Character Customization Question

I am currently in the process of writing my own choicescript game.

I wanted to see if readers enjoy having the character customization segment of the story be integrated within the narrative.
e.g: You make your way to the bathroom mirror to make yourself presentable for the day. You comb your hair which is…(and here you’ll be presented with the option of choosing the hair color and its length.)

Or, having a chapter before the story begins dedicated to appearance customization which will then be mentioned in the story accordingly.

I am interested to hear which you prefer, and if the second option breaks immersion.

Thank you :’)

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I prefer the first option! Especially if you can choose the characteristics in different chapters, if that makes sense (e.g. you choose eye color and hair type/color in one scene and choose its length in another)

Sometimes having too many options in a short amount of time can break the immersion as much as having to choose everything separately before the story actually starts imo

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The first option.

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I have always found when the customization is incorporated somehow to be the most fun It doesn’t all have to happen at once either. Wayhaven Chronicles has great examples of periodically customization. Zombie Exodus Safe Haven has a GREAT prolgoue character builder, but it’s all done in the context of the story.

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The first option for me too! Though, I’ll go one step further to say that
books that integrate the customization choices into the narrative (which is what I’m aiming for in my book) are preferable over the conventional “you look into a mirror” way of it.

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Generally, I prefer the first option; It allows for a much easier suspension of disbelief, and I also find the answers come easier as well. I usually prefer if the character customization happens AFTER some sort of intro to the story, so I can get an idea of what my MC actually looks like before continuing. When that doesn’t happen, my MC tends to end up a bit flat (physically), which is never good.

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I see now that the first option prevails over the second one, and gets an added plus if done in a way that doesn’t feel forced or disruptive to the narrative.

Thank you all for answering, your insights were very helpful. :slight_smile:

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Ideally? Neither, if it’s irrelevant to the story.

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I very much prefer the first option, specially in the beginning of the story. It helps imagine the character during the events :smiling_face:

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I actually don’t have much of a preference. What matters more to me is how my character’s appearance is mentioned/used in the game. The more organic it is in descriptions, the more relevant to the lore or character interactions, the better.

Now, I know nothing about code, but I’m almost positive I’ve played games with if/then usage of descriptors. Like for hair, if=black, then=raven. That’s probably a terrible example, but if the effect of clicking boxes for long and black hair results in the game describing you in a scene with “flowing ebon tresses,” that feels immensely satisfying, like the game not only was listening to you but actually expanded on what you told it.

Conversely, if I select “long” and “black” and the game just spits those words back to me verbatim (e.g. “You brush your long black hair”), well, that usually feels pretty uninspired and kind of patronizing. Like the game is signaling to me that my choice is unimportant. Kind of the difference between having a conversation with someone and just shouting into a canyon to hear the echo. The second one can entertain you for a moment, but it doesn’t engage you in any meaningful way.

Does any of that make sense? I guess another example from the non-IF video game space would be most BioWare games compared to something like Cyberpunk 2077 or The Outer Worlds. When you create a character in a BioWare game, you see your character interact with the world and you see the world interact with them. The character you spent time creating is worked into cutscenes, they emote, they are very clearly there.

In Cyberpunk or The Outer Worlds, you only ever see your character in menus, and their faces are typically covered by helmets; I can’t remember what my own character looks like 15 minutes into the game, which feels really, really bad to me.

Having my character’s appearance come up semi-often, organically and in new and interesting ways…that’s the unicorn for me. Definitely much harder to implement, but well worth the effort (for me, anyway.)

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I’m not a big fan of either (though I may be guilty of the first one). The trope of the main character looking into a mirror and describing their appearance (with no interesting metaphor or significance to the mirror) really grates on my nerves. I think it’s possible to do a much better job of integrating the choices into the narrative.

In my most recent project, Ansible Station 24, I tried to work in significance to each customisation choice. The context is that you’re mediating a heated negotiation between three factions.

One of the representatives compliments your efforts and asks for your name, maybe hinting that he might take a special interest in your services in the future.

You reflect on the space you’re in and the people who have contributed to that space, tying your choice of gender to one of a few specific memories with an important character. Later, depending on this choice, you also meet someone else who gives you a pep talk before you head back out to finish the case.

Someone confronts you about how he feels you’re not taking his faction seriously. You have the chance to describe where your character is from and, from that, your own attitude towards his faction. This forms your character’s backstory for the rest of the game.

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Hey there I think both options are good, as well as periodic customization options throughout the stories. I also think giving options for hair texture and type can go a long way. To me choice games feel very immersive when I can choose kinky textured hair that’s curly/coiled. Also having characters mention your customization options throughout the game is really good too.

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That’s a really good way to explain how it feels when it comes up again in the narrative. Filling out a blank amd the game spits ot back out isn’t mear as satisfying as the examples you provided of it taking and going with it.

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I’ll go for the first option. It’s nice to create visuals for the character in your own mind, definitely more personal

:smile:

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I think (as everyone here says) that baking it into the story is much more popular and the standard for choicescript games :slight_smile: My pet peeve with that solution is how it seems to (sometimes) make the first chapter become a little more formulaic? Once the reader enters the “design your character choices”, it can break immersion (for me) if not done right or in an exciting way. Or, and this is less common, the “design your character” choices happen so late I have already had time to plan the character in my head, and the options don’t let me design them as I want. This problem is similar to how some books only describe characters’ looks late into the story, which then clashes with a reader’s possible imagination. I can also enjoy having the character creator early as it allows me to visualise the character more and have them take shape.

So, um, haha, I guess my thoughts are (for the first option): introduce it early (but not so early it distracts from the early action or momentum) and done in an immersive way. I did create my character creator in the second way you mentioned, but only because I did not think I could have a gripping first chapter and include as much character creation as I would want otherwise :sweat_smile:

Good luck with it! :sparkling_heart:

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@Doriana-Gray Yes, I understand what you mean. It is quite a dilemma, :sweat_smile:

I am still struggling to find a way to incorporate character customization in the story without it feeling like a long questionnaire. I might just resort to the second option if all else fails, but hopefully I figure out a way to make it feel dynamic and interesting.

We shall see!! Thank you for your advice :smiley:

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To be 100% honest, either one is fine in my opinion.

I think it comes down to maybe how important character appearance is to the overall function of the story. I don’t really get broken from my immersion when encountering character creation choices, and anything could be immersion breaking if you’re sensitive enough to it. I am not one of those people I guess, lol. Both can get the same amount done, just one is quicker.

Which ya know I don’t blame anyone for choosing that option, the quick and efficient gets the job done just as much as the slower but more immersive option…

Though if I had to pick, I much rather have it first and foremost and move on from there because that’s basically what I am use to from rpg (Cyberpunk and Dragon Age as examples).

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Yeah, coming from RPGs, either way works for me. A clunky “integrated” character creator breaks my immersion much more than a standalone one.

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