I am currently prototyping an idea for an iPhone game. I'd like to create an avatar editor inside the game so that the player can create a 3d avatar face and modify certain features (using slider controls), such as nose shape, eye color, mouth size, etc. This has been done in several games, but what I'm looking to do would be fairly cartoon-ish/caricature-ish, similar to the Mii editor on the Nintendo Wii (http://www.myavatareditor.com/). I'd also like the final result to have the ability to use some canned animations, such as simple speech animations, smiling, frowning, etc.

I am not an artist, so I would be unable to create these assets, but what kind of effort is required for an artist to create the 3d models necessary for this type of game? Also what mechanism would be required to tweak the face's characteristics? Would you use bones or morph targets? How would the final result be animated? Would facial animation use bones or morph targets?

I've seen several tools that do this sort of thing too, such as FacialStudio. Are there any facial generation tools out there you'd recommend for generating some base content for this game, or should I just hire an artist to do this type of work.


  • \$\begingroup\$ I swear there has been a similar topic, but I can't find it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


You're referring to two different kinds of avatar editors.

Wii's avatar editor is mostly textures with glyph bombing - moving, scaling and rotating different facial features like nose, eyes, mouth etc. The only other features there are how tall and/or (iirc) fat your character is, and these are trivial scaling operations.

More complex 3d avatar editors, like in mass effect or sims, are probably(tm) based on morph targets. The artist creates a "generic" face mesh, and lots of variants of it for each morph dimension set (like small nose, big nose, etc), and by combining all these morph dimensions, you get your final face.

At least some of the commercial solutions are based on huge databases of actual 3d-scanned faces which they have analyzed to generate a morph database, resulting in interesting dimensions like male/female or caucasian/asian, etc.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point that I am talking about 2 different kinds of editors. I guess I am more interested in the more complicated editor, where I'm strictly working with meshes, and not textures. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 13:23

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