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As the captain of a Mandate starship, you lead a crew through the galaxy where they will adapt and grow as they fight alongside you.
As the captain of a Mandate starship, you lead a crew through the galaxy where they will adapt and grow as they fight alongside you.
16,408 backers pledged $701,010 to help bring this project to life.

Adaptive character system

Posted by Perihelion Interactive LLC (Creator)
Hey backers,

For this update we are going to talk about our adaptive character system and what exactly it allows us to do. First of all it allows you to customize the visuals of your captain as part of the character prologue. The same system is used to generate the visuals for all the NPCs you will encounter during your travels in The Mandate. Also from a production point of view it allows us to automate several time-consuming tasks (rigging, skinning, modelling, texturing) which saves us time and allows us to offer more variation. Lastly we can optimize at run-time for either quality (dialogue scenes) or speed (boarding combat with lots of characters).

Before we continue, we need to take a little detour. Right at the start of our Kickstarter campaign, we were being both accused of under-representing women in The Mandate, and also being asked whether or not the game would feature playable female characters at all. This took us by surprise as our story elements focused on Empress Anastasia Romanova who even had her own Twitter account. In The Mandate she happens to essentially rule most of known space. 

Just as some of the strongest leaders historically have been women, and there is a certain romanticism ascribed to service under them, we wanted to build these elements into the story as well as the relation between Anastasia and the player’s (space captain) character.

For example one of our backers wrote “Seriously, that many players want to be Han Solo? (Well, all the male ones, anyways...though I guess of course there could be a greater diversity of characterization too...)”. Another wrote “Hi ! I just signed up to kickstarter specifically to support you guys[…] My only gripe with the project is it's exclusively western focus, with no "asian" or "african" related factions, makes the whole setting harder to believe, at least for me”.

We all noticed the comments, and looking at each-other confused we said “Why wouldn't there be female characters at all levels, including playable ones? Some guys prefer to roll female characters -just like Kenny (McCormick) and vice versa. Why shouldn’t you be able to pick your own ethnicity?”.

In The Mandate you are the captain and we want your avatar to reflect your backstory and the choices you made during character creation. It follows that you should be able to play as any ethnicity, gender and body build. At the same time every video game has a set budget, and every element you add has an associated cost. For example we don’t have the resources to maintain a large set of different rigs, animation sets etc. How then can we give players the freedom of self expression without escalating costs?

Our Technical Director, Vegard Myklebust, wrote an article about our character system which was published over at Polygon. Rather than re-posting it here we invite you to CLICK HERE to read it. It goes a bit “behind the scenes” and includes several pictures so it should be an interesting read. We also made a short video which shows the character system in action and generating different characters.

PS! Keep in mind that all animations and graphics are temporary in this video

The video mentioned above only shows the standard uniform which should be familiar to everybody by now. However, the character system will also handle different types of clothing (including combat armour!) and adapt these to work across all genders and body shapes. Our system also works with procedural textures so we can do modifications to the textures as part of this process.

Since our character system is now working as intended, we have started to push the system to the next level: more exaggerated shapes and non-uniform/asymmetrical versions. Below you can see examples of both: the Mandate heavy armour and the Osmani Light Trooper armour. 



Beyond testing new types of armour/clothing we are currently testing performance with 100 unique and animated characters in the same scene on both low spec and high spec systems. This allows us to identify any performance bottlenecks and we prefer to do this now rather than a couple of months before launch when it would be too late to make major changes. 

So there you have it, our stance on playable female characters, ethnicity, our challenges and our solution: the adaptive character system. We expect our next update to somehow involve both the character system and the following asset!


We wanted to round off this update by giving a shout-out to Larian Studios and their recently released RPG Divinity: Original Sin. It checks all the right boxes for us: open world exploration, co-op gameplay, and an interactive world AND it ships with the RPG toolkit used to build the game. Expect lots of custom content and mods! It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well then a series of pictures in sequence should be even better so here is the feature trailer for Divinity: Original Sin:


Your friends at Perihelion Interactive

Ian Howell, Turk, and 75 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      angryscotsman93 on

      I will admit, though- having a Space Japan or Space Mongolian faction would be badass. I'd suggest adding that in, if you ever get the chance.

