Character Creation Room

Hey Folks! Still trying to get a handle on how character creation is going to work.

Early in the day, I started work on a special UI scene in Unity for character creation. It was based on yesterday's brainstorm, where I thought I might try to structure it like setting up a PDA for a new user. The thinking was that it would fit just about every origin story, and could be pretty versatile in showing the different UI elements needed to choose things like homeworld, stats, appearance, etc.

After getting a new scene setup with an FX-ready screen UI, a thought occurred to me: this probably isn't the most effective way to start a new game. Especially for new users, this is going to be diving straight into a complex UI/menu system, which isn't really representative of the game. And I started to wonder if there might be a better way to both allow the user to customize their character, and introduce them to the general workings of the game.

Cue the "character creation room."

Basically, this is just a space station the player can wander, where each of the interactive items represents a facet of their character creation. They can choose to fiddle with any or all of the rooms, kiosks, and items to adjust their character how they wish. They can do it in any order they want. And they can go back and redo stuff if they change their mind.

And during this whole time, they are learning how to navigate their avatar around maps, and how interacting with items works.

Today's image is a quickly-scrawled map of how I picture this working. In it, the yellow text represents what the area edits, and the green is the in-game representation of the tool. Starting at the top, and moving clockwise:

EXIT - This is basically the way to quit to the main menu. It'll be an exit door to the main station atrium or something like that.

RESTROOMS - This is where the player can choose their gender and appearance. Using the door will raise a UI with gendered he/she/they doors to choose from, and the player's personal pronouns are updated as they pass through it.

SINK/MIRROR - Also in the restrooms are some sink/mirror stations where the user can raise a UI to choose their appearance. At the very least, this'll be a "generate random" button to be pressed until the player gets something they like. Maybe it'll also include some toggles for limiting the parts to choose from.

PHONES - Here, the user chooses an area code to designate their homeworld (i.e. "phoning home"). And they also choose social strata by selecting their payment method (e.g. credit card, debit card, screwdriver, or something). Their choice here impacts which careers they can choose at the start.

PHARMACY - This is where the player chooses physical and mental traits/stats. Things like strong, impatient, genius, weak stomach, etc. I picture it being sort of like NEO Scavenger's skill screen, where the user has to balance pros/cons. Like phones, this will have an impact on careers. It may also be tricky to balance, since homeworld can have some impact on these stats (e.g. low-g homeworld causing weakness).

JOB BOARD - This is where the character chooses their career history. Step-by-step, they trace their curriculum vitae through history until the present. "Present" being the point at which their career results in a starting ship they can use to begin the game.

DOCKS - This is the doorway to the ship docks, where the player signals they are ready to start the game. It's possible this door may lead to optional ship design, in which case it should not be permanent, should players want to go back and change something.

So far, I'm liking this idea much more. I get the in-game tutorial and chargen at the same time, and it's totally up to the player how much or little time they spend here. So it should be both a more educational and less repetitive start than NEO Scavenger. And I get to do some immersive things with the room layout, graphics, and UIs.

The one down-side I see here is potential conflicts arising from going back and forth through the process. Changing some of these decisions might invalidate others, such as social strata, homeworld, and traits. So I might have to do something clever to handle these conflicts. Perhaps just warn players if their choice will break something, and force players to re-do any steps that do break if they continue.

Still, though, that's a better problem to have than a boring/confusing/ambiguous first 5 minutes in the game!

Comments

ra1's picture
ra1

Brilliant.

You might want to split up the pharmacy area into various rooms - weight room, library, laboratory, mechanic shop, etc.

Oh, and quietly resolving conflicts doesn't necessarily hurt. A person implicitly knows that if they choose to "break in" to the phone, they will be less likely to be in an upper rung of society.

Rovlad's picture
Rovlad

That's quite ingenious, and will probably work well.
Oh, and a number of space games use airlock as "quit game"

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

Thanks, guys! Hopefully, it'll be as good in practice as it seems in theory :)

@ra1, I could split up the pharmacy, but I'd rather find a single umbrella to cover all of that if I can. It reduces the building/maintenance effort for me, and simplifies the user experience for players if the system is a one-stop shop. Maybe a "self help center" instead of pharmacy?

As for silently resolving conflicts, I think that's true in your example. However, there are some more subtle (and serious) side-effects of choosing certain backgrounds, which I think players would appreciate being warned about before they happen.

E.g. Suppose they want to make a bruiser type. They're tough, strong, and healthy, and grew up as a citizen of Hangzhou station.

Later, they decide they want a dirtier upbringing, so they change Hangzhou homeworld to The Labyrinth refugee colony. Behind the scenes, they are going from a healthy, 1-g environment to a filthy, low-g one. They lose their extra strength, toughness, and gain several health penalties.

That'd be pretty frustrating to discover by accident later in the game. Or even if they discover it right after making the choice, they now need to revert their selection and go back to "self help" to re-purchase strong, tough, healthy, etc.

Ideally, they could see it coming, and warning/previewing should hopefully be enough. But it warrants some thought.

@Rovlad, that's true. I was thinking of the situation as the player leaving normal life on-station for their new life on a ship. So the door to board the ship is beginning the game, while the door back to "hum-drum everyday life" is returning to the station's living quarters.

Whatever the end result, I'll have to make sure it's clear to the user.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games