Games

Character Creation Can Be a Game All Its Own

Listen, if I'm going to spend hours as someone, they're going to have a 2000 word backstory and incredible hair.

by Austin Walker
Apr 18 2018, 3:06pm

Header courtesy Harebrained Schemes

Open Thread is where Waypoint staff talk about games and other things we find interesting. This is where you'll see us chat about games, music, movies, TV, and even sports, and welcome you to participate in the discussion.

It happens to me every time: The music swells, the game’s intro cinematic comes to dramatic close, I’m brought to a character creation screen, and I immediately break out into a flop sweat because I know I’m about lose three hours of my life. Sometimes that’s because I want to get their look just right, but more often than not, it’s about something else: lore.

This doesn’t always happen, of course. I generally have a pretty ambivalent relationship with lore, that knotted collection of old stories, characters, locations, and other info-points that builds up over a long series’ history. When I play a game with lore I’m unfamiliar with (especially one without character creation, like this week’s God of War)—I’m happy to let the game take the lead in introducing me to its world and characters without turning to a fan wiki. (That said, I was keen to look up some of the more traditional, mythological references as I played).

But when a game does let me craft my own hero at the start, I feel an added sense of duty to get it right, especially when I’m choosing more than just my character’s look. Every new Elder Scrolls game begins with me brushing up on the lore of Tamriel. When Fallout: New Vegas insisted I was just some courier, well, boy, did I have news for it. Skills, perks, factions, stats, cultural heritages: Each demands careful care and attention, a reason for each selection. And then all of that needs to come together with how they look. It's a lot.

I bring this up because, with Battletech releasing next Tuesday, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about my OC. Fantasy wizards and wasteland warriors are one thing, but space kingdoms, giant robots, things of that nature? That’s my entire shit.

Before review code even came in, I was scouring YouTube videos from streamers that received extra-early copies of the game so I could absorb all of my options: Eight different possible family heritages, from the honor-bound Draconis Combine to the matriarchal Magistracy of Canopus to the mysterious “Deep Periphery” of the galaxy. Five reasons for my character to split from their family—I’ve already decided on exile, even though the “loner” background provides the stats I want. And six career backgrounds, which honestly is just rude. You want me to decide between Frontier Pirate and Solaris Gladiator? Are you serious? Fuck off, Battletech!

For me, all of this is a game inside of a game, a little aperitif that gets me to buy in to the game’s world (and sometimes I get more enjoyment out of building my character than the main course). So long as I can find decent setting guide, fan wiki, or lore video that offers some introductory insight (but which doesn’t go into excruciating detail), I can easily spend hours reviewing the various factions, major characters, and historical moments of a given game world. All before reaching the tutorial.

So, I’m curious, how do you feel about character creation? Do you just button through it to get on to the good stuff, or are you (like me) bound to lose sleep over inconsistencies in your OC’s backstory? Do you have a favorite setting to make characters in? Let me know the answer to these questions over in the forums in today's Open Thread!