Each developer has its own definition of character customization. Cryptic Studios is probably the, ahem, champion of character customization. The company’s games have allowed players to make everything from popular comic book clones (begetting a lawsuit) to beasts of burden to their own alien species. Blizzard has been the polar opposite, maintaining the idea that its artists’ interpretations are what’s best for the universe and storytelling.
Sprinkled in between is every other developer. For every game with player-decorated housing, there are dozens without. For every title with a handful of starting options or sliders for character creation, we’re meet with troves that have an overwhelming amount of choice. For every game with armor dye, there are a handful of games that lock players in to a non-unique fashion sense.
Once upon a time, all members of a class in high-end gear in World of Warcraft looked pretty much the same. This made PvP judgement easy. Learned players would know who to fight based on their appearance. A full set player would be skirted, while the piece-meal player would stand out and get assaulted (or passed up for the priest in a twill set). Easy pickings.
For the longest time there simply was no endgame customization. Players barked and Blizzard added in frivolous gear sets that players could acquire during seasonal events, Santa outfits, tuxedos and the like. Useful for farting around your favorite city. The company steadfastly refused to allow the players do any actual modifications to existing set pieces or even one-shot PvE/PvP items no matter how much the community petitioned. But hey, we can cut our hair and beards…
The stance holds, but as pointed out earlier, players will now be able to get Tier 12 gear in a variety of colors. Blizzard has yet to reveal how the colors will be acquired, but the fact that players are being given an option at all is a start.
Personally, I don’t care for customization. During my MMOG career, I’ve attempted to make use of such features as they’ve been made available to me, but like achievements, customization isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve never been artistically inclined. Having the ability to tweak colors, patterns or arrangements is like having two anuses for me. Shit comes out either way.
What about you? Is customization a feature you desire? Do you long to be able to tweak your toon’s appearance as your tastes change? Do you think it should become a required feature in MMOGs, much like basic starting customization? Have you made use of it extensively in games that have made it available to you? Think Blizzard is feeling a bit of genre pressure, such as Rift’s upcoming patch and its appearance (dress up) system?