By Aaron Coberly February 9th, 2011 Hello, I’m Aaron Coberly, character art lead for Guild Wars 2 and former character art lead for the original Guild Wars, Factions, and Nightfall. I want to give everyone a state-of-the-game update about where our characters are now and where we expect them to be when we ship. Human Spotlight Week seems like a great chance to talk about our character art, using human characters as examples. Let’s take a look. The character work for GW2 has been very exciting and rewarding for us. We’ve had a lot of upgrades in technology for this game: normal maps, real reflections, per vertex specular, new skin shaders, more polygons… I could talk forever about the new technologies, but I would probably bore you all. Suffice it to say, we’re very happy with where we are and where we’re going with the visual design of characters and creatures. Being Human The humans in Guild Wars 2 story are very much like the humans in the original Guild Wars, but they have all united to survive as a race. Visually, we have made many improvements to our character models since Guild Wars, as you can see in this side-by-side comparison of human females from both games. While our tools and capabilities have improved, we still adhere to our same goals of making fantasy characters that convey a sense of idealized realism. In Guild Wars, we’ve always tried to make the player feel heroic and the characters in the game have reflected the beauty and mystery of the world around them. In Guild Wars 2, professions will not be as visually distinct. Instead, we’re dividing up the appearance by weight class. For instance, if you’re a warrior, you share the heavy armor class with the guardian (so far). The advantage to this approach is that you have access to all the heavy armors instead of just one branch. The slight drawback is that you won’t have as unique a look for your profession, but the added variety and more robust customization allow you to personalize your character and create your personal identity. Character customization With Guild Wars 2, we’re adding a great deal of visual customization. Our armor is divided into six interchangeable parts: helmet/headgear, shoulders, coat, legs, gloves, and boots. We are also introducing the ability to have one piece of armor replace multiple pieces. For example, if your human warrior has an elaborate coat with built-in shoulders and helmet, this is available as one piece and replaces the three pieces on your body. This principle also works with full outfits. Designing armor this way allows us to create outfits that don’t have to adhere to the modular design, allowing for greater diversity. In Guild Wars 2, we’re also introducing a new and improved dye system to facilitate customization; Kristen Perry talks about the dye system in a previous post. At one point we calculated that six interchangeable armor pieces (each having between one and three dyeable areas) multiplied by the amount of armor we’re producing equals over a billion unique looks for each character. Currently, we’re refining our body and face customization system. I want you to know that Guild Wars 2 will have face customization that lets you modify your features and a body-shape system that gives you control over your character’s proportions. We’ll talk about customization in greater depth in the future, but rest assured that it’s a key element of character creation. Armor and clothing design When we design armors and clothing for the game, it’s important that they look believable when worn by your character. Metal, leather, cloth, and all the other materials should have a distinct feel to them—you should be able to tell the difference between leather, cotton, and silk. When it comes to aesthetics, we try to have a lot of diversity. I know there have been and always will be debates, especially in the fantasy genre, over the realism of game armor. With Guild Wars 2 we want to make armors that both suit the profession and make your character look good. Whether it’s a warrior wearing strategically placed bits of metal and leather or a full-on tank covered from head to toe with metal, we want to have something for everyone–as you see in the following human character designs. I would like to say a quick word about where we stand when it comes to the “sexiness” of our armors and costumes. This is a controversial subject that I encounter frequently on forums and message boards—not just about Guild Wars, but about a lot of games. I understand that many players feel that armor should be practical, realistic, and shouldn’t leave skin exposed to attack. When coming up with ideas for armor, the character and concept department try to balance the practical with the fantasy. We make armor that looks protective and functional, but we also make armor that looks sexy and shows a generous level of strategically placed skin. We recognize the “fantasy” aspect of our game; if you are able to rain down balls of fire from the sky, your clothing should not be a factor when it comes to body temperature, whether you are wearing your underwear or a fur coat. We’ve always intended to create outfits for male and female characters that are appealing and attractive without making our players feel uncomfortable about what their character or other player-characters are wearing. I think that Guild Wars has been very successful in this regard, and we will continue to make outfits that adhere to this philosophy. Wrapping up Thanks for taking a look at the state of character design with me. This time around, we focused on human character design in our examples, but I can’t wait to share some norn character design in the weeks ahead. Talk to you then!