Character customization opinions (polls!)

Since the last two posts mentioned it, I’ll also let it out there. I much prefere have all the customizing in one go and even before the story properly started, than have it “organically” integrated into the narrative. And I think it’s even worse when the customization is interspersed with the actual story. That’s how the majority of games work, you create a character before you play as said character. I don’t see why this being a text based game makes it any different.

Ironically, if I recall correctly, CoG’s official guidelines suggests authors integrate the customization into the narrative. :disappointed:

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My take on this is:

In a traditional game that has controls and mechanics that need an introduction, usually done in a tutorial, presenting a character creator up front and in the beginning creates ties to the narrative of the story.

Visually, any graphics and effects that are part of the game (such as druid spells that surround your character in leaves) will hook into the player better with established customization playing a part of this process.

I believe in a text-based game, the author should insert the customization where it makes sense. That does not always mean in the beginning, first thing.

I use my Emigre project as an example where, narratively, it makes sense to have the choices up front in the beginning. My Patchwerks project is an example where it makes much more sense to have it spread out over multiple chapters.

This sort of stuff is what alpha and beta testing should be about, and hopefully when you (worldwide you) do provide feedback, this is the sort of thing you mention if it is or isn’t working.

I know that I appreciate such feedback, very much because it helps me improve the game tremendously.



Definitely, I’ve seen it done really well either way, and done badly too. But more often then not what you get is the generic character customization scenes.

You wake up/walk out of the shower and see your self in the mirror/catch a glimpse of your reflection. You have your grandmother’s eyes, which is… Your skin is… Your hair is… Then someone calls your name… Waking you from your revery. You open your closet, thinking what you’ll wear today and decide for…

Meanwhile I’m like this…


I’d rather have a The Sims moment and create a character up-front than go through another one of those scenes.


Agreed that in visual games you’d expect to see character creation at the start/tutorial stage. But as this is text based, it also draws on prose storytelling elements where those details all at once can be overwhelming (if I’m reading a book I don’t want to see lots of protagonist physical description without context before I’ve got to know anything). For me, having a lot of appearance choices when there are no visuals feels even more removed from the character and story.

That said I entirely agree about appearance-scene fatigue. I’m just not sure if having it all at the beginning is a perfect solution because if it’s that drawn out, it’ll be drawn out no matter where it’s placed - not sure if there is a perfect solution that makes everyone happy!


I think of IF more like a novel, than an actual game. And in novels, you don’t have a full character description of the MC before the narrative even starts. So, that’s why I like customization throughout the story. That’s also why I would hate to have a lesson on the world building before the story starts. But that doesn’t usually happen


You’re right, for sure. I’m just the sort of guy that preferes to rip the bandaid in one go, so to speak. That’s also why I think customization options for the sake of options is not a positive thing. But as this thread proves, different strokes for different folks. :grin: You’ll never get to make everyone happy at the same time.


Very understandable!

I’m genuinely fascinated by how important eye colour is considered based on these polls (more important than skin colour even??). I know Fallen Hero has some eye colour related shenanigans but apart from that I’ve never given my PC’s eye colour a second thought in ChoiceScript game :sweat_smile:


Ohh I feel the same a lot of the time!
For me it either makes it so we can’t start the game directly in the “action”, or it slows down an otherwise exciting scene cause we know the choices are not related to the scene in any real way but to set the MC.
Buuut, as someone who did the opposite of that and did the more video game classic “character creator section” where it happens before the main story starts totally outside of the game narrative—many dislike that too.
One fix I’ve come up with (but not yet implemented) is to do the Mass Effect characterCreator code thing so people at least don’t have to redo the long character creator each time… :sweat_smile:


LOL I actually realized this could be interpreted in two ways right after I posted this :sweat_smile: I meant pronouns in general, as in either write them yourself or choose between he/she/they hehe, but yes, I think people enjoy and connect more to stories that are not genderlocked :thinking: I’m not opposed to including specific customization though, even if I find it tiresome to do as a player, I can see some people enjoying it, especially considering that once the setting for gender is done, the variables are just there to use them :smiley:

That’s a very good point, things like that always throw me off too :sweat_smile:

I was thinking, while writing this response, that there may be also variations on opinions depending on whether people prefer to play romance or sci-fi or fantasy or idk, slice of life xd

lol I didn’t get the reference

I feel so dumb, I hadn’t thought about that! I’m taking notes hehe Thanks for sharing :heart:

