Character creation is something that is probably the most important part of a video game to me, while at the same time the most frustrating. It’s important to make a character that is uniquely you, but at the same time, character creation is becoming more and more about what you look like and less about who you are. It’s kind of odd to say it like that, but it makes sense.
Right now, most character creators that are going to come out for most MMOs are going to focus on what you look like and very little with who you are. You’ll choose how long your nose is, but not specific stats for your character. You’ll pick some really nuanced measurements for your feet, but you won’t allocate skill points. You’ll pick a class, but that’s about all you’ll be given a choice of.
A core part of Dungeons & Dragons is character creation. The issue being, since it’s such a manual process, it’s only natural that the process would include room for lots of Human error. In MMOs in the past, this was handled by basically saying “good luck” and teaching the important lesson of “rerolling.” However, now when you choose your character, you’re choosing how you look.
Which, I mean, more options on how you look is awesome. That’s great, but at the same time, we’ve slowly lost what it meant to be… truly unique. Sure, you could say this erosion of character customization was highlighted over the years as WoW took away the talent system and basically let you choose your own cookie cutter build, but at the same time it’s happened genre wide ever since the legacy MMOs of forever ago.
In Dark Age of Camelot, I had to choose a race. The race had serious implications of what you would and wouldn’t be good at, because they came with stat modifiers. On top of the stat modifiers, there was also the fact that each skill point spent was permanent. You were that skill point, unless you could defeat a dragon, which required an entire realm.
Yet, it felt – right. You were literally your choices and decisions, and this made each character uniquely you, even if there were few choices. The fact you could make an error or make a non-viable character made the experience interesting. For instance, Bards were generally buffers and healers. A Bard had a combat skill line, which is where your “remaining unspent points” went to help with soloing enemies that were barely within your level. Yet, some Bards did take the pure combat role and were therefore given the ability to be a true hybrid, with heals, damage, and buffs but very undesirable to groups who would much rather prefer a pure healer over a hybrid.
Some played their characters that way though and it was amusing and generally, they got groups, just for the fact they could leverage their speed buff against their uselessness in a party setting, considering damage dealers could do more damage, healers could heal more, and the only value was the ability to restore endurance, provide run speed, and there was another buff I think (mana regen?).
Likewise, many games used to let you allocate stat points or build your character out. DCUO is a good example of a game where there is lots of options to decide who and how your character will be, but again – you just don’t see it anymore.
I think, while the mass market might not be really down with that level of character customization, you can always offer default “cookie cutter” sets, and let others drill down even further. I think a few upcoming eastern MMOs focus on a system similar to that, but again, it’s just I don’t know, something that I think is really valuable in enjoying a character.
I’d rather customize as much as I can and make mistakes or have to do research than to just be basically a default character where most options are picked for me, expect the ability to adjust my mustache hair length. Which I mean, obviously is the most necessary thing when make a character. You need it to the .001 decimal place too, of course.
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