An Open Letter to Game Developers – Content, not Hair Styles

Ground rules for this rant about computer (roleplaying) games,

  1. I know some players absolutely love being able to customise how their character looks to the nth degree
  2. I know that with the ability to customise appearance, and to change appearance based on the gear you’re wearing in the game, is rumoured to capture a larger audience
  3. I know that funding for Feature X does not necessarily impact on funding for Feature Y (so less of X does not mean more of Y, or more of Y does not mean X suffers).

Given those basic ground rules, here we go.

Dear games developers, mostly roleplaying games developers

To a reasonably large extent, I don’t care how my character looks, but I do care if all the locations are just the same rehashed map over and over again (I’m looking at you Dragon Age 2).

Mostly, I don’t really mind if I only have say, 2 hair styles and 1 nose to pick from at character creation.  But I do care if all the quests are similar and there’s no epic storyline to follow other than ‘buy your way out of debt’ (hey, DA2, looking at you again!)

Yes, I absolutely want to be able to invest in my character, because being invested makes the gaming experience that much better, and part of that is being able to change how my character looks.  But let’s be honest, I’m not going to make him look like me (fat, fourty, hairy) so a small sample of heroic male and heroic female appearances will do.  Also, armour is armour, I don’t mind if you use the same shape and just change the colour, really.

Instead of spending time and money developing the game engine so it can handle all that customisation and doing all the hard work necessary to pull it off – why not invest that time and energy into content.

Quests, dialog, locations.  That’s what I want from a game.

Not to decide if my character has a hook nose, or a ever so slightly smaller hook nose.


9 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Game Developers – Content, not Hair Styles

  1. Dear games developers, mostly roleplaying games developers

    I do like to customize my character, however, I much prefer areas not recycled over and over.

    I do not even care of my race is limited, Although, give me battles that make sense. Endless waves of mobs coming out of thin air, or the ground, all the while I *think* I have cleared the area, I get swarmed with the time sink of more pointless mobs.

    Main voice actors should not do ambient npc’s. It is creepy to hear a dead npc’s voice later in game, or have an npc threaten you, using one of your companion character voices. Too cheep and ridiculous.

    Do NOT bring back dead characters from a previous expansion or part of the franchise. If they can or did die, then let them stay buried. It kills immersion and continuity of the game,

    Companion interaction and development. This one is personal opinion, but I know I am not alone in this, Give us our (getting to know you) Yes, I agree to pace things out. Two times of what the npc wants, and nothing for the player to sink into leaves us caring less about said companion. Our companions are part of the story and experience of the game, They do matter….

    Love interest when a romance is available. Please stop making them so one sided and shallow. Just because I did mission A to make X-companion happy, does not a romance make. Flirting is great, don’t make it lame or one sided. With that said though, also do not flirt trap us. If an npc has a flirt line, do not leave us either gaining approval or losing it. There needs to be a middle ground of only friendship (example, Anders in DA2) Do not hijack romance us! i.e Leliana in DA:O and a few other games I’ve played.

    Cookie cutter npc’s scattered about, I don’t know about anyone else, if you cannot make more diverse ambient npc’s, then don’t make so many, Seeing carbon copies of npc’c even in the same room is just annoying,

    Options, choices and results. If you give us choices, please make them matter. Railroading us is fine, if you do not give us the illusion that we had a choice. If it is an illusion, than make it a believable one,

    I think I’ll end my rant here. I could possibly go on more, but I fear suffering my point,, 🙂

    Michele aka Liso

  2. Dear Game Developers…

    You can’t write. You assemble people that make games.

    Sure, you can write well enough to do the everyday things that we all do. You can’t write good fantasy story lines. You hire WRITERS to do that.

    Sure… that artist wrote a wonderful cover letter to get the artist job… Don’t make the artist WRITE.

    The programmers write code all the time. Surely they can write some wonderful code that has the computer very pleased. Please don’t let them write the story line for your game.

    The core of a fantasy game is the escape it gives us. We escape in the STORY. Who writes stories? WRITERS.

    Without a good story it’s just so much eye-candy… We can get that just looking at your ads. If you want us to buy the games start writing better stories.

    You are good at developing games… Which means you _know_ that you aren’t a writer. Hire some.

    Dave aka Eat2surf

    PS – Hi Liso! *waves*

  3. You don’t get it. Adding the face customisation feature to DA2 costs Bioware almost nothing as they can reuse code from ME2. Investing in that is not product specific and can be reused in mulitple games. Dollars spent there get a far better return than paying some hipster with a haircut to design vast and intricate maps for the Deep Roads. Adding lots of different art assets and maps for locations cost something. So they can add a feature that lots of people like (face customisation) at marginal cost or they can add a feature that lots of people like (more map variety) at vast cost. What would you do?

    • Let me decide what I do and don’t get. I do get it. However, it’s not just the facial stuff, it’s the outfits and the extra artwork there. Additionally, I used DA2 as an example, I don’t think they needed it in ME2 either. I’m still playing DA2, and I’m still sad every time I think ‘hey, I’ve been here before’.

      • and before, and before, and before…. That has got to be the most recycled use of area I’ve ever played. Changing the paths ad doorways does not fool us! 🙂

        • Yep, I’m still playing and I’m still finding new places which look oddly like places I’ve already been. Since the areas are built by putting down standard blocks, there’s always going to be art re-use, but the exact same basic layout with doors blocking access just annoys me.

          It’s doubly annoying since they got it right in DA1 so this has to be a conscious decision.

          • My guess? a financial short cut, lifting, not only expense, but time. All to get DA2 to fly onto the shelves in lightening speed, to capitalize on DA:O’s success. Sadly, it probably hurt any other releases of the franchise, I for one, won’t be pre-ordering DA3.

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