    2. Missing avatar

      angryscotsman93 on

      ... Don't include fat troopers. It just doesn't make any sense, unless the character in question is a civilian or noble officer who's taken advantage of the Grand Fleet's recent... DISORGANIZATION to enjoy the good life a bit too much. Your average shipboard personnel should be held to a high physical standard, just like any sensible military.

    3. Rand Chua TL on

      Hope to see some more tit bits about the game in the next update.

    4. Perihelion Interactive LLC Creator on

      @Donald Turos: The system is already data driven and it is possible to add support for what you are suggestion for example via mods. From our perspective it is important that we spend our time on the important aspects of The Mandate: you are a space ship captain and must lead your crew and by extension ship(s) in pursuit of whatever (noble/evil) goals you have set for yourself. We must prioritize space combat, boarding combat, storylines and a game world with clear cause over things like Aliens, Romances or simulating the dietary needs / training regime of your crew ;)

    5. Don Turos (aka Col Paladonov) on

      @ Creator: Thanks for the expansion on cybertom's question. Can we go futher--Vegard's technology is very cool and by extension could it be made data driven so NPC's and PC's in-game could morph based on external factors. Like could they get overweight by being sedentary or perhaps get into shape by going to the gym. Both of these things might have penalties or bonuses attached to the base character.

    6. Perihelion Interactive LLC Creator on

      @cybertom: Keep in mind here that we are stress-testing the character system and we are giving you guys a look behind the scenes. This is why you see these exaggerated shapes. The same character system must also support very bulky armour (mandate heavy armour as shown in the update) as well as asymmetrical armour (Osmani light trooper). We are actually using a distribution curve for males/females with respect to weight/height to clamp the min/max values when generating characters. For example by editing a few slider values, we could easily generate characters from 90 to 180 cm (3' to 6') if needed.

      @All: It should be noted that our original article was focused more on our character system, what challenges we had solved and on supporting ethnicity, body shape and gender. The article on Polygon got more of a gender focus when it really is only one piece in a bigger puzzle.

    7. LuckyLuigi on

      While with limited resources you decide to make this choice you are looking a lot better than the makers of Assassin Creed and their huge budget and their "Women are too hard to animate", pfff, such baloney. For the record I'm male. So good on you.

    8. Missing avatar

      cybertom on

      I support ImageNotAvailable's notion. Naval personnel are supposed to be soldiers fit for void war first and foremost, which implicates an abundance of lean, athletic men. Sure, there will always be the odd one in the crowd, a fat cook maybe or an old, wizened medic. Just don't make a ship crew an assortment of sizes and body shapes of all sorts just in order to suit everybody or for reasons of political correctness.

    9. Missing avatar

      cybertom on

      I will chime in with crowd that says don't try to please anybody, that's a futile task and gets you bogged down on minor details. If anything, add that stuff in a later update if resources allow it.
      I'm curious how you implement soft clothing and hard armour types. What bothered me with several AAA-titles in the past (Skyrim, Dragon Age come to mind) was that they had hard armour - metal plates, carapace armour etc - behave like soft clothing, in a way that it bended and twisted with character movment instead of being rigid and inflexible.
      Ah well, it's a minor detail too so don't put that too high on your priority list. :-)

    10. Anthony DiNovo on

      I also want to chime in. One of the reasons I chose to back this game was its Russian and Eastern European developers. I was hoping that the foreign culture (to the USA) would let the focus be on gameplay and fighting; rather than the typical moralizing about the evils of Imperialism and war, with a follow up multicultural propaganda lesion. If something is in your vision go for it, but otherwise grow a pair and quit apologizing for being different.

    11. Missing avatar

      ImageNotAvailable on

      While I applaud your technical innovation I hope this doesn't lead to completely nonsensical ship personnel. The military is a very homogeneous group and consists mostly of healthy young males and I hope the NPC generation will reflect that, rather than some 50% female, 50% obese nonsense.

