Friday, 18 October 2013

Friday Musings: The Way of Sliders

It is interesting to see the preview of what is to be character creation in Elder Scrolls Online. For me, the amount of options is astonishing. Mostly because I still play World of Warcraft. And there, you can choose your race, and then maybe between ten face options, ten facial hair, ten hairstyles and you are done. The numbers are not really ten, but are somewhere close to that. It was some time since I counted the number of options given to player in character creation.

In more recent games, there are of course more and more options given to players to decide how their character will look. We all have in our heads how our characters should look. We have a picture set in our head from which we do not back down.

My most recent example is Guild Wars II. Even though the options given in character creation are in abundance. Yet even though there are numerous options, I was frustrated because of the way those options were separated, locked away. I understand that in most games, character creation at some point comes down to making a compromise. But the way Guild Wars II did it, was brutal.

In Guild Wars II, you were pushed in a way, to make a perfect looking being. My main was a male human, so I can tell only from that perspective, because it is the one I am most familiar with. As Terry Eagleton once said, better to be provincial than presumptuous.

You can try and create an ugly human in Guild Wars II. You could argue for a long time, what an ugly human is, but most of the people have the idea of such human in their mind when they see an example. We are quite quick to judge and decide what is beautiful, and what is not.

My problem was, I wanted for my character to have a bump on the nose and a long chin. Just some features I am used to in my characters in games across the board. Most of the options given in Guild Wars II, are straight, flat noses. The ones that are not, have the character with either a bruised and beaten face, or they have a round head and a nose resembling a potato. Eventually I settled with a face with long chin but straight nose. My reasoning was, most of the times that I actually look at the character, the bump would not be visible in any case, so just saying he has a bump should suffice.

What bothers me even more are sliders. If you have sliders in character creation, then give those sliders some reference. Especially when it comes to height. I do not care if my character is taller or smaller than most. I can conclude that even if scales are not involved. What I cannot conclude, is how tall my character is. I want for sliders to reference the actual height. Scales for height at least have to have centimetres or imperial measures involved. They need to give meaning to those sliders.

When you create a character, and you have some background of sorts behind you, it serves to nothing if you cannot help yourself to determine how your character fits in the world with that background. It so so strange that games, the essentially revolve around numbers, in one instance where numbers would be most welcome, are absent.

I salute their take on character creation in trying to make all options a valid choice. Not only super-model characters, you can also have a flat-chested female, small fat male and many more. It gives options. And that is always good. Until exaggerated out of all laws of existence.

I still believe most of  the characters will look like terminators, but it is still good to be able, and make the greatest abomination your mind can conceive. It is about your imagination after all. I know creators of Elder Scrolls Online are probably not the one spearheading this shift of perspective, but I hope that in future more developers take a hint from them in this regard.


  1. I think the character creation looks decent. I agree on the reference thing for height, although I think I'll just regard the default as 'normal' and decide if my character will be a bit shorter or higher than average - although we don't know how this *exactly* works. The only thing I'm sad about is that I haven't seen a proper long hairstyle yet! In Skyrim I've used mods to get those to work, but I doubt that will work in an MMO. It would be so cool if an MMO would offer proper long hairstyles for a change (it would be a first!). One can hope... ^^

    1. You should tell/ask them on their forum while you still can. Most of the developers read the forums and filter out any good ideas and then they either implement them from the start or reserve the ideas or should i say wishes for a later input.


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