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Thread: Tribal skin tones?

  1. #1

    Default Tribal skin tones?

    One of the initial aspects of protoss tribes, and the protoss species in general, which was discarded in later portrayals was that every tribe had a unique skin tone as stated in the original manual. The tribe descriptions mention tribal colors but it is unclear if this is their skin tone or their game colors; either or both could be true and this seems to be the case in the game. (Only eight tribes were available in the game, and only six mentioned in the manual, but many more could easily have existed.)

    This can be seen in the protoss unit portraits: zealots and carrier pilots have green skin, arbiter pilots have white skin, scout pilots have orange skin, etc. The skin tones for particular professions seem to support that tribal colors double as skin colors: zealots and carriers may be akilae (green Templar command), the arbiter pilot may be shelak (white judicator librarians), and the scout pilot may be Auriga (orange Templar airforce). This leads to the result where a given force may wear the colors of a particular tribe but be composed of members from many tribes. It is not unbelievable that tribes may adopt members from other backgrounds or multiple tribes might work together under a single military banner.

    Where things break down is that this fairly predictable pattern is forgotten or broken in future games and fiction. In SC2 the protoss are generally portrayed as having a single ethnic appearance with few exceptions: khalai have pale blue skin and blue eyes, nerazim have dark blue or violet skin and green eyes, taldarim have bone white skin and red eyes. In the fiction and comics the protoss are generally depicted with multiple skin tones (absent in the games), but these do not seem to correlate with tribe (comparable to all humans being portrayed as Brazilian) and in some cases a character’s skin color may change between stories as seen in the cases of Artanis and Urun (comparable to a human character initially portrayed as black later being changed to white without explanation).

    Artanis in particular has undergone more changes in appearance than any other character: one depiction gives him pale beige skin (BW and SCR race selection screen), another dark indigo or violet (SCR portrait art), another light brown (WoL), another translucent pale blue (LotV).

    In general the tribal cultures have remained largely irrelevant in the lore, to the point where most protoss characters do not have a stated tribal background at all. By SC2 the khalai, nerazim and taldarim are portrayed the same way tribes were expected to be. Protoss tribes are comparable to human ethnic groups, even including being pigeonholed into particular professions (which is actually dystopic, if you think about it). If this same logic was applied to human beings, there would a large outcry.

    In SC:R new art, the diverse skin colors of SC1 protoss portraits were generally replaced by more generic colors that made them feel vastly more homogenous and more like SC2. While SC2 protoss portraits do have technically more varieties in skull shape and skin hue, the actual contrast of their skin colors is vastly more homogenous than in SC1. This is particularly strange given how easy it should be to apply a filter to the textures.

    Anyway, what do you think of how the tribes were treated? Do you think they should have been more important in the story? Do you think the protoss characters should have been consistently portrayed as having specific skin colors indicating their tribal background?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Protoss tribes are indeed analagous to "race" and it's hinted that this aspect is partly why the Aeon of Strife occurred. In the manual, the formation of the disciplines by Khas meant that tribal differences were lessened by creation of the caste system (and as a means to prevent something like the Aeon of Strife from occurring again). Though certain tribal and cultural old habits may have died slowly or remained in certain aspects, maybe this intermingling of the tribes within the caste system led to more homogenous skin tones over time.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon View Post
    Protoss tribes are indeed analagous to "race" and it's hinted that this aspect is partly why the Aeon of Strife occurred.
    The dark templar trilogy explicitly mentions that skin color played a role.

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon View Post
    In the manual, the formation of the disciplines by Khas meant that tribal differences were lessened by creation of the caste system (and as a means to prevent something like the Aeon of Strife from occurring again).
    A number of tribes, such as Sargas and Venatir, resisted the homogenizing influence of the Khala while still being part of it. Most of the tribes seem to have had their cultural heritage repurposed and exaggerated to serve the khala, not lessened. For example, the Shelak tribe were all made librarians. Can you imagine an entire human ethnicity being forced to become librarians due to an overhaul of the social order?

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon View Post
    Though certain tribal and cultural old habits may have died slowly or remained in certain aspects, maybe this intermingling of the tribes within the caste system led to more homogenous skin tones over time.
    I think that may have more to do with the writers not being consistent or changing their minds. In SC1 the portraits were all diverse and seemingly matched up with the tribal colors, the later fiction occasionally mentions skin colors (although this was never consistent), and the LotV prequel comic depicted the twilight council as all having distinct skin colors, but in SC2 all khala protoss magically became pale blue in complete contradiction of the first game and the comics. This occurred in just a few years and thus cannot be explained by "mingling."

  4. #4

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mislagnissa View Post
    A number of tribes, such as Sargas and Venatir, resisted the homogenizing influence of the Khala while still being part of it. Most of the tribes seem to have had their cultural heritage repurposed and exaggerated to serve the khala, not lessened. For example, the Shelak tribe were all made librarians. Can you imagine an entire human ethnicity being forced to become librarians due to an overhaul of the social order?
    That's a small price to pay considering the alternative was the Aeon of Strife. Nothing's perfect...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mislagnissa View Post
    I think that may have more to do with the writers not being consistent or changing their minds.
    Oh, don't forget about just plain laziness and lack of rigour!
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon View Post
    Oh, don't forget about just plain laziness and lack of rigour!
    That is not entirely fair. The Artanis: Sacrifice comic tried to portray the twilight council as ethnically diverse, even if this was ignored in LotV.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Maybe an outworld perspective is inappropriate, but as someone who has dabbled in 3D art, it is waaaay easier to create unique Protoss in 2D than in 3D. Making 3D models of someone with ridiculous chins or cheekbones takes a lot of work. I'd imagine that colors...actually no, there's really no reason why the skin color should be all grey, aside from laziness.

