So this morning my friend Belghast made a post discussing his first impressions of the ArcheAge alpha, part of which was covering the character creation system. This made me think about what kind of things I look for when playing an MMO for the first time, and how important the customization was when creating a character.
Most of the MMO’s that I’ve played in the last few years offer at least some amount of character customization. Whether that is the basic amount of information such as race, sex, hair color, or allowing details that most people don’t even think about such as nose length, depth and things like that. The question is how much detail should be required as the bare minimum and how much is to much?
Personally I think a good example of what I would consider “bare minimum” would be World of Warcraft. The character creator there allows you to pick race, sex, hair style, hair color, face and a couple other things. There are not really any sliders, except maybe height, so you can’t get super detailed with your personal character. On the other end of the spectrum is Elder Scrolls Online that gives you a lot of options to personalize your appearance. This makes me wonder if there is any kind of middle ground that is more than minimum, but not so detailed that you don’t care.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the ability to be that detailed, but I don’t tend to spend a long time on features that are going to be covered up. I would say extreme amounts of individual limb customization might be a bit much, but I would say that extra detail when customizing a face would be something I’d want. Back to previous references, Warcraft only lets you pick a standard face, and some features such as hair, facial hair and jewelry. Elder Scrolls allows you the same options but you can customize your face with even greater detail. Both games allow you to hide your helmet slot allowing you to see those details. So in this instance to much detail is the right amount.
The one thing that bothers me about all MMO character creators is hair. Depending on the genre of the game (Medeval, Fantasy) the hair styles tend to vary but the options are always limited. I know that you can’t really allow that much customization here, but I just never really like the hair styles. They never seem to fit the character that you’re wanting to make.
The same can be said about the facial hair, what kind of options do you expect? The article that I linked above talks about not having the ability to make a full/thick beard. I’d tend to agree with this, I would think that it if you are going to allow beards, you should be able to have a Santa Clause beard if you want.
Body Build Customization
This is where you get in to more of a personal preference area. I think that you can easily allow to much detail here that doesn’t really matter. Personally all I need is a height modifier and build selection. I’d be okay with some extra amount of sliders here though, just to tweak the exterior appearance to make sure everything fit. But I don’t need options like torso length or foot size. Bare minimum would be just picking defaults, anything less than that I wouldn’t be okay with.
Now would I skip over a game because of any of these things? I guess that depends. If a game has more customization than I think I’ll need that wouldn’t stop me from playing it. That is there for the people who want such things. Just because they are there does not mean I have to use them. Now, if a game has less than I would consider bare minimum, I can’t say I would play it either. The game itself would have to be able to make up for the lack of customization whether from content, or exterior customization options such as gear or vanity items.
Personally I don’t know where newer games like ArcheAge or Wildstar fall on this spectrum yet. The only customization I’ve seen for ArcheAge was facial features, and I have not had a lot of time to look over the Wildstar character creator yet. From what I’ve seen of ArcheAge though I think that I would probably be absolutely fine with the options available.