The Fixer

Steve sets out to fix the looks of char­ac­ter cre­ation screens

XBox: The Official Magazine - - INSIDER -

Yank those slid­ers up and down. Em­biggen that conk. Now stretch out your ear­lobes and paint your en­tire body a sick­en­ing shade of acid green. Make one leg ex­tremely long, the other loop back on it­self, then re­tract your fin­gers so much that they turn in­side out like a hor­ri­ble Marigold made of hu­man skin. Fi­nally, shrink your eye­balls down to the size of dried peas, so that they rat­tle around in­side their empty sock­ets like beads in the sad­dest pair of mara­cas you’ve ever known.

No, not some fancy new yoga work­out from Lon­don. I’m talk­ing about the process of cre­at­ing a cus­tom char­ac­ter in a videogame. But where does this long­stand­ing prac­tice orig­i­nate? Well al­low me to com­pletely fab­ri­cate the his­tory of char­ac­ter cre­ation to ex­plain…

The very first char­ac­ter cre­ation screen ap­peared in 1972, when Atari al­lowed play­ers to dress up their Pong bat in a two-pixel wide mous­tache and sus­penders, and choose from one of three voices: sassy, gruff and Tim Curry.

Since then, char­ac­ter cre­ation screens have be­come in­creas­ingly elab­o­rate, adding dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of bow-ties, top hats and hand-painted wooden clogs to the mix. In the 1985 plat­former clas­sic ‘Lord Mon­tague’s Hor­ri­ble House Of Spikes’, play­ers could ad­just the pro­tag­o­nist’s neck to one of 256 dif­fer­ent lengths. Later, with the ad­vent of 3D graph­ics in the 1990s, char­ac­ter cre­ation tools could al­low play­ers to en­large dif­fer­ent fa­cial fea­tures to grotesque pro­por­tions, such that each bit of the face would tus­sle with the oth­ers for dom­i­na­tion of the head.

The prob­lem

By the time we reach the mod­ern era, the de­gree to which you can cus­tomise a char­ac­ter has reached new and ridicu­lous heights. What be­gan as a way to sub­tly cu­rate the ap­pear­ance of the game pro­tag­o­nist, and there­fore make you em­pathise more with them, be­came a means to spawn night­mar­ishly dis­pro­por­tioned clown mon­sters.

Open-world games are es­pe­cially no­to­ri­ous for al­low­ing play­ers to cre­ate these ob­scene mu­tants – to play as a liv­ing, breath­ing refu­ta­tion of a car­ing god – and then have those in­hu­man dis­as­ters ap­pear in oth­er­wise nor­mal cutscenes, sob­bing over the body of a friend as they bleed out in the street, or wait­ing pa­tiently to re­ceive or­ders from a mob boss who doesn’t seem to no­tice or care that you’re a 24 stone bearded man wear­ing star-shaped spec­ta­cles and a flu­o­res­cent orange nappy.

We play­ers have proven our­selves in­ca­pable of han­dling the re­spon­si­bil­ity of choos­ing how large our vir­tual chins should be, and we should now be stripped of the priv­i­lege un­til such time as we’ve col­lec­tively learned our les­son.

The so­lu­tion

Char­ac­ter cus­tomi­sa­tion pan­ders to the worst of our con­sumerist in­stincts, this idea that the cus­tomer is al­ways right. But the cus­tomer is a gib­ber­ing id­iot. Imag­ine if you were forced to choose the shape of Mar­lon Brando’s face be­fore watch­ing The God­fa­ther, or if a cin­ema au­di­ence could tog­gle Daniel Day-Lewis’s mous­tache on and off mid-scene. That’s no kind of world I’d want to live in.

Ev­i­dently, I’m not the only per­son who feels that the job of char­ac­ter cre­ation should be left to the de­vel­op­ers. Sea Of

Thieves takes char­ac­ter cus­tomi­sa­tion and re­duces it to a dice roll, of­fer­ing just a hand­ful of ran­domly gen­er­ated pi­rates to choose from, and not al­low­ing you the op­tion to fine-tune their knees to your ex­act­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

This is progress, but we can do more to re­duce cus­tomi­sa­tion in games. Go­ing for­ward, we must re­place ev­ery pro­tag­o­nist in ev­ery game with just one de­fault per­son, called Sharon, with per­fectly av­er­age stats and very nor­mal shoes and a reg­u­lar sized face. Then, and only then, will we be rid of slid­ers that give your char­ac­ter a big arse. Steve writes for City A.M where he isn’t known as Sharon ei­ther.

“We can do more to re­duce cus­tomi­sa­tion in games”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.