I think there could be a doctoral thesis for someone willing to investigate which visual character creation options most of us use and which ones we ignore. My hunch is that most of us are looking to recreate an impeccable standard of beauty or handsomeness, resulting in game worlds exploding with Abercrombie & Fitch models.
Because exploring the "most-used character creation options" isn't as much fun, today we're going to examine the 10 options that pretty much nobody uses. And yes, you'll feel compelled to comment that you do indeed use one of these and prove me wrong, so let me give you a gold star in advance for doing so. You're awesome.
As a player who routinely rolls female characters, I've always thought that the one factor I'd enjoy about male toon creation is the variety of facial hair. Yet such magnificent muttonchops are rarely found, in my experience. Oh sure, you have the stereotypical wizened wizard with the big Gandalf beard, but that's like an enclave within the character customization screen itself.
Out of all of the items on this list, chances are that beards are probably the most used (despite the misleading column title up there), but it's still not threatening to sweep the world with facial fashion sense. Take Dwarves out of the running and people who think that the Civil War was "that thing with the rocking moustaches," and you end up with an awful lot of clean-shaven faces that might, might consider a five-o'clock shadow to impress nearby ladyfolk.
2. Old faces
Gandalfs aside (stupid Gandalfs, ruining my polling data), who deliberately says at character creation, "Gee, I want to make a wrinkly senior citizen with liver spots"? I guess there must be enough out there for the developers to usually throw in a single "old face" option, but I've never seen one in the game itself. There's also the problem of making a character's face look aged but then being saddled with a surprisingly youthful body that runs at a steady 18 mph and can fight without stopping for Ensure breaks.
3. Big noses
I have a big nose. Unless male veils come into style, there's little I can do to hide it. And so while I have an affinity for large schnozes in general, it's not something I'm rushing to pick when shaping my character. Big noses are even rarer for those trying to create a female vixen, as players doing that tend to go the opposite direction. Small, dainty noses are the order of the day, even if that results in a pinched nasal passage, anguished snoring, and a high-pitched whistle whenever that character runs.
Where are my big noses at? Why can't we be proud of our prominent proboscides?
Makeup is always a tricky at best. Not only are you stuck with it for the entire game (barring a barbershop that specializes in makeup removal), but whatever color and pattern you pick, chances are that it's going to eventually clash hard with your outfit. If you care about that sort of thing, that is. The same goes for facial/head tattoos.
Our editor Bree also noted that most games fail to balance makeup in regards to skin tone: "The worst is when the colors are preset, lack an adequate alpha channel, and were clearly drawn on pale skin, so when you put them on dark skin, it looks ghastly."
5. Unnecessary sliders
Counterbalancing the MMOs that have three head models and two skin shades are the games that unload a dump truck full of sliders that can manipulate every portion of the body. While more options may sound good, they get downright silly and impractical in reality.
Hand width? Finger length? Nostril flare? Jawbone tilt? These are options that set users on the course to creating abominations, whether intentional or not. I like to call these unnecessary sliders the "Bethesda Effect," affectionately named after whatever moron over in that studio put together the character creation screen and made it impossible to create anything other than a misshapen monstrosity.
6. Bald heads
Along with big noses, it seems that baldness (or shaved heads) is far more common in real life than anything you see in games. Personally, I dig the look on guys or girls (aka "The Britney"), but I think I'm in the minority on it. Perhaps it's because baldness exposes the older graphics engines' incapability of creating curves without jaggy angles on them, or perhaps it's because it denies the player the option for both hair style and hair color. But there are many advantages to the style, including less air resistance, no hat hair when you remove your helm, and easy visual identification when you're in a large raid group.
7. Large disfiguring scars
If we were to get into a serious discussion about character creation options -- and I'll leave that for the comments section -- then we'd have to admit that many of these factors heavily depend on the genre, specific game, and IP. So when it comes to huge scars, you're going to see more of them in titles like Warhammer Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic because they fit in quite well with those fictional worlds.
But all things being equal, both developers and players tend to shy away from options that can transform a character into looking like Frankenstein's monster. What's far more common is the sexy scar -- you know, that noticeable gash that's either across the eye, on a cheek, or highlighting a chin. It's just enough to say, "Hey world, I'm a stone-cold killer who's been around the block!" without going so far as to draw comparisons to a living patchwork quilt.
Nobody rolls a character with small breasts in any MMO, period. That's because the option doesn't really exist; if a slider is present, it usually starts at C-cup and goes to Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. In fact, the devs probably don't expect any characters to roll off the assembly line from the smaller end of the scale. They just include that option so players can get a perverted thrill by seeing how large those tracts of land can get.
At least the option to go big or go home has a real game benefit, which is to provide visual identification for the immature among us. Those people probably snicker at the word "tromboner," too.
9. Excessive hairstyles
"Excessive" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I think you and I can meet on common ground here. Sure, it's funny during the character creation process to flirt with the idea of a beehive 'do, goofy dreadlocks with bells on the end of them, or six rows of mohawk spikes (a hexahawk), but at the end of the day we gravitate toward something that isn't going to cause us mental anguish and horrid regret a week later. It's not just that we're robotic conformists but also that many of these hairstyles simply don't contribute to an interesting look or an overall theme. They're just weird for the sake of being weird, and that's not good enough.
I'm not here to cause any embarrassment to those of you with freckles. I think they're adorable (on the ladies) and acceptable connect-the-dots substitutes (on the fellas), but for whatever reason, everyone I know who has them hates them, especially in the summer when they come out to play.
Whatever the case, freckles aren't popular in MMOs either. Probably the largest concentration of them I've ever seen are on Hobbits in Lord of the Rings Online, but those guys are so small and have out-of-control hair issues that the eye is rarely drawn to the cheeks. It's a shame that they're so rare because this is one instance that I'd appreciate a slider for freckle density and size, ranging from "stardust" to "giraffe."
Don't be ashamed of them; your dots are divine.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.