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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The many salty faces of the Eternal Throne: SWTOR's new facial expressions explored


The patch notes of the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion contained something that piqued my interest:
"Added new engine technology to improve fidelity of facial expressions in conversations and cinematics for all characters across the entire game. This graphical improvement is visible on High Shader setting."
When I played through the expansion, I made sure to look out for improved facial expressions and documented them whenever I could. I apologize in advance for the screenshot heaviness of this article.

I guess leading the Alliance is cause for wrinkles

In a conversation with the press one day after early access, Charles Boyd explained a bit more about what exactly has changed. The looks of characters have been updated with cool effects like wrinkles and the facial expressions in the cinematics are better than ever before. The skin texture of main characters have been significantly improved; it’s a huge difference from where SWTOR started five years ago. In general, we are promised more expressiveness in characters' faces.

Let's see those facial expressions, then. I've collected the most noteworthy ones of Knights of the Eternal Throne for you in this overview. There are no story spoilers, so you can safely scroll ahead even if you haven't finished the story yet. However, you will of course see the faces of some characters that play a role in the expansion.


One detail that I never noticed before and does make characters look more lively are hair animations. If your character suddenly turns around in a cutscene, their hair will reflect that movement in a natural way. It's a change I really like. Unfortunately it doesn't always work for all hairstyles. On my sage, the hair above the shoulders moves, but the "dreads" remain glued to my chest (see picture above). In this case it looks odd, but I think it looks great on most.

Really, Ravanel? Hair animations?! Booooring. Alright, on to those facial expressions, then!

First off, we still have the traditional grumpy face I came to love in Knights of the Fallen Empire.


However, in Knights of the Eternal Throne, we also see some more realistic grumpy faces.






Okay, maybe this one not so much.


Vaylin deserves her own sub section:







There are some hilarious surprised faces.




Some expressions are difficult to describe in one word, but you recognize the emotion right away.





Others are easier. Sad.


Smug - I bet everyone took a screenie of this moment.


Is that fear, Lana?


And finally, we even saw some unexpected people looking happy.




That last one gives me the chills!

What do you think: are SWTOR's new facial expressions more realistic? And do you like your character's wrinkles and hair animations?

14 comments :

  1. Haha, I knew I would love this post as soon as I saw the title appear on my feed!

    I honestly don't think that a lot of the facial expressions are very realistic and can't say that I really noticed the changes, but I love them anyway. I do occasionally find it annoying when I imagined my character to be a bit more stoic in any given situation and they make a giant :-O face, but the fact that it's funny does somewhat make up for it.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I find some of the new character's expressions pretty realistic - less 'overdone' at the last. But I don't think they could make that work for player characters, because they don't have the improved skin texture and facial details. I enjoy the extreme faces a lot as well, although I totally agree they're not very realistic!

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  2. Some of the expressions I've seen so far, especially in KotET, have given me a chuckle. I swear, sooner or later someone's going to reveal themselves as an ex-pornstar.

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    1. We're talking about Theron, right? Please let us be talking about Theron.

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  3. I saved my first run through KotFE until after early access launched. The main expression for everyone, inluding my cathar, through both KotFE and KotET seemed to be grumpy to mad with a little bit of surprise on the side. Still kept me amused.

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    1. The grumpy faces are certainly a never ending source of amusement!

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  4. Still to play right the way through as been doing conquest for my guild, when not ill. Am I imagining things or are the expressions spread across the galaxy?

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    1. That's a good question; I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think so. I've only seen the 'more subtle' expressions on the newer NPCs with better facial texture (Lana, Theron etc), but character wrinkles and hair animations might be something to look out for in other parts of the game - it doesn't hurt!

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    2. Re-read and you're right, character expressions should have improved all over the game. This was just the screenie material after 5.0 I had access to. ^^

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  5. Oh wow, the graphics are so gorgeous now!! I mean, it hasn't been that long since I've played...but man, the game looks really good now. I love these changes, and like you, I'd be very excited about hair animations too! :P

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    1. Haha, yes!! I'm not the only one! :P I haven't heard anyone else about the hair animations yet, but when I saw them I was like WOW. I'm happy the developers are still investing in quality of life improvements like this, even though it must be hard when working with a five year old game.

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  6. I want the "OMG I'm going to vomit" look. Just because there's a certain Sith in the Warrior story who I need to use it on....

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