Update to Existing Facegen

Topics about the face generator.
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Update to Existing Facegen

Post by baobobafet »

Facegen Mod 2014

After the recent discussion on the dev forum about the facegen and talk of replacing face imagery with
cartoons, I post this with some trepidation (not wanting to discourage 'any' progress in this area)

These are some upgrades and additions to the existing facegen for Pioneer.
Adds new eyes, mouths, hair, clothing and accessories and a few more backgrounds

I started work and experimentation on this some time ago and realised very quickly it was going to be a
very long slough.

The existing facegen head graphics are actually quite good (they just needs a lot of finessing and TLC)
Most of the upgrades need to be made on the individual components, eyes, nose, mouths and hair etc..

There were some alignment issues with the heads not all being centered - I did issue a patch for that a
while back - don't know if it was ever adopted or not.

In any case, I did opt to press on with some basic changes and additions, before needing some time out.
ATM, more work has been done on Race 0 than the rest, in terms of corrections and features.
I have also had to resort to a few unconventional tricks to get some effects and results I was trying to

Still have stuff in the pipeline though, ie: helmets and EVA suits (for clothing layer) - but the helmets
require an additional layer on top of the existing facegen character layers in order to work properly.
(Although, I have modified them to work in the facegen hair layer to test them out and can make them
available if there is an interest) - unless shirt sleeve environments will be the norm in Pioneer.

- I also made a bunch of other sub items that can't be used unless/until there becomes a way for players
to choose between such items. The existing facegen is great for what it does -but with no means of player
interaction, it is simply a blunt tool, and as any blunt tool it is difficult (and clunky) to always have
it do what you would like.

There are more limitations than one might think. I too believe things like blinking eyes, perhaps moving
mouths could be implimented - but there needs to be the desire and will to make such details a reality
within the facegen code.
I can imagine many more options - but these would require at least two additional player controlled
layers to be implimented on top of existing layers.

Although creating a stylized cartoon with all the bells and whistles, might sound simpler, - don't kid
yourself, it will be a lot of work (in spite of the simpler style). The existing system, although clunky
still has a lot going for it. It simply requires a commitment to push it to the next level.

This makes a small (dent) with a couple of fixes to existing heads, eyes, mouths, hair and adds some
original artwork of my own.

Includes changes, refinements and replacements for many of the accessories and adds many new ones.
New clothing and uniforms are also included - with some classics added. (I can see how using patterns -
could reduce the number of clothing items of varying color)

All in all, a very tedious and time consuming process to do well.

Old chinese saying: to encourage holding the course when things look insurmountable.
paraphrased: "If the way is hard - it may be that hard is the way"

...Anyways, far from complete, but at least this is an upgrade to what exists now.

download here: http://www.mediafire.com/download/094na ... bao_V1.zip

An added note:

Along the way I thought of some ways to improve the folder structure to give individual races a default
option of their own clothes, equipment or armor.

I would add an accessory and clothing folder into each of the individual race folders.
The new directories would be the first place that the facegen would look for clothing or accessories,
once a race had been decided upon by the program.

If nothing was in the new folders, it would look in the default (normal) clothing and accessories folder.
This would solve a lot of present and future facegen issues, that I won't get into ATM.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by DaCo »

I can't help but feel like I may have stepped on some toes by trying the cartoon face thing.
I apologize if that's the case. Far be it from me to barge in on this project, throwing my weight around.
I'll wait and see on this. Like you said, it is hard work. And if any hard work is done, it should be on the version that makes the most sense and is most fitting.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by nozmajner »

Pardon me, I don't want to be harsh, but I do want to be honest.
In my opinion the existing Facegen set is an abomination. It has no sense of weight and it's flatter then a photo made with flash on. Consistently looks like a bad photoshop job. And has not a tiny sense of style or character apart from some clown-like hairstyles (your mod adds at least one, Baobobafet) and ridiculous accessories (helmet with a temperature gauge? It's not even funny). It's only half good at generating guys that are a bit resembling one of my former classmate I didn't even liked. But that's my private problem :) and not even a good argument about character, since the feature images that create the resemblance are practically fall down from the images due to bad compositing, so I can't avoid making the connection.

No amount of tweaking would do much good to it apart from ripping it out altogether and start from scratch. Oh, and there are several pieces with visible jpeg artifacts (transfered to the current png images). The base heads are smoothed quite heavily, but most of the facial features have a bit of noise, which isn't consistent either.
And the base heads are averages generated by computer algorithms used for research. This alone establishes a strong lack of character you need to work yourself trough.

Most long-time players simply tune them out I think, but I can imagine these faces are quite off-putting for new players. Check the video Scott Manley made for an example.

And starting from scratch still won't warrant anything above generalities mostly (with a very narrow spectrum of possible faces and ages), so I'm not convinced it worths the effort. Is it worth to climb that proverbial Chinese mountain, if it's already known that there's only a nuclear waste disposal site on the other side?
Sure this could be done at top-notch quality, but that would need a photo studio with proper lighting and a good amount of people who's willing to provide the faces and parts.
And not to mention that if you want animations, then you need to make new pictures for the eyes and mouths. It is sure possible to do them with image editing software, but it's hell of a work if you want to do it properly, even if it's only a 3 frame animation. And facial movement isn't that simple anyway. Mouth movement includes the jaw and the muscles beneath the eyes most of the time, so you need to adjust the head shape and eye images too for example. Do you have the anatomy knowledge to pull this off?

And I'm not even sure if the base images are compatible with CC-BY-SA-3. They seem to come from a beauty research:
http://facelab.org and http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaete ... ichter.htm.
None of these pages state any licensing to the images, which means Copyright by default. And who knows where the other parts are coming from really.

