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A Personal Rant Concerning Character Customization

character creation replay value classes races skills feats abilities customization

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#1
Feldoth

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I know that I am odd in this regard, which is why I make no claims that my view is in any way representative of the population present on these forums or elsewhere. This is a personal rant, and I say rant because it comes entirely from an emotional need I posses for which I have no logical explanation. I'm posting it here because if I don't, and this game fails to reach the admittedly high bar I set on this topic, I'll have only myself to blame for never having tried to make a difference. This way when it doesn't meet my requirements I can simply resume grumbling to myself, and I'm only out my donation money instead of potential years of self-loathing and regret.

Here's what I'm looking for in a RPG (or any game, really):

A very large part of why I play RPG's is for their character customization - it's not the only consideration, but it is almost always the deciding factor in buying a new game (of late, the only "new" game I've purchased is Skyrim - with which I was disappointed in the character customization options, but it was better than average). Story matters, but I find the stories in most games weak in comparison to most books, so that's a secondary concern.

What I have apparently become addicted to is creating unique and interesting characters. This falls into two roughly equal segments: visual and mechanical. Visual encompasses both the physical appearance of the character, as well as specifics to what sorts of items and spells that character is "allowed" to use (ex: if I make a character who's theme is "fire mage", I voluntarily do not use any spells that do not fit that theme - ice or water being the classic examples, but it can be more, less, or differently limited depending on the complete character concept). Visual also encompases most of personality with regards to character creation (things like voice selection can be involved as well, as can weapon preferences, skill selection, and even feats/abilities on occasion) - this means that my characters face (or portrait, or general physical appearance) must fit the concept I have of them in my head. I cannot explain why personality is so important to me, but it is absolutely crucial - If I cannot fit a character's appearance to their personality that character doesn't get made and I go back to the drawing board (for this reason, it drives me crazy that it's basically impossible to find or make a smiling face/portrait/etc in any game... Would it kill developers to have a "Default Facial Expression" option/slider? Why must my character frown/stare blankly at everything? I know the models are capable of smiling). It may sound like I'm requiring a high degree of graphical fidelity here - nothing could be further from the truth. I require only as much graphics/artwork as is necessary for me to "see" (as in visualize/imagine/personify/etc) my character in whatever format the game presents him/her - often, high fidelity graphics get in the way of this, as they add details that are not present in my mental image, whereas lower quality graphics leave those details open to the imagination.

The other side of the coin, mechanical design & customization, encompases everything you probably think it does: Classes, Racial Bonuses (though not looks), Attacks/Abilities/Spells, Stats, Skills, etc. My design goal with any given character usually follows this pattern: Think of an interesting combination of mechanics, then design a character (visually) to match those mechanics. This leads to characters that have looks, personality, and abilities all revolving around a core theme - they (usually) have one or two "signature" abilities upon which their entire character concept was created. I'll create them with this in mind, then play it out to the final extreme or until the concept proves flawed in some way I didn't originally notice (if it's viable but I've misplaced a point somewhere I'll either re-create them or use console commands to correct the error, depending on what's available). In some cases it works the other way around, wherein I'll create a personality or visual style that inspires a slightly different mechanical perspective that I deem worth exploring. Characters created based on mechanical innovations become more and more interesting as the game progresses and they gain access to the full scope of their potential ("growing into their destined role," if you want to dramatize it... which of course we do, this being an RPG forum), but characters based on a visual style or personality are the most fun to work with in character creation and during plot defining moments (these tend to be the ones I don't actually play, just design).

