Sveinbjörn Magnússon, art producer on EVE Online
The decision to move forward and evolve our character creation system brought not only new art assets but also introduced new technical hurdles and pipelines connected to the art creation process.
Fortunately, CCP maintains a strong relationship between the art, technical art, and core technology departments, which made it possible for the artists to stay true to their vision -- up to 4096 x 2048 pixels in texture resolution on the most powerful machines, with over 6000 triangles at the highest LOD for character faces and over 30,000 triangles for a full character at the highest LOD.
The versatility of the sculpting system in particular is something we're pleased with. The simplicity of use in creating an in-game persona with the new character creation system may seem trivial to the user but there were a number of technical challenges to be overcome by CCP in making this happen.
We wanted to build a system with real depth yet one that doesn't mire users in complexity.
To those of us in the art department, this meant months of work: creating a wide array of blend shapes so that EVE Online players can mold and pose characters to their liking via direct manipulation of 3D models; asymmetrical facial expressions that can be controlled at will; creating a large number of texture compositions ranging from makeup to different colors and styles of jackets that can be swapped with the click of a button; and runtime blending of texture maps to go hand-in-hand with those expressions and animations.
In addition, NVIDIA Apex simulation lets us imbue avatars with flowing hair and richly textured clothing. This injects even more realism into the character creation system that players will experiment with in EVE Online's Incursion expansion and beyond.
We hope this has given you some insight into what it takes to refactor a system of this magnitude and urge you to check out some of the screenshots and videos posted by the EVE Online community, or simply see it for yourself on Singularity.
This is just the first step in delivering the long-awaited Incarna functionality currently slated for a 2011 release which will be an absolutely unique experience.