How do you feel about character creation?


#1

Since I’m currently working on adding clothes, tattoos and similar things to my game, I got curious about what everyone else thinks.
How would you feel about a game which gives you tons of choices when it comes to the looks of your character and even reacts to it?
Personally, I find those games interesting even though it often feels like it has no actual effect on anything except immersion.


COG Game Design Guidelines
#2

I personally feel that things like that are really unnecessary since as a player you have the agency to imagine your character however you’d like, with clothes as scars etc that you find appealing. Adding these choices can be frustrating in two ways.

The first and most obvious is that you won’t always be able to add the exact options that every player might be looking for. I might have a really specific scar or hairstyle in mind that you won’t always be able to predict, so having to settle for whatever is on hand could get a bit annoying and kinda defeat the purpose of even adding the option and can ironically be quite immersion breaking.

The second is that in can very easily manifest itself as an irrelevant choice. Unless it’s something that plays into the story in some meaningful way then there really is very little point to it. And by meaningful I mean more than just a wayward comment by an NPC during a conversation or something. What would make it meaningful would be if your character had a really distinctive facial tattoo and decided to rob someone. After escaping, the police might have a better chance of finding you as a result of your victim giving them a clearer identification. This creates a branching plot point, one in which your character is caught and in which they’re not, very much informed by the creation choice you made at the start of the game. Situations like that would make the choice worth having I think.

As a designer (especially in IF) I feel you should always be aware of what purpose any option you’re giving the player serves. Is it just something that’ll be cool and then immediately forgotten? Or will it affect their experience in a meaningful way that they won’t always expect?


#3

Great point, I feel like you revealed something so obvious and logical to me. You certainly gave me a lot to think about.

While I like games where you can change your character as much as you want, this is a unique format which indeed allows the player to imagine his character looking as unique as they want. Adding options to change the appearance would act as restrictions rather than options.


#4

Glad to help, it’s a point I’ve been grappling with myself.


#5

This is the best type of character creating in my opinion. Lots of choices and then care about the choices later.

Not necessarily. While I can use my imagination, I enjoy much more when a game actively includes options as to what my character is wearing, etc. For the most part when reading interactive fiction, I’m more picturing scenery as described, NPC’s as described and only find myself picturing my MC if the game actively describes her.

My preference then is for active character customisation, with plenty of references to it during the game and even reactions if possible.

From the perspective of how my brain works I find myself questioning why anyone would want less options over more from a content consumer perspective.


#6

As long as it doesn’t become redundant customization is fine.

There should always be a purpose maybe tie cosmetic changes into the stats or use them to surplant the numbers entirely. Numbers are hardly literary tools. Telling me I have 5 strength doesn’t tell me the same thing as being POWERFUL.

Things like eye color/hair color can tie your character to others in the right circumstances like family members. If those family members are in the story them having the same eyes or hair as the MC can create a better picture.

Custom choices are only as important as the way they are put to use.


#7

Indeed. Little point letting me choose for my female MC to have long deep red hair, bandeau top, micro skirt and heels if that’s the only time I see it mentioned. In this case, gender, name and orientation are all that’s needed.

If you’re going to let me choose hair length & colour, clothing, etc, it would be nice then if the story reacted to that in some way.


#8

That’s precisely what I mean. I’m not really objecting to being given more options, but rather to be being given options that ultimately don’t really matter or have little to no effect. More often than not I’ve found that games which allow you to choose all those features really don’t integrate them into the story at all, and to be honest I can see why. The coding and effort it takes to branch out text for all the different combinations people can have throughout the game can be quite extensive depending on how many options you provide and how deep or detailed you want those references to be. For me personally I really don’t find enough value to justify that kind of effort unless I’m willing to incorporate those features into the game in a way that goes beyond just wayward comments about the length of your hair.

Building these games from the ground up can be quite exhausting, especially if you try to create a large and immersive epic, so I guess it kinda comes down to weighing the pros and the cons then tempering that with your own design perspective and the experience you’re trying to create.

If done well it can be really immersive and amazing to see, but if not I can’t help but feel a bit short changed even as I applaud the effort made.

EDIT:

That could be a really interesting idea to see play out, especially if someone being related to your MC is used as a plot twist of some kind and could present some really unique foreshadowing.


#9

Most games I’ve tried often have character creation just for the sake of… well, having it. Most of the time it doesn’t play into the story in any meaningful ways at all. And when they do, it’s often used to only make a few changes in the writing that don’t really matter (i.e. the character’s eyes colors, the description of their hair, but most of the time it’s eye/hair colors.). What’s worse, some games use it A LOT, so now every times they try to describe my character they use the exact same world all over and over again ({haircolor} {eyescolor}…) which make the writing repetitive and over-descriptive. Like come on, I know my character’s eyes are brown, you don’t have to constantly telling me! :confounded:

It can works though, even if it doesn’t have any purpose to it and only serve as a few changes in the writing, as long as it doesn’t become too repetitive. Make the description creative, having it effect the game, other characters react to it, etcetc.