With regards to the actual mechanics of the game, and how classes/abilities/skills/etc interact with each other, it should be obvious that I prefer a highly flexible system. My ideal would actually be a classless system, but a decently done classed based system can be almost as good (restrictions are necessary to make character customization interesting - it's the working around and manipulation of those restrictions that makes mechanical customization fun). That said, multiclassing is basically required. It can be left out if the primary emphasis is on abilities/spells/feats and not class mechanics (to employ a simile: The classes are like differently shaped container for legos, where a roughly equal number of uniform legos, or feats/skills/abilities, can fit into any given container). If the emphasis is on the parts that make up the character (the feats/skills/abilities), rather than it's shell (the class), and these parts can be interchanged fairly freely between classes (with some exceptions) then multiclassing isn't required, but is still beneficial. It's my opinion that this "focus on the parts" view is simply good game design - it detracts nothing from those who don't care about character customization, but will keep people like me (assuming there are others like me...) buying as many expansion packs as you care to produce. When you do make expansions, adding classes is a pretty common theme - however, if these classes are insular (not subscribing to the "focus on parts" view), then you're only really adding one or two play styles... if you've done it the way I'm suggesting you've potentially exponentially increased the number of available character customization options (and therefore play styles) while achieving all the same benefits that adding a class normally accomplishes.

Now, by the fact that I've taken the time to both think and type all this out in great detail, you can probably infer how big a deal it is to me, but just in case let me underline the point: I still play NWN2. Not only do I still play it, It's practically the only game I play. My computer uses video card drivers specifically selected for their compatibility with it. I have over a hundred characters created (since the last time I had to do a reinstall... a bit over a year). I've essentially memorized the dialog for the entire game (not so much on the expansions, as I prefer to start at level 1-3 and don't really care for SoZ [side note: MotB is a work of art, give Mr. Zeits my warmest and sincerest regards for that please.]). I've also modded the game with Kerendin's PrC Pack, which adds 49 classes (and is still in active development), and Races of Faerun which adds something like a dozen races, as well as complete overhauls like the "OC Makeover SoZ Edition" and Wulverheim (these last to add some variety to the game while I play through yet another character concept). Neverwinter Nights 2 (with mods) is the closest thing I've ever found to satisfying my craving for deep character customization, and even it is horribly flawed (by my standards).

I'm not asking you to fulfill my every wish with Project Eternity, what I'm really asking for (more like begging for) is a replacement for NWN2. I am so damn tired of that game in every regard except character customization (and I think mathematically I may be approaching the point where I've done all feasible combinations of mechanics). I'm desperate for something with enough character customization to allow me to put away NWN2 for good, something with a fresh plot and new as-of-yet unmemorized dialog, new character interactions that give me more fine tuned options for defining and expressing my character's personality (the city watch / thieves guild segment of NWN2 kills off 90% of my character concepts unless I just grit my teeth and act completely out of character - it's destroys immersion and could be the subject of a completely separate rant all by itself). If I were a rich man I'd throw buckets of money at you just for that little consolation, but I'm not and so all I can do is give what I can afford in a desperate gamble, hoping that the people who gave me NWN2 can give me something to replace it.

It feels good to get all that off my chest, as it's been stewing in and ever-expanding pool of frustration for some time now. If I had the time and skill I'd make my own game, if I had the money I'd pay someone to do it for me, alas I have neither. The only good that's come out of this is that I've discovered my skill addiction obsession can be put to productive use by churning out NPCs for my DM to put into our far-too-infrequent D&D games. That's not quite as satisfying, but it's kept me away from NWN2 for about a month running... Though after writing this I can already tell that streak isn't going to last the week (if it weren't 4am it wouldn't last the night). As I said when I started - I needed to say this for my own reasons, and even if it doesn't have an effect on this game it's still acted as a pressure release for me (and maybe it will influence something else down the line - who knows). That said, thank you for taking the time to read it and I do hope it leaves an impression (other than one of mild insanity - I know I got that one across but I hope some of the subtler points made it as well).
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#2
Shades

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Fellow ranter! (Or rambler in my case)

So, in summary you're saying that you like creating characters. Lots of them. You're not too fussed about character appearance, in terms of raising eyebrows and shrinking noses anyway. In fact you'd prefer something less detailed so you can fill in the gaps yourself. But primarily you like to have a lot of room to experiment and poke around with classes, abilities and all those sorts of things. You like having the freedom to be able to try a lot of different combinations, and you've found that NWN2 has been an ideal game for this if not other things. But you'd like it if PE could offer you that same kind of freedom too if possible.

Is that sortof what you mean?

