Making draw LOTS of different kinds of people
Obviously no two people look exactly alike - except identical twins. Turns out that a lot of our general appearance as far as skin tone and such (genetically speaking) has to do with our area of origin, or more specifically, the amount of UV radiation and the temperatures at that latitude.
The original version of the game only had 4 skin tones to choose from, and only had 8 models per sex to choose from.
The new version lets you select one of 7 areas of origin, which determines the skin, eye, and hair colors (textures) available to choose from, as well as defining the general facial features (head mesh), and the hair styles available to choose from (hair meshes).
As a result, the game has over 200 types of female models, and over 300 types of male models to choose from. Right now, guys have dreads and bald hairstyles, and girls don't, so there are more guy models to choose from. Dreads for girls will be added, as it was probably the predominant hairstyle of that era. That will kick up the number of available female models to choose from to over 300.
All these different models are possible due to reuse of content. models are made from individual limb meshes. there's juts one set of male and one set of female body limbs for all models. there are 5 head meshes for each sex. there are ~5 hair meshes for each sex. one model is required for each head and hair combo. so there's only about two dozen models per sex. each skin tone requires one skin texture, one male head texture, and one female head texture. there are currently 20-30 skin tones in the game. there are 4 eye color textures, and perhaps 6-8 hair textures. all these numbers are off the top of my head and may be a bit low. combining all these possibilities yields many hundreds off different models, if not over 1000. obviously not all combos are correct for the game - they couldn't change hair or eye color the way we can these days with contacts and hair coloring - and no tanning salons either. Selecting appropriate combos of head mesh, hair mesh, skin tone textures, hair texture, and eye texture yields about 300-400 possible models for each sex.
This screenshot shows a test of drawing lots of NPCs whose appearance is randomly generated from the possible combos that make sense for the game.
its also a stress test for the animation system. as i recall, there were ~115 active NPCs in this test, and i believe over 100 of them are visible in this shot (i keep losing count when i try counting them all ! <g>). The game currently performs quite well under these conditions. not until the number of npc's onscreen goes over 125 or so do you begin to see any change in frame rate. During actual game play, perhaps at most half as many NPCs as seen here would ever be on-screen at one time.