The Only Artist Ever To Sculpt Spider-Man's Nipples In A Video Game Wanted Them To Be 'Hot,' But Not Distracting
Nipples. They’re like fun little slices of pepperoni on the vast pizza that is the human body. Most people have them. Video game characters, though? Not so much. In fact, former Insomniac artist Xavier Coelho-Kostolny thinks there’s a credible case to be made that he’s the only person ever to...
“Sculpting nipples is a bit weird despite having made dozens of characters for video games, mostly because nipples can be horribly detrimental to the production process,” Coelho-Kostolny told Kotaku in an email. “We use cloth simulations for a lot of loose clothing like t-shirts, for example, and that simulation tends to get caught on small details like nipples, so they’re things that character artists generally avoid putting into models unless you’re specifically supposed to see them.”
“The most important thing is making sure his nipples weren’t distracting,” he said. “As a character artist, I have to consider how certain details will read when you finally see them in the game, so having unusually dark nipples, for example, would make people focus on them instead of the overall effect of Spidey being mostly naked.”
“In terms of what makes a nipple worthy, I’d say it comes down to making them just as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of his figure. I definitely had a look at the scene in Spider-Man (2002) when Peter Parker wakes up and realizes he’s now absolutely jacked. Scenes like that are [a] great reference for color and placement,” he said, also noting that he “used a lot of underwear models as reference.”
“While they’re not identical, pixel-perfect duplicates, the nipples are largely mirrored,” said Coelho-Kostolny. “During the sculpting process, it was easiest to work with mirroring turned on, and then add some tiny variation later when painting textures. There are some other areas of the model/texture that are intentionally not mirrored, such as some small freckles and skin texture. This helps avoid the feeling that there’s a seam running down the middle of the model.”
“I absolutely took a good amount of time to consider what would make him, for lack of a better term, hot,” he said. “Everything from how vascular his arms were to the placement of his underwear on his hips got some sort of special attention, and I’ll admit I did all of it for the express purpose of adding a little beefcake to what is otherwise a pretty mild game in that regard. I mean, sure, an incredibly fit dude can be hot, or he can look like a weird vacuum-packed muscle monster. I absolutely wanted to err in the direction of making him hot.”
While Undies Spider-Man’s proportions are largely the same as every other Spider-Man in the game, there’s a key difference: “As a little side note, if you compare the Undies suit and the Advanced suit, you may note that the Undies version’s butt is just a little bit perkier. Gotta know your audience.”
“As someone who’s worked on some unbelievably sexist female characters for my job, it felt great to work on a male character who I had more or less free rein to make hot and subvert some of the rampant sexism biased against women in the game industry,” he said. “Knowing I was going to make something that potentially millions of people would see, I wanted to make something that celebrated how a male figure can be sexy, appealing, and not an overtly exploitative or a weird power fantasy.”
In the end, it took a “couple” days for Coelho-Kostolny to figure out “an appropriate size, placement, and color for the nipples themselves.” Every suit that went into Spider-Man had to be approved by Marvel, and while you might figure that the one where he’s nearly naked would’ve come under extra scrutiny, the Spider-Nips passed muster on the first try.
“I actually count it as a point of pride that [Marvel] didn’t have feedback on the nipples,” said Coelho-Kostolny. “It meant I did ‘em right!”