If so: PE will be isometric, so you won't be seeing characters very close up. They will be 3D, but I doubt we'll even have different faces to choose from since as mentioned they'll be quite small and it won't make a difference. You will however have portraits, and I'm assuming that means we will also be able to have custom portraits, hooray! As for classes, I'm not completely sure (I don't keep track of all the details mentioned everywhere) but I think from what the devs have said they will be quite versatile and flexible. Meaning you might have room to make several different types of one class for different characters depending on how you distribute things. I'm not sure if they've mentioned whether multiclasses are in or not yet (I hope they are, because I'm greedy and always like more options).

It might pay to check out a lot of the various class specific topics floating around, they may have tidbits of extra information about how things might work.
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#3
KennethTopp

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personally I'm a bit of a slider customization afficianado. Not everyone loves it, but I do. I love sitting there tweaking my main characters head to my heart content to get him just right.
instead of just choosing amidst a set of preset heads where I usually only find one or two awesome enough.

Edited by KennethTopp, 10 October 2012 - 06:28 AM.

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#4
Osvir

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I'm bipolar, personally.

I love to tweak for hours, but I also love to "get on with it already!". I spent countless hours with Shadowkeeper and DLTCP just to get the right color palette on my characters. I even made duplicates of the armor my character's were wearing just so I could get the right color to fit with their Portrait appearance. I also spent less than a minute pressing "O.k." getting the first pre-generated character appearance there is.

Sometimes I like to customize, sometimes I don't. This is mostly a replaybility feature though, and I would love to see something akin to Baldur's Gate (just taken one or two more steps further).
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#5
Feldoth

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Fellow ranter! (Or rambler in my case)

So, in summary you're saying that you like creating characters. Lots of them. You're not too fussed about character appearance, in terms of raising eyebrows and shrinking noses anyway. In fact you'd prefer something less detailed so you can fill in the gaps yourself. But primarily you like to have a lot of room to experiment and poke around with classes, abilities and all those sorts of things. You like having the freedom to be able to try a lot of different combinations, and you've found that NWN2 has been an ideal game for this if not other things. But you'd like it if PE could offer you that same kind of freedom too if possible.

Is that sortof what you mean?

If so: PE will be isometric, so you won't be seeing characters very close up. They will be 3D, but I doubt we'll even have different faces to choose from since as mentioned they'll be quite small and it won't make a difference. You will however have portraits, and I'm assuming that means we will also be able to have custom portraits, hooray! As for classes, I'm not completely sure (I don't keep track of all the details mentioned everywhere) but I think from what the devs have said they will be quite versatile and flexible. Meaning you might have room to make several different types of one class for different characters depending on how you distribute things. I'm not sure if they've mentioned whether multiclasses are in or not yet (I hope they are, because I'm greedy and always like more options).

It might pay to check out a lot of the various class specific topics floating around, they may have tidbits of extra information about how things might work.


It's not that I don't know what has already been confirmed - I'm aware of the isometric view for example - but that these things don't really matter to my viewpoint and so I've spoken more generally (not specific to this game). It could be 2D and grayscale and so long as the artistic style and visual options supported a my "character personality overlay." Isometric perspective neither adds to nor interferes with this, so by itself this is a non-issue. Similarly I've heard some things about how classes work that sound like decent, but no confirmations on things like multiclassing (or equivalent mechanics, as I mentioned). It's also not that NWN2 is ideal for character creation - without mods it's still above average but I would have exhausted all character possibilities long ago (sadly, it's not as good as it could have been due to many broken mechanics... Another reason I really want to replace it).

Finally, it's also not that I won't enjoy PE without stupid levels of character customization, but it will fail to satisfy my craving for it (and won't replace NWN2 as my go-to game to get that fix). I'm already on-board for the game, though I am waiting for more details along these lines before committing to any of the add-ons.

You are however, absolutely right about the nose/eyebrow thing - I barely touch those settings in games that have them and kinda wish they didn't exist most of the time... It's the larger things that matter: Facial expressions, hair color and style, body shape and size, etc. KennethTopp has a good point here that the nose/eyebrow sliders allow you to work around bad presets - but that argument falls flat with me due to never having found such a system that provided better results through tweaking as what I've gotten from preset parts in other games (for example, I STILL can't get characters to smile, even in Skyrim with all it's sliders). It is true though that there are usually only a few good faces to pick from though... which is yet another pet-peeve of mine (that's something that modding can help alleviate though).

