Preset Player Names and Preset Back Story


I found a thread that is a billion years old, decided to start a new one instead of reviving it. So this is a follow up of this: Preset Player Character Names

“For whatever reason some choose your own adventure games DO NOT allow you to choose your own name, or gender.
Why do they do this? What benefits do you think it has? If we saw more choicescript games using such methods, would you play them, if not, why?” (quote from the original topic)

My thoughts;

I’m not sure how it’d be useful to have the character preset although I wouldn’t mind it, if the character in question is Spartacus I’d say Hell yeah, so if the character is interesting, I’m cool with it.

(sexual/romantic orientation is different, because it’d be impossible for me to relate to the character if he/she fell in love with a man, I wouldn’t be able to relate. In Creature Such As We I didn’t care for romance, just for adventure, so I accidentally got romantically involved with a male character whom I thought we were brothers in arms, not lovers - great confusion once it escalated)

So outside of that, if the character is great, it would make me want to play it. Villeneuve from Broadsides, I’d have loved to play him for example.

My thoughts:

What I do see that could be extremely useful is a preset past. In real life, I’m sure we’ve all made decisions at a point that we wouldn’t make today, as if someone else made them for us. Yet we still have to live with them. If it’s a mistake, or some anecdote that happened [in the game] one of the player’s goal could be to deal with the consequences.

That would result in two types of consequences: those caused by the players decisions, during the game, and those caused by the character’s younger self. It would make it more of a narrative and immersive thing, but even in games where a past isn’t initially implemented, it can be added.

Of course, in Mobile Armored Marine for example, you could choose your past. Which felt wonderful. Maybe a preset past with the details chosen by the player (the what happened isn’t changed, only the how). What are you thoughts?

(New here, I apologize If I accidentally broke any rule)


For me, it all depends on the game. If the game demands it, and it’s okay with me, than I’ll play it. If it doesn’t work out, than I won’t play it.


I think most people would give a rather mixed response to this. And that many of those would come back to ‘if it works for the story’. My current WIP only lets you choose your sex then name- then you shape your character’s personality from there through in-game decisions. I haven’t actually gotten much flack for this- it doesn’t seem to bother people as much as they expect it to. Admittedly, a part of the reason for it was being new to coding- it’s always nice to have the option for customization. But Guinnevere (I cannot seem to spell that for the life of me), another WIP (and one of the most popular I think) has an even more locked character, though you can shape that character a bit to your choosing. There’s no appearance, and no choice in name or sex. Yet, it doesn’t bother people. On the other hand, playing Samurai of Hyuga just recently was an immense treat- you’re locked into a defined roll but can choose your name and gender, and later on I like that you can get a haircut that at least gets mentioned later on. True flexibility in character design seems to be tough- there are always some restrictions. But how tight that noose is doesn’t seem to be as important as the quality of the story. At least, to most people I’ve seen, so far.


I don’t mind it. If it’s an open type story, it’s a nice touch to be able to select your name and gender but if there’s an involved back story or if it’s set in a particular time and they’re going for accuracy I’m fine with that too. Doesn’t really bother me. It’s like reading any other book, as long as it’s well done, you just slip into the story and watch it happen.


Consider Mass Effect: each player has their own idea of who “Commander Shepherd” is, but no matter what, you’re playing Commander Shepherd.

It would be a very different game if it were a total free-for-all.


Yes good example. In their case I think the reason was because of the audio (it’s voice acting, so NPS have to refer to you by something) and it appears seamless, it doesn’t feel forced. However I’m assuming you were not talking about the name, but the character. And yes you’re still right.

As for a set backstory, a thing I just thought of would be a character trait; if it were to be a point that the character is very smart, it could now be part of the plot as a source for conflict of interests or problems (as well as solution)

In a prison, the Big Boss of the jail could coerce the character into figuring a way to snuggle weapons in, or make one from within, otherwise he’ll break your legs (or maybe, say that but actually set you up with planted evidence to get you whipped)

Another could be the character overhearing a conversation, in which everything said was very subtle but because he’s very smart, he grasps the actual meaning behind all this. Telling someone about it would have consequences that are horrible, but not telling also (or not telling would be unethical)

So far it’s the best way I thought of where a character’s trait being imposed would be very useful. (in this case, if “intelligence” is a skill that important to develop for gameplay, it could be replaced by “knowledgable” as a replacement)


I love games with preset backgrounds, they just have something to them other games don’t.


Would you name a few examples? (is there any that’s a choicescript game?)


I think most cogs are custom characters, and have nothing really to compare to (excluding wips), but look at Bethesda games compared to most others. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bethesda games, but you always end up coming out as a blank slate. You’ve got no real origin going on, what origin you do have doesn’t alter you at all, because you have to much choice. You look at predefined characters like Starkiller or Leon Kennedy … or Batman (a little far I know, but) there you really get to see how their past changes them, how their origins actually mean something other than your starting location. You never get that as Dragonborn because even though you’re about to be executed by Imperials, you can choose to be their best friend and their ace up their sleeve. Even though the Vault Dweller was raised right by dear old dad, he can still be an asshole to everyone he meets and blow up a city built on a time bomb.

I guess what I’m saying is too much input on your character’s creation can make the key moments of character development needed for a good plot nonexistent. Choice is great, but it has to work on the story’s terms. It can’t work against it without limiting the story…

I like full customization as well where it works, but we have plenty of CoGs for that


For me it depends on how much personality the character has independent of your choices. If they’re a blank slate with no intrinsic character traits or motivations, I’ll get annoyed if the only avatar is male because it’s supposed to be a stand-in for me. But I have no problem playing, for example, Bigby Wolf or Lee Everett in a story game because they have their own histories and goals–they’re just a role I’m taking on, not “me”, which actually allows me to put myself in their role much more effectively.


I have started on a game that restricts the MC’s gender, name, and backstory, but only because I have reasons that are specific to the game.

Gender is restricted because the game is about witches – not warlocks or wizards, but witches. A male MC won’t do.

I’m probably going to restrict names to prevent the character from sounding out of place in the medieval fantasy setting. If Hromund the Grim has two daughters named Tuva and Brumhild, he is not going to name his third daughter Madison. So the player gets a list of names to choose from, but no option to make up a name and type it in. Later, the MC will get a chance to change her name, and then the player can type in Madison if they want to.

Restricting the character’s past serves a similar purpose. In a medieval fantasy game, for instance, you can focus on the consequences of actions taken by the MC’s family or forebears. These are actions the MC had no control over, but she is still tied to the people who took them, and she has to deal with the results. Now the MC is thoroughly embedded in the world, but the player still has control over the important stuff, like skills and personality.

Perhaps the trick for any game that involves playing a role is to give neither the authors nor the players too much say in who the main character will be. Where the middle is depends on the game, but the players and authors have to meet in the middle.


“Perhaps the trick for any game that involves playing a role is to give neither the authors nor the players too much say in who the main character will be. Where the middle is depends on the game, but the players and authors have to meet in the middle.”

I believe you’re on point.


@BabbleYaggle, I get you. I can’t stand when games call men ‘witches’ or women ‘wizards’. Those aren’t gender neutral terms.