How to introduce character customization?

I currently have the character customization as the first choices in my story. I don’t know if I should wait as the immediate customization will take away from the story, but I feel it’s important to get out the way. Any tips for it to seem more natural?
Here is my coding at the bottom.

The cauldron boils and toils against the fire crackling below it. Glowing nettle, Arnica, and Astragalus all get thrown in, turning the water full of other herbs a dark green. Perfect shade. My hands grab the ladle handle and begin to stir. In the liquid, you see yourself. What do you see?
*choice
#Pale
*set skintone “Pale”
*set skintonetext “pale”
*goto eyes
#Tanned
*set skintone “Tanned”
*set skintonetext “tan”
*goto eyes
#Light Brown
*set skintone “Almond”
*set skintonetext “almond”
*goto eyes
#Brown
*set skintone “Brown”
*set skintonetext “brown”
*goto eyes
#Dark Brown
*set skintone “Ebony”
*set skintonetext “ebony”
*goto eyes
*label eyes
(( You have beautiful ${skintonetext} skin! Now what colored eyes? ))
*choice
#Brown
*set eyecolor “Brown”
*set eyecolortext “brown”
*goto hair
#Blue
*set eyecolor “Blue”
*set eyecolortext “blue”
*goto hair
#Green
*set eyecolor “Green”
*set eyecolortext “green”
*goto hair
#Grey
*set eyecolor “Grey”
*set eyecolortext “grey”
*goto hair
#Hazel
*set eyecolor “Hazel”
*set eyecolortext “hazel”
*goto hair

*label hair
(( Aww, such stunning ${eyecolortext} eyes. Now what is your hair like?))
*choice
#Straight
*set hairtype “Straight”
*set hairtypetext “straight”
*goto hairlength
#Wavy
*set hairtype “Wavy”
*set hairtypetext “wavy”
*goto hairlength
#Curly
*set hairtype “Curly”
*set hairtypetext “curly”
*goto hairlength
#Coily
*set hairtype “Coily”
*set hairtypetext “coily”
*goto hairlength
#Braided
*set hairtype “Braided”
*set hairtypetext “braided”
*goto hairlength
#Dreaded
*set hairtype “Dreads”
*set hairtypetext “dreaded”
*goto hairlength
#Shaved
*set hairtype “Buzz”
*set hairtypetext “buzz cut”
*goto haircolor

*label hairlength
(( Now, how long is your hair?))
*choice
#Cropped
*set hairlength “Cropped”
*set hairlengthtext “cropped”
*goto haircolor
#Short (A bit below your ears)
*set hairlength “Short”
*set hairlengthtext “short”
*goto haircolor
#Medium (At or a bit below your neck)
*set hairlength “Medium”
*set hairlengthtext “mid-length”
*goto haircolor
#Long (Up to mid back)
*set hairlength “Long”
*set hairlengthtext “long”
*goto haircolor
#Even Longer (Past Mid back to Calf)
*set hairlength “Lengthy”
*set hairlengthtext “lengthy”
*goto haircolor

*label haircolor
((Lovely! Now hair color?))
*choice
#Black
*set haircolor “Black”
*set haircolortext “black”
*goto gender
#Brown
*set haircolor “Brown”
*set haircolortext “brown”
*goto gender
#Blonde
*set haircolor “Blonde”
*set haircolortext “blonde”
*goto gender
#Red
*set haircolor “Red”
*set haircolortext “ginger”
*goto gender
#Dirty Blonde
*set haircolor “Dirty Blonde”
*set haircolortext “dirty blonde”
*goto gender
#Dyed
*goto dyedcolors

*label dyedcolors
*choice
#Pink
*set haircolor “Pink”
*set haircolortext “pink”
*goto gender
#Blue
*set haircolor “Blue”
*set haircolortext “blue”
*goto gender
#Cyan
*set haircolor “Cyan”
*set haircolortext “cyan”
*goto gender
#White
*set haircolor “White”
*set haircolortext “white”
*goto gender
#Multi-colored
*set haircolor “Multi-colored”
*set haircolortext “multi-colored”
*goto gender
#Red
*set haircolor “Red”
*set haircolortext “red”
*goto gender
#Purple
*set haircolor “Purple”
*set haircolortext “purple”
*goto gender
#Green
*set haircolor “Green”
*set haircolortext “green”
*goto gender
#Orange
*set haircolor “Orange”
*set haircolortext “orange”
*goto gender
(( Perfect! Almost the end of customization! What gender/pronouns should I use for you?))

