CK3 Dev Diary #07 - Characters & Portraits

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CK3 Game Director
Paradox Staff
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Sep 10, 2011
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Today we’re taking a look at what makes up a character in CK3. As you already know, the game revolves around characters and all the things they get up to, so to make it interesting we have to make sure that they have as much personality as possible!

To start off; each character still has skills and traits, just like in CK2. Their skills determine how well they can do different things, a character will high Diplomacy will be well-liked, while one with high Martial will excel as a commander. The main source of these skills are traits, the foremost of which is the Personality Traits.

Unlike CK2, where personality traits were much like any other trait, we’ve decided to put more emphasis on the personality traits in CK3. In CK2 you could easily end up with 5-8 personality traits without much effort, but then what really defined you? It was hard to get a grip on who a character really was, something we’ve improved in CK3. Personality traits now have a massive effect on the behavior of each individual character, so when a character is Greedy you’ll really feel it. To emphasize this, characters tend to not have more than 3 personality traits so that you can at a quick glance tell who they are (other types of traits are of course still unlimited).


Personality Trait icons. Can you guess which one is which?

We’ve also added a feature where a character's personality is summed up in two words, which is then displayed in their character view. This is very useful when, for example, assigning vassals or getting agents. A ‘Rapacious Blackguard’ might not make for the most loyal vassal, but quite a good agent, while an ‘Honorable Empath’ would be the opposite!


Prestige and Piety remain in CK3, though with a new element to them. In CK2, you accumulated prestige that you then spent on various things - this rarely made much sense, why would launching an invasion suddenly make everyone like you less, for example? Therefore we’ve decided to split the currency part of prestige/piety from the perception part. In CK3, all prestige and piety accumulated by a character will contribute towards their Level of Fame/Devotion. These have various effects, for example, your Level of Fame increases the opinion of all secular rulers (as it did in CK2), give your more Knights, and unlocks special interactions - such as invasions should you be Tribal. Your Level of Devotion increases the opinion of the clergy and allows you to declare better Holy Wars among other things. These levels range between 0-5, with 0 representing disgrace. Instead of only losing prestige when doing truly dishonorable things, such as breaking a truce, you now also lose Levels of Fame, making the whole thing more of a hard choice. Accumulated prestige and piety can be used for various things as a currency, just like in CK2, prestige being used for vassal interactions, decisions, and war, while piety is the primary resource used when interacting with the church.


Before moving on to the Portraits themselves, I’d like to mention genetic traits! Traits such as Strong and Genius were much sought-after in CK2, and you often went out of your way to breed those traits into your direct line. In CK3 this is even more involved, with genetic traits having multiple levels that you can improve with successive generations (which can be sped up by inbreeding!), and there’s also more of them. Genetic traits will often have a visual effect on your portrait - the Beautiful line of traits will make your characters more-and-more symmetrical, for example. On the negative end of the spectrum, we have traits such as Ugly or Albino, which will reduce symmetry or alter your character's skin tone respectively (the Middle Ages were full of prejudice).

Now, without further ado, let's move on to the Portrait section, hosted by our very own portrait artist, Nils!

So, when it comes to the visual presentation of characters in the game, we've chosen to switch out the 2D "paperdoll" style portraits of CK2 for full animated 3D characters in CK3. While the portraits in CK2 undeniably have their charm, going 3D just gives us so many more possibilities for all kinds of dynamic features.

Every character has a DNA in which their appearance is defined. Each facial feature that we can control has its own gene. And there's a great number of those to give us a lot of variations and an endless amount of possible faces. For example, the nose alone has over 10 different parameters that define its shape. Compared to just one in CK2.

Another thing we wanted to change is how much of the character we display in the UI. This is, of course, the middle ages we are talking about, where a person's clothes are a more important indicator of who they are than even their facial features. So it made sense to show more of the body than just head and shoulders. How fancy and expensive a character’s clothing looks will give you as player information about their rank. The larger frame also allows us to show different animated poses, and as Alex mentioned above they give a hint of the character’s personality. Additionally, we can do more with body types as well. Characters have different heights (yes including dwarfism and gigantism) as well as different weights and body composition, something that is affected by their lifestyle and traits. So if your character is a gluttonous hedonist, chances are they will have a body rather on the stout side of things while if they are a legendary warrior their pecs and deltoids will also likely be of the legendary variety.


Other cool features that the 3D system allows us to do is seamless aging and disease overlays. Now you can see your toddler gradually change into an adult and eventually (barring any unforeseen incidents...) to an elderly 100-year old. Should your character, heavens forbid, catch a serious illness their appearance will reflect that with suitably repulsive skin texture overlays.

We will have a more in-depth look at the portraits in a future dev diary, so stay tuned for that!
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How easily will one gain or lose personality traits? If these traits are now so definitive of the characters, I hope a random event will not see us change personality drastically.

