Thursday, May 18, 2006

Kingdom Hearts has me thinking about character creation in MMORPGs

Kingdom Hearts has me thinking about character creation in MMORPGs! How so you may ask?

Anyone remember back in the days of the Might and Magic and Ultima series where character creation was done with a set of questions. Usually they covered moral choices such as "You see a man begging in the street. Do you give him gold or do you berate him for begging?" While I can't remember the questions exactly they served the purpose that modern day attribute and stat sliders do.

I question in modern games whether seeing the actual numbers and making exactly the character you want helps or hurts the experience. In general RPG terms if I want a strong warrior I will raise my STR and CON during character creation. If I want a wise wizard I'll raise my INT. While this system gives me the ability to create the character I want does it really help me make a character that embodies my attitude?

Part of it comes from role playing. Good role players can pick up with any character regardless of the details. But we all know that modern MMORPGs are not really havens for role play. The mechanics are very anti-role play in the traditional sense. What roles are played are defined by the mechanics. You play a healer to heal... etc etc... there is a very weak sense of role play involved. Type-casting during character creation forces a role on you. Even if that is the role you want to play does it really reflect accurately of yourself?

What if you were asked a series of questions during character creation and answering them honestly would determine what skills, attributes, and alignment your character would be. What if you took the Bartle Test to determine your starting abilities? Or maybe through these tests and questions you are put into an advanced role in the world instead of having to progress your character with levels or skills?

What I'm getting at is that if the numbers didn't exist and you created a character that reflects your own personality and moral sanctions wouldn't you be playing a character that promotes role play? You would be more likely to enjoy the character for a greater period of time because you are actually thinking along the same lines as the character. The role playing barrier is stripped away because you are representing your real self in the game. Some may say their real self is lacking, but that is the point of the game. It gives you the power to swing a sword, throw a fireball, and slay the dragon. BUT your motives are guided by your morals and wouldn't it just be easier if you didn't have to play by a set of pre-defined rules because you created the character you wanted instead of a character that acts as you would?

Sadly, this is only a Utopian dream. The system would be broken down and attributes assigned to the questions. Eventually you would know how to answer questions in such a way that you get the character you want instead of a character that generally mirrors your persona. Fortunately those that are willing would be able to roll a true representation of themselves, but most likely would be cast out as "gimp" by the min/max crowd.

Real World Test: If you are a DM and run a D&D campaign the next time you get ready to roll characters have your players take the Bartle Test. Then divvy out pre-made characters based on the results. It is up to you how to figure out what classes/races/alignments fit with the various scores.
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