The character portrait – be it for a PC or NPC – is a time-honored tradition. If you lack any artistic skills technology has fortunately been able to offer an alternative, but these options have historically been expensive and difficult to use. How about a photorealistic option that’s totally free? Read on!

Models Not Required

While 3D modeling packages have routinely been out of the reach of most of us either due to price or complexity. They require you to hunt down skeletal models, textures, and thats before you start wrestling with using the software.

Enter EVE Online, the MMORPG/space simulator published by CCP, available for both Windows and OS X. What you may not realize is that this game includes an incredibly robust avatar creator, the likes of which we haven’t had available for mere mortals to use until now.

This does come with a few caveats:

  • The client is a multi-GB download
  • The trial is free, but will end after two weeks. Ultimately CCP wants you to subscribe to their game. You could create a new account, however.
  • Humans only — aliens need not apply
  • For anything beyond a head shot, your only clothing options are modern/sci-fi in appearance

A blow-by-blow tutorial is beyond the scope of this post, however I do encourage you to visit some of the work done over at Dead End Thrills. Absolutely. Breath. Taking.

If you are interested in some great tips on using the avatar creator, take a look at this nice tutorial.

What’s really neat about the editor is that you can adjust the background, lighting, pose your character, and even adjust their emotional responses!

Why Bother?

Visual aides are great inspiration in your games, be it people, places, or objects. Certainly in the quest to make a memorable NPC being able to easily provide a photorealistic portrait for your key characters can only help. Clearly your players will appreciate the tool as well, if so inclined. Also see Phil’s article on tips for using character portraits in your games.

Have any portraits to share? Link them below!