We hope you are enjoying christmas and the holiday season as much as we do. Winter Sale is already rocking with a 25% discount on most of our packs until the 2nd of January, but there’s more in the update we recently published for our software.
As we already mentioned in the last update, we’ve been working hard to create new packs with external artists, and as a result, we also put a lot of effort to make pack creation as easy as possible. We already added lots of new information to our Developer Program page with a lengthy video explaining all the details from downloading the template psd, to getting the character available in the software. We’re still working on making this flow more friendly, so several improvements will come in the near future.
In case you missed it, there was a discussion on our Forums lately, where Payne asked if there is an easy way to create Kitsune characters in the program. Two of our veteran users quickly responded, and after some discussion Ashesnei actually created a small pack, which adds new items in the Horn and Tail categories for the Season #2 Female characters, which can be used to easily represent Kitsune characters. She made this pack available to everyone for free, so today is the release of the first Community Pack too. If you are also interested in creating additions to either the existing packages, or making brand new designs, check out the Developer Program with plenty of information to help you get started!
We are always looking to improve the software based on feedback from you, our users. We changed how new users get into the program in the future, and made the Tutorial an optional choice. To incentivize doing it, we also made it an Achievement, so more free packs can be earned from now on. If you’ve been using the software for a while don’t worry, simply log in again, and you’ll be granted a free pack immediately.
As we mentioned in the last update, we’d also like to see what YOU want the most. We put together a Questionnaire to get a better understanding of your needs and also to be able to improve communication with you. We received lots of responses already, so if you can spare 5 minutes to fill it out too, you’d be entered into a raffle where we also give away 50 packs for free! Please do help us to be able to give you the content you want to use! Here’s the direct link: https://forms.gle/8TFLHLYqwwcCh8nu7
We hope you have a nice end of the year, see you in 2020!
We are happy to let you know that we’ve just released an update to our software which contains plenty of exciting changes as well as two brand new packages!
This year, we started to focus on increasing the diversity of the packs and styles in the generator, and as a result, started collaboration with various external artists. From today, we already have 4 available packages created by other artists, and we felt it’d be better to mark these packs clearly something different, so we kicked off Season #3. Under Season #3, you’ll find the hand drawn Portrait packs, which have been out for a while, as well as the two brand new packs, which has just been released.
Out first new pack is the Throne Lady, which was created by Elena Ivanina. She was born in Russia, but she’s been living in Greece for many years now. Drawing is second nature to her, and everything she knows is self-thought. Her favorite styles are fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk.
This pack is unique not only in it’s art style, but because it’s portraying a woman in a partially sitting position. Elena had some great ideas which surpassed the available features in the software, so we also needed to add various new things into it to fit her needs. She wanted to create different hand positions, and the options to put bracers and tattoos to the hand in these positions. To support this, we created the option to create multi-position characters, which was the most commonly asked feature of the software in the past years. She also wanted to give more freedom to the users when composing the images, so we made the Items category multi-selectable, meaning that more than one item can be active in the same category, and they can also be moved around separately from each other.
Our second new pack is the Comic Monster, created by Laszlo Nemeth. He was an avid comic fan ever since he was a kid, which also served as an inspiration to his drawing techniques. His main profile is 2D character art and animation, and his works are available in several games by now. His main influencers are Todd McFarlane, Stanley Lau, James Raiz and Scott Campbell.
The pack is a very exciting one, as this is the first which focuses entirely on monsters. This was also one of the most asked topics in the past years, since we already had quite a few different humanoid-types available, but creating monsters was only achievable by using the Supernatural packages, so we felt extending these options could be a good idea. Drawing beasts was a natural fit for Laszlo, and his comic style was also a good match for this theme. A few technical developments were needed for his pack too, as he focuses heavily on the coloring feature. We needed to add support for multi-coloring, which is now used to change the color of several different categories at once. He also made creating dark creatures possible, and added various extra layers on top of each category, which remain visible even when very dark colors are selected, so the contour of the character can be seen. We also added changing colors to each layer when pressing Random, so finding new inspiration is really just a click of a button.
Please note that the new packs and updates are only available in the PC Standalone and Steam versions. An update to mobile versions will come in the following days.
