So far we’ve talked about chairs, NPCs with no life and animals that present as much life as a stuff bear. In this issue I’m going to take a look at something that we see every day in real life, and almost never in our video games: post character customization.
In Immersive Details we talk a lot about how video game developers try to make it so we as players become part of the world. They try to make the games a form of “escape” for us from our daily, sometimes stressful lives. Even in fantasy games that are completely original they try to keep the realism we see every day. Physics of a body, the movement, the “ragdoll” effect we see more and more within games, gravity, even details like adding nuances into the world that help us connect to that world like a day / night cycle. Even though games are getting more and more detailed in the way we see them, developers miss the little things that make up our daily lives. The topic for this issue I believe is one that ties directly into any game, single player, multiplayer or online that has a day / night cycle. Post-Character customization is being able to change the look of our character as we progress through the world experiencing different events.
Elder Scrolls Online as we know has a day / night cycle. The cycle is roughly four times faster than that of real life. The sun of Tamriel will shine upon the world for roughly three hours and then it will be night for roughly three hours. If we wanted to role-play that would mean for every twenty-four hours in real life our character would experience roughly four full days. A lot happens in four day of real life that we don’t see happen in our game lives. I’m not saying we should have to go to a barber every day just to shave, but have the ability to adjust our character and the way he looks.
Post Character customization is something we don’t see in any game and the ones that have it are very limited. Role-Playing Games have always put an emphasis on character creation. Over the last decade we have seen a massive improvement to the amount of detail and options we have to create that perfect fantasy version of us. Older RPG games had very little customization: you chose your faction, race, sex, class and got to spend an allotted number of attribute points. Newer RPGs now have options like height, weight, eye colour, eye height, nose length, nose width and that is just to name a few, which is great, but what options do we have as our character grows and progresses through the world?
In everyday life we see post-character customization, like parents taking their kids to get haircuts, people getting tattoos and piercings. We use these types of “customization” as a form of self-expression. On top of self-expression I think the most important aspect of these options is that they can tell a story of someone’s past. Getting a tattoo to signify a special event that has happened, a portrait of someone who is/was close to you, a name, or even a date. All of these can tell a story. Imagine playing a game where you had a special something that you want to always reflect on and remember, so you go and get a tattoo or a piercing. A few years pass a you’re out in the game world and someone asks you about that tattoo and/or piercing, you’ll have a great story to tell. After all, MMOs are designed for longevity, we spend months sometimes years in these game worlds. The world themselves change but my character never ages, never gets scarred. World of Warcraft is a great example of this, the world has gone through so many changes, Ragnaros, insect swarms led by C’thun, the Dark Portal. Then there was Arthas, one of the most powerful, evil beings Azeroth would ever know, who corrupted the world. After Arthas was defeated the world was introduced to a new threat, the return of Neltharion, the Earth-Warder, or better known as Deathwing. Deathwing’s destruction left the world completely changed. As you can see, my character lived through some of the most terrifying events, yet he came out completely unchanged–not even a single scar.
We strive to make our in-game versions of us as unique as possible using the options given to us by the game developers. Elder Scrolls Online is a game that places you in a world of conflict, factions being created out of a desperate need for survival, a never ending war for the Imperial Tower. You go through the world of Tamriel making choices that not only affect your view of the world, but also the view of the inhabitants, it would not be uncommon for your identity to change as you progress through the world.
Perhaps you create your character as a “pretty boy” or a “baby face” and as you adventure you learn about the lands, go through wars, go through oblivion to Cold Harbour and came out of it all with a different look on life. Imagine having the ability to customize your characters appearance after you have witnessed some of the events of the game. Maybe during the battle in Cold Harbour you got scarred. Or you defeated a Daedric Prince with your guild’s army and you all got a tattoo to signify that event. Perhaps you had to go through a “rite of passage” to become a member of a village and you want to get a piercing to remember that event. All of these options can drastically change your immersion level.
Post-Character customization is a feature that I strongly believe is lacking in modern day MMOs. Elder Scrolls is a game series that prides itself on the details and has done small things that make the game what it is, first person with hands, in-depth storytelling. I believe this is a small feature that could set Elder Scrolls Online above all other games.
This is my plea to Zenimax, please do not forget about the little things, they do matter.