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GDC 2014: Character Customization in Destiny

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GDC 2014 Blog Header


Destiny box art
Bungie's exciting new sci-fi first-person shooter, Destiny, will have a heavy focus on player customization. The customization system is highly ambitious and unlike anything seen in a first-person shooter thus far. Scott Shepherd, 3D Technical Art Lead, shed some light on the tools and process Bungie built to create a large variety of high-quality character content. The customization system truly makes the most out of the world art created and allows for continued growth and expandability over the lifetime of the Destiny franchise.

Character Classes and Breakdown

Hunters: The hunters are the frontier scouts. They carry themselves with style, and their look reflects a mixing and matching vibe. The class is dressed in heavy cloaks and various types of masks. They wear lightweight armor; a hard chest plate over a Kevlar-like midsection. They wear loose fitting pants with a lot of pockets.

Destiny

Warlocks: These are warrior scholars. Seers and wandering monks. They wear long overcoats and robes and generally rely on their abilities. The design of Warlocks drew inspirations from wizards, shamans, and trench soldiers from World War I.

Titans: Knights of culture and tradition. They wear a badge showing where they are from or what they represent. They wear tight fitting rubber suits with large armor plates. They wear the heaviest armor and are the 'bruiser' character class of Destiny.

The beginning of the customization process boiled down to how to create different versions of these classes and to provide an investment in the customization. Many of the original designs had plenty of overlapping pieces, and it limited the artists.

The primary goal was to make the most out of their content.

Bits

Destiny characters-600x335

Bungie began to approach customization for characters on smaller and smaller terms by creating a host of arrangements in gear while being able to swap them easily. You can create something very different with little to no weight on the other teams.

Using a process called Mash Up, Bungie created their own custom character assembler. Any 'bit' or small piece of apparel could easily be brought in, resized, and retooled without breaking any of the single pieces. The team would start with the core of an item and then build off of it by pulling in various bits to piece together a completed equipment piece. Once the geometry was set, each bit could be altered on its appearance, giving it different shade and texture variations, etc.

Gear Manager

The Gear Manager was a tool that allowed Bungie to browse through various arrangements of bits. It permitted them to search a large directory to find pieces and to create small arrangements that could be combined into larger ones. The team wanted to make sure that the Gear Manager allowed a focus on building as opposed to searching for specific pieces. The program was outfitted with a variety of tags for easy organization.

Each player is allotted a total amount of unique memory for their gear. Geometry and texture memory is specified for each arrangement slot on a per class basis.

Allowing for both genders: taking fully built male gear was difficult to transform and alter into female gear. A few modifications were made to use for both male and female arrangements, such as various female bits in chest plates and pants that conformed more to feminine proportions. the vast majority of the content falls in line with both male and female characters.

Dye

Coloring of the gear was a big part of making the gear stand out. Using a program called Mantini, the team could quickly select the designer-created item and set the arrangement and the default dye within the same UI. They could change and browse arrangements on the fly, checking for color compatibility, clipping, and missing pieces.

Elements of the dye include tears on cloth effects, the sheen of armor with rust, and the general color tone of the piece. Many of the armor pieces were crafted to vary wildly in color and shape to help give the best feeling of finding and equipping new loot.

Summary

What went Right:

  • System works very well; a new unique looking arrangement can be made very quickly
  • System gets better with more content
  • Flexibility is key, invaluable to fixing bugs and art direction feedback
  • Unified content, so many different artists worked well within the system

Challenges:

  • System can be abstract, modular pieces can be tough to design
  • Content creation could be too far ahead of tools and engineering work
  • Less fun for artists, since small pieces can take away from creating a wholly unique idea

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