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On MMORPG character creation

02 February 2016

Some of my friends are excited about an upcoming MMO called Black Desert Online. I’ve known about it for a long time, but I know better than to get excited about new MMO releases. That’s a good way to feel very disappointed.

The game is launching in March, but they’ve made the character creator public for people to toy with. If their marketing is anything to go by, they treat the character creator as their pride and joy and think it’s really something special. The (carefully edited) preview video sure tries its hardest to give this impression:

After trying the editor yourself it’s painfully obvious the video has been meticulously cut in addition to just being sped up. In practice the character creator is a humongous mess of sliders, which fortunately can slightly more intuitively be manipulated by dragging your mouse on various parts of your character’s face like in the video. Such freedom! It’d be easy to think that this is one of the best, if not the best, character creator in an MMORPG or any game so far.

Alas, that freedom is the greatest fault in the creator. Basically what it does is exposes every single parameter in the underlying face structure engine to the user, with little to no limits or moderation, in a somewhat intuitive manner. The implementation is admittedly quite slick, but as a concept it’s hardly new, with many singleplayer RPGs already having used the exact same trick before. Dark Souls 1 and 2, Oblivion and Skyrim (with mods), and Dragon’s Dogma to name a few off the top of my head.

Because there are no ‘sanity checks’ of any kind on the sliders, it’s a cinch to make your character abhorrently ugly, be that on purpose or not. A single click and drag can make your character’s eyes clip into their cheeks or pull their lips through their teeth. With some fiddling you can push the eyeballs out of their sockets, shape lips into some kind of pointy beak parts, and top the whole thing off with heart-shaped pupils and optic fiber afro:


Creating actually good- and most importantly unique-looking characters is much more difficult. Expect to spend several hours in the editor, and when you finally think you’re done and create your character, sooner or later while playing you’ll notice some little detail that’s off and will have to pay real money to re-edit your character to fix it. That’s how it usually goes for me, at least.

As I said earlier, it’s easy to fall into thinking that this is a good character editor. A lot of people would say it’s on a whole new level. I disagree. I think it’s lazy fanwanking.

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