It's *very* hard to change your personality, and random events will never do it. There are a few ways you can alter your personality slowly over time, and depending on how you play your character stress might also have an impact... I'll not go into details on that yet though ;)
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Will we be able to customize character outfits? Haircuts and stuff?
There will exist a barbershop where you can customize hair, facial hair, clothes and to a limited degree hair color (no outlandish colors though).

What is the "should_be_naked_trigger" thing that showed up a few weeks ago supposed to be for?
Its primary use is for certain religious sects :)

It seems like stats can go pretty high though; Emir Djafir has a skill at 24, though most seem to have their high skill in the teens. I think anything above 20 really should be an outlier, not as common as it was in CK2.
Skill values are still subject to change; don't pay too much attention to their current values, they are more than likely going to change.
Could you tell us what respresent the small heart beside the age and name ? yellow or green
Its the character's overall health. It's fairly abstracted (you will never be able to tell exactly when a character is going to die) but it will give you an indication - a very ill character might have a black shriveled heart for example.

Are genetic traits invisible or visible?
Visible, though characters can also carry recessive traits... those are not visible, but can be inherited by their offspring!
The trait icons look beautiful but I'm not sure how easily readable they are going to be. CKII's icons were sometimes difficult to interpret without a tooltip the first time you saw them but once you learned the icons you could easily reconise them as they were high-contrast and easy to read. These I'm not so sure about. But then again mmo players have been dealing with pretty splodges of colour for icons for ages so maybe I'm just being picky.
After playing with them for a while, I can say that you learn what they are quite quickly :) The colors also help a lot with recognizability.

View attachment 531588Would you mind sharing a rough percentage of how correct my guesses are?
you have 25/40 correct :p
So will it be still possible to add static 2D portraits in CK3, similar to Stellaris? Some modders will want this.
Possible, yeah probably. But you'd have to do some hacking as the system is very different.

Good DD. Do some characters use special hairstyles and garments? For example, a Catholic priest would use ecclesiastical robes, be shaven and have a tonsure and an Orthodox one have a long beard? Monks wear a habit and are tonsured? Do knights or people who lead armies wear armor? Do Templars, Hospitallers and Teutons wear their habit?
Short answer, yes!

Are character portraits categorized by ethnicity like CK2?
Ethnicities are much more dynamic than in CK2. We'll delve into this in more detail in a future dev diary.

So when you say animated, do you mean ability to move the character's into various static poses, or will they actually move in real time on screen?
They are animated as in actually moving.
Please!! We're spoiled rotten with the Character Creator after using it all these years. Is the one feature I use all the time when starting a new game. Don't take it away from us.

Could you give us an example of a character's DNA? I mean, show us the actual code

How do you represent a character's growth from child to adult? Is it through DNA change to adjust from childish features to adult features? Or is the DNA set from birth and you only adjust certain features through properties or something like that?

This is what the Portrait Editor in Imperator looks like -
How moddable will the inheritance system, and its influence on appearance, be? Could you add degrees of an Elf trait that gave larger and pointier ears as it dominated the bloodline more? (Assuming you also modded the art files.) Or, on a less fantastic note, a male pattern baldness gene? Could you change how traits affect the appearance -- such as making Attractive also increase body weight for a modded culture where plumpness means prosperity? Could you change genetic inheritance such that some traits might pop up spontaneously -- or under certain circumstances, like having excessive inbreeding have a chance to make a child gain a 'demon' trait? There are a lot of things that could come into play in a fantasy mod, and I'm mulling over all the possibilities.

I think the LOTR mod team for Imperator managed to get elves working, so it should be fine for CK3 as well.
Another neat thing that he speculated was that we might be able to customize our own heresies and faiths' virtues and sins.

This isn't speculation:

T.J. Hafer said:
5. Dynamic Religions are one of the biggest changes in Crusader Kings 3
How religions are modeled is one of the biggest changes in Crusader Kings 3. While Crusader Kings 2 had a list of historical religions, each with a few variants called heresies that could appear to shake things up, the new system is entirely dynamic. Historical heresies like Catharism and Iconoclasm will still appear, but you can also design new religions and heresies to suit your needs from the ground up.

Every religion in Crusader Kings 3 is made up of Tenets, which are mechanical bonuses that apply to everyone following the religion, and Doctrines, which represent church views on things like homosexuality and women becoming priests. Should you choose to found a heresy, you can customize the Tenets and Doctrines of your new religion freely. It will cost a lot of Piety to do so, and the cost is higher the more you are departing from your former religion's beliefs.

"Although it's challenging to change, give it a century and you can create your religion just the way you want to play the game," Fåhreus says. "So if you want to have cannibal Christians or whatever..."