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Elder Scrolls Online Column: How Much Does Character Creation Matter?

By William Murphy on October 29, 2013

Last week, the folks over at Zenimax released a new video for Elder Scrolls Online all about character creation in ESO. See the video a bit below for details, but I wanted to use this tiny tidbit of info coming out from the game as we go into the long and quiet winter months to discuss: how important is Character Creation really? Before you burn me at the stake for even calling the process into question, read on...

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The character creation in ESO looks to be fairly robust.  You can adjust your weight, your “ripped”-ness, toy with eye color, hair, tattoos, hair, spots on Argonians and Khajiit.  You can tweak the width of the shoulder, the girth of your chest, arms, length of feet, and so on.  You can bet I’ll very likely be a rotund Orc who defies stereotypes.  There are quite a few options for faces too, and most of them are far prettier than what you’ll find in Bethesda-made Elder Scrolls games (without mods, of course).  The long and loose hairs still look a little stiff and unmoving to me, which I hope isn’t the case (let me Orcish locks flow, damn you!).  But from the little two-minute video below, I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to make my characters look exactly how I want them to look.


Now, back to the question I’m asking in the title of this little column: how important is character creation, truly? It surely differs from person to person, but in these grandiose fantasy games, I worry that all the assets and resources devoted to character creation wind up useless once players start adding layer upon layer of armor and gear to the mix.  A good solid way for developers to ensure that choices upon creation continue to matter fifty, one hundred, and a thousand hours down the road is if they include ways for us to “turn off” helmets and other gear pieces.  I also firmly believe that MMOs need to take a step back towards the “RPG” elements and provide ways for players to “dress down” from adventuring gear when relaxing and in cities. 

Guild Wars 2’s “Town Clothes” are an excellent way to do this, and one step further The Secret World’s outfits being completely separate from stats works wonders too.  In TSW, you still earn and collect character cosmetic items, but they don’t affect your stats.  You can look however you want to, and your stats are determined by unseen items.  I like this method the best, personally.  But let’s be honest, TSW is a rare case in the MMORPG world.  Elder Scrolls’ armor and weapons will undoubtedly affect your looks and stats at once. 

But where am I going with all this? How much does character creation really matter? The truth is, it matters a whole damned lot... at the beginning of your character’s adventure.  Beyond the first few hours, you’ll realize you’re spending less and less time looking at your hero’s tiny facial tattoos and far more time dissecting the gameplay and deciding whether or not you should continue to subscribe. 

Let me reiterate that last point: character creation is really important.  I love the scope of what ESO’s showing off. I’d expect no less from the Elder Scrolls IP.  But what I really want to learn more about is Quality of Life Features that make altering my base looks, tweaking my armor’s visuals, and all of those tiny things that make a game not just work but hum when I dive in and get to living in the world.  Character creation is just the beginning... it’s what happens after that initial design that matters more.

What about you?  Like what you saw in the above video?  How much does character creation matter for your gaming pleasure?  Let me know in the comments!

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. Fat orcs are the best orcs. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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