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!

About  Don Mappin

For nearly 30 years RPGs have been a staple of Don’s life — so that means he’s pretty old. Author of a dozen RPG books, Don has worked with companies such as ICE, Last Unicorn Games, Decipher, and AEG. He now spends his time working in IT management, enjoying his family and two children, or gaming.



3 Responses to Visualize This!

  1. I never thought of using Eve for character models, but the art on the links is positively breathtaking. If only they would release a $5 module of just the avatar generator, because unless you’re running on FIOS that’s a heck of a download. My only other gripe is that those kinds of headshots require a serious amount of time (if you’re a perfectionist, like me).

    This makes me highly anticipatory of the World of Darkness MMO CCP is putting out…someday.

  2. The Eve avatar creator is excellent, for sure. But for those of us who want more than two weeks, and don’t like Eve, there are some other, free options thanks to the recent deluge of free-to-play MMOs.

    Decent for human, elf, dwarf, and halfling, fantasy only: Lord of the Rings Online
    http://lotro.com

    Very customizable, sliders for almost every dimension imaginable, excellent for human, elf, orc, tiefling, and tons of other races. A surprising amount of fantasy content, but even better for sci-fi and superheroes.: Champions Online
    http://www.champions-online.com

    Similar level of customizability to Champions Online, and perhaps even more in some respects, geared towards Sci-Fi, but can make pretty much anything. Just to try it out, I made a passable Dwarf with the available tools. Star Trek Online (not free to play until January, but available without a time limit now)
    http://www.startrekonline.com

    With all three of these free, there are some excellent tools available.

  3. Dead End Thrills is pretty awesome. I will be frequenting that site in the future for pictures.

    Not related to character portraits, National Geographic’s Picture of the Day archive has some very cool pictures to use for campaign visuals.

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