It's All About Choice
I have to admit that I love going over to the official WildStar site to check out the weekly Uplink discussion. For those who don’t know, the WildStar Uplink is a time for the dev team to ask players a question then sit back and take in the answers before offering a bit of behind-the-scenes knowledge about how Carbine Studios will try to meet the desires of its players. Recent discussions have revolved around such hot topics as sandbox vs theme park and the dearth of long-lived sci-fi MMOs. Let’s face it: These guys have their finger on the community’s pulse about what is important to them.
I was surfing around the site and reading all of the past issues of the WildStar Uplink and I came across a pair of consecutive articles written a month or two ago that struck a chord with me. I have a confession to make. I am an MMO snob. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not about gameplay for me. It’s about who my character is and what she (well, usually a she!) looks like.
To that end, I found the following questions asked by the WildStar team of its community:
- What attracts you to a specific faction when you create your character in an MMO?
- What kind of character creation do you enjoy? For example, do you like your character to look pretty or ugly?
Pretty thought-provoking questions, aren’t they? I suspect that many of us who are long-time MMO players can pretty much answer those without a ton of thought but in these days of shades of gray…no, not 50 shades of gray…embedded in each faction and race through larger varieties of classes, even we have to think about our initial choices a bit more closely than before.
It wasn’t that long ago that most MMOs had a “good side and a bad side”, each with their own goals and objectives, sure, but still pretty obviously skewed to black or white. It was usually fairly clear who was who. For example, I always think of the “pretty” Alliance characters and the “ugly” Horde guys. I realize that that’s a simplistic view but it fits to a certain degree.
In WildStar, the team wants to disavow us of the notion that one faction or race is only good or evil by lending each its own personality. Chad Moore, in answering fans in WildStar Uplink said, “[T]hose personalities determine everything from how they look to the lore that we write for them. In general, we have tried to avoid big distinctions like good and evil, and instead tried to developer personalities, histories and conflicts that reflect the personalities of the factions and races in our game.”
Even further, Chad reveals that the team wants the differences to be real and “polarizing” to give the player a deeper connection to his/her faction and race. He calls this a very real emotional experience and that choosing a faction should have meaning.
Additionally, Carbine wants players to have even more choices for determining who their characters are even within each faction. There will be certain types of classes that tend to one extreme or the other or even those who live in the gray. The idea here is to eliminate the notion that all of a faction is this and that all of the other faction is that. It seems to more closely mirror the real world, doesn’t it?
Most of what we’ve spoken to up till now is the inner character. But what about the one that everyone sees and has to look at while gaming? The WildStar team wants to help out there as well with a wide variety of customization options for players.
The starting point, according to Art Director matt Mocarski, is with Carbine identifying the ‘ideal’ for each race and sex. He calls them the “supermodels” and says that, from there, the team works to create other models including outliers, those faces, for instance, that are just plain ugly. As he says, “We don’t want all our characters to look like supermodels. Where is the fun in that?”
Carbine is giving players some presets but is also making allowances for those who like to micromanage every facet of their character’s face. But the ability to make something unique comes with the caveat that, in other MMOs where rampant customization is allowed, often times something horrible is created at times when players veer off the preset map. Carbine, while still wishing to give players as much facial customization options as possible, also wants to maintain the integrity and essence of the character type.
“We have a long review process on how far we can push things before they break or look bad. Thankfully, our art style allows for a lot more freedom than a traditional ‘realistic’ game.” Matt said.
It will be worth watching the way that Carbine handles this facial customization. I am both happy that I won’t have to live in a world of Winston Churchills running around but am slightly concerned what appears to be limitations on how butt-ugly or agonizingly beautiful I want to make my character.
What about you? What do you think of Carbine’s plans for the way we can represent our characters both internally and externally? Let us know in the comments!