They Are The Champions: Character Customisation

By Kieron Gillen on July 16th, 2008 at 8:11 pm.

I actually do have an enormous head, ironically enough. And not just in a metaphorical way. Well, in a metaphorical way too. Maybe even in a penile way? Man, you're never going to read an RPS alt-text again.
Shayne Herrera, Cryptic’s Art Development Director, has finished his presentation about the whole art side of Champions Online: its comic-shading approach which hybridizes trad-characters with cell-shading, tranforming comic-dynamic poses into action and masses more. I’m left with a single, burning question.

“Can I have an enormous head?”
“Like you do?”
“That was a set up.”
“Thankyou.”

It’s official. In Champions Online, you can have an enormous head.

While Shayne’s presentation is fascinating, much in the way that any Art Director tends to be – one of the more thrilling presentations this year was the intense Italian Art Director of Tom Clancy’s Hawx who made it clear exactly the artistic elements he was trying to invoke with the metal blues and rusty reds of the hypermilitaristic shooter – most I paid most attention to any time the magical phrase of “Character Customisation” was brought up.

Which was, basically, all the time. It appears there’s going to be a lot of it.

“We’re about customisation,” said Shayne, “The entire company is about customisation. Each round we go, we discover something else we can customise. What would be bad-ass to make available to the players? As we come across these cool things we go ahead and go – let’s make that available to everyone.”

As anyone who saw the Male/Female/Huge toilet gag will remember, City of Heroes allowed you three body types which you can scalea little. “In this game we don’t have this,” says Shayne, “They’re all built on the same mesh. We can take the character who’s seven foot tall and make him eleven-foot tall. You can take a character that’s 150lbs and make him 500lbs.” In other words, Champions actually only has two body types: Male and female and then you can do whatever the hell you want with them.

 I wonder if he has a big head? I suppose that'll be a new line of questioning for developers - so, your - yes - your character has this skillset and bump-mapping and millions of polygon. But what about his cock? How much meat is he packing? RPS demands to know.

He shows four character, three males. One standard-ish hero, something a lot more rangly and an alien sort with a squat tubular body, arms which stretch to the floor and tiny legs. Shayne stresses they’re all built in from the same mesh. “You can take these characters and mix and blend these characters into any sort of physical make up you want them to be,” he says, “The only thing we can’t do is make one leg or one arm longer than the other.” More standard options like being able to adjust the facial dimensions – chin, eyebrows, ears, jaw-line. More impressive is something we saw hyped for the forthcoming APB. That is, tattoos and decals being able to be put on the body, and moved to wherever you want. There’s more body aspects too. “You can make a character that’s big with low amounts of muscle definition. Or you can change it so he’s ripped,” says Shayne, before pointing at me, “Like you”.

He’s correct. I am pretty fucking ripped.

Moving away from my physical perfection, the game moves into unknown areas for MMO-customisation. Namely, animation. “Your character could be a lumbering brutish character or it could be a hovering mystical character. Or they can have beast walk on all fours,” he says, “What we allow you to do is to have a library of animation stances that let you change all of the non-combat stances” So how you walk and move is entirely up to you. “As we develop further along, they’ll be more stances available,” he says, “Like Programmers.”

He’s joking. Or maybe he isn’t. As the list of elements continues, it’s increasingly hard to tell.

Take the fabrics, for example. “You’ll be able to customise…” he starts, “Well, if you have metal on your body, you can actually change that to leather. You can change that to cloth. You can pick the designs that I’d see on that thing.” The plan being is to continue this as far as they can. “Each week, really, there’s more customisation,” he says, “As we move forward, the idea will be we’ll find better ways to customise your animation.” For example, he describes admiring the facial animations in the Incredibles. “We feel like we get just that feeling,” he says, somewhat proudly, “A lot of MMOs don’t have facial animations, and the ones that do don’t really look that good. It almost detracts from what you are trying to accomplish.” And, according to the Cryptic leitmotif, you can pick them. “You will be able to actually pick your facial animations and expressions,” he says, “You could say your character is sad, so you pick a sad expression that sits on their face. Or angry.”

Nice Helmet.

Which leads to the obvious question – what about the powers? Here he’s almost coy, while making it clear that it’s an area they’re following. “When you start to customise your character. When you start to customise your stance. When you start to customise your facial expressions…” he says, “I can guarantee we’re not going to stop there.” So, yes, some kind of power customisation. They were hardly not going to. “There’s going to be more customisation than what I’ve told about, as that’s the nature of the beast.” he says, “ But when you’re able, at some level, to customise your powers, all of the sudden you have a character that feels /entirely/ like yours. Even if two characters have the same powers, they’re going to look different, their emotions are going to be different.”

In other words, it sounds like the new definitive character creator and the sort of thing you could imagine as a stand-alone post-Spore Creature Creator package in and of itself. My only reservation is that while the results are shown, the creator itself was kept under wraps. I didn’t see any of these elements in action. But, with Cryptic’s record, I’m inclined to believe them.

After all: I don’t like to imagine that I couldn’t have a totally enormous head. Yeah, Shayne? Can I have an enormous head?

“You could have an extra large head,” says Shayne, “One of the technical artists here made me. And it was What the Heck! So I made him with a giant head and a zombie walk.”

And, as a bad person, any character creator which can double up as a tool for bullying workmates strikes me eminently desirable.

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24 Comments »

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  1. Alphadean says:

    I want them to sell a stand alone creator, so we can design all our characters before the game comes out…Please Cryptic PLease

  2. Duoae says:

    Ugh… something shifted inside of me… i think it might be the pangs of desire….

    Nice write-up! I’m more interested in this game now. Lets see how missions end up.

