My opinions and discussion on this topic are going to based primarily on the Matari options (naturally!), but I do have characters from most bloodlines that need inking, scarring and piercing.
So we got our tattoos and stuff this week. I’d played about with them on Singularity a couple of weeks back, and my initial thoughts were “these are kinda pretty, but where are the original designs?” I think I (mistakenly) assumed that there would be more selection by the time the 1.4 update to Incursion would be deployed, because now its live, my thoughts are along the lines of “these are kinda pretty, but where are the original designs?”
Except, I sort of know where the original designs are; lining the ‘we can’t do this’ bin in Reykjavik. Whatever happened to ‘war on the impossible’?
While at FanFest, I heard two reasons for this change. One technical, and one aesthetic.
Having very little knowledge of texture mapping and 3D type things, I don’t feel qualified to go into great detail about this, but I can relay (as best as I am able) information that I’ve absorbed.
Falling back to the most basic level, there’s two types of computer graphic: Bitmap and Vector. Don’t get confused by the filetype .bmp which is a Bitmap image, but its not exclusive to the file format. Bitmap is essentially drawing pixels on a screen. Your attempts at pixelly spaceships in MS Paint are Bitmap images. When you’re out snapping digital photos, those are Bitmaps. All your game screenshots are Bitmaps.
Vectors are a bit different. Vector images are rendered using mathematics, and while you can have pretty complex Vector images, they are best used for simplistic shapes and logos. The reason behind this, is that because they are rendered from numbers, they can be scaled up or down easily (which – as an example – is where .svg comes from – Scalable Vector Graphics) without a loss of image quality.
Due to the complex patterns in skin and hair, character textures are Bitmap images; usually very large, compressed images, but Bitmaps all the same.
Going back to the previous example though: Tattoos are (reasonably) simplistic shapes, so they’d be ideal for saving in a Vector format.
The argument then, is that some of the older designs did not scale properly in all directions when using different face shapes. If anyone had a free character morph available when 1.4 hit and happened to apply a tattoo then morph the facial areas, they would see all sorts of scaling and compensation going on. The result is tattoos that scale nicely in all directions.
This technical restriction is my favourite, perhaps because I know literally nothing about how CCP has implemented rending of tattoos. However, the few tattoos that do have some semblance to the ones of old are also quite similar to the ones they didn’t include. My old tattoo, for example, I’ve drawn several times – with my old friend, the pen tool in Photoshop – to apply to photo-manipulations (for a calendar project), to a highly cartoonised version of my character in glorious 2D, and to a captured character portrait from a couple of months ago (which you’ll see in a bit further on), when I was bemoaning the lack of any tattoos. I guess some people are never happy, eh? 😛
My point is, if my old tattoo can be stretched and scaled manually, without it looking like a dog’s dinner, then I think CCPs technology can do the same.
The second reason some of the tattoos weren’t transferred over, is that they “looked bad”. This brings me rather neatly to the long-overdue, and somewhat trend-setting first image for this post:
I’m not going to argue that this looks bad. I don’t really like how it looks, this is true, but as the saying goes; different strokes for different folks. This is very simplistic though; nobody’s going to argue that.
Our new selection of ink seems to fall into two main categories: The overly complex, and the ridiculously simplistic (see above). I fail to see how most of the old tattoo designs couldn’t have been recreated for this. I mean, they managed to make two Ray of Matar tattoos (below), which does great job of confusing me and screwing with Matari lore, so why not do the others? They aren’t as ornate as the new-new ones, but they aren’t anywhere near as simplistic (and honestly, lazy) as the one above.
I think the tattoos they did remake for the new chargen are the only ones that sit in the middle; not too complex, but not so simple that you feel like no effort was involved. They cover just enough of the face, and are intricate enough to make you ponder on their meaning; this is how it should be.
Another example (sorry, this is getting pretty image-intensive):
This (above) was the full resolution of my character, pre-1.4. I feel I did a reasonable job of handing her a Voluval mark that was stolen from her. If I can do this at such a low resolution, imagine what a professional could do with 2048×2048 maps. Is this too simplistic? Clearly not, from what we’ve already seen. Is it too complex? Hardly. Would it scale correctly? I don’t have the answer for that one, but we’ve seen all the other currently-available facial tattoos scale perfectly, so I see no reason why this (and others) weren’t included.
Instead, I’m left with this:
Now, I do actually like this tattoo. Its ornate, but not completely over-the-top. However, its not really Matari. While we don’t really know what mish-mash of cultures the Matari are supposed to be, it looks like now we’re Māori. Which is lovely, but I don’t recall that ever coming up before.
In addition to this, many of these new detailed inks have some lovely chin patterns, which on smaller images translate quite well as stubble. I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I’m not much of a fan of the Bearded Lady look. Maybe its the same as ‘Real men are manly enough to wear pink’. ‘Real women are feminine enough to sport a goatee’? No? No, I didn’t think so.
I sound very bittervet in this post, I suspect. But that’s not really the case. Tattoos are not only an integral part of personal identity for the Matari, but also denote social standing and help define their role in life. There are those that protest against it (ICly, of course), but because so many of our characters are left without the markings we chose months (or even years) ago, they are – for all intents and purposes – no longer the same character. We’re entering an age of acquiescence. Characters everywhere are accepting other characters’ changes purely because there’s no recourse for it. Nobody is exclaiming about drastically different Voluval markings because we have no choice in the matter. I really love the new patterns we have, but they should be in addition to the markings we had before, not in place of them.
I don’t want a goatee. I don’t want to look like some perversion of Māori society. I just want my old tattoos back.