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Customizing the RPG Hero

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So, I've got this game idea. It's RPG-like (or maybe I should say RPG-lite) and I'm trying to decide how much customization to allow for the hero. I definitely want to give the player a choice of genders, but beyond that I'm undecided. Choosing a name is fairly conventional, but with the (yet-to-be-created) game engine I'd be using, customizing skin/hair color would be trivial... though for this particular game, the character's last name and equipment (armor, sword, shield) will be non-changeable, since they're integral to the story I want to tell. And while a naming option can be integrated smoothly into gameplay, customizing appearance would have to be done separately, before gameplay starts, and I'm not sure I like the aesthetic effect of that. But if it increases the player's ability to identify with the hero, it might be worth it. Edit: Well, no. Customization of the character sprite / portrait would be trivial, but then there's the "cut-scenes" (actually static images). I could apply the same principle there, I suppose, but it would be extra work. Hm. How much is it worth to a player to be able to make a character who looks like they want it to, I wonder? Edit2: On further thought, it occurs to me that a customization phase for the PC and the major NPCs might be interesting... and it would also provide a good place to introduce the characters with a short bio, since the hero character does know them all. Hm, again... Edit3: For those who don't want to read through the entire thread, I've decided against customization for NPCs, and in favor of customization of the hero, specifically for gender, skin, and hair color. Thanks for the feedback, folks. [Edited by - Logodae on December 30, 2005 9:45:50 PM]

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Original post by someboddy
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Original post by Logodae
a naming option can be integrated smoothly into gameplay


Mom: You finally woke up. Son, what's your name?


LOL.

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Playing/showing cut-scenes by animating/posing the models in their "natural" environment has the following advantages:
(1) very densely packed animation data
(2) any adaption to the models will be reflected naturally

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Original post by someboddy
Mom: You finally woke up. Son, what's your name?

Well, ok. Since stories of memory lost protagonists are overused yet, let loose the remaining world its memory ;-)

But seriously, choosing a name is a very basic step of avatar customization, perhaps even more basic than choosing the gender (but possibly only because its so easy). Dealing with custom names isn't such hard, simply put identifyable placeholders in string messages, and ignore them in speech output (if any).

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Original post by Logodae
Edit2: On further thought, it occurs to me that a customization phase for the PC and the major NPCs might be interesting... and it would also provide a good place to introduce the characters with a short bio, since the hero character does know them all. Hm, again...

I agree to the "Hm" ;-) IMHO, don't let the player go through some/all opponents before s/he played a second of the game. The player wants to play, not to configure. Furthurmore, s/he don't know enough of the game to customize NPCs sensefully. And moreover, I would not provide "previews" on the characters that otherwise would surprisingly appear later during gameplay, since it would be a bit like telling the end before having started...

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I find that most of the RPGs that I play don't really need to let you customize your character, they just throw it in becuase everyone else does it. I think that you have two options: very little or no custimization, and letting you customize everything. The latter is the approach that City of Heroes took, and that seems to be one of the main selling points of the game. I don't feel that I can 'identify' with my character better becuase I made him have neon-green hair thats in dreadlocks, and yet many games will offer that as a choice, even if it means not giving you the option to pick brown hair! Height for characters seems awefully trivial too, it never effects gameplay and, in most games, either appears that there is a too large size difference or a too small size difference.

If you are going to give them some options, why not make some original ones that have a large impact on the look of your character? Things like glowing eyes and a hunchback could add the character, if appropriate for the game. How about letting them have lost an arm/leg and have it replaced by a crude mechanical one?


One interesting game to consider is The Sims. It lets you change your character in dozens of ways ending up with litterally millions of faces that you can make, but in reality, you never really see that face and all that matters is age/gender. Do people feel attached to their sims more becuase its not just randomly generated? I doubt it seeing as my sister and all of her friends who play The Sims scrap their characters and make new ones every single time they start up the game.

Basically, theres no point in letting the player select hair color, in most games they're wearing hats/helmets/hoods, anyways. Same applies with tatoos(could you even see the tatoos that you put on your Neverwinter Nights characters? Not unless you walked around with no armor on). If your going to let people have a choice, make the choice big and *interesting*!

(I just realized how badly written that was, it hops all over the place, but it gets my point across and I don't want to rewrite it)

Edit: another game to consider is Diablo II. Absolutely no character configuration(visually), and yet people begame insanley attached to characters spending hours upon hours working for them and would most definately become angry if you insulted their character. Pretty much the opposite of The Sims.

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Original post by haegarr
Playing/showing cut-scenes by animating/posing the models in their "natural" environment has the following advantages:
(1) very densely packed animation data
(2) any adaption to the models will be reflected naturally

It's a 2D game. Some pre-rendered 3D graphics, and possibly a pseudo-3D scaling effect on the character sprites, but definitely a 2D engine. It's easier to code, easier to make content for, and more aesthetically appealing, at least to me.

A lot of the "cut-scene" type material will take place within the game engine, certainly. But for the occasional close-up of something significant, I'm going to be using stills, or very limited animation, anime-style.

Why? Because I'm an animator... which means I know how long animation takes.


Quote:
I agree to the "Hm" ;-) IMHO, don't let the player go through some/all opponents before s/he played a second of the game. The player wants to play, not to configure. Furthurmore, s/he don't know enough of the game to customize NPCs sensefully. And moreover, I would not provide "previews" on the characters that otherwise would surprisingly appear later during gameplay, since it would be a bit like telling the end before having started...

Well, they're not opponents... but I'm inclined to agree with you about not providing "previews." The hero may know them, but the player doesn't. And having little bios to fill the player in is kind of a cop-out for good (which is to say, subtle) exposition in writing. So, scrap that.


Quote:
Original post by Ezbez
If your going to let people have a choice, make the choice big and *interesting*!

Well, that's the thing. I'm only considering this because it would be fairly easy to hue/value shift the character's skin or hair. Adding a mechanical arm means modelling and animating a mechanical arm. Unless the mechanical arm is a plot point, it's not worth it. (This is a single-player RPG, by the way. If it were multiplayer, customization would obviously be a bigger factor.)

Still waffling, but leaning towards customization. I'm not worried about people not caring about it -- the hero defaults to Generic White Male, and I'm sure more than half of the players won't bother to change that -- only about putting people off by starting the game with "Customize your Character" v. throwing them into the game ASAP. But it's not like we're talking about a D&D character sheet or anything.

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Original post by Ezbez
Then I'd go with little/no custimization. Hair color is hardly worth it...

Yeah, but skin color will allow people to play as a black lesbian, which is the antithesis of the generic white male. And, really, now that I think about it, that's more than worth it.

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Skin Color and Gender might be a bit hard to muster, but why front load the customization? Wouldn't it serve better if you can gradually customize the character over the course of the game?

As for name, thats easy. Just have the first person who doesn't know the hero's name ask for it. Everyone up until that point would have cleverly not used the name, and, I guess continue not using it, just because it's normal.

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Original post by Ezbez
Do people feel attached to their sims more becuase its not just randomly generated? I doubt it seeing as my sister and all of her friends who play The Sims scrap their characters and make new ones every single time they start up the game.

You are missing an important point there. Your sister is probably having fun remaking the characters and going through all of those details even if she doesn't get attached to them. If it increases the enjoyment for some players than it is a worthwile feature.

I do agree that customization should have more effect, but I disagree with the notion that less could be more in this situation (unless you refer to "forced" customization). I believe that most games could use more customization. The only times when it is a bad idea is when the story depends on specific traits of the game's characters. It is also a bad idea when the game relies heavily on prerendered FMV sequences since the customizations will not show during those segments.

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