#6
Rabain

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I'm pretty sure the character creation in Dragon Age Origins makes smiling possible though invariably it doesn't look real, at least not to me. There is always that voice saying "what is he smiling at?" or "That's not how I imagined my smile to be." etc.

It would be funny (to me at least) if PE had a character customisation level of detail that you desire but actually had no bearing in game, other than maybe appearing on your character info screen. Like a mini game of character creation just before playing the actual game.

I doubt this would happen though due to it being expensive and hardly worth it due to the isometric viewpoint. Given unlimited funds and time I'd not be against it either.

#7
Maf

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I'm rather wondering if people have too high expectations of the Unity 4 engine (or rather Obsidian's implementation of it).
It was already stated that this game obviously won't have graphics on Crysis level or above, it's a financial decision.
Adjustable lips is great and all but if you look at (for example) BG2 :
Attached File  example.jpg   15.93KB   33 downloads
Can you see the lip size on that guy?
How would he look with a fat chin?
Can you guess the answer? :)

My personal opinion:
I'd like customization options, nwn2's was more than sufficient for me.
But this game won't have a floating camera I believe?
Even zoom is merely "questioned" as pointed here:
linky
So how much will you actually see?
I'd rather they expand our imagination using sweet (haha) portrait art and maybe some headspeak ala Fallout style?
Whatever they choose, there's nothing in this world that can silence my enthousiasm for this game!
Hopefully you customization advocates will think the same :)

#8
Voltaire

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Allow importing of custom portraits - PLEASE! No amount of 3D face tweaking can give you exactly what you want. You need to be able to find a photo or drawing, maybe tweak it with a drawing tool, and then import it into the game. With IWD and IWD2 my enite party used imported photos, and the playing experience was uniquely mine.
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#9
harhar!

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Personally I don't care for Char Customization at all and I think it can be even damaging by limiting the devs, because no matter how many variables they use, they'll never have the same freedom as when they just create the char themselves (see PS:T). What is important to me though is, that if there is customization (which seems likely), it should have a huge impact on the dialogues and no generic one size fits all dialogues. You just don't speak to a lightly equipped thief in the same way you speak with a giant muscular walking corpse with battlescars all over it's body.

#10
Feldoth

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Personally I don't care for Char Customization at all and I think it can be even damaging by limiting the devs, because no matter how many variables they use, they'll never have the same freedom as when they just create the char themselves (see PS:T). What is important to me though is, that if there is customization (which seems likely), it should have a huge impact on the dialogues and no generic one size fits all dialogues. You just don't speak to a lightly equipped thief in the same way you speak with a giant muscular walking corpse with battlescars all over it's body.


While I'm mentally incapable of understanding your view on customization, I do not disagree with you that a flexible main character provides additional challenges for the Devs and can even interfere with the storytelling (if not done well at least). I'd prefer that interaction with NPCs be through stats such as intimidation/diplomacy, but I agree it should be included in the game (though I really think these should be PASSIVE effects on conversation for the most part, not active choices - ex: people just respond to you as though you were, you know, intimidating). However, my counter argument is that a flexible PC allows for more interesting and varied interactions with the NPC companion choices, which are predefined by the developers in the way you would prefer the PC to be.

I'm actually attempting to play through PS:T for the first time, having purchased it in the recent GOG sale. While it may get better as I get further in, It is presently proving exceptionally difficult to keep my interest focused on it due entirely to the lack of customization (simple stat choices aren't even close to what I need). I'm desperate for the story to pick up or additional customization options to become available.

#11
Ieo

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I'm actually attempting to play through PS:T for the first time, having purchased it in the recent GOG sale. While it may get better as I get further in, It is presently proving exceptionally difficult to keep my interest focused on it due entirely to the lack of customization (simple stat choices aren't even close to what I need). I'm desperate for the story to pick up or additional customization options to become available.