1 Like

do it right at the beginning to get it out of the way. When the MC is first looking at themselves.

2 Likes

A mirror scene is the most common way to do it, but since it’s a fantasy genre, that bubbling cauldron scene works just as well, and captures the zeitgeist. My first thoughts are: where are we, and what are we making?

4 Likes

It looks good to me! I agree that it might be helpful to have a little bit context about what’s going on just before the appearance choice, but there isn’t really one correct way of doing it, people like appearance choices being upfront and others enjoy it being spread out - it’s up to you really.

If you’re interested, there was a bit of discussion related to this subject in the writer support thread for this month which was interesting:

And some discussion over here as well:

6 Likes

I’m going to say, I personally dislike it when character customization is spread out throughout the story unless its a customization option only relevant to a specific chapter or scene (like choice of attire for an event). I find it to be a little jarring to be into the main plot and suddenly the pacing is broken up by the MC observing their own eyes in the mirror.

If there is customization, I prefer for it to be all at once near the beginning (either prior to the story starting, or in the prologue/first chapter).

2 Likes

Inherently it will always be a little clunky to go into a series of menus, but there’s nothing wrong with getting it out of the way right at the start.

I noticed that you have both the variable itself and then a text variable, and I was wondering why that is? Since the basic variable (eyecolor, hairtype, etc.) is already a string, you could use that for when the text comes up, no? You can tell CS to capitalise the variable where appropriate by putting $!{variable} and leave the capital out with ${variable}.

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Adding onto that, as some of the words are different from the strings (“red” vs. “ginger”), I like to set these kinds of variables to a numerical value because it’s easier to use multireplace to make varied descriptions that sound natural in the text and I’m not reliant on working around the string value.

I personally dislike it when I need to create a character before the story starts. I always try to shape the character in a way that fits with the world, so the MC is going to be different in every game I play. I can’t shape the MC to fit the story if I haven’t experienced any of the games content.

I don’t mind if the character creation is done all at ones with a mirror scene, or if it’s spread out over multiple chapters. Sometimes author use POV switches to look at your MC and note your eye color or something else. I personally like that way of creation. But plenty of people don’t seem to enjoy point of view switches. So just choose an option that works best for you to write or code.

2 Likes

Unbelievable. I’ve just worked on a WIP which also begins with mixing a cauldron.

For the record, I did name, stats, then followed by physical appearance. MC daydreams about the name and stats while mixing, before walking to the enchanted mirror in the game which sets appearance and later allows appearance-changing at will.

I can’t tell you how to make it more natural, but I think it’s best to get it out of the way first. So that you can show players a complete stat screen asap.

If the liquid is dark green, it might be hard to make out the fine details in your reflection. Make the liquid clear or magically reflecting.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest a relatively unorthodox approach: put character customization as a page in the Stats, one that is always available and allows the player to potentially redefine some or all of these variables at will and when they feel like it (or leave them at defaults values if they don’t feel like it) Then just notify the player about it at the start of the game.

This way you leave potentially heavy/slow part of the game only to the players who enjoy this sort of experience and think it matters, with side bonus of allowing your players to do stuff like changing their hairstyle and whatnot rather than be stuck potentially for years with their initial choice.

4 Likes

I’ve done that in my last two games. Will see how it is received. For those that want a detailed character creation to set up their MC just the way they want then its there (start of the game or in the stat’s menu), for others that would prefer to just jump into the story they can instead and set up the character creation any time they want (or don’t) via the stats page. I feel like this is a decent compromise to account for both styles of players. What my worry is, is that some may feel that it seems like the character creation doesn’t matter to the story and cause a negative impression of the game (even though I’d argue that for most games apart from a couple of key variables like gender (which can be set up separately if needed if the character creation hasn’t been done and is required for variables), they’re usually not mentioned again apart from in the stats page. I mean how many times does someone’s eye colour generally critically matter to the storyline? At best you’ll get a comment like : Your ${eyecolour} eyes focus on the new arrival", instead of “Your eyes focus on the new arrival” if the variable has been set,) but we’ll see what happens.

2 Likes

Great, now I’m picturing an MC with multiple sets of eyes, since it’s important to mention which ones are focusing on the new arrival.

5 Likes