Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What should boomer shooters be called?
- What's your favorite thing a unit in a strategy game says when you click on them?
- What do we want from Fallout 5?
When a videogame opens with so many sliders you'd think it was a 1990s sci-fi series starring John Rhys-Davies, do you dive right in and start adjusting your character? Do you wallow in that thing for hours until you've created a face perfect enough to shame God? Or do you just say 'good enough' and get on with playing the actual game?
How long do you spend in character creators?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: At first I'm really into it! I check out all the hairstyles, followed by facial hair when available. Tattoos, scars, piercings, and so on, always fun to choose. I'll find the eyes I like, make sure the eyebrows look good, fiddle with the nose and lips.
Then I'll notice there's options for, like, cheekbone width. And cheekbone depth. And cheekbone spread, size, weight, shading, sharpness, and 10 other cheekbone attributes and I just don't have that many opinions about how my character's cheekbones should look. Then I'll see options for stuff like ear rotation, eyebag density, neck occlusion, pore diameter, iris clouding, philtrum profundity, and by this point I'm like "Look, I'm sorry I ever came here, please just let me enter my character's name and leave and I promise I'll never come back."
So, like, 5-10 minutes I guess.
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Like, total? Or just the first time? Because I'll probably spend about 30 minutes in a character creator initially. "I just want to play the game," I'll think, trying not to be extra, not to take my face so seriously, just be chill about it, even as I tweak every single slider just in case.
At minute 31 I have to see my character's face in the harsh light of game day, outside the mood lighting of the creation screen, and oh god her eyes are too far apart and her hair is brighter than I realized and also I chose a really boring hairstyle and I know better. I know I want my character to stand out but I chose that half-pony because I was trying not to be so ridiculous but I should have gone for the extravagant updo.
I've spent a lot of time in Dragon Age Inquisition's Black Emporium changing my face after the fact. And also a lot of cash at Red Dead Online's barbershop. And real money on character appearance consumables in MMOs.
I dunno... two hours?
Tim Clark, Brand Director: I once blew the first hour of a two-hour Dragon Age Inquisition demo fannying around trying to get the freckles on my character just right, so you can only imagine the amount of time I'm willing to spend once unconstrained. Pretty sure I had to restart Mass Effect multiple times to rectify fish-lip disasters that were only revealed once in-game. Can we do how much time do you spend on MMO character fashion next, because it's... a problem.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I'm at a point with character creators where I'm happier for the devs to just give me the choice of 10 preset faces. The modern trend towards endless precise sliders is a special kind of trap for my brain—I'm obsessive enough that I need to make my character look exactly perfect before I can start, but at the same time impatient and uncreative in a way that makes me terrible at getting good results out of that great a level of choice. I pretty quickly end up in this weird zone where nothing looks right my eyes, like the visual equivalent of when you say the same word too many times and it loses all meaning.
It'll end up taking me hours to find something I'm happy with, and then inevitably the moment I step into the actual game, I'll realise my character looks terrible in the default lighting, or their clothes sit super weird on their body, or some other flaw I can't possibly live with.
At this point it's perfectly normal for me to restart an RPG several times over trying to get a result I can live with. I practically had a nervous breakdown when Monster Hunter World asked me to design a cute cat friend too.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: At least 30 minutes. If a character creator has sliders and color palettes and more than just a few basic presets to flick through, I'd say I usually spend somewhere between 30 minutes and a full hour getting my character just how I want them. I definitely stress over cheekbones (they should be pointy, but not too pointy) and eye spacing and hmm do those brows make them look too angry or just tough? I don't think I've ever restarted a game once I created my character just to change something, but I definitely fret the details. At least until I hit the hour mark: that's about when I go into "fuck it" mode and impatiently rush through the rest of the creation process.
Robin, if you thought Monster Hunter World asking you to create a Palico was bad: Monster Hunter Rise asks you to make a cat and a dog and then you can recruit a labor force of like, a dozen furry friends. It's way too much.