    12. Missing avatar

      Michael on

      Guys, just make the game you want to make. Don't get into the business of trying to please every single person who has a complaint.

    13. Missing avatar

      Alan Heck on

      Also your theme song for The Mandate gives me goosebumps.

    14. Missing avatar

      Alan Heck on

      Thank you you're wonderful people! I'm genuinely excited for this game and I'm so grateful angry Joe made his video bringing it to my attention so I could become a backer! This is also my dream game. Many times I was playing other sci fi games such as Stardrive for example and thinking of ways the games could be better. It is as if you literally read my mind and took my advice to heart.

      Just for example in Stardrive you can fully customize your ships weapons and systems, you can even have infantry to defend from boarding parties or to attack other vessels but you cannot customize the way the ship looks although they do have animations for every specific weapon you equip. You also cannot go inside your ships and control infantry and of course there is no way to customize infantry with specific strengths and weaknesses. There is also no story.

      I thought of these things and many more that would make sci fi space games better and then I saw Angry Joes video about The Mandate and it's as if you actually know and care about what people want! I hope The Mandate is every bit as good as it appears it will be and that this is just the beginning of a new franchise that will grow in popularity to become mainstream!

    15. Kjell E on

      Sounds like you've got a good setup there Perihelion. Good going!

    16. euansmith

      Great, I can play Capt Brienne of Tarth!

    17. Jito463 - WoOS, LofUT on

      While I'm not overly concerned about the choices available in making my captain, I'm glad to see more choices available, nevertheless.

      Also, nice shout out for D:OS. I also backed that one, and it was worth every penny. I'm expecting just as much from you, so get crackin'. ;)

    18. Missing avatar

      Rowena on

      Sounds great! To be honest character customization with possible female characters was one of the reasons I decided to back your project.
      I'm glad to see you deliver on so many aspects! Everything so far sounds really great - story, concepts, customization - heck even the twitter account story promotion is a really neat idea :)

      I'm really exited for this game and I can't wait to see how it all turns out ;)

      Cheers everyone ;)

      @Claude M.: Great you've never been discriminated against. Being part of the privileged sure is very comfortable. It baffles me however how some people like you can continuously fight to keep up discrimination against others. You know we're talking about player choice here, right? If you're content with the average white male 30 something protagonist that 90% of all games feature then that's great for you. And you can even choose such a character in this game. Just stop excluding others from enjoying games.

    19. Rand Chua TL on

      Empress Anastasia Romanova tweet been quiet for a while?
      Ask her to post some pictures of our ships? :p

    20. Claude M. on

      @Kirstyn Ivring

      Yes, sex was a choice. However, now we have people who want to have Asians and Africans in the game, others want to be short or tall, slim or obese, etc. etc. etc. Who complains next? The LGBT community? How about we throw in some religions as well, just for good measure, and draw even more resources from the core game?

      Like Kahuna Kevin already said, it shouldn't be about avoiding butt-hurt to some overly sensitive people, but to provide a game that is enjoyable. Kickstarter is about supporting devs who have an idea, not to demand they make the game you want.

      On a side-note: I like your pledges. :P

    21. Jess Montgomery on

      All of this fills me with endless excitement, cannot wait to see the final product!

    22. Missing avatar

      RecklessPrudence on

      See, this is the kind of stuff that should just GET DONE, unless there is a compelling reason not to. Thank-you Perihelion. In a perfect world what we're lauding you for would be standard operating practice, but this is not a perfect world. Thank-you for taking one step towards not leaving my gamer friends who happen to be female out in the cold.

      On another note entirely, that obsidian sword - is there a reinforcing carbon (diamond) lattice, or something? Something, whatever form it takes, to make the obsidian less brittle and the sword useful past the first one-to-three strikes? Or is it mostly a showpiece? The way I'm imagining it, while being aesthetically pleasing, it is also functional, and can in the right circumstances cut through Heavy Trooper armour - even if those circumstances never come up, it'd still be worth the (to a society like the Mandate) near-trivial effort to make sure they're not just handing out useless showpieces.

