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Avatar Aesthetics

Crowfall Columns - By Tim Eisen on July 19, 2016

Avatar Aesthetics

This week I’ll take a look back at Crowfall’s update from last week and address parcels, character movement and avatar customization and I don’t mean the class specs! I’m talking about some classic wild internet speculation about how we will make those vessels look “ours” upon possessing them. Let’s start with a parcel or two.

The parcel concept is actually working thanks to progress on the world builder tool! That’s always nice, when your concept on paper actually works! What does that mean to us? That the actual game world draws near! We’ve been waiting a long time to log into an actual game world. The test maps are nice but they give me the mobas (which is what happens whenever I log into “VS” maps now). The worlds of Crowfall are what will elevate it to be more than PVP. I can’t wait to experience them.

Combat itself is moving along. As Design Lead Thomas Blair said “they feel like action characters now”. Early testers will be relieved to learn “Root motion” has taken the awkward movement of old and replaced it with something more organic. How so? Root Motion is the motion of a character that is based off animation from the root bone of the skeleton. As you can imagine that should make things look and feel a lot more natural.

Speaking of looking natural, last week we got the philosophy behind designing the look of characters, specifically the female variants. I may not know tech but I know nice visuals and I’ve always been impressed with ACE’s ability to move from concept to game. If ACE didn’t do them well I’d make sure to scream about it, but they do. Such a nice aesthetic makes me excited to see what MY characters will look like. Which begs the question, how will we customize our vessels?

As Melissa said “We want to provide enough variation so that you can create your own unique-looking character even if you aren’t playing a human.” According to the FAQ ''Yes. We will offer the ability to customize your character (hair styles, color and face) in Character Creation. Further customization can be done in-game, by collecting equipment.'' (thanks Grimulf). Also from the FAQ “When a crow possesses a body for the first time, they can customize it, very much like character creation from any online game.”.

So how does that work when I jump bodies? I suppose when our spirit takes over a body they could take us to a character creation UI. That might take too long when we are in the midst of battle so maybe, once we make a Guineacian for example, we can save it as a template? Then when I poses a new Guineacian body/verssel I could quickly select that template and have my unique character. I’ve never hid the fact that I’m not fond of the vessel concept. I disliked it more when I thought it meant generic avatars. If my theory is the case, and I’m not saying it is, then the vessels are a much easier pill to swallow. Unfortunately, most of the FAQ talked about customization through attributes, class decisions and armor and didn’t say much about the aesthetics of your avatar.

On the flip side 99% of the time most of us will be covered in armor from head to toe so does it matter if we have the perfect eyebrows? No, realistically it’s a place to shave some time and money but not too much time and money. It’s a fine line to try walking. I can’t imagine ACE would neglect avatar attachment when I know they understand things like housing attachment better than anyone thanks to their past with Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Crowfall often catches some hell about people worrying it's too MOBA like, a lack of character customization would reinforce that.

What about the less PVP driven player that I feel is so important to retain? I imagine when not in a battle world doing PVEish things like harvesting they will be in their EK’s strutting around admiring their personal kingdom. Must they strut within the safety of their own kingdom wearing all that heavy armor? Ok, I’m reaching but it’s something worth thinking about. How deep does ACE want to get into character customization? How much time should be put into what is covered up most of the time? What is the perfect balance that keeps players happy but doesn’t drain resources or create performance issues? All tough questions a developer must answer at some point.

Frankly shallow character customization has been a complaint of mine since WOW established the basic character creator that most games have been all too happy to embrace. I hailed from Star Wars Galaxies and I think it's absurd that 13 years later it's still one of the deeper character creation experiences! I’m not asking for EVE levels of customization, but at least Guild Wars 2 levels or close to them would be nice.

If they can't do it right now maybe they could add more later on? Maybe sell them in the shop? That’s a nice way to justify character customization isn't it? (ducks rotten fruit) Hey it was just a desperate thought to get us some decent character aesthetics! (sighs)

Jumping into a body that looks like every other Guineacian never sounded appealing to me. In a game that is selling pixels I think it’s counterintuitive if our characters are overly generic. I’m sure ACE is more than aware of that fact. I’m not sure what they have decided but I hope it’s more in line with a progressive MMORPG than a MOBA. My instincts (a nice term used when not using any facts) tells me we might end up somewhere in-between, which is a compromise I don’t prefer, but I think I could work with it if I had to.

Tim Eisen / In my columns I walk the line between fan and critic as I document the development of Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria.