Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting it Right- A Study in Character Design

Kiri, half-naked female barbarian of Hyboria

 Kiri (properly spelled, and not based on game name availability) as a concept has been around for many years now. The first roots of what she was to become formed as early as the 1980’s, where the character commonly known as Kiri the slave girl, played by Tanya Roberts in 1982’s The Beastmaster, was a core influence.

Originally the character was about as deep; a freed slave with some training as a female warrior, leaning toward skills as a rogue or thief, and with a inclination to wear very abbreviated clothing, and almost certainly no armor. With Kiri first put to pen & paper on a character sheet for tabletop gaming, this started as your basic bikini-clad female barbarian; fairly standard fare for high fantasy and sword & sorcery.
This soon evolved into a topless character who wore naught but brief bottoms; the original was a full-cut pair of white, department store-issue, nylon brief panties. This was followed by a large white breechcloth that if anything resembled a diaper. Clad in this and in a silvered, metal collar and bracelets (elements influenced by Wonder Woman’s trademark costume), her world of origin was finally set in Anaron; a tabletop campaign world of high fantasy, typical Dungeons & Dragons stuff, but with custom elements of post-apocalyptic. This would eventually explain traces of high-tech materials including synthetic fabrics. A similar thing was done in John Norman’s Gor novel series, where the counter-Earth Gor, lorded over by alien, advanced powers, maintained a classical world technological level, but high-tech appeared in at least some novels.

Her standard garb finally evolved to above-mentioned metal collar and bracelets, and a full-cut pair of white plastic panties (alternatively, latex rubber pants at times), obviously real fetish influence here; Kiri finally had a trademark costume of her own. Armed with a sword, this was all the clothing Kiri managed to need for many, many leagues and pages of adventure, and indeed were those adventures! Misadventures, of course, would be the most accurate term, as Kiri’s propensity to (understandably) find massive trouble soon became standard practice.

Early Kiri 3D render, now a fully realized concept, including the rubber pants

So…how to repeatedly depict in graphic detail the plight of a slave girl running from sword fight to sword fight in just a scrap of plastic underpants, misadventure after misadventure, when she should have been rightly maimed or killed from the onset? Well, high-tech was one answer of course, where Kiri had extreme regenerative qualities (think X-Men’s Wolverine) that had her endure extreme physical violence and punishment without actually expiring from it. The first solution was the collar, that simply put, had the qualities of the old Ring of Regeneration from classic D&D. At later points it was the panties themselves that also bestowed some powers or abilities to her.

Interestingly, the whole thing was like a reverse on 2007’s Empowered superheroine manga by Adam Warren. In the case of Empowered, her flimsy and very rubbery or plastic-like "hypermembrane" body suit was the source of her superpowers, at least until the suit took damage in combat, which of course it frequently and inevitably did, leaving Empowered weak as a kitten and a classic damsel in distress.

In the case of Kiri, who starts with virtually no clothing, there are virtually no abilities to rely on. A high constitution and dexterity, in character sheet terms, are always her strengths, but Kiri is consistently skinny to the point of emaciation, leaving her with nearly no actual physical strength. While not truly intelligent or clever, she did always manage to have an almost feral shrewdness in most situations; part of this was street smarts due to her tendency to cavort or cross paths with society’s dregs wherever she managed to find herself.

Trained to use a sword and bow, Kiri typically has the moves, but lacks enough strength with either weapon to be truly skilled and effectual. This in part explained her mode of undress as a female warrior- physically weak, she relies on an agile, fast combat style that often included acrobatics.
Other classic, high-fantasy female characters would make their contributions for influence- Paolo Serpieri’s Druuna; a well-endowed heroine in a grungy, post-apocalyptic world where she continuously endured helplessness and rape, often at the hands of notably inhuman mutants or creatures. There was also Axa comics, where the title, sword-wielding blonde heroine from an equally apocalyptic setting, in a very liberating moment stripped her clothing off and left the safety of domed city of her birth to adventure the dangers of the wilderness outside, typically topless. Like both of these, Kiri really had a streak of anti-heroine in her from the onset, which eventually became her permanent archetype.
It was purposeful design that Kiri not be just another buxom female adventurer; not just another Barbie in a metal bikini with a sharp blade at her hip. No, Kiri would be flawed, attractive but not a physical specimen. Also severely character flawed; from almost the onset her need to travel and adventure in slave gear and panties stemmed from an overwhelming desire for defeat and helplessness- something which of course she received amply in nearly any environment she found herself. Tamer cheesecake-style bondage soon devolved to full, graphic violation and torment; full, gruesomely medieval torture that often destroyed her mentally and physically.

