Complicated Character Creation

797 words.

MassivelyOP asks: “How obsessively do you plan your characters?”

At first I thought they meant the *appearance* of your character. So I tweeted my usual I-can-say-everything-that-needs-to-be-said-about-MMOs-in-one-sentence-and-hoo-boy-does-that-make-blogging-hard response to most discussion topics:

Honestly these days I just click randomize a bunch of times and then "Enter Game" … I've been burned so, so many times spending an hour in character creation only to find that everyone looks exactly the same from the back.

Then I actually read the article and not just the title.

Turns out Bree meant the character’s class and/or skills, not the appearance.

It doesn’t really change my answer that much, to be honest. All the recent discussions of City of Heroes and the 20th anniversary of EverQuest leads us to falsely believe that modern MMOs remotely resemble the complicated games we used to play. Modern MMOs* involve picking one class out of three available, and that’s basically it. In those cases, I just pick one and go with it, because I know I probably won’t be playing for more than a couple hours. It doesn’t really matter anymore.

In a modern MMO, whatever distinguishes our character from any other player’s character is entirely in our imagination, and not visible in the games at all, unless we’re willing to spend money in the cash shop. (I am referring here to MMOs like Destiny or Anthem or Borderlands or The Division, which are apparently the wave of the future, and also games like Fortnite.)

Now if we’re specifically talking about skill-based RPGs where you can build your character by spending “points” on hundreds or thousands of different skills, that’s a different story. That’s a dying breed. (Or already dead, depending on your level of optimism.) I can’t think of any MMOs I’ve played recently where you have to do that at character creation time. The only two MMOs I’ve *ever* played that might fit that description are Asheron’s Call and Anarchy Online. Both of those, I’m pretty sure, had preset “classes” to get you started at creation time.

I may have spent some time pouring over my options in Asheron’s Call back in the 90s, but by the time I got to Anarchy Online just a couple years ago, I just picked one of the presets and ran with it.

Widening the scope to RPGs in general, the only one I can think of with a complicated character creation process that I’ve played recently was Dwarf Fortress. That thing was *crazy* complicated, if you had the nerve to “prepare for the journey carefully.” I didn’t like it. I looked over it for a little while, but before even a half hour had elapsed, I just picked semi-random things and got out of there.

Preparing carefully in Dwarf Fortress. Looks easy, right?

So I guess my answer to the question would be “not obsessed at all.” If I were presented with the screen shown in the image associated with the article, which I presume is a City of Heroes character creation screen, I would very likely freak out and/or start grumbling. For one thing, it’s a terrible UI. A screen full of combo boxes is a nightmare in any computing era.

I’m one of those people who gets paralyzed with indecision when presented with too many options. Also, I have enough experience with MMORPGs now to know that the more options you give to the player with their build, the more you can build a character that’s broken and useless. I don’t really want to deal with that anymore. I’m struggling mightily with that exact problem in Elder Scrolls Online. I have literally no idea what to do with my skill points in that game, after the last reset. My highest-level Templar character (level 48) always feel weak and powerless and dies over and over whenever I fight anything, undoubtedly because I’m playing it “wrong” since I insist on using a greatsword and heavy armor.

But ESO is a different story aka. a different half-finished blog post sitting in my Drafts folder.

Anyway I’m tired of writing about this now. What was my point? I don’t remember. I didn’t really have one. I’m just trying to expand a one-sentence answer into a blog post.

* I’m going to define a “modern MMO” as anything launched after 2014. I feel like 2014, the year of WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online, was the “last” year with any connection to the “classic” MMORPGs that we used to know and love.

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