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I'm creating a game with a bodybuilding/fitness theme. The camera will almost always be focused on an inclined front view of a character who will be evolving very frequently during the game as the player 'levels up' the musculature of each part of the character such as arms, legs, chest, etc.

I've been doing some research trying to figure out the most economical yet effective way to incorporate this visual mechanic of letting individual parts of a character independently increase in size and detail and have come up somewhat short, most likely due to my complete lack of experience when it comes to art (my experience is mostly in programming).

I was thinking 2D would be best for this game, however maybe this one character should be in 3D? Would a low poly style fit these requirements, or should I look towards something akin to sprites or hand drawings? The games interactivity will be purely through menus so that doesn't need to be taken into account when dealing with the problem of this character. I would like this character to have some animations, of course, however I'm not sure if that fits the scope of this single question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You mention several possibilities that sound like they could be viable. Have you tried making a mock-up or minimal prototype with one or another, and identified a specific blocker you need help overcoming, or a particular failing you're looking to improve? Without a more concrete problem, or specific evaluation criteria to decide whether eg. 2D sprites or low-poly 3D better meet your tech & aesthetic needs, this question might veer into opinion-based territory \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Dec 11 '17 at 2:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might be right. I was hoping there may be some tried and true methods for dealing with characters like this, but lacking that it does indeed veer towards opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – B.Batiege Dec 11 '17 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're indie, I think a nice route is just let your artist(s) decide. If they think it's easier to draw a boatload of sprite sheets for each body part, do that. If they think it's easier to model a boatload of body parts, do that... or you could potentially look into generating the artwork with a basic musculature system. For example, you might take a skinny seamless character mesh and use some primitives like ellipsoids which grow and push against the character's skin as he gets more muscular and gets hot chicks. That should be computationally feasible if your character is the only... \$\endgroup\$ – user77245 Dec 11 '17 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... one that's evolving this way. Or you could even avoid that and just have one character with tweens (relative morph targets, basically vertex position deltas) that get applied as each body part gets more muscular. See Poser and how they do that. That's a very simple solution but requires your artist to create a bunch of morph targets. \$\endgroup\$ – user77245 Dec 11 '17 at 14:46
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If you're comfortable with 3D modeling, I would recommend looking into blend shapes. They're often used for e.g. customizing faces in RPGs, and should fit your use case quite nicely.

In a nutshell, blend shapes allow you to morph (part of) a shape into another, on top of, say, bone animations. You could create two or three versions of each body part and seamlessly interpolate between them.

(See here for an example or here for Unity's (limited) documentation on the subject.)

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