How far do you take player customization when you have a lot of characters?

I’ve got five characters total throughout my game that are “fully customizable”, though right now, that just means names and genders. If it were JUST the player character that the player was designing, I’d feel a lot better about putting in full customization- but right off the bat, they’ll need to choose options for themselves, and then options for their sibling basically immediately after. Following this, though these options are a little more spaced out, there’s two immediate characters that will ALSO need to be designed with pretty much the exact same options. For the most part, it’ll probably be just vanity. I could definitely reference stuff later, but still.

I’d commit to giving at least the two romance options a set appearance, but their genders and names are customizable, making it a tad difficult to apply appearances to them UNLESS I can either choose styles that are gender neutral, or I set IF statements to check chosen genders and… I guess I could randomize? Or stick to my idea on what they look like? @.@ I think I’m overthinking this.

Currently, I keep things vague. I don’t attribute an appearance to my characters at all, and mostly use personality and clothing to designate how one MIGHT imagine them. NPC’s do have appearances that are described, but the player character, sibling, and two romance options (and also the much later fifth character) don’t have specific appearances that are described.

The main reason that I’m hung up on this is that in one game where there was a LOT of character customization basically all really close together, I got REALLY overwhelmed really fast. I worry that that’ll be the case here.

Should I do full customization of all five characters, including skin/hair/eyes? Or should I commit to a look for the characters regardless of gender (apart from player/sibling)?

  • Do full customization options for all five.
  • Give the other characters a static appearance.
  • Keep it vague and allow players to imagine.

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I like the idea of some customization, but perhaps it would be better to limit it for the majority of characters. Choosing sex for example and perhaps choosing a key characteristic for each from a scripted set of choices. Perhaps even something that would alter their character history or appearance. For example having a character introduced that could be nobility or a peasant. They can maintain the same base appearance with differences in dress and perhaps cleanliness, scarring, athleticism, etc as well as different ways their station impacts the story. It gives some customization agency to the player without it being so difficult to arrange from a coding/writing perspective.

I do like the idea of having a fully customizable partner character though. Dragons Dogma did that and it was one of the most endearing aspects of that game. Probably not the easiest thing to script and code for interactive fiction but sounds like you are considering something much more difficult so it would be a compromise option.

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That’s some interesting food for thought! For now, the backgrounds of the two characters are heavily entwined with the story- one actually is a noble and the other an orphan, haha, so your suggestion made me laugh! Their personalities are pretty strong, though, which is why I think being vague might actually work in this instance. I do like the idea of giving them a single feature! That’s an interesting one, and I think one I can even implement later, after they’ve all grown up- you start off as a child.

Thank you very much!!

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Could you tie the sibling’s appearance to that of the player character? Say, same skin/eye/hair color? That way, you’d only have to code the choices for the MC and could apply those same variables to the sibling as well.

I wouldn’t exactly mind if you didn’t let players choose the RO’s appearance freely. The only time I can remember such a thing being done was in Heroes Rise with Black Magic. (You could imagine them as looking like your fave celebrity.) Personally, I’d be fine if you gave us a general description of the ROs and let us fill in the rest with our imagination.

I really like this suggestion here:

Imagine giving the MC and one of the ROs an option in which the RO can get hurt (perhaps protecting the MC, depending on the relationship?) and they retain a scar from the event that they wouldn’t otherwise have in another playthrough. That could be cool. However, not sure, how complicated it might be to implement.

That said: Do what you feels best and what doesn’t immediately overwhelm you. Cut back on the customization if it helps right now and maybe add it back in later once you have a better grasp on the mechanics involved.

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What do you like about the idea of full customisation of hair/skin/eyes for ROs? It sounds like it’s not bringing you much joy at the moment. Personally if it’s slowing down the story or being annoying to write, I would suggest not doing appearance customisation except for family members to match the MC. But if there’s something you really like about detailed customisation like that, go for it!

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I’ve found in this post that a good amount of people tend to imagine the presented characters based on their “feelings” instead of the given descriptions.

Even when the descriptions are clear some people make their own image of the character based on how they feel, or I guess, past real experiences, either in real life or comparing them to another fictional characters they found have similar personality traits.
Many others just forget the descriptions unless it’s brought up recurrently.

I guess that for a visual representation it’s kind of hard to care when you never get to experience it visually. The readers only see black and white letters on the screen (unless you add drawings). Most of them don’t have a memorized list of traits to remember for each character, they do so by feelings, on how their minds react to the actions the characters do.