    You think Blizzard would have done the work, considering how much detailed work they put into the hideous SC2 armor.


    "Seeing Fenix once more perplexes me. I feel sadness, when I should feel joy."
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    I was doing some research, and it turns out that there is a fair amount of detail on the tribes. There are a number of inconsistencies never explained, since the Blizzard seemingly gave up on exploring the tribes halfway through development.

    The Auriga tribe was given command over the Protoss Empire's air and space forces according to its entry in the SC1 manual. This explicitly includes the carrier and arbiter, but oddly enough the scout is not mentioned. The arbiter is incongruous, since it is crewed by judicators and the Auriga is officially a templar tribe. (Although judicators are stated to include all elder protoss, implying they come from many tribes.) Skin tones differ by tribe, so we get the green-skinned carrier pilot and the white-skinned arbiter pilot. This suggests that the Auriga tribe is actually an umbrella for multiple ethnic groups, and opens the possibility that the other tribes mentioned may be umbrella groups as well.

    Scouts are mentioned in conjunction with the "venetir scouts," which seems to be a misspelling of the Venatir tribe. The Venatir tribe does not have a writeup in the SC1 manual, but they are mentioned in the Sargas tribe entry as one of the tribes that resisted the homogenizing influence of the Khala. The scout pilot has orange skin in SC1.

    In the Templar Census from the 1998 Blizzard website, we see mention of "Master Khalai Menbiller" who builds the robotic units and used the same portrait as the protoss buildings (and Aldaris). His tribe is never suggested, through Furinax is the only Khalai (working class) tribe mentioned in the manual. The portrait used has grey(?) skin in SC1 and rosy skin in SCR. The strike against Menbiller being Furinax is that Tabrenus had pale lime green skin.

    The Shelak tribe members, depending on source, have either violet or grey/white skin. Zekrath in the comic appears white or brown in different panels(?!).

  8. #8

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Doing some more worldbuilding. The wiki says that the SC2 nerazim are a "tribe" divided into "clans". This is easy enough to apply to the khalai tribes.

    For example, the Auriga tribe would be divided into clans representing subsumed tribes. A pale green templar clan who crews most of the air force, a rosy orange templar clan who crews scouts, and a snow white judicator clan who crews arbiters.

    A number of tribe names, like auriga ("charioteer") and venetir (venator, "hunter"), are derived from Latin. So I could name the arbiter clan to something like adbeto ("to go") or albeto ("I command s/he will whiten"(?)).

  9. #9

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Interestingly, the Tal'darim, arguably the most devout followers of the Xel'naga, have white skin-tones, just like the presumably-Shelak Tribe judicators piloting the Arbiter. I'm probably giving Blizzard too much credit in noticing that though.
    Arcturus Mengsk did nothing wrong. Tarsonis is just a conspiracy theory.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Tribal skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Muspelli View Post
    Interestingly, the Tal'darim, arguably the most devout followers of the Xel'naga, have white skin-tones, just like the presumably-Shelak Tribe judicators piloting the Arbiter. I'm probably giving Blizzard too much credit in noticing that though.
    I was mistaken. The arbiter pilots are actually Auriga, not Shelak. Says so in the original manual.

    The blizzard twitter actually referenced this as "tribal bloodlines." So now we have confirmation that the canon is a clusterfuck since this contradicts LotV's homogeneous depiction.

    Of the units in starcraft 1, their appearances break down as follows (sometimes eyes change color):
    • Zealot: dark green skin, dark blue eyes; Tribe: presumably Akilae, since the Templar Census depicts this portrait making an "Akilae war chant"
    • Dragoon: the lighting makes appearance impossible to accurately determine
    • High Templar: grey skin with brown stripes, red eyes; skin tone shared with the first zealot action figure (although that has yellow eyes); Tribe: presumably Akilae, since they make up the "high templar command" role
    • Zealot Hero (Fenix): rosy skin, orange eyes; Tribe: presumably Akilae, since they make up the majority of ground forces
    • High Templar Hero/Tassadar: silvery(?) skin, blue eyes, brown eyebrows; this seemed to form the basis of the SC2 protoss; Tribe: presumably Akilae, since like the Akilae in the manual he advocates on the Terran's behalf
    • Protoss building/Judicator Aldaris/Master Khalai Menbiller: grey skin, orange eyes; Tribe: presumably Ara, since he advocates exterminating the Terrans as collateral damage like the Ara in the manual
    • Carrier: pale green skin, yellow/orange eyes; Tribe: presumably Auriga, since Auriga are stated in the manual to crew carriers
    • Scout: rosy/orange skin, yellow/orange eyes; Tribe: presumably Venatir, as in the Templar Census it quotes the Venetir scouts
    • Arbiter: white skin, yellow eyes; Tribe: presumably Auriga, since Auriga are stated in the manual to crew arbiters


    So this gives us no less than eight tribal bloodlines in the portraits alone, and multiple bloodlines may be associated with a single tribe.

    The Akilae include the green skinned blue eyed bloodline, the brown striped grey skinned red or yellow eyed bloodline, the rosy skinned orange eyed bloodline, and the silver skinned blue eyed brown haired bloodline. The Auriga tribe includes the pale green skinned yellow eyed bloodline and the white skinned yellow eyed bloodline.

    Specific units are taken from specific tribes. Even if in game terms a protoss force had a specific tribal color, all forces seen in SC1/BW were composed of members of multiple tribes.

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