There is nothing more fun than creating a character and determining how that certain character will act in any given situation. It harkens back to older games like Dungeons & Dragons, where imagination and creativity are key. My high elf, Florian, is a dandy highwayman who enjoys reading up on history and being an investigator. Not to mention, he’s a crack shot with a crossbow. How can I bring Florian with me through different games? Well, good character design is responsible for this. IF Florian is truly as robust a character as I think he is, he can find himself manifested in nearly any game with character creation.
Designing characters in video games is one of the best ways to take a stock character and make it our own, creatively whittling down the more generic or default options, bringing a flavor of our own to the game world. When certain games allow for in-depth character creation, it allows us to construct parts of our creativity on an otherwise boring or lackluster character.
We all love a protagonist in which we identify with. Games like The Legend of Zelda and Half-Life attempt to do this by transferring our emotions and reactions to their voiceless protagonists. It works wonders, but I’m more of a ‘create from scratch’ type of creator. Although I respect icons of gaming like Link and Gordon Freeman, I would love to create my go-to elvish rogue, Florian in role-playing games rather than a prebuilt character. Designing characters can be a large part of the fun. Even aspects of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in which you add on to the appearance of the protagonist, C.J., are great little features that kept me coming back for me.
Following character design tips, you should have a better idea of what to create, how to create it, and how to go about playing that particular character in the specific game world. Playing as our barbarian character who always swore to dispatch evil characters doesn’t even necessarily apply to sword and sorcery type of role-playing games. In Fallout, you could be a similar build, hellbent on destroying the Enclave or super mutants. Who is the Maghda of which particular game you are playing? In Dragon Age: Origins, it may be one of the various darkspawn or Arch Demon. Good character design translates to multiple worlds, universes, and games.
What are some games with good character creation? Games with good character creation should be cherished, as they let us fulfill our gaming dreams. These games have fulfilled all of the necessary criteria for good character design.
This gem of a role-playing game has some of my favorite game features. In it, you are the ‘Arisen’, the only being who can defeat a dragon that is terrorizing the world. Pretty standard RPG story, but still solid. However, where Dragon’s Dogma really shines is character design. Dragon’s Dogma almost overwhelms the player with a huge number of options for customization. You can customize posture, leg size, torso thickness, and multiple eye colors. And that is only scratching the surface! I swear, I spent more time designing characters in Dragon’s Dogma than I did playing other games. Dragon’s Dogma’s character designer allows you to dive into the story as your very own, unique person…and it works. Big beefy tanks, small elven rogues, it’s all here, folks.
Character design has been a staple in the Fallout series of role-playing games since the series’ beginnings in the 1990s. The release of Fallout 4 in 2015 allowed players to go a step further than designing just the player character. The game takes place before the bombs drop, and you need to sculpt your all-American family out of your imagination. Are you playing as a man or a woman? Can’t decide? Why not design both characters to see which you like better? You can zero in on specific features of your character’s face, hair, eyes, and more. You can meticulously whittle down features, making this character pretty much whatever you want them to look like. This is a good character design. Why? Because the choices you make in customization alone have a deep impact later on in the game, but those are spoilers for another list.
Monster Hunter: World
Along with being an insanely fun game, Monster Hunter: World has a solid character creator. What you see is what you get here, which means there’s no deception. Deception? Okay, let me explain. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I spent a long time, (longer than I would like to admit), creating my ideal dark elf character. I didn’t hold anything back: my elf, Garrett, would have raven-black hair, wrinkly skin, piercing red eyes, and more. However, as soon as I exited the dungeon, the lighting of the outside world didn’t help Garrett’s appearance at all. He looked like he had been a bloated body found in a river. I felt so betrayed! Anyway, Monster Hunter doesn’t pull any fast ones like that. Your cool fantasy character has a respectable bunch of options for some rugged, extravagant, and exciting character design. This is an example of how having a ton of options doesn’t necessarily make the game designer ‘good’. It’s about implementation and seamless integration. No deception, just good-looking characters.
Dragon Age: Origins
Okay, so I know that maybe the newer Dragon Age game has a prettier character design, but I believe Origins is where the franchise gets off to a fantastic start. When it came out in 2009, Origins maybe wasn’t the most graphically powerful game out there, but it made up for stunning visuals with amazing depth and lore. This translated into a fantastic character creator. Designing characters felt like there were stakes to it, well before the tutorial mission even started. In my first playthrough, I was playing as a noble human. Would my human noble, of House Cousland, be roguish? Charming? Slovenly? Slack-jawed and dumb? The character creator adds aspects of the story in the creator, allowing you to preemptively get an idea of how your character would act within the world. This is where I applied our principle of ‘going vague’, or mapping out the general nature of my character. Then the brilliant tutorial missions take place, and you can further your character’s background. My human noble was humble, kind, and swore to get revenge for the evil baron who betrayed my parents but would ultimately show mercy, as it isn’t in his nature to kill unprovoked. Instead, my character would pursue more legal action, locking up the baron rather than killing him. It is these little details that help Dragon Age: Origin’s character design goes from ‘stock RPG’ to ‘story-driven’. It’s what we talked about before with the ‘subtle element’. How would your character act in a given situation?
Black Desert Online
This is a tour de force in character design. Black Desert Online, firstly, has amazing visuals. I mean, take a look! Those are pretty impressive. This game goes above and beyond when designing characters. It has such a robust swath of options to choose from for your characters that there isn’t an excuse not to design whatever pops into your brain. Where other games merely give you character templates and such, barely immersing yourself in the world, Black Desert Online lets you customize the look of the sheen of sweat on your body. A little weird but appreciated! Maybe my character has a glandular problem; representation still matters, even in character design! This allows the player for some more in-depth role-playing. Is your character going to be an intellectual barbarian? What about a brutish mage? The sky’s the limit here, and Black Desert Online allows you to paint a picture with your mind on their beautiful canvas.
The Sims 4
You knew I had to add it. The Sims started with offering you templates of characters, sort of miming deep customization rather than giving the player control. Now that we are on the 4th iteration of the iconic series, character customization has truly never been better. The only thing limiting you this time around is your lack of creativity. Installing mods and tooling around with the characters can result in some truly wonderful and pretty creations. Want to create Geralt of Rivia in the Sims universe? Want to make him a scientist and have 4 kids? Go right ahead, it’s possible here! Just make sure you get him to the bathroom before he wets himself; we don’t want an esteemed Witcher like Geralt being embarrassed at dinner parties he is hosting.
All of these games showcase a level of creativity that can be sorely lacking in games. Luckily, character design is more common these days than in the past. Following our character design tips and checking out these games with good character creation will allow you to completely immerse yourself in any game you play. From our chaotic good barbarian to our jazz-loving friend, there truly is no limit to what you can create in these games. Go out there and design a character already! Just make sure that they are designed to your specifications and add something to your gaming experience!