I still love my Monster Hunter World hunter, though. That's a good character creator.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor: I mentioned in my review of Saints Row that I spent a fair while in the character creator, and then after the tutorial I ended up switching to the first default. After reading the other answers I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who ends up unhappy with their custom face, though sometimes it's because I make up a character who doesn't fit the story rather than because from some angles my cheekbones could cut glass.
In Dragon Age Origins I made a human rogue with a Michael Caine vibe, a middle-aged tough guy, then the prologue cast me as the younger son of a noble who looked the same age as me and kept calling me "Pup." Feh.
Lost Ark is probably the game where I've spent the most time in the character creator. I have a small army of alts themed on characters from other games. My paladin is Dragon Age's Alistair and my sorceress is Warcraft's Tyrande Whisperwind. I've made Geralt and Harley Quinn and Jeanette Voerman from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
Normally a character as distinct as Jeanette would be impossible to recreate thanks to her heterochromia, but Lost Ark lets you make characters with eyes of two different colors. The fangs were tougher to pull off, but the facial tattoo options include a kind of crescent moon that I mirrored to make two of, then angled and moved down to her lips. After all that effort she ended up wearing armor with a hood that completely changed her hairstyle. I don't know why I bother.
From our forum
Brian Boru: 15-20 minutes max in the few games where I've had character creation options. But there have never been 'tweaking' options, like size of eyebrows or mouth. I would spend much longer cumulatively in Photo Mode, making adjustments for each shot.
Zloth: I normally don't spend a lot of time adjusting my characters' looks. Maybe 5 minutes. There are some exceptions when there are a LOT of options for the looks, though. City of Heroes/Villains is going to take a good half hour per costume slot.
ZedClampet: My process is to glance at the default, male character. and decide if he is acceptable. If so, then I just skip it altogether. That's how it goes the majority of the time. Every now and then I'm not a huge fan of Mr. Default, so I might cycle through some faces and hairstyles, but it doesn't take but a minute. If it's one like in Fallout 4 where you can change even the smallest detail, I might fiddle with it a couple of minutes.
But, see, none of these characters can compare to me IRL. I'm so hot the air around me gives off a faint sizzling sound. I look how bacon tastes.
Colif: I normally play games where after an hour or so my character has a helmet on and I never see their faces again, so character creation is... not very long.
Pifanjr: Let's just say I think I've definitely spend up to an hour just crafting my Skyrim character, which I then never saw again because I play the entire game in first person and he's covered head to toe in armour 100% of the time.
Sarafan: I spend a lot of time in character creators, but not in the character look editors. Usually most time consuming is selecting the appropriate set of abilities and skills. This can take ridiculously long especially if there are some random variables. My personal record is 8 hours spent to create a whole party in the first Icewind Dale. It’s something fascinating in re-rolling dices of all those stats until you get a satisfying result.
mainer: Being an RPG fanatic, I love a deep, detailed character creation system, I will spend literally hours in character creation, depending upon the complexity and how many characters I'm creating. If I'm only creating one character, as in the Elder Scrolls games, it might only take me an hour or two, and I'm not overly fanatical about a "looks-type" creation (although appearance & body type can be important for a 3rd person view and/or a photo mode).
But what really consumes my time are games where you create a party of 2-6 characters and your game experience & survival is going to depend upon the choices you make and there's no included "re-spec" option later in the game. Make your choices wisely and live or die by them.
D&D games are a good example, where your choices of race, class, profession, alignment, stats, skills, and proficiencies will dictate your success or failure in the game world. Roll those dice, again & again & again, to get that perfect build you're looking for. I'm envious of Sarafan's 8 hours spent on his Icewind Dale party. Solasta Crown of the Magister is a more recent D&D game (party of 4) that I've spent hours in character creation, Rolling dice over & over, and spending points on skill, abilities, and feats. A very old-school and detailed system.
JarlBSoD: Spore! Anyone remember Spore? The game where character creation was more fun and took more time than you spent on the rest of the game?