In this week's Community Spotlght, we focus on the thread "The importance of character customization" by Findariel. In the thread, Findariel grades the customization options offered in a number of popular MMOs and polls the MMORPG.com community on their value of good customization options:
Firstly I must admit I´m probably one of the most character oriented players around. I simply love to have characters that can look and dress like I want them to do. For me, immersion stops when my character looks horrible and animations look embarrassing.
Thus there´s not a lot of games to choose from if that was my only criterion (fortunately it´s not):
WAR actually looked nice, I love the warhammer outfits and characters and outfits actually looked good from the start. Too bad the end game is all about an endless PvP grind and that at any given moment there was only 1 best oufit you could wear. What a waste of a very stylish game! My score: 6/10 (for stylishness)
WoW looked reasonable, initially I played humans as I hated the night elves look but I was very happy with blood elves and dranei. Gear looks weren't all that impressive; all the mixed (undyable) gears, you basically looked like a mess. The huge shoulderpads weren't my thing either. The tabards were ok though. My score: 5/10 (including a +1 for the barbershop)
Frankly LOTRO is horrible, customisaton options are very limited and they run very strange. If I were a develeoper I'd be too embarassed to release a game with animations like that! It' s the one reason I quit playing, I really couldn' t stand looking at it anymore. My score: 2/10
EVE has no characters that can interact or see each other, you' re basically a spaceship with a 2D picture as avatar. My score: 1/10
AoC doesn't have nice looking characters and the ridiculous big weapons really look a bit out of proportion imo. My score: 4/10
GW did an ok job in my opinion. Especially after a few expansions and the unique possibility to mix all the faces and hairstyles and armor sets because stats and looks were not connected, you had quite a choice of decent and unique looking characters. "Toggle off" headgear and capes was another good thing. The possible styles were still a bit limited though, in my opinion most sets for one class (profession) still looked too much alike. My score: 7.5/10
Rift has very stale looking characters and you can only pick one face per race/gender, which is really very, very poor. The clothes are ok but don’t look very spectacular either. My score: 4.5/10
Why can't game designers start to lay some more emphasis on the character their players can make? GW has learned us that a lot of people even want to grind for vanity gear and special looks. I think asian game developers generally do a lot better job and their characters generally looks a lot better, although the options aren't always that extensive either.
Read on for the community's thoughts!
Four0six doesn't tend to care about character customization in gear based games:
In any gear based game I don't even bother to care about character customisation.
Why? Even if it's dyable, you and all your buddies/strangers will have the same 'clothes'....Ask any kid in highschool if that is cool.
I L O V E D the character creation in the CIty series ( Heros/Villians/Going Rogue ), this in my opinion is REAL character creation. WIth a likelyhood of you NEVER encountering another who looks like you at all. But, here you have a game with NO gear, so unique characters can be bountiful.
Senjinn admits his vanity:
Vanity has always gotten the best of me. How my character looks has always been extremely important.
The worst character creation system imo was in Vanguard. The bodies always seemed disproportionate. Heads were always too big or too small. They had sliders but i still couldn't get things to look right. The best system was probably Aion. I only ever played the trial, but spent most of that time in character creation because the game itself didn't really appeal to me. Favorite character model of all time is definately gnomes in EQ2, the alternate appearance ones. The original models from EQ2 rank down near Vanguard but i thought they really made up for it with the alternate ones.
As far as armor goes most games have a lot of variety , so i can usually find something i like. The only game i can think of that was bad is Shadowbane. I only played for the first 6 months. So maybe it got better later on. I remember my bard having to run around in this frilly pink and purple costume , with a big funky looking hat with a feather in it. It made me look like Huggybear.
Datarin ties the importance of customization to what players actually do in a game:
I would argue that character customization is much more directly linked to what you do in a game as well; merely looks won't get you far, but the general look and feel of your character would bring you much further: roleplaying is just one such outlet. In that case, EVE would rank far above LOTRO and others. Vanity graphics are just what they are: vain and useless unless you add an emotional attachment to it.
It should come as no surprise to any of you who are familiar with my writing here that I also find good character customization to be 'extremely important'. I started playing games of this sort with MUDs, where I was always free to bring whatever character concepts I had to life, including what I imagined them to look like. I resisted jumping into the MMO genre for many years for the same reason many people feel a good book is better than a movie based off said book: imagination trumps all! It's partly for this reason that I feel a good character customization feature is extremely important for me to be able to enjoy a new MMO.
If I don't feel like my character is my own, it's hard for me to appreciate anything else the game has going on, though there are a few exceptions mostly dependent on the type of game. For example, I don't fault Dungeon Fighter Online for not having a robust character creation feature. In general, however, there's just nothing that bothers me more than feeling like I'm essentially playing 'Attack of the Clones'. I don't need every game to be City of Heroes-esque, but if I can see 50 duplicates of myself in a crowd, there's something definitely wrong.
What about you? How much do you value good character customization? Share your thoughts in the comments below!