Since its called Choice of Games, I would like to know if a MC with default looks/name not chosen by the reader would be a bad idea. I started off with my MC looking like his webnovel counterpart with blonde hair and blue eyes, but would you prefer to choose his appearance rather than having to stick with his default look and name?
I’m new at this coding swizzle, so maybe i was just taking the easy route lol
For me appearance customisation is incredibly unimportant. Gender - sure, although I’m fine with genderlock as well, behaviour - preferable, I don’t want my cold husks crying on the kitchen floor, but choosing my eye colour, hair and all this other stuff just bores me.
So for me most important customisation is gender and behaviour. If it’s there, it’s nice.
I’m kind of indifferent to it if it doesn’t actually play into the story. This also kind of goes for describing the character in general. If it’s told from constant PoV of the MC then it doesn’t really matter if they’ve got dark hair, blue eyes and likes to wear jeans. I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t regularly describe myself by thinking/mentioning my appearance. =P
Once you get the hang of the coding, it’ll become surprisingly easy to go with customization. That being said, having fully a “locked-in” character kind of takes out the immersion aspect. It’s a lot harder to keep interest in the story if I have nothing to relate to the character.
For most players, the biggest turn off is being unable to choose the MC’s name and gender. You use he/him so I’m assuming your WIP is genderlocked. That is always a bad idea unless there’s a story reason, (i.e the Infinty series.)
I personally always play female, so unless i really like the idea of the story, I won’t read it.
Now, Appearance, isn’t always that important. It always ends up as flavour text, and there’s a reason one of the main reoccurring points in the disliked mechanics thread is pointless customisation. But, i always enjoy being allowed to choose the basic things, i.e, eye colour, hair colour, because it lets me get an idea of what my MC looks like.
But personality? 100%
Allowing the player to control the MC’s personality is the main appeal of these kinds of games, and many people will tell you to “just write a book instead” if the MC has a flat personality. Personality can allow you to change the story in many interesting ways. For example: a kind MC will donate to an orphanage, while an evil one would burn it down.
That’s just my own opinion though, but I think you’ll find many readers share it.
In addition to the previous threads on appearance customization that @RockmanX linked to, have a look around for discussions on the broader issue of a set main character rather than one that can be shaped by the player. Like this:
Plenty of people don’t care. Plenty of others care a lot, and of those who do, the majority want to be able to self-insert or otherwise customize their protagonist. Picking name, gender, and orientation in particular is a must-have for a significant chunk of the playerbase.
If you go for a fixed MC and make the most of that opportunity by writing a rich and interesting protagonist, you’ve got a good chance of finding an enthusiastic audience – and a near-certainty of getting some online reviews saying “why didn’t he write a novel?” and “no character customization, 1 star.”
For a head start on how to code the choice of gender, this thread has some links:
Personally, I never cared about customizing appearances and such in the games I play since it rarely comes up anyways.
As for gender… depends on the story. Someone already mentioned the Infinity series and how in that story gender roles are crucial to the world building. You need to consider if gender will affect the MC and the world around them in your story. Are people of different genders treated differently? Is it a futuristic, fantastic or historical setting? If you could set genders would you write the character different in some aspect? Would NPCs treat them different? If there are LIs would they be locked out of romances with them?
Regardless of what you do, you can make it work if you write what you’re comfortable with and what will work in service of the game best. If a genderlocked MC is crucial to that then just go for it.
As one of the relatively few people who honestly don’t care, the advice I would like to give you would be to write the character the way you think best for the story. But it is fair to consider what readers want, and most readers prefer customizable characters.
I would also urge you to consider what you’re comfortable writing. If your character is written from a masculine POV (rather than a gender-neutral one), it will take more than a pronoun swap to make them believable as a woman. Consider gender roles and expectations in the setting of your story. Would a woman realistically be allowed to do the things your character does over the course of the story? Would she face obstacles or challenges a man wouldn’t? Would she be treated exactly the same? If there’s romance in your story, and especially if there’s sex, are you prepared to write a love scene from a perspective you can’t relate to personally?
If you can write a truly customizable character, go for it. If you’re just going to write the main character the way you’ve always imagined him but throw in a few more variables, it would be better just to write a story about that character and accept that it won’t be for everyone.
I don’t care too much for choosing appearance, unless it is somehow pertinent to the story and will be mentioned.
I’m more particular about the first/given name, but don’t mind having a set surname (especially if it’s because the character is from a set family that is part of the story).
The thing that I need to be able to shape is personality or, in lieu of personality stats, the ability to make choices how my MC deals with events and people. I mean, if the author is going to completely shape the MC and give few, if any, real choices, why make an IF? This is what turned me off of Samurai of Hyuga. You can set the MC’s past and what they’ve been through, but if I’m going to play, I need to be able to control who they are now. Otherwise, no thanks.
I personally prefer to choose my MC’s name and gender. When it comes to appearance, it’s not my priority. Regarding personality and how the MC acts, as much as I love to choose how my MC acts in every situation, I know it’s not easy for the author to implement. At some point, you have to sacrifice something at some point in order to release your work out there.
My preference varies a lot. I enjoyed Samurai of Hyuga even though it has a predefined protagonist. I also enjoyed Fallen Hero, Wayhaven, Superstition, and A Tale of Crown even though they offer various choices in various situations, there were still points where the protagonist act on their own. Our Life is probably a good example of almost every choice being controlled by the player but keep in mind, it’s a slice of live VN and only one RO (and then added two other RO routes down the line). In the end though, if the story hooked me a lot, I will read it.
Edit: I have to add though… Being able to play as a female is a priority for me so any gendelocked IF, I leave them alone.
I’m probably the odd man out in here , I like being able to not only choose the gender and name, but also appearances. It weirdly helps immerse me into the game. Extra points if that author does take time to incorporate those said features.
Even if it’s not that important, as @malinryden said, it can capture a larger audience. This site is only a puddle to the massive ocean.
I normally don’t mind appearance customization but it gets overwhelming when every other story is asking me for an exact measurement of the radius of my butt hole and such. At the same time I don’t feel comfortable with a specific given appearance from the author unless I’m not playing as the usual blank slate.
Really, I’d prefer it if it was never mentioned for the most part so I can conjure up the appearance in my own head, keep it there and move on with the story. I think the best way to go is to make all three optional from the beginning unless it conflicts with your artistic vision in some way.
I don’t self insert in games but it does scratch some kind of psychological itch when a game affirms my headcanon of what my character looks like. It doesn’t have to be mentioned afterwards, and sometimes it can be a bit stilted (“I ran my hand through my red hair” no one thinks about their own hair colour like that) but it’s nice if it is. Usually I’m happy enough if I can select gender and sexual orientation, if the game has romance.
The more set a protagonist is the less interested I am in playing, unless it happens to coincide with my interests. Like I’d play a m/m heart’s choice game but I’m not gonna play f/m or f/f. Generally, when playing CoGs, I wanna feel marginally more in control than playing a visual novel, otherwise I’d just play a visual novel.
I care. If I can’t customize the MC or make real decisions then you need to do a lot to get buy-in from me. I literally won’t buy it unless the character I’m stuck with is compelling enough at a cursory glance (eg: Samurai of Hyuga, Mecha Ace… it’s difficult to come up with others that’ve managed). This includes appearance, sex, gender, and orientation, but for me, the more agency (personality/decision making) the better. I appreciate when these things actually matter within the plot/relationships so I can do multiple playthroughs from different perspectives, but it rarely does so it’s not an expectation of mine that they do. As it stands, it matters to me that it exists in and of itself.