Sunday, July 8, 2012

Advances in Skyrim Characters

Skyrim is not an easy game to make attractive characters in. As usual, Bethsoft really half-assed the textures, and whoever does their face work needs to go back to admiring Picasso and get the hell out of the gaming field.

I was still running old replacers -- stuff left over from a month or two after the game was released -- so I decided to go through and update to newer, more refined beautifyin' products.

Namely: UNP (by Dimon99; who is not only a hell of a body modder, but a hell of a nice person to boot), the "Blessed" UNP revision (I like my women with curves, what can I say?), and Coverwomen (seamless-for-UNP #4 specifically -- the one with no makeup).

Sadly, I still haven't gotten lipstick to work with anyone but the player; but the other colors -- around the eyes, cheeks, nose, forehead, and neck -- all work well.

Through some trial and error, and reading others' travails it seems that the main issues with Skyrim's faces are that by default the eyes are too close together, the nose too long and low, mouth too high, and chin too long. Even with everything moved, the nose where the bridge meets the brow up between the eyes is oversized and looks like they hired one of Roddenberry's alien designers. I haven't tried a new head mesh since the frontrunners I've looked at over on the Nexus look like crap. I can deal with spot at the top of the nose to keep all my avatars and NPCs from looking quite that surreal, thanks.

And now, for the screens:

This was one of the player characters I sadly lost to corruption before learning about the SPF console command. I wish I had known about it; because I haven't been able to recreate her despite a couple attempts.

While it wasn't intentional, after creating her I got to looking and noticed she looked an awful lot like Milla Jovovich -- albeit with some extra meat on her.

I'm not much on long hair on warrior women (as you may have already guessed) but when I saw this one in the chargen I just had to use it. It just looked so... right on her. Plus, I think a Nord archer woman constantly bitching about how hard it is to take care of that hair in the rough conditions would be so cute...

This is my latest character; whose saves will hopefully not corrupt and die. If they do, though, I've already saved her face for creating a preset NPC out of.

Toyed a bit with the "me" face preset some too... but as in previous games there just isn't much in the way of quality male textures or meshes. Plus I'm not all that attractive, so no character based on me is going to end up in the running for "Sexiest man alive" in the first place. Nope, working with female characters is so much easier.

Haven't really been resting on my laurels where my girls are concerned, either:

I'm still trying to work out a balance on their skin that has them properly pale without being neon... but I think I've worked out the facial features considerably better than in previous attempts. Though the difference in head meshes in games continues to make it all but impossible to directly copy their previous looks.

This was less a screenshot of Maeva; and more my amusement at the notion that as much as we all hate Skyrim shadows and their jaggy looks and performance destroying tendencies... they managed to properly cast her horns. But not her hair, for some damned reason. Oh well, take what you can get and all that, right?

Also, I love the way that Dragonscale crown clips with Natasha's hair. It just looks amazing and dare I say? Realistic. Or at least, insofar as an object made of something that doesn't exist can be realistic.

Now if I could just work out getting their lips the correct colors again.

When my saves started pooching regularly, I got into the habit of trying to create followers from the player characters -- since I rarely create the same character twice in chargen, but liked several of my PCs enough to have them hanging around my home(s) in subsequent games.

Thus was Nos' Lesser Skyrim Followers.esp born...

This was my attempt to recreate the above Milla look-alike player character from those handful of screenshots. Sadly, not only did it not go real well, but I found that that NPCs in the game can't be readily given scars like the player can. This screwed up the character some, since in the original draft she had scars on the right side of her face, but wore her hair long in the front and over that side to try to hide them from plain view. It also looks like I screwed up the eye makeup. May have to take another stab at that some time...

Granted, Skadi is a bit shorter than default player height; but this last shot also illustrates once again just how freaking big Maeva is (canonically, 6'6"; but it tends to vary a bit based on the exact game engine that's rendering her at the time).

Skadi is a light armor/archery build with a minor in one-handed weapons and sneaking. Pretty standard character build for me, since death-from-afar-while-hiding is my SOP in most of these games.

This is pretty much what you think it is. I didn't really like the default Aela's follower behavior, nor having to go through the Companions' questline to get access to her as a follower. So... I cloned her.

Also, I appear to have installed a replacer that makes Draugr armor see-through on women. Don't recall having done that... but it sounds like something I would do, yeah.

Aela's Evil Clone is essentially Aela, just stuck into the EFF/XFL system that I'm going to have to do a writeup on someday, as it's a very nice system that I like quite a bit. Anyway, she's still Aela -- same voice, same combat style, same inventory; just without the quest-related dialogue, and the training ability (which I was too lazy to put in as it requires writing new dialogue -- there's no generic trainer dialogue in the game; it's all NPC specific). Even kept the same athletic body type.

This is Raven, another salvaged PC. I had decided I wanted to play a dark elf for some reason, but used the ridiculously long hair of the Milla build, 'cuz hey; elf. Elves are supposed to have long pretty hair, or something. After the amount of time I spent de-uglying her face in the chargen, I had to make her a follower when the saves went kerflooie. She was supposed to have scars, too.

She's a similar build to Skadi above; but with more sneaky sneaky and less melee. I may have also thrown in some low-level destruction; I can't remember and I'm not firing up the SuCK to check.