#10

Most of those were my thoughts up to this point but since Left4Bed pointed out his opinion, I can’t help but see this as something unique.

Since everything in this kind of a game is basically left to your imagination, with some guidelines from the creator, you can imagine almost anything. In games where the character is meant to be a blank sheet from the start, there’s no need for the creator to predefine your character.

I think it’s best to leave some aspects to the player (like the actual physical appearance of the character), while others can be offered (like clothing and such details).

As for referencing the character appearance, I believe it’s very important in any game for the sake of immersion.


#11

I don’t believe a character’s appearance should have major impact on the game itself but should be acknowledged every once in a while to show the player he is being listened to and to encourage immersion.

It is difficult, though, to strike a balance between using it just to show it’s an existing variable and using it so often that the player rolls his eyes every time it is mentioned.


#12

I tried myself to make a “Character Creation” for my UI. Yet I did not found a good point for it.

Maybe if there is, in a certain part, in certain moment, in certain story-line you find that your hair tone of colour is just the same like your boots and that gives you a clue of where the key for the treasure of Apotema is… yet, really? -Kidding-

To give a better example, maybe something more realistic. In MMO games you find yourself in Character Creation and happens that the Hair Styles you find are only 5. 5 among millions upon millions of mad/styles you could possible think of. I will not ask you how this will make you feel because kinda obvious for all of us.

IF it comes to the show to create such an idea for Creating your Character, you will have to not be too detail (EJ: Long hair, Short Hair etc.) but yes with a lot of options.

Then again, half of those who want a tattoo in somewhere that you really did not expect he or she will like the tattoo and you will have a problem.

To the point? My suggestion? It is not worth it :stuck_out_tongue:


#13

That’s the conclusion I’m reaching right now. Most of the character creation choices should be avoided to prevent placing limitations on the player.
If the character isn’t created in detail, the player will fill in the blanks himself using his imagination thus making the creation process easier for the creator and more immersive for the player.


#14

The choices no matter what they are, are only as important as you make them.

I could build a society where hair length is a sign of age and status or one where people are so similar that hair colors are the only difference between people MY GOD THINK OF THE SEGREGATION. Lol

But yeah a lot of choices can be redundant.


#15

There’s a wip somewhere on here where hair length was a cultural thing and where it was usual for the women of said culture to have it very long - often floor length. I think the wip was abandoned though, but that could be a thing that could be done in stories.

I’ll see if I can dig up said wip and link it in a post edit.

Edit: Can’t seem to find it - the one I think it is “Eight Thrones” just gives a 404 error.


#16

That seems like an interesting idea but sounds familiar. I can see how something like that can be a unique idea in a game and an actually useful variable to track but in a “normal” setting, there’s little use except pointing it out from time to time.


#17

Yes the wip went so far as to track hair length and even had your hair grow and allowed you to get it cut from time to time. It was unique to me at the time I found it. It did illustrate that you didn’t need an in-depth fancy character creation to have an interesting and fun twist on it.

If memory serves the wip had you gender locked to female and all you chose was name, orientation and hair colour/length ( I don’t recall if eye colour was a thing).

At any rate, while my preferred style is to go all out on character creation (and I expect it if I’m buying a AAA RPG for £40-£60), for the little return on investment you’ll get with a CoG/Hosted game I don’t think there’s much point beyond it being fun to write to go much beyond name, gender, orientation. Anything beyond that is the strawberry on top of the whipped cream :grin:


#18

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#19

I agree that customization is awesome:)

I jus luv meaningful customs. Hell at one point I was considering a race of beings (for an alien based story) that take “book by its cover” quite literally. What they wear or don’t where tells you who they are what they do how good they are at it. If they’re single straight gay ect… Hell there were even braid styles for hair specific to family lines. And instead of wedding rings they tattoo their sig-other in the same color as they’re eyes.

It was fun to figure out how it worked it was a ten chapter story I never finished but haven’t given up on it.


#20

I feel like that’s something which really should be emphasized. There are no many unique and interesting directions one can take with character creation choices, a number of which have already been mentioned, and the value that adding these options into the game is really up the writer.

One of the things I really love about IF is that by it’s nature as a written format it really can’t be held up against the same sort of rules afforded a more visual medium. I love detailed character design options when I play an RPG, even though it really is just a cosmetic choice in almost all of them, being able to see my character they way I want it is really important to me.

IF doesn’t have that visual aspect, and while you might think of that as a weakness, it can also be seen as a strength through the way it forces you to think creatively. You want to create a particular experience for the player, you don’t have the same kind of resources that a “proper” game might have, and so you need to think out of the box. That’s not to say that you can’t get creative in general RPG’s, but rather that it’s nature as a need, a constraint can be a much more powerful motivator since you don’t have the potential crutch of just being able to show it one screen and leaving it there.

I truly believe that there are so many untapped experiences hidden within the annals of IF, and with a bit of lateral thinking, who knows the kinds of games that could be designed?

Some of the suggestions put forward have already started my brain whirring.