With this character customization update, we’re finally getting close to what we want the player characters in Island Skies to look like!
As we celebrate this milestone, we’ll walk through the history of our character visuals.
We started with all-in-one faces, a pre-made toon shader, and some VERY basic hair, that kind of looked like shells or blobs.
By the Kickstarter launch, we had separated the face features, and made hair with a much better flow.
This is when things started to feel good. The issue was we were using an “out of the box” toon shader that did not react well to different lighting scenarios, leading to an inconsistent look in different lighting scenarios. The technique for coloring the facial features was also fairly inflexible.
Here, you can see even though the rear characters are in shadow, the material reacts in unexpected and undesirable ways to the light changes happening in the scene.
At the time we were using a simple overlay to color the eyes as more global adjustments were all that version of the shader supported
We started building a new shader with a uniform custom lighting model and more complete color control. This would mean all assets in the scene would receive light in the same way whether they’re toon shaded or not, making everything feel much more cohesive.
We also made new hair assets to test a variety of shading methods with lower poly models, and new face features for testing.
From left to right: First is the default unity shader which reacts correctly to shadows, but is too reactive to environment light. This sometimes leads to undesirable results. This is especially visible with interiors, where objects can look too lit, or a bit metallic.
Second is the shader and lighting model we used during Kickstarter. This is too reactive to the main light, brightening even in the shadow areas, and not receiving any light from the environment.
The third is the current shader, which reacts correctly to shadows, and gives us the right amount of control over the ambient light.
When we got all the features from the original shader back into the new more robust version, we revised the face features to be more flexible and to add more depth, and decided to take a higher polygon lower texture approach to the hair. The models we had been working with were excellent testbeds, but didn’t accomplish what we wanted visually.
Now, additional hair color control will be available, along with separate eyelid and eyeball control, and the ability to more precisely control iris color.
Another change is to the eyelashes. Previously, the skin color was “multiplied” onto the eyelashes, meaning the eyelashes would always be darker than the skin. While this avoided unpleasant visuals in some cases, it meant some interesting customization options weren’t possible. We’ve changed this, and exposed the eyelash color control.
We’re still refining the visuals for different hair textures and skin features, and we’ll be sharing this soon! It’s super important to us to let players choose from a wide range of hairstyles, clothing, and face features, and we want to take the time to make sure every variety is looking just as good!
We’re very excited about the future of character customization! Things are finally starting to look the way we want. With these changes, we’re giving players more control than ever. With the new controls, it might be overwhelming or make it harder to get a look you’re happy with, or it could be that you’re looking for even deeper customization options. We’ll be monitoring this closely, and are looking forward to the feedback we get in the next test so we can make things even better!
Fluff and Love,
The Fluffnest Team