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Face to Face


AVS

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Now that I've gotten the bikinis out, I've finally gotten back to the Modular Automaton project that got derailed a few months ago!

 

...Kinda. 

 

Let me start with some background. I started working on the whole Dwarven Cyborg Collection thing with the Heads pack, but the released versions have never quite contained the first thing I actually tried to build: an automaton-style head with a humanoid 'mask' for a face. I had a couple of passable ones that I had thrown together in those early experiments, but when I looked for the permissions on the models I happened to use for them they were... less than promising. So I gave up on those and looked for alternatives, but never really had any luck. The 'masques' using the SevenBase and Nocturnal statue heads were what I came up with as a stop-gap alternative, but they're not really the same idea. When I came across the Gilded helmets I had something a lot closer, but those also aren't quite what I was going for. The Nocturnal head was actually closest in that regard, having a fully reproduced and natural-looking face, but I couldn't get it cut out in a way that I felt would work with what I had planned.

 

So the idea got put on one of my many back burners, although I continued to poke into it every once in a while. Statues seemed like a promising avenue for exploration so I took a look at all the ones in the game, but most of them are far, far too low-poly to really be choppable. The Meridia statue is about the only one that seems remotely usable, but I hadn't had much luck on isolating its face. Of course, the last time I tried I also had much less practice at chopping things up in OS. Given my more recent successes there I decided to give it another go, and ended up with something quite usable. I started thinking about using it for a new head specifically for the Modular project, to give it a sort of 'statue soldier' option.

 

But then I remembered that I had never actually taken a good look at the meshes for the statues that are packed into the Night Mistress Mansion and Sisterhood of Dibella mods. 

 

And found, when I did, that their faces just pop right off.

 

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Well, obviously, that lead to a whole new line of thought.

 

I immediately started hunting down the source of the models, and found that they were derived from the static scenes azmodan22 built for his SeXtreme Loading Screens mod, which gave me an even deeper pool to draw from. So I contacted him, and he graciously gave me permission to steal his faces. ?

 

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Finding the original sources gives me some interesting options. Obviously it lets me do that whole 'robot with a human face' look, which is always fun. And it's pretty easy to swap in the statue textures to go back to that earlier idea.

 

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And just as interesting, with just a bit more work in Nifskope it's possible to whip up, well...

 

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There's something to be said for thematic continuity.

 

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Keeping the original normal map adds quite a lot of detail, too, making them look like straight castings of an original face. I first tried this on one of the statue models using the statue normal map, and it came out a lot flatter. Not bad, but flatter.

 

As you can see, I've built in some 'understructure' to make these more passable as robotic faces, including those ear-plates and some re-uses of the glowing eyes from my existing work. Those eyes actually present me with a bit of a conundrum as far as exactly how many of these I want to do; I've already got thirty-odd potential faces pulled from the SeXtreme models. I can go ahead and triple that if I do stone and bronze versions of each of them. And then double that if I include both potential versions as far as the eyes go. 

 

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The intact eyes look pretty good. The glowing eyes... probably look better? They add a certain interest, anyway, and do have the advantage of always looking ahead, unlike quite a lot of the existing eye meshes. Although that adds its own interest, especially on the flesh faces. However those do have their own appeal with the glowing eyes swapped in, and some of the models I want to source from didn't have the eye meshes to begin with for one reason or another, so the question is moot on those. But still, 180 faces... might be a bit much.

 

Probably won't add much more than that, though, since just getting these positioned properly was a chore. The original models don't all have the faces in the same position, obviously, but I wasn't expecting them to not all be the same scale. So much fiddling around with the sizes... In positioning them I decided to have them align with the standard head position, instead of the position slightly off from there that they'd have to be in to work with the existing 'Gyro' heads. I had a few reasons for that, but the main one was that I wanted them to work with the various existing bits of standard headgear, such as the Gilded and Ripper stuff:

 

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The Gynoid 'hairs':

 

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And, of course, the Aster:

 

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The knock-on effect of this is that it's also usable with just about any other slot 31-based headgear, as well.

 

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Of course, there's a couple of further consequences of this decision. One is that I'm going to need versions of the Aster and Gilded helmets that don't have the shaved head mesh seconded in as the 'helmet hair', but since I was planning on presenting this as an even more stand-alone package than the -BAF- due to its body universality I'll probably end up tossing in redundant copies of stuff like the weapons and the Gynoid hairs as well. 

 

Second, if I wasn't going to use the Gyros, I needed a new head to slap these faces onto. 

 

I also had that nice new glass globe model to play around with. 

 

I also had a brain.

 

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I was never entirely happy with how I had to cram the brain into the barrel mesh to get something that would fit under the Gilded helmet. This was a lot more forgiving to work with, and is pretty close to actual scale with the head. I also made sure it fit within all of the existing DCC headgear and hairs without any clipping or other serious problems, although it being more open at the back means that I'm gonna have to modify this set's Aster to hide a few of my sins...

 

Since I was using the globe for the Preserved Brain v2, I figured I'd make a new neck based on the one from the Preserved Head v2.

 

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This thing was a bit tricky to get weighted, and I still have to do some touch-ups on the throat tube, but not having to cover the humanoid neck let me give the rings some solid weighting, with almost distortion-free results.

 

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It ends up looking very nice in motion, and pairs quite well with the faces, being better balanced than leaving the two pipes and the spinal rod unadorned would be while still also being clearly artificial.

 

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And having that artificial face with the brain globe exposed at the back of the head, well, that's just magical.

 

(I have mentioned that I really like cyborgs before, right?)

 

The brain and neck parts are built into one .nif set to slot 30 to function as a complete head replacer, while the faces are swappable parts on slot 44. It's quicker to build it this way, given how many faces I've got to deal with. That does mean you can use the faces by themselves, but since they're positioned close to and the features are generally a bit smaller than a standard Skyrim face, the result is pretty funky. But that also holds true for all the other robot parts in this set if you try to use them without one of the robot cores, so meh. I also intend to make some non-brain heads for this, using soul gems or whatever. They'll be based on this model since they'll also have to work with the faces, but I'm unsure if I want to have them as entirely separate heads for each type or make them swappable inserts like on the Gyros. There's some arguments in favor of that, but I would have to go back and change a few things here given that that brain's hiding a few sins of its own. There's also the ground models to consider...

 

Combine this with the work I've had sitting around for the Modular bodies, and you can really start to see how this stuff will all come together.

 

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Still plenty more work to do, of course. Still have to build more of those body parts, and swap the textures around for more bronze and stone faces. (Then maybe triage out a few of those to bring the numbers down, depending on how they come out.) And maybe mess around with some more of the texture settings in Nifskope, to see if I can find out why the faces glow in the dark a little...

 

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