The only thing customizable in PS:T--the most important part, IMO--is your character's worldview and personality. Alignment is purely incidental to your in-game choices. PS:T is quite niche, a cult favorite; think of it as unraveling a 100-sided Rubiks cube. I suspect that your obsession with visual personalization will impede your enjoyment of the storyline, though.

Also, per portraits--I have no doubt that PE will allow custom portraits. All IE games allowed this (except PS:T which was a unique beast). Obsidian has been quite clear that they want the players to make their own experience with the game--where there is an opportunity for options, they want to do it if possible.

#12
Feldoth

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The only thing customizable in PS:T--the most important part, IMO--is your character's worldview and personality. Alignment is purely incidental to your in-game choices. PS:T is quite niche, a cult favorite; think of it as unraveling a 100-sided Rubiks cube. I suspect that your obsession with visual personalization will impede your enjoyment of the storyline, though.


I am somewhat resigned to this, but there are cases where games have been able to overcome my need for customization by grabbing my interest in some other way (usually story), though these games typically lack any replay value for me - to give an example of one, the original Deus Ex had only a small amount of customization compared to what I prefer, but it was more than enough to keep me interested until the story and other mechanics picked up all the slack plus miles more. I am hoping this turns out to be the case with PS:T, and that I just need to give it more time - worldview and personality are a large part of what I need to be able to define in a character, so that may be enough once it gets going more.

#13
Ieo

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The only thing customizable in PS:T--the most important part, IMO--is your character's worldview and personality. Alignment is purely incidental to your in-game choices. PS:T is quite niche, a cult favorite; think of it as unraveling a 100-sided Rubiks cube. I suspect that your obsession with visual personalization will impede your enjoyment of the storyline, though.


I am somewhat resigned to this, but there are cases where games have been able to overcome my need for customization by grabbing my interest in some other way (usually story), though these games typically lack any replay value for me - to give an example of one, the original Deus Ex had only a small amount of customization compared to what I prefer, but it was more than enough to keep me interested until the story and other mechanics picked up all the slack plus miles more. I am hoping this turns out to be the case with PS:T, and that I just need to give it more time - worldview and personality are a large part of what I need to be able to define in a character, so that may be enough once it gets going more.


PS:T starts off a bit more slowly because you're just trying to get the hang of mechanics and making sense of the crazy world. It does buckle down eventually, when you make enough choices to make a difference in your alignment. (And PS:T does have a lack of replay value compared to BG for most people, I suspect.) Per worldview and personality--given the heavy emphasis Obsidian will place on reputation instead of alignment in PE, you should be fine in that regard.

The only difference is that personalized character, with depth, takes time to develop, while the visual personalization is all front-loaded.

#14
Feldoth

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PS:T starts off a bit more slowly because you're just trying to get the hang of mechanics and making sense of the crazy world. It does buckle down eventually, when you make enough choices to make a difference in your alignment. (And PS:T does have a lack of replay value compared to BG for most people, I suspect.) Per worldview and personality--given the heavy emphasis Obsidian will place on reputation instead of alignment in PE, you should be fine in that regard.

The only difference is that personalized character, with depth, takes time to develop, while the visual personalization is all front-loaded.


Indeed, I'm not really worried about enjoying a single playthrough of PE - Obsidian has a great deal of story cred with me, and if there's a "normal" level of customization it should be enough for me to enjoy the game, and possibly the expansion. That won't get me out of the endless cycle of re-playing NWN2 though... which is what I REALLY need want from of PE.

Speaking of which, I did start playing NWN2 again - I'm up to level 9 now with a 1 cleric (Jergal - War/Trickery) / 4 ninja / 4 Skullclan Hunter / 0 Scythe Weapon Master (future). I just started in on Old Owl Well. Kelgar as a Frenzied Berserker is a serious glass cannon, I have a feeling that without a modded AI he'd be stupidly powerful but with all the enemies using stealth, buffs, and extra items he goes down in seconds if he gets focused (with these AI settings the last part of the civil watch questline is really damn hard). Qara is just as overpowered as ever... haven't decided what I'm going to do with her this time, if anything.

Edited by Feldoth, 12 October 2012 - 09:47 PM.