    23. Missing avatar

      Kirstyn Irving on

      @Claude M
      The choice of the sex of the player character was something that Perihelion promised at the start of the Kickstarter campaign. It is not something that anyone demanded that they do after the game funded.
      A quote from the Mandate's FAQ,
      "We plan on providing extensive character customization options so you can create your perfect captain character. There are no gender restrictions and you may create both a female or a male captain character to represent you in the game."

      I think Perihelion may have confused some people with the odd use of quoted comments and the wording in this particular update.

    24. Dennis Skyum on

      Primoz, considering the Osmani are cyborgs, I'm gonna venture a guess that there's nothing but tech in those legs, not a bunch of skin and bones you have fit in there like a pair of pants.

    25. Claude M. on

      Geez people, if you want that many character options, go play The Sims. I'd rather see my pledge go into a good story and game mechanics than into options I won't use anyway.

      In my 25+ years of gaming, I've played males and females, white Caucasians, African-Americans, green-skinned choleric persons, or ever-growing slime globs. I've played dwarfs, elves, orcs, zombies, vampires, gays, lesbians, you name it, I probably played as it, and guess what? I never gave a damn, as long as I enjoyed the game itself!

      Does it matter to me if my in-game character is 5'2 or 6'4? Not really. However, it would if that option used up a slice of the budget that could have been spent on another explorable space station, because then I'd be rather pissed.

      Just because you pledged $20, you're not entitled to become the creative team leader and get to demand what you personally want to see in the game, because guess what, not everybody shares YOUR opinion.

    26. Paal Joachim Romdahl on

      Nice walk animation. The hands need some fixing though as the shape is a bit strange.

    27. StranaMente on

      @ Primož Jeras, you answered yourself: "What possible reason would you have to require your soldiers to viciously maul their legs in order to fit into a uniform?"

      Maybe they got mauled in combat and lost their legs and/or arms?

      Be more open minded, respectful and considerate next time.

    28. Primož Jeras on

      That Osmani Light Armor is the dumbest thing I've seen in Mandate so far. Arms that destroy your balance and center of mass because of their size and ... digitigrade legs? *What*? That makes so much of no sense I can't even comprehend you would seriously thing about something like that. Not only is that not actual digitigrade shape because you're not walking on your toes, but still your full foot, it still retains that knee break.

      What possible reason would you have to require your soldiers to viciously maul their legs in order to fit into a uniform? Evolution changed our digitigrade legs into full-foot so we could stand up, why would you go ever think it's a good idea to go back?

    29. Jean-Luc Picard on

      Race/gender representation isn't a big deal for me but having more options is certainly welcome.

      As long as I get to be bald. ;-)

    30. Rand Chua TL on

      From the picture of the Osmani Light Trooper armour, their arms seem longer than normal?
      From the video its great to know our crews come in all sizes and shape. ^_^
      Both male and female.

    31. Missing avatar

      Kirstyn Irving on

      The adaptive character system looks great and I'm pleasantly surprised that there will be a chance to change height and body shape as well.
      I've been playing arcade, console and computer games since the late 1970's and spent a lot of years not having a choice in the sex of the player character, even in RPGs. Even today it takes a bit of research about a game to find out if it has that option. I'd love it if other game developers shared Perihelion's view that it be an accepted part of character creation and didn't decide that it could be a stretch goal or dropped entirely because of budget constraints.
      Thankyou for the clarity about this as I was starting to get a little concerned as many of the character screens being featured in the updates only showed male characters.

    32. Missing avatar

      Benjamin Abrams on

      @Kahuna Kevin: And that's the problem with people too concerned with whatever the cause of the day is instead of caring about gameplay. Mass Effect didn't have very much in the way of character models. Sure, you could alter some stuff with the character but, and here's the important bit, none of that affects gameplay in any serious way. There will always be a few people who protest your game because you didn't have enough of some minority or did/didn't portray someone in a specific way. Whatever. As long as the gameplay is solid I really don't care.

