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From what I can tell in Xcom EU and Xcom 2, the computer random generated troops that you can hire from are "random" in name and such but overall are limited to a set pool of created appearances. You will eventually start looping through the same looking soldiers if you go through enough.

Is there a way in the .ini files (or another way, I suppose) so that the computer generates truly random troops- going through each customizable option- skin tone, hair, each wardrobe choice, etc- and choosing from 1 to the full number of options?

I would love to see completely random troops to choose from, not just a large but recurring pool-

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By default, new units:

  • Never have tattoos, facepaint, or scars
  • Never have weapon or armor camo
  • Have hair-color, skin-color, and armor-color chosen from an extremely limited pool
  • Always have the same eye color(!!)

Fortunately, a very handsome author has recently created a mod for making rookies much more random: Rookie Customization Options

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Even a fully-random generator will start looping through repeat appearances, since there are a only finite number of available possibilities from the available parts - and, statistically, you're likely to start seeing repeats much quicker than you might think. I suspect that that's what's happening when you notice that you're "looping through the same looking soldiers".

I traced back the soldier-generation functions in the source-code that comes with the mod tools and couldn't find anything loading pregenerated appearances; it just calls RandomizeSetBodyPart(...) repeatedly for each body part. That's exactly what I'd expect a fully-random generator to look like.

As additional evidence, I had these soldiers show up as recruits (and neither is in my character pool, so they must come from the standard soldier generator):

CapnBubs mask Helmet with glasses

The former uses a lower-face prop from Capnbubs Accessories Pack, and the latter has glasses under a full-face helmet (from the Free The Hood mod). Neither of these are possible in an unmodded game, so neither can have been pregenerated by Firaxis; the only way they could show up in my game is to be generated on-the-fly when a new soldier is added to the recruits list.

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    This interview with XCOM 2 lead designer Jake Solomon suggests that rookie appearance is random, but parts are chosen with different weightings. "Towards the end of development everybody was coming in with everything chosen randomly [...] We need percentages for facial hair and percentages for helmets, because it looked insane, [...] most of them the numbers are low enough that they usually will stay away from facial hair and props on their face but in your starting squad maybe one or two will have some sort of prop." – raveturned Feb 29 '16 at 18:04
  • There are no character presets, but certain features are selected from a limited pool of options. There are lots of bright neon colors to choose from, but I've never seen a random rookie wearing one. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 29 '16 at 18:20

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