#15
Ywerion

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I totally feel you on this subject, variety, if implemented within reason, and not just for "adding variety for variety" has been always welcomed feature in every RPG I ever played. Naturally when I saw bunch of screenshots with TNO and party members from Planescape: Torment for a first time I was blown away, and that was just from the looks of it, the best part was yet to come :yes: .
I have fond memories on few companions from Arcanum, while they sadly wasn't so fleshed out as they deserved to, still you had some nice variety from races you personally could not play, like (my personal favorite) Gar the World's Smartest Orc, lizardmen Waromon (who for once made me put aside my distaste for human/animal hybrids) not to forget undead Torian Kel with his terrific voiceamong other things (in a term of voice only Vhailor beats him in my humble opinion), and there was few more exotical ones in the finale stages of game.
Just wanted to point out few more examples on a list of all previously mentioned companions.

Edited by Ywerion, 17 October 2012 - 01:41 AM.


#16
Ywerion

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Oops sorry for my previous post, I accidentaly posted it here instead of thread it was supposed to be, sorry my bad. I can't delete it now.

#17
The Guilty Party

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Honestly, I can't stand the NWN2 (i.e., the D&D 3rd ed) character creation system. They're hours and hours of planning before you even hit level 2 so that everything fits together just right, and then there's no choices at all, just picking the next wildly unjustifiable feat/class/skill to fit your build. If I never again have to play a Bard/Fighter/Red Dragon/Herald of Whatever, I'll be happy.

That said, I love creating and customizing characters. I just think that things like, say, prestige classes, shouldn't be something that you have to meet special stat checks for. They'd make much, much more sense and be a lot more fun if they were something you had to pass a story check for. You want to be a Neverwinter Nine? Then you should probably make game choices that support the lords of neverwinter. Want to be a Travelling Bard class? Go on a city-chasing hunt to track down the most famous current bard.

That way you don't have to wonder if you screwed up your skillpoints on level 3, you get to build the characters you want (sensible or not), and it's integrated into the world.

#18
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D&D leveling system is bad for a computer game because its made for table top game where you can say to the GM hey lets change thigs, Where the other players will interact with you and guide you. In a pc Game you cant have that.
I want all kinds of customization, from the character creation as many as other top RPGs and MMOs in the last few years. And with classes i want a unrestrictive sistem where you work for a goal istead of once you level up you chose a price.

#19
Pshaw

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I totally agree with you that character customization is key part of a game. I can't tell you the number of times I've restarted games in order to tweak looks that I decided didn't fit or did have the look I was going for with a character. However I think the main point you've made, perhaps without intending to do so, is the importance of making the game easily mod-able. There will come a point where they can't get the character models to meet everybody's needs but need to move on. The same goes for classes and races. Which is totally fine and reasonable. That is however where the mod community can pick up some slack however.

I love scrolling through elder scrolls mods and seeing people who felt the same way I did about something had the talent enough to create a mod that addressed something that bothered me as well. Then I can use that mod to enhance my gaming experience for the better. I don't expect everybody to see eye to eye on how a game should be, it's impossible to please everyone after all. Luckily the gaming world has a large group of very talented and generous people who devote their time to adding and adjusting these games to help it meet their idea of how things should be. So I think for this sort of level of customization they should do what they can to develop it on their own before release but make sure it's all easily moddable so that people who'd like to can have the option of changing things up to something closer to what they want.
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#20
AGX-17

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the gist of the first few tl;dr posts is "I want to make my character look super unique and cool so all of the ZERO OTHER PLAYERS in the game can see I'm a special snowflake and not just an NPC." Which is odd considering it's an isometric game where your characters are likely to be low-detail compared to waifu simulators like Oblivion and Skyrim.

Don't get me wrong, I like to make my characters look the way I want, but it's not the most important thing in the game. Besides, with Obsidian signing on with the *shudder* Nexus modding network, you'll no doubt get more opportunities than you ever thought imaginable to customize your (female) characters. Making your waifu look like a tramp should not be a priority for the Obsidian dev team.

Edited by AGX-17, 17 October 2012 - 02:45 PM.






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: character creation, replay value, classes, races, skills, feats, abilities, customization

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