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Four Ways Character Design Could Improve

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There’s no doubt we’ve made leaps and bounds within the gaming industry in terms of character design, whether it’s found in single player games or MMORPGs. We’ve evolved well past the age of flat, mannequin faces and boobs that could cut glass, embracing new technologies and engines that make your character appear as if they’re flesh and blood.

Even so, there’s a few problems that have yet to be addressed.

More realistic wear and tear.

One of the things I loved about 2013’s Tomb Raider was the fact that Lara Croft got incredibly, undeniably dirty. And no, not in the weird way.

Each time you took her through a mission where there was a lot of dirt flying around and smashing to the ground, she’d have some of it attached to her. If you had her walk through water afterwards, the dirt came off. Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth became progressively more bedraggled as the plot moved forward, during your constant skirmishes with religious fanatics and falling from skylines.

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Now, we have games like The Evil Within, in which falling down a trash shaft and into a pool of blood, gore, and needles still leaves you looking spiffy.

While the technology for this sort of progression isn’t easy to implement and is probably better suited for single-player games, it still wouldn’t hurt to see it more. It’s not that I’ve got a weird obsession with seeing my characters battered and bruised, but seeing that sort of damage reflected on the character adds a sense of urgency. It lets you know you’ve been through some shit, and will continue to go through shit until the end credits.

More available body types.

There are few games out there that let you adjust your body type from head to toe, ensuring that it’s nigh impossible to find a clone hanging around later on in the game.

The Elder Scrolls Online, for instance, lets you run around as a short, fat Argonian wielding a sword and shield if you so choose, along with various sliders to make yourself as muscular or wiry as you choose. Perfect World’s defining characteristic is its extremely expansive character creator, which is big enough that you’ll see characters with basketball-sized heads and waists that would require the world’s tightest corset.

Most games that allow character creation only let you choose head, face, and hair characteristics, but force you to stick with a general body type for your race or gender, probably to avoid the hassle of resizing armor models. ArcheAge was particularly disappointing in that the character creator was incredibly detailed on the face, but allowed no modification of the body.

We don’t exactly need the ability to make characters with balloon heads, but the added feature of body sliders personalizes them just that much.

Better hairstyles.

One of the biggest criticisms of Dragon Age: Inquisition was the lack of hairstyles. Specifically, the 10+ variations of ‘bald and receding hairline’ we got, along with half-assed styles that looked as if the developers had just looked through a list of ‘before’ pictures at hair salons.

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Pictured: One of three ‘long’ hairstyles.

Now, I’m not saying we all need long, flowing manes – that’s unrealistic, and would bump the graphical requirements up a bit too high. But even in 2014, we still run into too many character creators where the hair is ridiculously over the top or just too sparse.

Dear God, think of something other than catgirls.

It’s official. Nearly every game that gives you the option to create your own character based on a set of races has to work in catgirls to some extent. Or something that looks identical to catgirls.

This one’s rather nitpicky, but if World of Warcraft can differentiate between different species of elves, then there’s no reason other games have to rely on the ‘human-thing, elf-thing, giant-thing, catgirl-thing” model every single time. How about some bear people for a change? Or mer-people? I know the internet loves to see its childlike, anime-eyed girls with cat ears and tails, but there’s no reason for them to show up in every single game.

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We’ve still got a bit of work to do and a few cliches to break, but overall, character design in games is in a pretty good place. It’s never a bad idea to start branching out when it comes to art and design – as long as branching out doesn’t mean finding more ways to make catgirls.

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About Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a 22 year old semi-hermit currently plodding through her senior year of college and getting her feet wet in game journalism. She has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with high fantasy, video games, novels, and Elder Scrolls. When she’s not in front of a screen, she enjoys singing and a bit of beading. She’s also currently on the hunt for the restaurant with the best cheeseburger.

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