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Posts Tagged ‘online games

By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

It could just be me, but I’ve begun to notice lately that in MMORPGs, character customization is a bit of a sliding scale when it comes to face, hair and body options. On the one hand, you have games like Perfect World and Runes of Magic that offer amazing customization across a wide variety of fields. On the other, there’s Last Chaos and Atlantica Online that offer practically none. Last Chaos in particular, along with several other games I might add, doesn’t even offer a choice of gender.

To put my point in perspective, the core feature in an MMORPG lies in the ability to create an alter-ego, and for however many hours a day you choose to play, become that alter-ego. Of course, single-player games have been giving us this option by way of an engaging protagonist for years, MMORPGs however were the first to really allow us to craft our own.

When I fist created LynianWinderfall, a quiet and selfless Elven Archer in Lineage 2, I had a feeling of accomplishment that surpassed any I had ever felt before. Lynian wasn’t simply another character in the game, he represented me (more accurately, everything I wanted to be), and I was solely responsible for his actions. Asking for a turn while I was playing was on par with stabbing me in the arm and asking if it hurt. No-one played LynianWinderfall but me, simply thinking such things was punishable by an in-game arrow barrage resulting in death.

My friends at the time, having created their own alter-egos in Lineage 2 felt exactly the same way. They were hand crafted by them personally, and they may as well have been real people as far as they were concerned. Now days, I’m finding it hard to find a game that simply allows me to play as a male! Sure, female Rogues probably look better than male ones, I’m not going to deny that, but that’s not us to you! It’s up to me! Surely allowing players the option to choose their damn sex can’t be such a hurdle in game development. I mean, okay, if there are story elements involved that limit such things I might be able to allow some leeway, but since when did an MMORPG have a consistent storyline? Well, that’s another rant for another day I suppose.

When it comes to choosing the shape and size of your body, or the color of your hair, not even Lineage 2 offered any real form of customization. From memory there were only six different types of hair and face options available. Do the math and you’ll soon find that there are a lot of people running around that look the exact same as you do. I don’t know about you, but bumping into a look-alike in the middle of an open plain ends my freakin world. The façade I have created for myself, the tale of an adventurer exploring the world is all but entirely ruined, and I am sent hurtling back toward the real world – no more than a guy in an arm chair sitting in my room playing computer.

Bottom line is, character customization allows us to be different. It allows us to assume the role of someone else for a while. It’s the very reason why so many people, perhaps even you, enjoying playing that brand new MMORPG so damn much.