I showed my STO character to my colleague (believe it or not, we actually do work in between chatting about games, I just don’t blog about our work here ^^) and told her how much time I spent on her… probably about an hour all in all (though that did include looking up which traits might be good for her class). My colleague usually doesn’t spend much time on thinking about how her characters look in games (she’s a console player, so we’re not talking about MMOs here) and which name she gives them. I, on the other hand, spend more time in the character creation screen than anywhere else when I try out a new game (and in a lot of cases, I’ve quit the game after playing it for 5 minutes but at least, I had fun creating a character first ;) ).
We wondered whether the difference comes from playing an offline-single player versus an online-multiplayer game. After all, my character is what others will see from me: The way it looks (here I have to think of all the female STO characters with huge boobs and the tiniest mini skirts they could find) and the name you give to the character (couple the look with the great-sounding name Bi’atch) is what people will have as their first impression of you. If you play offline and only for yourself, it doesn’t matter which name you give your character or what it looks like. Or, at least, it’s a matter of aesthetics and immersion but only to yourself! Nobody else will see the character or interact with them. You won’t have to “be somebody” to anybody else.
Having said that, I’ve had one silly name in an MMO so far (that I remember right now). That one was in World of Warcraft. A male tauren called “Kuhlio” (you pronounce it “Coolio”). “Kuh” is the German word for “cow”. I was giggling and very happy to find out that nobody on the server had thought about that name before. I never played this character, though, and before my account expired (again… again… again…), I deleted the character because it felt like a namesave that I don’t care about. So maybe somebody else has claimed it in the meantime. ;)
Whenever I can, I call my main character “Paeroka”. I do feel odd doing so by now, though. I always find it silly to name characters after myself. However, it’s the other way around with Paeroka, in fact. I first had a character “Paeroka” in a story for National Novel Writing Month. A story I will one day finish writing. It stopped at 44.000 words (and me having a high fever and being too weak to lift a finger to continue typing, so I had to give up on the last day of November). I liked the name so much that I decided to call myself after this character (who’s very cool in combination with her instruction master, Ysra). In fact, almost all of my character names come from names I’ve first used in one of my stories (all unfinished and all written in German – so, thankfully, you won’t have to actually read any of them here ;) ). I’ve loved writing ever since I was a little kid and started school. So those character names have a special meaning for me and I wouldn’t ever dare giving my serious characters silly names. And I am annoyed whenever I see such silly names in games (well, names like “Kuhlio” are on the border of “too much”. But names like “Ikillyou” or “Darkshadowrouge” (sic! ^^) are plain annoying and stupid if you ask me) and wish there’d be stricter rules against having them. However, I do not care in the slightest if you’re using such names in your offline games. That’s got nothing to do with me, after all. ;)
All of this does make me wonder, however, how Guild Wars 2 will handle that. The latest information I got was that they haven’t decided anything yet. But they did once say that we can use the names we’ve had in Guild Wars again. So our current GW characters should, theoretically, serve as namesaves so far. And I’d really love to be able to have two names for your character right from the start. Now everybody can name their Sylvari “Woody” and just slap a different surname onto it.
The whole character creation is a different story again. As I said above, it does leave first impressions. Weaker ones than names, at least in my case. But just look at Aion and the amount of horrible characters. Tiny little children-like bodies with huge distorted heads. Ugh. And the difference between the smallest possible characters and the largest possible ones is atrocious. It just doesn’t look like those characters are from the same game world. You can see one example in the picture on the left. While I love the freedom that the character creation in Aion gives you, I dislike the absolute freedom with the different… let’s call them “design aesthetics”.
And to bring up Guild Wars 2 again, I loved when they said that they want to give you freedom but not do something like Aion. They have a certain visual aesthetic that they want to go with and they’ll force their players to uphold this aesthetic. I’m perfectly fine with that! Especially as they’ve now decided to let you choose your character’s eye colour independently from the way your character’s nose looks etc. Back at GamesCom 2011, you had premade faces that you could choose which I was rather disappointed with. I can live with premade faces (like nose, chin etc.) because I can hardly ever get them right proportionally. But I do want to choose the eye colour! My characters almost always have green eyes. So there. ;)
And last but not least, as this post started with Star Trek Online, I’m going to close it with that game: The character creation is fantastic! Not only can you spend hours creating your character, you can also save it for later use and you can change your visuals in game for no fee (well, in game currency but no “real money”). Of course, there’s again the question of immersion. Why does my character suddenly look totally different? But that’s okay in my case. They’re aliens from planets almost nobody’s heard of. So it’s natural for them to change the way they look. ;) I didn’t like the way Paera (up on the left) looks anymore, so I changed it to what you can see on the right (slightly above). But… I’m still not happy. *sigh* Thankfully, as she’s “alien”, she has tons of features and sliders to choose from (and she can get away completely from the half-Klingon look if I want to)! So I expect her to look different again sometime soon. Even I don’t need immersion all of the time. ;)