case.

So, just like sketching things out in a drawing, where you want to start with the big stuff first and get that dialed before you start detailing, you'd begin with the full body like that.

I'd use the example of the black mirror

The black mirror is an old artist's tool, which compresses/eliminates extraneous visual information, so the artist can focus on what's truly important - things like basic shape or basic tone/contrast. It simplifies the color 'values' to eliminate the midtones and plays up the basic forms. Sort of the opposite of a traditional photograph in that way. In a photograph, say a BW photo on film, the camera captures a ton of detail automatically, and does much of the work of rendering the subject flat and where we can see all the very fine gradients. The black mirror flips that on its head, by just forcibly removing a lot of that information. We are all probably carrying a black mirror in our pocket right now actually. If you don't power on your smartphone it can work in exactly the same way! When you observe a subject or an image reflected on that black surface you can see what I mean with how it works. The same can be achieved simply by squinting your eyes in most cases, but the black mirror makes it even easier.

So the idea in this case would be to do the same for fantasy race, i.e. make sure I can tell the difference between an Elf and a Human, in the black mirror. And if I can't then you go back to the drawing board a bit, until I can! hehe

Much of the conversation in this thread has been about faces. What specifically makes for a good Elven face or a good Elven head, but instead of hanging up on the minutia there, I'd try to go more black mirror with it. Start with the body phenotypes, so that they're actually distinct, then move to the faces.

Any human face/head should be able to morph into an idealized Elf face/head, after it's run through a couple simple permutations. In previous posts I mentioned larger eyes, or larger pupils relative to the size of the iris (where the Elf pupil could be significantly larger compared to a Humans pupil) as something that works beyond just the pointy ears. I think the eyebrows might work in a similar sort of way, with Elf brows being more angular say. But again really focusing on making those features pretty easy to distinguish from the standard Human versions of the same. I should be able to see the same "face" change from Human to Elf (or Dwarf or Halfling or Tief etc) with the various forms morphing to give the fantasy race version of the base face. Same deal with the body phenotype, where it makes sense. Like if I choose a very skinny body, I should still be able to tell the difference between a skinny human and a skinny elf, if that makes sense. Because they'd have that different base 'silhouette' to build from.

I mention the body type silhouette thing mainly because, even if they wanted to have Elf and Human faces remain virtually identical aside from the ears, they could still convey a distinction by having the bodies be somewhat different in scale or things like that. In the movies and shows or cosplay that doesn't work as well, where the differences are conveyed mainly through makeup and wardrobe choices, but because this is a computer game I think it's a bit simpler to execute here. That was basically the approach in BG1/2 with the avatars and paper dolls, which could still convey the differences in type regardless of the chosen portrait, or the chosen "head/face" in the case of BG3. I'd go with height as the big one, and probably do more differentiation in standard height than that image above would suggest (I just snapped it up from a quick google search). In BG3 we get that neck-up view in cutscene, which makes things tricky, but I think they could still do something there with camera angle and things like pupil size or eyebrows or cheekbone flare etc for their closeups.

In closeup I think Spock eyebrows for Elves would be an easy one. I mean where the arch of the brow at the supercilium continues to flare upwards rather than returning back down again towards the ears. Essentially shaving off the down brow or making it just very faint like an aspect of their complexion rather than eyebrow hair. I don't mean just like a gentle plucking to keep things tidy here, but actually giving them a more consistent sweep/shape throughout. Just like when you see a Vulcan or Romulan wearing a hood, you can still tell what's up, from the Spock eyebrows alone hehe. Stuff like that is more detailing oriented though, they still need to get the body stuff dialed first. The difference between Elves and Humans should be fairly easy to pick out. Half-Elves complicate the situation a bit, so I'd just have them default to the Humans body proportions (rather than defaulting to Elf body proportions like they did in BG1/2), but for the full Elves go a bit more extreme with it. Even if Lae'zel can't tell really the difference, I'd like to be able to lol.

Also, thanks for the kind words there Ragitsu! haha! Since these boards have no feedback reactions, it can be pretty hard to tell what people think of a given thought or idea sometimes. Like I'll spend an hour trying to write something, only to wonder if anyone ever even read it lol. So that was nice to catch a nod there. Take care and see ya on the next round!


ps. here this is what I'm talkin about... In BG3 the Elf body phenotype is indistinguishable from that of the Human or the Half-Elf, since the bodies are actually identical, just with a different head tacked on.

[Linked Image from i.ibb.co]

I think it's helpful to see the images together, since the cycler (only showing 1 selection at a time) obfuscates what's going on and makes some of this stuff appear to be a lot more variable than it actually is.

Nothing has really changed much for the heads, since the patch where I put em all together, so again here are the Elf heads in BG3...

[Linked Image from i.ibb.co]

Even if these are all "too Human" for one's taste, perhaps if combined with a unique body/racial phenotype, they could still get something going for an overall presentation that would carry a bit better than it does currently. Sure it's a little more work for the animators to give us a unique phenotype for Elves, but I think it would be worth it. Because unlike say Tieflings, where the horns and tails are a dead give away, Elves are just a lot easier to confuse with Humans. With Half-Elves that seems fine, but for the full Elves not so much. Right now, if someone was wearing a Helmet or a Hood you wouldn't be able to tell the difference at all. I think that's a bit of an issue. I should be able to pick out an Elf the same way I can pick out a Dwarf or an Orc. They could do some of that with selective dress, sure, but not quite to the same extent that can be done in a movie or a show - where the Elves can all look and dress in a particular art nouveau or Roman-esque style, or where all the Humans can be like Monty Python peasants or dressed like Vikings or whatever, with different hair trends and fashions and such to set them apart. Here clothing and hair etc is all much more interchangeable, so you'd need a bit more at the base. I'd like to think this is something they'd probably do, or already be working on, since it seems obvious enough, but because it's not in there now and perhaps might not be unless someone asks, that's why I'd be asking for it.

pps. I wish the character creator could load more than one visual at a time. Here's a kind of concept where once you'd select the main silhouette for fantasy race you'd branch from that general category to a subrace view first, before actually entering into the details with all facial variety and whatnot...

[Linked Image from i.ibb.co]

[Linked Image from i.ibb.co]

That one is just a quick rescale to show Elves downscaled at like 95% of the current Human frame.

Last edited by Black_Elk; 10/09/22 10:00 AM.