I was thinking about a new face set constantly, but I didn't had the amount of free time needed to really start painting or drawing them. I did some simple sketches, but nothing more.
DaCo: I was quite glad that you came and picked the thing up. And you even brought a good quality example of what you have in mind right from the start. It's already a huge step-up. I had a bit different (and admittedly very vague) idea about how I would do it, but your set is consistent and looks good. Maybe a bit plasticy and a bit like if they were children right now, but it has a good sense of character and style, which is a must in my opinion.
Children look might come from the roundness. It might do good to tune back that a bit on certain parts.

And just to avoid this one argument altogether: Cartoon characters usually work very well with more realistic environment or background if done right, and DaCo is on a good track to this. I'm referring to the seeming discord between DaCo's faces and the actual graphics of the world.
Hergé's Tintin (not the uncanny valley of the Spielberg film) is a good example of detailed background with simplified characters.
Or the Planetes manga. Or any higher budget anime film, like Ghost in the Shell (and even the series based on that).
Or the Time Masters animated film with it's airbrushed backgrounds.
Not to mention Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Hell, DaCo's faces are working even with the existing set of clothes.

And photorealism isn't the aim for assets anyway.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by robn »

The problem with photorealistic faces is that our brains are uniquely built to recognise faces. We can tell very quickly when its not right, and its usually quite jarring.

Cartoons or other styles are much better. We know immediately that they're not supposed to be realistic, so our brain doesn't judge them as harshly.

No, I'm right on board with ditching what we have in favour of something quite different.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by Luomu »

I'm 100% in favor of ditching the current facegen style.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by baobobafet »

DaCo don't sweat steppin on toes here, most of us have developed pretty thick hides ;) - also, I'm not adverse to trying out new ideas.

In so far as a redo of the base heads, I had been playing around with these and made a number of changes and additions to improve them (although I have not introduced any of these changes into the mod since they are no where near completed)

I agree a lot of the old facegen stuff - like the helmet with gauges, seems silly and should've been replaced long ago, same as the teddy bear cop.
There are plenty of things in there that are cringe worthy. I have tried to mitigate some of them using glasses and other devices to reduce their noticeability, but in the end, the main culprits are the individual eyes, mouth and hair components that make a mess of things.
These could all be upgraded, to produce something much nicer than what exists now, but would require a systematic check of each item.

In the end whatever is decided is fine by me.

I have considered continuing this as a mod, with occassional updates (to offer Pioneer player's a choice) but have not yet decided whether I will pursue this course.

At any rate,

Some technical facegen aspects I wanted to touch on,

Whether gif support for animation is possible, practical or even desireable as an option for elements of the facegen, simpler methods might give reasonable results and be easier to implement.

For animation of a blinking effect all that is needed is the ability for the facegen to toggle back and forth between two png's (if a second one for the eye exists) Perhaps there can be a default blink made for each race if no custom one exists. Interval between blinks could be randomized -&/or perhaps later used to distinguish character qualities.
For creating a decent moving mouth, I think more frames would be needed with some randomizer to cycle them over and over durring any speech sequence.

For the folders inside each race folder, such as the accessories and clothing ones, there should ideally be some option to have a random redirect back to the main default accessories and clothing folders(a shortcut?). Such an option may or may not be exercised, depending on if such a redirect is needed in the folder (due to lack of race specific items). The redirect would be randomly selected as if it were an item or accessory by the facegen program and direct it to the 'common' accessory or clothing folder to choose an item from there.

This serves two purposes, if the specific race clothing item or accessory is merely a preference, it allows the program to ocassionally go back to the main (or common) clothing and accessory directories to utilize it's offerings.

If the specific race clothing item or accessory is imperative to that particular race, you wouldn't want the facgen to ever go to the common pool so you would remove any such redirects (were they to exist) from the specific race clothing or accessory folders.

This allows robots (for example) to have there own special kind of clothing (ie: attachments) and armor as well customised robot accessories without the facegen ever going to the common clothing and accessory directories to choose conflicting non robot items.

In so far as how this impacts standard races, it creates an optional priority system to have races reflect individual custom clothing styles and accessories unique to themselves. If in addition, access to the common clothing and accessory directory is desired as well, a shortcut could be placed in that folder to randomly redirect the facegen to also find clothing and accessories items there.

Having dedicated clothing and accessory folders for each race, removes the restriction of clothing and uniform designs not being able to reveal underlaying skin tones. (Since ATM, any revealed skin tones baked into clothing will be used by all races)
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by mld »

I suggest black/white images like the ones police draw to find criminals.
(but green monochrome and interlaced)
We might get into trouble with all those actor face parts (nicholas cage especially) :P
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by Marcel »

Green screen interlaced monitors in 3200? Actually that could be nice for simulating the resolution you get with the handwavium instant communication device. People in your ship and in the same spaceport as you would be in full color. It could add to the sense of immersion.
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by robn »

Marcel wrote:Green screen interlaced monitors in 3200? Actually that could be nice for simulating the resolution you get with the handwavium instant communication device. People in your ship and in the same spaceport as you would be in full color. It could add to the sense of immersion.
I really like that :)
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Re: Update to Existing Facegen

Post by Alyas »

Dear God... please go the cartoon route.

Check out what Crusader Kings 2 is able to do without ~10 variations on each part per gender and culture...
http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/sho ... torical%29

They've got chins, ears, cheeks, noses, eyes, mouths and necks in addition to hairstyles/beards with several options for coloration.
It's clean, there are no noticeable artifacts or borders and a 2d artist with a proper template could probably pump out enough parts to make virtually unlimited numbers of unique faces. And if, god forbid, someone ever decides to create aliens in Pioneer(the lack of which always seemed odd for a game that encompasses the entire galaxy)... its MUCH more easily done in a cartoon style than attempting to fabricate photo realistic non-human heads.
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