I’m not a big MMO player. The only one I got into was Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’ll admit I haven’t touched it in nearly a year. But when I think about the top three games that have me excited for the new year, the ones that spring to mind are Dragon: Age Inquisition, The Witcher 3, and the MMORPG Elder Scrolls Online. And to get started with an expansive game like ZeniMax/Bethesda’s ESO, you need to create a character who will represent you in the game for many hours — even months or years — of exploration and gameplay.
The footage of the character creator in Elder Scrolls Online is stunning. I was already impressed by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s character creator, but the thing about Skyrim‘s is that every character you create looks a little war-torn and ugly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I don’t mind the realism. But it inevitably led to a ton of mods aimed at making characters beautiful, and that’s something that ESO devs might want to consider when working on the next character creators — a shallow something, maybe, but not a small something.
From early videos on the ESO character creator, it looks like they’ve addressed this. Orcs still look tough and toothy, Argonians still have that rough lizard-like skin with spikes, but everything looks absolutely gorgeous — and it seems it will be a breeze to make your character easy on the eyes and not Skyrim-style tired.
But going beyond the superficial in the superficial, the sheer number of customization options and the level of detail are impressive. You can choose height and weight, the build of the shoulders and waist, skin color, tattoos, and lots of facial features. Each gender currently has 24 hairstyles, with some of these specific to a character’s race. There are other customization options specific to races as well; for instance, black-colored eyes is an option uniquely available to Wood Elves. The same goes for body markings, with Dark Elves getting House sigil tattoos, etc. You can read more about it in a developer Q&A here.
Your character will also be able to wear any armor in the game, which is pretty awesome the more you think about it. Some armor is done in the style of a certain race — I immediately think of the glossy, heavy dwarven armor that I just loved to put all over my mannequins in my first playthrough of Skyrim — but your elf can rock Khajiit armor if you want.
The reason I like this is the extra opportunity for character depth this creates. For one thing, you can wear armor that means something to your character — like wear Nordic armor taken from a fight against a Nord. It’s natural to assign meaning to loot in games like Skyrim and ESO. But you can also take it one role-playing step further and say that your elf wears Khajiit armor because she was raised by cat people. Or her first love was a Khajiit. Or she just has an affinity for the Khajiit people and culture deep down in her soul. That’s cool.
Plus, it sounds like ESO will be rolling out new customization features in content updates after launch. Devs say:
“Over time, players want to change their appearance as they develop their characters, so we do have plans to release additional hairstyles, tattoos, adornments, etc. in post-launch content updates.”
I, for one, would love a barber shop feature, even if it’s just for changing hairstyles once in a while a la The Witcher 2. (Geralt can really rock a braid.) Whatever the case, I appreciate that devs will allow us to adjust our characters in some ways, however small, later in the game.
The thing about MMOs is that you don’t want to create new characters all the time; you want to stick with one and level him/her for a long, long time. It’s a journey that can take years and a relationship with a character you’ll never forget. Being able to create a character from scratch is the first step on that path, and it’s important to be able to fine-tune your avatar’s look in as many detailed ways as possible. ESO is definitely putting the reigns in players’ hands there with customization.
I’m already drooling over the Argonian skin colors, spots, and spikes for my future character…