As we already mentioned, we’ve been working hard to create new packs with external artists, and as a result, we also put a lot of effort to make pack creation as easy as possible. We already added lots of new information to our Developer Program page, with a lengthy video explaining all the details from downloading the template psd, to getting the character available in the software. We’re still working on making this flow more friendly, so several improvements will come in the near future.
Moving forward, we’d also like to see what YOU want the most. We’re in the progress of creating new characters with different artists too, but wanted to make sure we are actually working on characters you would be interested in using. We put together a Questionnaire to get a better understanding of your needs and also to be able to improve communication with you. If you can spare 5 minutes to fill it out, you’d be entered into a raffle where we also give away 50 packs for free! Please do help us to be able to give you the content you want to use! Here’s the direct link: https://forms.gle/8TFLHLYqwwcCh8nu7
We hope you like the new packs, and we look forward to hear from you in our Questionnaire.
We are happy to announce that the long awaited Female Portrait pack is now available for purchase in our store! The Male pack was kind of an experiment for us, but the responses were very positive, so we listened to your feedback and created the Female version of it. From now on you can represent both your male and female characters in a hand-draw fashion. To celebrate this event, we’ll offer 20% discount on the Male Portrait pack during the next week, ending on 11th March!
These Portrait packs were special to us in other ways too, as they were created in collaboration with an external artist, Peter Temesi. As you know we launched our Developer Program a while back giving everyone the opportunity to add new content to the software easily, and the created packages can be shared with other users as both free or paid content too, in which case we offer revenue share to the artist. If you are, or know someone who could be interested in creating packs make sure to let us know! We are in talks with several external artists at the moment, so once you get an idea make sure to tell us so we can coordinate with the others.
We had a good amount of new users picking up the software in past couple of months, and we received several feedback regarding the difficulty of selecting packs to buy when someone first wants to dip their toes into creating characters. We came up with a solution just for those who want to start creating, but are not sure what packs to get at the beginning. We created the Fantasy Starter and the Modern Starter bundles, where we selected 4-4 of our best selling packages from each theme, which can be used to kick start creativity. As a bonus, we introduced a massive discount on these two bundles, as they can both be purchased for only $9.99, providing a 45-67% discount compared to the original price of the packs! These bundles are available for veteran users too, who, for some reason missed out on the packs contained in these bundles, so make sure to check them out to see if these can be something for you too!
Have you been using the software for quite some time now and want to give something back? Are you happy with our program and would recommend it to others? Write a Positive review on Steam, or leave a 5* rating on Google Play. Are you unhappy with some things and rather not recommend it? Tell us about it! We might be able to fix what you’re missing.
ePic Character Generator has been out of the door for a while and a heavily reworked version has seen sunlight in November, 2015. We’ve had quite a few improvements on the program and lots of new content is now available, but I would like to take the time to talk a bit about how the actual packs are being put together in the background. If you don’t know this program yet, it’s a character generator software where anyone can create high quality images without any artistic skills, export the pictures on transparent or static backgrounds, save them as tokens or character cards, and use them freely for role playing, illustrating stories, prototyping ideas or releasing actual games with the images. Now let’s get a bit into how this works behind the scenes…
The way the program works is fairly simple. It parses a config file, which defines what layers the currently active package has and then renders the items from each layer on top of each other in the given order. There are plenty of parameters to specify for each layer:
– This is how the pants category is defined in the pack’s config file. It tells what the name of the category is, which is useful to display the button for it. – It tells what Main category it goes, which is the Outfit. Every category is grouped in Main categories thematically (the Outfit has most of the stuff which just goes on the character, but doesn’t change it, like eyes, hair, tatoo, etc…). – The IgnoreItem is an array itself, it lists all other categories which should be turned off when this category has an active item. – The Colorable means you can change the color of that item. – ItemCount represents the number of items in this category.
