Now I’m not about to list the reasons for a new Half-Life version. I want Gordon back as a good example of why we don’t need to spend half a day customising the face of our game characters.
The amount of time and effort that goes into this customisation in terms of development, research and testing time is amazing. Especially when in some game you don’t actually get to see the efforts of the games developers cunning coding which lets the same smile spread across the tight lipped scrawny crone of a characters that I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes crafting.
Lets look at some examples.
Skyrim : Excellent game which admittedly I did manage to break by wondering away from the original choice between Rome or Viking (or whatever that was about) and instead became what I like to believe was a solder of fortune. Actually I was more like a unfortunate traveller who wonder the land getting dragged into various local problems. Before any of this fun started however I designed the face of my character. The eyes had to be steely, the jaw set just right and the hair colour had to be interesting yet unimposing. My character stayed with this look for approximately 20 minutes until I found some dwarvern helmet was found that completely encased my head. The rest of the game was spent with various tin cans on my head. Not that I’ve finished it. I can’t seem to bring myself to complete the last few side missions because then my character will just have to hang around in various palatial houses getting fat and old with nothing to do.
Fallout New Vegas : The start of the game very cunningly introduces you to your face by allowing you to customise it to ensure that a surgeon got his reconstruction correct. Ok so you have to wonder how you can change the entire colour of someone’s skin while reconstructing their face but lets run with it. So again 10 minutes of playing about just to see if I can create a face that speaks of both intelligence and hobo at the same time. After getting to a point where my character looks like a worried older version of Jonny Depp I give up and role with it. He’s at least going to be popular with the ladies even if they are the older ones. What do you get for your time and effort. You get the occasional view of the back of your characters head.
So I call on games designers across the world to stop and think about if people need the ability to customise their face.Think back to a time when you had a goatee beard and glasses and walked around in a Hazmat suit with nothing but a trusty crowbar. Or when you where a small fat plumber with a slightly obnoxious accent. Or when you where a white triangle on a sea of blackness clearing a path in an asteroid field of 10 penny dreams. Ok so the last two are a little rose tinted but the point still stands. Spend that development time on making the game all it can be rather than attempting to give the customer a 30 minute sub game that has no impact on anything in the game.