Black Desert, a new MMO that’s still in closed beta, is a gorgeous-looking game that I’ve just had the privilege to discover. Developed by Korean company Pearl Abyss, Black Desert will deliver a variety of experiences inside of its sandbox atmosphere including open-world combat, castle sieges, and real estate opportunities that will allow a limited amount of houses to be bought by players. The game itself looks beautiful and definitely “next-gen,” which becomes obvious in the latest character creation video. Continue reading Black Desert’s character creation is amazingly impressive!
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…
As someone who loves story-driven games, I find the only thing that makes them better is being able to create my own character and chart my own path through the tale.
BioWare games excel at this, which is why BioWare is my favorite developer. Their stories take me down a fairly scripted path, but I’m able to navigate certain forks in the road, in the manner of a choose-your-own-adventure. It’s character development, but a very guided kind. For instance, in Mass Effect, the biggest character choice you make is whether to be Paragon or Renegade… or in between. Those are your options. Either way, you’re pretty much going to save the galaxy.
But there’s one game series that keeps me coming back for more, and one game in particular that I just can’t seem to pry myself away from: Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I started playing it shortly after its release in late 2011 and was hooked for months. I had a female Dunmer who became Archmage at the College of Winterhold, married a kick ass mage named Marcurio, bought a bunch of houses but lazed around mainly in Riften, and eventually got a brave little dog named Vigilance who died on his very first mission with me. Then I left Skyrim for a while. Like, for six months.
When I returned in the fall last year, I made a brand new character with completely different choices. She was a Bosmer. She joined the Stormcloaks and bought the Windhelm house. She married Scouts-Many-Marshes. She restored the lost glory of the Thieves’ Guild in Riften. Mostly, she liked to kick around in the Thieves Guild armor — enchanted all crazy for stats — and the Stormcloak officer headdress, because it looked like this:
I was mildly addicted to Skyrim during that second playthrough. I made as much progress with my second character as I did with my first, in about 1/3 the time — one month as opposed to three. I’ve already talked about this on my blog here, but there is something addictive about sandbox-style games that really reward you for leveling, leveling, leveling… instead of just story progression.
This spring, I started a new playthrough of Skyrim with my very first Khajiit character. I’ll build her a lot like my Bosmer, with archery + sneak + one-handed. I do miss my Dunmer’s two-handed wielding, because there’s nothing sexier than a battleaxe, but I’ve come to embrace being able to sneak through missions without a fuss. And I totally want to marry Derkeethus and get a modded house somewhere.
I’ve complained a bit about Skyrim not having realistic consequences for actions. For instance, you can be BFF’s with Mjoll the Lioness, who hates the Thieves’ Guild, even when you’re in the Thieves’ Guild. She just don’t seem to know about that part of your life. If you have a quest to get started, you can go do dozens of other things, taking months of in-game time, only to have the quest still waiting for you as if no time has passed at all.
But that’s okay sometimes. Skyrim triumphs the sandbox, and for me, the most fun aspect of that is building characters from scratch and seeing where life takes them. Each character is different. I’ve only completed three full quest lines over the course of two playthroughs, and I’ve never finished the main quest line. Skyrim offers so much to do and so many choices that the exploration — including that character exploration and development — never seems to end.