Game Character Creation is becoming the norm
Game character creation used to be a feature restricted to MMORPG and open world games. The example above is Final Fantasy XIV, a franchise previously built on iconic characters. Moreover part of what made the Final Fantasy franchise so popular in the first instance was the in-depth character development and how the characters are woven into the story.
These days it is becoming the norm to have a game character creation system built into the mechanics by the developers. There are both positives and negatives to such a feature.
The game character creation can vary in depth, it can be anything from allocating a particular fighting style to even going as far to changing voice and size of the ahem…assets. In the five comparisons below we will discussion the reasons, effects and reception of the two defined style of creating characters have on the industry.
The collective hive mind of players is far more likely to create a range of character models and features than developer studios. However artists and directors in a studio are far more likely to build an appropriate model that fits with the narrative of the story.
The character design will go through various quality control procedures and can improve dramatically from the initial concept art. This article on character design at gamesdesign.org details different areas that are considered when designing a character. As shown, artists and designers craft backstories, character traits and how said traits react in certain situations.
Implementing a game character creation system means the creation of the character is only skin deep. Think about the last time you utilised a game character creation mechanic in a game like Fallout or an MMORPG.
Did you consider any of the thoughts above? Unlikely.
In summary the story does not require characters to have clear personality traits or strong backstories. The personality traits are often mimics of your own whereas the backstory is more world focused.
Furthermore on character aesthetic. Game character creation systems are offer more and more options to customise your protagonist. Final Fantasy XIV above includes 22 features that can be modified to create a character you want.
Assuming each category has on average 30 options (probably more). lets get our Mathematics hats on to look at the shear number of possible combination in that alone.
Assuming each category has 30 different options.
there are 22 categories.
Looking very briefly against the simpler categories like hair colour and hair style and assuming 30 options for each means just by hair colour and hair style alone there are 30 x 30 = 900 different options.
Lets expand this a bit further in our game character creation system. In addition to hairstyle and colour, lets add in skin colour assuming the game has given us 30 different options.
900 x 30 = 27,000 combinations of hair colour, hairstyle and skin colour.
Let us go right to end now.
We have 22 categories, each with on average 30 options.
30²²= 313,810,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different combinations in which you can create the character.
Even Before this, Final Fantasy 14 also gives you option to pick between genders, race and clan, as well fighting style further increasing the number of combinations available. I have also massively underestimated the options available in categories as their are much more than 30 options in certain categories.
One might look at this and deem the game character creation to have a huge advantage over pre-written characters as a result. This is simply not the case. Consider that despite the sheer number of character combinations on offer you are still limited to a finite number.
This means players must still work within the constraints the system the developers have created. Granted this is vast, yet a professional artist or designer is only limited by the extent of their imagination.
Like most popular media these days. The gaming industry is subject to intense scrutiny, Especially when it comes to diversity. Look at E3 2019 recently we have had in my opinion, unwarranted criticism about the number of women who appeared on stage as well as criticism about characters in mainline titles like Cyberpunk 2077.
As much as I detest this criticism, game character creation left in the hands of the players’ themselves eliminates this issue to the developers. Whether that would be enough for certain groups remains to be seen.
Similarly those with concerns about modern games’ ethics are free to create the characters they want to see. Most recently Tetsuya Nomura revealed they were advised by Square Enix’s ethics department of a need to “tighten” Tifa’s chest. The main objective was to limit potential unease from the more sensitive players.
I happen to love the new Tifa design however I can understand there may be fans out there unhappy she has been moderated in this way. Game character creation allows these players the freedom to choose features that may otherwise be off limits for certain developers.
3) Strength of story
It could be argued storytelling is affected one way or another by switching from a pre-written protagonist to game character creation in the hands of the players. There are a few reasons for this:
- It becomes very difficult to utilise a backstory as the customisation options may alter the characters backstory. Changes to race, traits and fighting style can lead to different experiences.
- Cut-scenes become more difficult to implement which can sometimes be used as powerful storytelling tools.
- Often stories are character driven. If your character is a blank canvas it is almost impossible for them to drive the story forward.
For this reason the way a story is told in a game that involves game character creation must be changed. Firstly the character crafted no longer becomes the central focus, but rather the world itself, a goal or even another character.
Final Fantasy XIV is a great example of a world driven story. Fallout 3 implements a goal driven story. i.e. finding your Father and purifying the wasteland.
4) Gameplay Styles
Changing the fighting style dramatically does not work in every game. Looking at the likes of God of War, it is not possible to demonstrate a Kratos who sneaks or uses magic from a distance. This is not in his nature. Players who do not enjoy the hack and slash nature of the game may seek other games where you can create a character to fight as you see fit.
Skyrim offers a wide variety of ways and means to overcome your foes as you go through the game. You can choose from a variety of weapons, choose a variety of classes and also go through events without even swinging a sword or conjuring a fireball in anger. Consequently it accommodates a vast array of styles of play.
This by itself, is neither a good or bad thing. By and large it is governed by how this relates to the characters role in the story, their aesthetic and overall persona. For instance a slender, slight character wielding a two handed battle hammer is ludicrous thus affecting the overall immersion in the game.
5) More or less immersive?
It is difficult to say whether game character creation improves or detracts from immerses players in a game. As can be seen above there are just too many factors to consider. On the other hand what I will say is that by operating as a blank canvas for players to project their traits and personalities onto, some player will definitely feel more engages and empathetic towards the games’ plight.
It is very easy to separate myself from protagonists such as Geralt, Claire Redfield and Kratos. The events are clearly happening to them and as a result it is more difficult to empathise in comparison to a character created by yourself. Especially true as well when the game implements a first person narrative.
Game Character Creation - Here to Stay
Regardless on your thought on pre-written characters versus game character creation, one thing for certain is it isn’t going away anytime soon. However I am hopeful that as games advance it will become easier to implement a happy medium between the two or the option of which way you would like to proceed.
Let me know below which game you think has the best game character creation system.