Character-creation as first choice

Someone who will watch this several years from now is likely to say “Hey, he’s barely active at all!”. Well, ideas comes in waves. I could have done five posts or something in the first week, but forget to post anything in two months after that. Then I prefer to do about one post a week. Besides, it gives me time to think what I really want to write about, what’s important enough for me to take the time to write on this blog which only use are years away. Thankfully, that time gave me this coming topic.

Let’s put up this, probably very common, situation. You’ve bought, or gotten, a game that you’ve been looking forward to for a long time but haven’t done any detailed research on. Up and down in anticipation, you install the game and run. First thing you get is an intro increasing your urge to play, like. You go into “new game” hoping to start right away and get into a menu where you’re supposed to make your character. A bit of a setback. Now, what’s more likely of these two: You put in the effort to make a really cool character you can identify yourself with or you rush something up that you’ll be ashamed of for the rest of the game? Doesn’t sound like a problem? That’s because this is the cosmetic side of the coin.
The other thing you’re supposed to do is choosing your class and traits. Or, if we put it another way, in a developer-perspective: The player is making a choice that will affect the way s/he’ll play and enjoy the game you’ve build for years based on nothing but what sounds cool in a few lines of description with the risk of not enjoying it and having to start over to change to what might feel like a better option or abandoning your game altogether. Sound like a problem now? It should.

The only two reasons I think this exists is that one, not enough players have thought about it that way and two, the initial designers didn’t think about it or didn’t bothered to change it. So, let me give my thought on it.

To start with, don’t show the character in the introduction – e.g by using first person or having it dressed in a robe or a space-suit or something – and keep the game classless in the beginning to let the player learn the fundamentals. Then let the player try out each class’ core game play before s/he makes a decision. When the game play doesn’t feel that new and unfamiliar to the player any more, it’s time to let the player set face, body-attributes, gender etcetera. Not while s/he’s still in the “I’m finally playing” -phase. And, in case s/he can change the character’s clothing, don’t make him/her set an initial clothing that will be replaced soon, anyway. Obviously, the character-bit isn’t needed if there’s a fixed protagonist.
If you’ve got a lot of classes that reminds of each other, like several different tanks, damage-dealers and healers, make them first choose the archetype by trying them out until they decide, and when that feels familiar let them choose the class within that archetype.

And, if it’s an on-line game, making the “tutorial” single-player would allow the player to take his time and make mistakes without feeling like a rookie or being shouted names at by more experienced players (there can even be dungeons and groups in that tutorial-area, where the other players are NPCs filling the completing roles and gives the player advice on how to play it’s role in a group).

You might by now ask who the heck I think I am to give these suggestions, and I have to base this on? I’m basing it on my own frustration when picking a class I don’t know if I’ll enjoy and the enjoyment I don’t know I’ve not gotten by not bothering to start over with what could’ve been the class for me. I’m basing it on the confusion on playing a rock-paper-scissor when you chose scissor years ago and get beaten up by rock today. I’m basing it on all the time lost reloading after death when you don’t know something basic about your class or the game. Short put, I’ve based in on experience as a gamer, and not as any kind of developer.

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2 Responses to Character-creation as first choice

  1. tobbas says:

    Stavar fel redan i topicen, CHOICE STAVAS DET.

  2. johannessmidelov says:

    Borde använa operas stavningskontroll mer, ser jag. Ändrar omgående. Tack för påpekandet.

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