Ohhhh yessss, I hate that too, I strive for asexuals recognition and correct portrayal as well. I haven’t played any game like that, but it seems like some people don’t understand what asexuality truly is…

I like it too! It’s like a paper doll in my head :grin:


Yeah, I think there’s a general notion that gender and pronouns are tightly linked, which one could argue it’s not necessarily the case, but I think maybe in the polls I left those options too open to interpretation :sweat_smile: it could mean many things now…

I hope that’s not an usual problem, bc I think I’d be mad :joy:

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My heart is divided between fashion as a social force and I don’t want people to judge me for what I’m wearing :sob:


Definitely. For starters, I’m asexual, not aromantic. It’s not just that I don’t want to be forced into a romance, it’s that I want my character to be acknowledged asexual whether she ends up in a romance or not.

And it’s the same with other identities, too. If my character is a straight man, I don’t want him forced to size up every man he meets as a potential partner. I just focus more on asexuality because ace rep has special meaning to me as a person, not just a player.


Ohhhh that reminds me of another question I’m curious about, I’ll leave some more polls in the main post this bc idk why they don’t work here.

Btw, I’m nothing if not a pedant nitpicker lol That’s why I make so many polls :smiling_imp:

I’m surprised as well! I did not see that coming, it reminds me of those times where all the book protagonists had emerald eyes, like the deep forest :sweat_smile:

I, the Forgotten One is the only game I can think of where eye color actually felt relevant to the story, since the eyes are the Marshal’s most prominent inheritance from their birth mother.


This is actually really useful to listen to. For me personally I tend to stick with pronoun and gender together (nonbinary they/them, man he/him) but for me I would only be interested in mixing pronoun if I could have both. Like, they/he, where they switch around the pronoun which is what I actually use in real life.

We cannot participate in these polls btw.

I think that integrating character description and choices into the games itself would be a good step for making it feel relevant. (I don’t mean locking out ROs based on you having green eyes or something but taking time to give ROs preferences and let them mention it. Maybe an RO with coiled hair will note to MCs with curly or coiled hair recommending a product they like or something random like that.) Those kinds of passive off hand remarks which makes it feel like characters actually notice things and can react to them would also make the characters have a lot more dimension.

Height is a huge hit or miss for me, because if they don’t bother to properly integrate it than it feels very inconsistent, but done well height and body type is probably my two favourite options for character customizability. The fact that being short and unintimidating in ItFO for example actually impacts how people evaluate you as a person in daily life. (Also RO moments where the descriptions are different depending on how the heights match up are always so cute!)


Thank you! I edited the polls to be on the main post :star_struck:

I agree! :heart:

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I like customization for a variety of reasons. Mainly it helps me feel like who the MC is is important to the game. Like, if all the characters have descriptions but the MC is left a featureless blob, there’s a disconnect there for me. It doesn’t help me imagine whatever I want because I know the author didn’t intend for them to be anything in the end.

Honestly, I don’t particularly mind if a game has customization that doesn’t really come up again. I do think it means a certain lack of creativity, but overall, I’d still prefer to have the customization regardless. I’m practically just playing a dress-up game for that portion and I’m okay with that.

The big sticking point in character customization for me, however, is clothing. I almost never like any of the options available lol. Either the clothing options are all “Safe” (i.e. plainly described, not much offense to one’s fashion sense, but not much personality either) or the author goes too extreme and then I’m stuck with an MC that’s more striking than I would’ve liked but I didn’t have any other choice. (Like, say I want a casual goth. Dark but comfortable clothes, some accessories, maybe some makeup but maybe makeup isn’t part of MC’s gender presentation, overall being oneself but not standing out that much. But the author goes, “Goth? Okay, you have a million belts and buckles, one hundred thousand piercings, your face is caked in makeup, your hair is sticking STRAIGHT UP at all times, and everyone thinks you’re a weirdo.”)

Maybe I’m a fashion snob. But self-expression through fashion is something that can be so personal, I’m not sure if there’s a happy medium there regardless.

Ultimately, for my own WIP (which isn’t on the forum yet), I just went with allowing the choice of MC’s gender presentation without personally going into detail. I think that works well enough partly because it’s set in an era where gender presentation was rather segregated and people can figure out what generally falls under masculine clothing and feminine clothing, and can come up with their own answers of what it means to have a mix of the two or fall into an androgynous category.