It’s quite straight-forward, although there are a lot more parameters in the config which we should also keep track of. In Season #1 each pack provided everything it needed, and every pack was different. Changing to Season #2 we’ve changed the fundamental approach of how we use packs. Now we have base packages (currently three) which doesn’t have any content besides of a base body image. All other packages are extensions of this base package, adding more items in each category, which results that the user can mix and match the content of every pack released to that base package. This approach gives the users a lot more flexibility over their characters, but also forces us to produce more in numbers and smaller in size thematically focused packages. We’ve also introduced a couple of new ways to improve overall quality in the characters. For example, we’ve split most of the categories to two, one for the front of the item, and one for the back. We can then easily define which parts of the item should go to the back of the character, and what should be visible in the front. We’ve also added the toggle feature, which enables the users to swap the location of items, companions, effects in front of, or behind the characters, which are also defined by adding new categories marking alternative positions in the rendering order.
In Season #1 the workflow looked like this: 1: Our artist exported all the images to folders and notified me that they were done. 2: I opened every folder and manually entered the number of items in them. 3: I’ve started the icon creator mini app I wrote, which opened each image one by one, where I was able to mark the rectangle I would like to save as an icon for each item. 4: We’ve then tested the content, iterated over it, and when we were happy… 5: I run the data file maker to produce the final pack file, which holds all of the assets in a single file.
This is how the icons looked in Season #1:
Most of the Season #1 packages contained between 12-15 categories, so it was a bit of a pain and a bigger time investment to get the content from being exported to actually testable in the program. In Season #2 we’ve grown a lot bigger. We’ve had between 24-38 categories per pack. That would be a lot of counting! So I figured I would be better off creating a small tool that can generate the package from the exported images. It started out slowly, but grown steadily as we progressed over the course of development.
This is how the workflow looks now: 1: Our artist exports all the images. 2: She can run the package generator program with a command line argument specifying what pack she would like to process, what is the base package for the given pack, and in which theme it should belong. The program then creates the folders and configs, copies the images, makes the necessary optimizations and creates the icons. 3: The new package is usable in the program.
I don’t really want to talk about most of what the package generator does, but I would like to spend some time to explain the icon generator, as I think this is the most exciting bit. As we are facing the challenge of being able to figure out what is the most interesting part of every item simply by looking at it, what should be taken out and represented on a 148×124 pixels square so the user can easily recognise the item and decide on whether they want that item on the character or not, without clicking it first and seeing it equipped.
The icons are made by looking at the image and finding the smallest rectangle the item can fit into. Then some logic is applied over it to decide how big the item can be on the icon, or how far should it be zoomed out. Some extra parameters were added in each config template to make it clear for the program what to do:
– IconAlignment will define the alignment of the item relative to the middle of the icon. – IconMinIterations will specify how many times the algorithm should zoom in/out at least on the image before finding the right spot. – IconMinIterations will specify how many times the algorithm is allowed to zoom in/out on the image before finding the right spot. – IconSize sets what should be visible on the icon from the item. Full means the item should be visible as a whole.
I’ve also figured that adding the base body to the icons would make them appear in context, but this raised some other issues, as the generator now should have an understanding of the relation of the categories with each other. Should the item be in front, or in the back of the body? Does it have a back part which should also be visible on the icon? Does it applies some transparency over the body at some point, like peg legs or minotaur bottoms?
This is how the icons look in Season #2:
The above got most of the items right, but the most interesting part was to identify what the icon should display for a background, as it fills the whole image there was no way to crop it easily. I went with a very simple approach. I divided the image to equal cells and calculated the variety in each of the cells individually. The variety has been produced by calculating an average for each pixel in the given cell, then comparing each pixel with the calculated average resulting in either a positive or negative change in the score. The cell with the highest variety got selected as the most interesting part of the image. I then extended it to treat neighbouring cells as one and compare the overall scores with the others, providing higher resolution to be displayed on the icons.
Overall creating this tool has been a bit time consuming, but it works out very well, and with every new pack the time not spent on fully automatable tasks pays off greatly. It might seemed like a small win compared to how much time would it require to create an initially working tool, but as we moved forward it turned out to be really handy, especially when we’ve started iterations on multiple packs and ended up moving items between them. We could’ve kept track of the moved items manually and change the counts, copy the images and the icons, but it was so much faster running a .bat file which did everything for us. We’re currently focusing on delivering the Android port of ePic Character Generator, as well as adding new packages to the store.
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