An example it occurs to me will be:
The girl came up dragging one of her foot with effort, wincing every time it stomped the floor. Blood streaks running down her cheek. She snore through her nose and spit out streaking the pavement with a red blob. Her eyes go from there to the baseball bat on her hands, this one dripping even more red liquid than her, of course the other one ended up worse…

There you have a very short introduction without descriptions. I wouldn’t be surprised to find most of the people would make a mental image of that character as a badass girl, maybe with half her skull shaved, red hair, tattoos, (add whatever cliche trait of known badasses girls they know of)

On the other hand, some people likes to be given all the details, and you have the tools to do it. Does that means your book will be better if you do it? I don’t think so, but it could add a point in favor. Only you have to determine if it’s worth the effort.

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A game that comes to mind for me is volunteer firefighter. Although you couldn’t customise ro appearances, you could give them names and set their gender. You could even select their feelings toward you and the job that you are doing. If you haven’t checked that game out before, I strongly recommend you do so. The game itself may not be the most popular, but I am specifically referring to the RO creation part.

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My recommendation as a player is:
MC fully customizable
RO’s gender customizable (like, the mc says their sexuality towards the start, and then that affects the RO’s)
Everyone else completely static

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It’s funny you mentioned both of these! As part of the story something that happens in the intro can actually affect both RO’s in that way, so i may spend a little longer thinking of how to customize that part of the story!

I was also actually thinking of allowing the player to customize themselves, and then add an option to “copy over” certain features. This way, if the player is thinking of an adopted sibling, they could still theoretically change the sibling’s features if they wanted to!

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I think i love the idea of customization but dug myself a bit of a hole with how many characters i have for customizing lmao. I also am very new to Choice, and i think i get caught up a little bit in trying to think of what people would expect from the game

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That’s super interesting, i think that may be exactly where I’m at in customizing. Super comforting to know someone else has been here haha! I’ll definitely check that out!!

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I really like a lot of this, gave me a lot of food for thought. I like the idea of giving details but not necessarily ALL of the details, so that someone is still able to see something or someone in their head conjure up by what they’re given. Thank you!!

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For what it’s worth, people don’t tend to expect such detailed customisation - some games the ROs are completely set, and in others they are gender selectable with some tweaks eg different first names based on their gender, and a few like the one mentioned above have more personalised ROs. But in general, don’t feel you have to do any customisation if it’s not something you’re feeling good about!

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That’s a great thought. A really neat, inclusive detail. :clap:

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Haha, thanks! I wish i could claim credit, but it’s purely because I’m adopted myself, so it comes to my mind a lot in customization :rofl::rofl: i sometimes forget to make non-adopted siblings look similar lmfao

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Generally speaking, the more I customize a non-PC character the less I care about them. Too much customization makes them feel less like a character and more like a doll I’m dressing up. I don’t want to pick their name. I don’t want to pick what they look like. If they’re an RO it can be nice to pick the gender, but that’s literally all I want to pick.

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I would agree with the people who are saying to have the RO’s appearances pre-set, and just varying them based on their genders. (Somebody mentioned Black Magic further up, and that was something I found really off-putting about him.)

As for the sibling, I agree that it makes sense to let the player choose, even if it is just a choice between “looks like me” and “doesn’t look like me”.

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Yeah I agree that too much NPC customization makes them feel less like characters and more like paper dolls. If there’s adjustment to NPCs, I prefer it to be done invisibly on the back end. Like, for family members, if you say “I have golden skin, black hair, and brown eyes,” the code adjusts your family members’ appearances to be similar to yours. And if you indicate that you’re straight and female, the variable RO gets flipped to male.

Another fun option, if you’re up for a bit of coding, is to randomize the gender, and possibly other characteristics, for background characters to give more variability to each playthrough. The only game that I know of to do it is Tower Behind the Moon, but there may be others.

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Revolution Diabolique does this, too.

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If you find it to be too overwhelming to code for customisation, you can always give the characters set appearances initially, and then offer more customisation (if your readers ask for it) in later updates as you learn more about ChoiceScript.

There’s a few ways to go about gender-specific appearance depending on your setting. If your world is not so strict about gendered clothing, it might be enough to have the character wear the same outfit depending on their profession, and then use *if statements or multireplace to describe different hairstyles based on their gender (or even the same hairstyle if that’s what the character prefers). I know several WIPs that do this.

Something else to consider is how much the customisable aspect(s) will change the “core” of the character. If it gets to the point where there’s a lot of branching when you write their thoughts and reactions, it’s worth thinking if you’re willing to put in that work or not.

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