I always have to have at least one vampire follower in any fantasy game, and here she is. I reached waaay back into my brief teenage association with the Goth scene (you think I'm bad now? should have known me back then...) and named her Katheryn. I resisted the urge to tack on "Darkemoon" as a family name for maximum cheese.

She's a dual-wield assassin type, with a minor in archery. I did cheat a bit and remove the sun-damage trait from her vampirism, just for playability sake. She is also short and slim.

This is a bit of a break for me; as this character is not an original design of mine, nor a salvaged player character.

There's a slightly silly (and very adult) flash-based game called Slave Maker 3 that I found some years ago, which revolves around training characters to be proper slaves for later sale and whatnot. It uses pictures collected from around the interwebz to display the characters, and so nearly all the possible "slaves" are in fact video game or anime characters. It's one of those games that makes me feel I may have more mental issues than I generally give myself credit for... but the stat-training and min/maxing nature is engaging when I'm feeling micromanagery.

Anyhow. In said game, there's a courtier you can run into by the name of Lady Farun; who is one of the more prominent nobles in the kingdom. While an original character as far as I know, all the art that depicts Farun is actually of a character from an old console fighting game -- I can't remember offhand if it was King of Fighters or the first DoA. After a bout of play that apparently lasted too long and too late, I began to think one night that Farun was the sort of character who would be fun to have in Skyrim; so I threw one together and put her in the Blue Palace for recruitment.

Since the various artists of the collected artwork used in the game never came to a consensus on details like which side her hair parts on, and whether her eyes are blue or green; I just based the companion roughly on the art, and filled in the blanks from my own aesthetics -- going with the hair that I thought looked best in the preview window, and blue eyes (not a huge fan of green eyes, personally); some heavier eyeliner as seems to be perennially popular in royal courts.

I have to say... the result was far better than I expected; and while maybe not "stunning", she certainly did turn out damned nicely as far as Skyrim goes.

The Lady Farun character in the game wasn't really a combat character, so the class was left completely up to me. I decided that a courtier in Solitude would most likely do things the Imperial way -- heavy armor, sword and shield. I was mostly planning on using her as eyecandy around one or another of my player houses, so the class wasn't all that important... but I hate making companions that can't be used if necessary.

Lastly, there's also a Mjoll Evil Clone... but she doesn't work. I'm not sure whether I selected an incorrect voice type or what, but she won't speak to the player at all. I spent last night's play time fighting with mods and play-testing to see whether their removal broke anything or improved anything; so haven't really had a chance to pop back into the SuCK to try and fix her. It's a shame, really -- I gave her a copy of Grimsever and everything.

I'll probably regret it (I usually do) but I'm strongly considering actually releasing the 'lesser companions' plugin once I get Evil!Mjoll working right.

...Also, it's been a couple hours and I've been reading TES generals in another tab off and on long enough that now that I'm out of screenshots, my train of thought is completely destroyed. So I think I'll just shut up now.


  1. Nice to see Maeva looking pretty much like her old self; she's still my favorite NosCo character.

    Alas, this sort of thing is something else that I've not gotten around to yet. Somewhere in the back of my mind is this dread that if I start, I'll end up with a plugin with about 100 characters and no decent companion scripts to give them...

  2. "Nice to see Maeva looking pretty much like her old self; she's still my favorite NosCo character."

    She'll be glad to hear that. Damned demon still hasn't stopped bitching about the last time I posted her Skyrim screenies; when she got called ugly.

    "Alas, this sort of thing is something else that I've not gotten around to yet. Somewhere in the back of my mind is this dread that if I start, I'll end up with a plugin with about 100 characters and no decent companion scripts to give them..."

    If you're meaning Skyrim, I wouldn't worry. They don't even need scripts attached, anymore. None of mine have them. It's one of the few things not totally screwed up in Skyrim. You need a script attached to make them a trainer, or add some special functionality... but most normal stuff (follow, stay, go home, draw/sheath weapons when player does, etc) is all handled automatically.

    Just about everything is handled through dialogue and AI packages; and v1.6 has finally fixed the issue where NPCs weren't automatically leveling with the player; so you don't have to use 'stat trainer' workarounds for companions anymore.

    Default combat styles still suck, but I can forward you copies of the ones I've been using. They've seemed to do a pretty good job thus far. Made awful short work of the hired thugs that were dumb enough to try to jump me coming out of my tower earlier.

  3. In case you had not noticed, Maeve is my favourite as well! Always has been, I believe. Her incarnation in your Skyrim game is appropriately intimidating. Not to mention she looks like she really would eat your soul, if given enough incentive to do so.

    Raven and Katheryn turned out rather well in my opinion (and oddly enough, I have a friend named Kathy with a daughter Raven), and although Lady Farun turned out well also, she seems a wee bit too...matronly for me. But it is your game, so that is somewhat irrelevant.

    1. Farun didn't get a lot of background detail in SM3. No mention of age or history or such. What detail there was revolved heavily around her particular predilections; which don't really figure into Skyrim.

      I had taken her to be in her late 20's to early 30's; but having emotional maturity and a more unflappable nature. Could be taken as matronly, I suppose.