Thursday, January 7, 2016

Confession Time - I Rarely Customize My Character

Fallout 4 opens and immediately throws you into a character customization screen. There are sliders for nose length, forehead size, eyelid shape, and any facial feature imaginable. It beckons you to create your own persona, as wild or serious as you want. Duplicate your favorite celebrity so you can see what life is like for Taylor Swift in the wasteland. You can even put your likeness into the game, throwing yourself into the role of the vault dweller.

Despite all the customization available, I altered a few small items like my hair and beard before moving along. Two minutes in total was spent in this feature. I have done the same thing for Mass Effect, Skyrim, Dark Souls, Guild Wars 2, and any other title that allows you to craft a character. I spend a few minutes changing the hair before moving on to the game itself.

This time I had to ask myself...why not stay and delve into this further?

Time. That is one of the biggest factors of it all. Creating a character from scratch, starting from head to chin, takes a large amount of time. Going into the finer details and making sure everything is exactly how you envision is something that takes longer than a few small tweaks. Sure it will payoff in the end, but I always just wanted to dive right into the game and get to playing. Spending my time hopping right into a menu full of bars and checklists is not what I want to do.

"Tell me I'm beautiful, Miranda"

Regret. I always mess up somewhere. The eyes looked fine before but become distracting during dialogue later. The ears looked normal before, but in action I look like a Keebler elf fighting a space pirate. No matter how much time I manage to spend or how much effort I take to pay attention to detail, something usually goes wrong. Call me a perfectionist, but having to spend forty hours with a face I am annoyed with will usually have me leaning toward a default template with a few modifications. 

Helmets. More than likely you are creating a character in an RPG and that means you are likely to get a helmet. That also means you can fully expect to never see the thing you worked so hard to perfect. Like throwing a glass case on Mona Lisa, the beauty and craftsmanship will be tarnished but the protection is a necessity. While there will be the occasional option to hide the helmet's visibility in most titles, ultimately your main hero will be hidden from scrutiny.

Someone put Khaleesi in Dragon Age...I'm guessing for a tactical advantage?

In most cases, this will have little impact on the game itself. You can be the ugliest being in the world with a forehead the size of Texas and a lazy eye and still manage to seduce anyone. You can be a pirate with an eyepatch and still shoot with the same accuracy as the guy who looks normal. No change to your cosmetic appearance will affect the world around you. That is not to say some games leave your choices completely unscrutinized, with Dragon Age standing out as a game in which NPCs would treat noble humans higher than lowly dwarfs. Even World of Warcraft and Skyrim had certain bonuses and abilities for each race that could compliment a class. Regardless, the cosmetic look did nothing and even the ugly duckling could still rise to the same fame as anyone's chiseled dreamy warrior.

While I shy away from cosmetic looks to the face, I do, however,  spend far too much time maintaining my character's wardrobe. Like a Project Runway judge, I find myself investing a lot of time cycling through armor or messing with shaders to get the perfect intimidating look. Even if an armor had superior stats I would toss it aside if it dared to clash with my ensemble. This made more sense to me than messing with the physical appearance due to the consistency of seeing the armor continually in gameplay.

In the end, it is all about the fun you have with it. Some people love the ability to shape a character that looks like Miley Cyrus and send her into space to fight the Reapers. There are detailed tutorials on how to shape and mold any likeness you wish into a character, and the time and dedication you put toward that is all up to the player. It is another tool to add your own personal creativity and humor into a game, and more power to the player is always a bonus to any game.

I may yet set forth and take the time to create a character down to the finest detail one day. As for now, I am sure to cover my ugly mug with a helmet, and let my identity be a mystery to everyone in the a homeless Batman...

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