  3. Skalpadda says:

    Oooh, customisable animations and expressions sound nifty. Too bad I’ve kind of sworn off MMOs.

  4. Sp4rkR4t says:

    This is the type of game that demands a pre-release of the creator, they wouldn’t need to charge for it as everyone would need to see there hero in action and get the game anyway. When I first got CoH I think I spent the good few hours doing nothing but play with the creator.

  5. PaulMorel says:

    I loved the charactor creator in CoH, but I want some sort of differentiation between lvl 1 characters and maxed out characters in CO. Something visual.

    Maybe higher level characters get physically larger.

    Or perhaps higher level characters should have access to extra slots. ie level 1 can only modify his shirt slot, then level 3 can do shirt and pants, then gloves, boots, helmet, shoulders … etc until the maxed out characters can add earrings, capes, belts …

    Or maybe higher level characters get access to brighter colors.

    I don’t know. I just want some sort of visual differentiation.

  6. Riotpoll says:

    Want, this game is lookign more and more promising to me.

  7. Johnny Law says:

    For me the character customizability in CoH not only made for a fun character-creation process, but also enhanced the rest of the game. I didn’t roleplay or have huge backstories for my heroes (I did have small backstories though…), but the important thing was just having a hook, a context. This was my guy, who is this type of hero and has these kinds of powers, and all that stuff hangs together and adds a little bit to even the boringest fetchquest.

    I’m really looking forward to Champions, since it sounds like they’re applying lessons-learned to all areas of the game (not just the character creator).

  8. Aglathan says:

    PaulMorel: Nah, this would be entirely off the super hero ideia, superman never got fancier pants, batman always go back to older desings, spiderman too just change clothes for some time and hulk just changed colors never size or clothes options (i tink only iron man regulary changes his uniforms).

    I think the greatest way to separate heroes is their power levels (today hulk can lift bigger things than yesterfay hulk) gagets they use (like bat-shark repelnts) and maybe some kinda of mega aura of awesomeness (like every hero fights hader and villians fear when they see superman)

    And on a second idea they could have titles according with they deeds or misdeeds that would give them different bonuses

  9. Zuffox says:

    What is the general idea about the player’s rights to his/her character in terms of other people copying it or perhaps using it for commercial use? Did CoH ever get to – have to – address this, disregarding the Marvel/DC cases?

  10. Razerious says:

    Whoa, how come I never saw any of the APB posts? That APB character customization video was awesome.

    As for Champions, I hope it’ll turn out good. I loved the character customization of CoH, but the game itself didn’t really do it for me

  11. RichPowers says:

    And, as a bad person, any character creator which can double up as a tool for bullying workmates strikes me eminently desirable.

    How far we’ve come since Oregon Trail, when naming characters after your mates and letting them die of dysentery was the pinnacle of videogame bullying.

  12. MeestaNob! says:

    This sounds fantastic, and certainly better than DC online. Why would I want to play as Superman alongside the other 15,000 Supermans(men?) when I can make my own character with unique abilities and traits in this instead?

    This might be something really special.

  13. DSX says:

    Won’t extreme complexity raise the minimum spec?

    My worry is that with such superb characterization you’re basically trading character poly’s for environmental ones. This is the case with a MMORPG I’m playing at the moment, it has the best char customization elements I’ve seen except for that APB demo, but the environment itself is often disappointing in order to be widely accessible for many PC specs.

    Personally, I think a better game as a decent balance of both rather then a preponderance of one or the other.

  14. NoahApples says:

    This is making me feel like I’m going to have to play this game. I am standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the vast sea of MMO time consumption that I have so far avoided, and I am scared.

  15. Ian says:

    I too want a stand alone character creator.

    Maxis have a lot to answer for.

  16. El Stevo says:

    DSX:

    What’s the MMORPG, if you don’t mind me asking?

  17. cullnean says:

    Gah my own comic book hero in the champions universe or my own comic book hero rubbing shoulders with the like of black adam or joining the green lantern corp if possible

    my puny DC loving brain hurts!

  18. Bobsy says:

    Yes, hopefully the popularity of Spore’s creature creator will convince them to precede Champions with the hero maker. It’d make a good christmas present. Hint hint.

    As to Mr Nob’s comment: bang on. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to BE Batman. Surely the impetous is to be COOLER even than Batman. An impossible task maybe? But well worth pursuing. The CRIMEA COMET shall return!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Which leads to the obvious question – what about the powers?

    If it is anything at all like the tabletop version, you will be able to customise the shit out of them.

  20. KingMob says:

    Hero maker is a great idea. Excited about this title – hopefully the feeling of making characters will be like doing a point build in the original Champions – that feeling of boundless possibility…

  21. Mr_Day says:

    @ Bobsy –

    The CRIMEA COMET shall return!

    I thought you wanted to be cooler than Batman?

    It’s kind of silly that everyone wants to remake their old City Of characters. I will anyway, but hopefully the creator will nake me do something crazybatshitinsane.

    Like try to make one of my Spore creations. That’d be weird.

  22. Bobsy says:

    I WANT to remake my City Of character, mostly because I feel I never gave him a fair whack of the whip, but what I actually end up with is anyone’s guess. In any editor I go in with a specific idea of what I want to achieve, find it can’t quite emulate it satisfactorally, and then end up making something better. Remember The Entombed? He came about purely at random, and was one of my favourite characters.

    Besides, “cooler than Batman” is always a worthy goal. And The Crimea Comet WAS cooler than Batman. He had a sword!

  23. Michael says:

    Customisation ????

    “Spell check” is a requirement for a journalist isn’t it?? At least when you use it more than a few times in an article.

    come on Kieron,………make the “Zee” sound…….it’s customize not customise.