With the introduction of the Prophecy into all her incarnations, she was effectively deathless; cursed by a dark goddess to live an existence of virtual immortality centered on horrifying torment and abuse. In many ways the ultimate damsel in distress and masochist, no method of execution was too severe or barbaric. Indeed, in barbaric Hyboria, Kiri would find the desire to ‘try’ as many methods of death as she could, often ‘setting herself up’ for a terrible and inescapable ordeal. Perhaps in this desire for her own torment and self-destruction is her deepest streak of cleverness.

This lead to the possibility of many, varied death scenarios for Kiri- most of them extremely violent and gruesome, involving extreme mutilation and sexual torture. With the Prophecy in play, she could do it all, again and again, always with knowledge of the Prophecy that all this was a warm-up for the real eternity she would suffer in the Hells, Gehenna, etc. As a character Kiri is doomed on a level and magnitude that is difficult to fathom, but tones of a willing martyr mean this is a destiny that Kiri is informed of, ultimately accepts, and eventually embraces with an almost fanatical passion, so strong is her desire to be humiliated and tortured.
With these JPEG’s found on the web some years back I realized I had found my near-perfect personification; a female model who would have been ideal to portray Kiri. Very attractive and alluring, but with a skinny, bony figure. Small-breasted and very visible ribs and shoulder bones that Kiri would have from her innate weakness. Very pretty, with the full crimson lips Kiri needed, and with a nose and ears that might have been just a bit too large.

The small-breasted and skinny physique that was a near-perfect match for Kiri

The tousled, unkempt hair on the model was a desirable quality as well

Lean to the point of gaunt, with bony legs and knees

The prominent nose and ears that fit Kiri’s concept

Kiri’s backside still had to be a tight and shapely one

Note the jutting ribs and visible shoulder bones

Kiri had to be capable of this smutty, lascivious manner

Of course, the full, crimson lips and platinum blonde locks

A figure weak and ineffectual, but a bearing that proudly displayed her nakedness and helplessness 

Who of course looked superb in slave shackles

A nice side view

Good reclined view of the upper body

One more closeup

If anything, not a cover model; perfectly beautiful in her imperfection.

With this and previous drawings to work on as the blueprint, most good MMO’s have a nice detailed character editor to create and work with. Age of Conan being exceptionally good. The body was easy enough; Kiri’s northern, barbarian, often-Scandinavian heritage meant she was not short, typically about five foot seven or eight inches in real life equivalent. It left her somewhat tall and ungainly; with AoC’s editor, reducing her thickness as much as possible to depict her emaciated frame. Reducing the breasts to the smallest size possible, in direct sacrilege of the female barbarian textbook.

Finally, the face. How to get that wantonness, that imperfect beauty. AoC was a perfect game for that, since Hyboria is scarred, grungy, violent. Quickly I realized the Guttersnipe female face was near-perfect, but the stock mouth was too upturned, the face too odd, almost deformed in some way.

With slightly more modest gear, adding a Vanir halter top

The characteristic lip sneer

Softening the features a bit, pulling the lips out and thickening them a bit, with an ample red lipstick in the common makeup face coloring, they had that licentious pout that was either beckoning or sneering like a streetwise urchin, depending on how the animations moved them. At that point, Kiri was staring back at me out of the editor screen, in all her perverse glory. Nearly as perfect as I had dreamt her.

Standard collared barbarian getup

Her latest look

Full upper body

Evening jewelry social with collar

The very Bioware-like dialogue frame in AoC is, in my view, one of the coolest things about the game that really showcases the character models and their details. Thus, it was a great pick to screen capture some nice close-ups of her. Then the body markings; again this one was easy, selecting Cut by the Thornbush as it most resembled multiple whipping scars. Since I rolled Kiri, more recent patching seems to have subdued the brightness of these face and body markings. The brightness of the blue eye shadow and the brilliance and glossiness of the lipstick seems to have faded, and the visibility and color of the body scars is reduced. Hopefully this will be improved at some point.

Displaying her barbarian female briefs

Scandalously dressed in Akhet Isle's Souk district

Finally, while I reduced her frame as thin as I could get it, I did put just a bit of fullness on her hips. She needed a little shape there to ensure she'd fill out those trademark hot-pants, and make them look exceptionally good on her ass.

The rear view on those short pants

The fit of the Nemedian hot pants is snug, her hips full just enough to wear them well

Adorned and collared, fighting barbarian whore

Original Kiri concept property and copyright of PhanPhoe Creations, 2008

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