      Also, to the person that wrote, "My only gripe with the project is it's exclusively western focus, with no "asian" or "african" related factions, makes the whole setting harder to believe, at least for me," why does there need to be any of those factions? Really, I'm serious. The universe from the "Alien" movies had a Sino-American government, Firefly had something similar, and very many sci-fi universes have one government for the entirety of Earth (Star Trek and Babylon 5 are perfect examples of this). Or what about the great game "Alpha Centauri?" All of those governments were based on ideology, not race or geographical heritage from Earth... and those were all people who had just left Earth! I'm not sorry to break this to you, but you need to hear it eventually:
      Not everything is about race. Some people actually believe that whole bit about judging people by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin. And if that makes a person racist, then I guess Dr. King was a horrible man...

      Having governments based on ideology (religion, ethics, politics, etc.) or economics makes at least as much sense as doing it purely on race. I say that it makes even more sense because, and I know this is hard for some people to believe, but not all people from any race fit nicely into boxes. Just because someone is from race X doesn't mean that all race X believes a certain way.

      And, guess what, not only is this science fiction, it's also a fictional representation of the future. I really couldn't care less if the characters all had glowing blue eyes (Dune), giant foreheads (Star Trek), use robots as surrogate bodies (Surrogates), were energy beings in environmental suits (Babylon 5), or were clones (take your pick of sci-fi). If the Mandate comes out with six-fingered, three-eyed, asexual humans with green skin but had an amazing story and great gameplay, I'd be fine with that. Because most gamers want good games, and most sci-fi fans want good stories.

    33. Anaxphone

      I respectfully disagree, Kahuna Kevin. It's quite possible to want more than the default short-cropped hair blonde buff mid-20's Caucasian male player avatar as the only option without descending into the straw-filled void you suggest.

      Of course Peri is going to have both first and final say as to what they create, but I, for example, have just as much reason to state that I approve of the more flexible character options as you do expressing concern that it may get in the way of the only proper concerns about the game as you see them.

    34. Kahuna Kevin on

      Please spend time on the actual game content and make the game YOU want without fear of persecution, or butt-hurting anyone over gender, ethnicity, etc, height, speech impediments, disabilities, sexual kinks, dog vs cat owner, etc. If people seriously get their panties in a bunch over lack of character options vs the actual gameplay and core game mechanics, they're playing games for the wrong reasons.

      Seriously, other than that, if you don't have the game options to play a red-headed ginger transgender-reversal-redux Tourette's suffering paraplegic crazy cat person captain I'm going to feel personally upset and want my money back. K thanks.

    35. Perihelion Interactive LLC Creator on

      Just to clarify since we got a few messages about this:

      Our min spec for The Mandate is actually rather conservative but we focus on optimization from the start as it can affect both art direction and game design. While we do not have final specs, on the hardware side we are aiming for the following (recommended spec will be higher):

      Min spec (not final)
      - CPU: dual core 2.4 GHz or higher
      - GPU: Intel HD3000/4000, AMD/ATI 3850, nVidia 8600 GT
      - System RAM: 3 GB
      - Shader model: 3.0 or higher (DX9.0c+ on Windows)

      Basically if you have a decent gaming PC that is 5-6 years old or a laptop with integrated graphics (from Intel) that is 2-3 years old, or a laptop with discrete graphics (from nVidia / AMD) that is 3-4 years old, then you should be ok.

    36. Anaxphone

      Looking very good. It's nice to see a cariety of body types available.

      And the mention of asymmetrical body types sounds very promising to boot.

      I can't wait until we get a chance to play with a more fleshed-out character generator. That's one of the things I truly adored about the City of Heroes MMO- you could create an astounding variety of designs, with virtually no limits based upon the class/powers you'd chosen to go with them.

    37. J.L. on

      I was one that asked about female characters, because more often than not that choice does not exist. Not even in games with "tons of customisation". So glad to see this having a sensible approach to gender and ethnicity. (c:

      I am also impressed that you have height adjustment -- sometimes it sounds as if that would require an alternate reality to be implemented in games. (c;

      Yay for the Mandate and Perihelion, you rock!