In Your Face: Character Creation In Elder Scrolls Online

By Nathan Grayson on October 18th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Why yes, you're correct: I haven't blinked in my entire life! How could you tell?

How do you take your Elder Scrolls characters? Green? Purple? Thick? Lean? With one lump or two hundred disfiguring scars and gashes? These are questions you should probably begin asking yourself – at least, if you plan on playing The Elder Scrolls Online when it launches next year. True to Elder Scrolls tradition, the big, hopefully not bad MMO spin-off will allow for character customization out the wazoo, which sounds really painful. In reality, however, it looks like quite a pleasant feature, although the series’ history of bizarre, uncanny valley unfriendly faces might have a thing or two to say about that. Venture into this post’s frigid southern reaches for a video.

Sliders! So many sliders. And none of them are obnoxiously tiny hamburgers to my knowledge, either. That’s always a plus.

So yeah, it looks like pretty standard Elder Scrolls customization, which puts it a cut above many other MMOs in that respect. Admittedly, the game hasn’t done much to wow me in the past (or even with more recent, first-person-combat-enabled builds, for that matter), but it is looking decently OK-ish by traditional MMO standards.

That’s just me, though. How’s the general consensus on this one looking these days? Are you warming up to it, or is your shoulder as cold as those of pretty much all Skyrim residents, whose light garb in the face of bitter frozen wastes never ceases to amaze me?

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84 Comments »

  1. Dowr says:

    I shall make a pot-bellied Argonian.

  2. MykulJaxin says:

    When I was a kid I would only play as the most obnoxiously beautiful characters I could create. In the last couple years, however, I’ve been more and more in love with using hideous abominations instead.

    • Low Life says:

      I have never been able to create beautiful characters with these. I just pray for my luck with the randomize button and maybe change a few comprehensible details (hair colour etc.).

    • ElDopa says:

      Same goes for me, I had the biggest fun with my rat-faced Shepard.

  3. houldendub says:

    As someone that’s briefly played the game (albeit in a slightly less official form), the character creation is glorious. I spent ages just creating a few characters because it’s just such a joy to use.

    It really does feel like “Skyrim but online” for the most part, very excited for the full release!

    • nrvsNRG says:

      I’d rather eat a bullet then play a “skyrim but online”.

  4. hudders says:

    As I recall, APB really flaunted its character customisation potential before launch. Hopefully ESO will put a bit more effort into the actual game.

    • MykulJaxin says:

      Ah, APB. Something that my friends and I take great joy in doing is cruising through Steam accounts and trying to find who has played the most hours of APB. Recently I saw someone who had played over 5,000 hours. Five. Thousand. Hours. Of APB!?

      • db1331 says:

        Holy shit. I hope most of that is idling. Like maybe someone logged onto APB, played 30 minutes of it and then killed themselves. 5,000 hours ago.

        • scamp says:

          You obviously didn’t play it while it was good. And by that I mean all the betas I played and a bit after. Donate killed the game, and as for me it was one of the best online games ever. Customization was also great, here I don’t see any possibility to create for example really fat character. Makes me wonder what developers of the most games with a creator think people in outside (of their office) world look like. Personally I don’t care about the size of hitbox or something if we speak about online/multiplayer. I’d rather die fat ugly midget than win looking like another unmemorable doll.

      • darkath says:

        Usually people with thousands of hours on some games are people who let run several instance of several games for whatever reasons, they end up with more hours of “playtime” a week than there is actual hours in an actual week.

      • Shuck says:

        I don’t trust Steam’s “time spent playing” stats, they’re frequently wonky – yesterday it was telling me that a game I’d spent 10 minutes playing had been played for 16 hours, today it tells me 111 minutes.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        Yes, sometimes it goes wonky. The other day, all my games showed a minimum of 69 hours played, even ones I have yet to play at all. Today they are all back to normal.

        • Panda Powered says:

          Steam listed my play time in Oblivion as 59 hours after a couple of evening trying out mods. I just started it up quickly and quit after a few minutes, several times. I think the timer kept running, perhaps even several timer instances.
          It’s not very accurate and sometimes does the opposite. Playing a game from start to finish in 10-11 hours but registers only 3 or 4.

          • Jackablade says:

            I notice the “Time Playing” onmy copy of The Wolf Within is steadily increasing despite the face that I haven’t opened it since I completed it in 2 hours or so. Currently sitting on 127 hours.

      • Monkeyshines says:

        According to my steam, I’ve logged 34 hours in the Stanley Parable Demo.

      • KhanIHelpYou says:

        On the other end of the scale I have apparently played HalfLife 2 for something like 40 minutes. Despite having completed it over 4 times as well as sinking at least 100 hours into various mods back in the day. I think steam just randomly reset my play time at some point several years ago.

      • Jimbo says:

        That’s Dave Jones; he just sits at his desk with it running, sobbing into his hands.

  5. Cinek says:

    I’m impressed.
    Shame that this game is an MMO.

  6. Low Life says:

    The fourth one from right in the bottom row looks like a woman with fake beard/moustache in about half of his(?) iterations.

  7. RedViv says:

    Oh that looks incredibly pretty and vari-
    “Large” lady appears.
    -well I guess that was a minute of nice things.

    • Koozer says:

      To be fair, it’s probably pretty hard to do without fundamental 3D model, texture and possibly animation changes, and not just for the person but for every piece of armour and pointy stick too. See also: lack of Ithorians and Mon Calamari in SWTOR because helmets and feet are hard; lack of black people in nearly every RPG ever because shaders are hard.

      EDIT: Just rewatched it. Looks like the ‘muscle’ option gives you shoulders, the ‘large’ option gives you hips. It is pretty poor.

    • Panda Powered says:

      Just you wait ’till a certain subculture of TES modders get their hands on it. ;)

    • KhanIHelpYou says:

      at 1:03 they showed a skinny guy moving towards large and it looked like a good verity. Then they switched the the female who looked fairly skinny and she was at the maximum of large… moving to cartoonishly thin. Artists just cant bring themselves to create imperfect women.

      • particlese says:

        I have a theory that dudebro execs just loiter around art departments making frowns and mouth-sounds at anything they wouldn’t high-five someone over.

        • RedViv says:

          And then there’s Saints Row.

          • particlese says:

            Touché? Mostly yes, I think, but The Third (at least) sure is a cornucopia of boobies. Hilariously so, but still…

          • The Random One says:

            The problem she refers to is not the presence of boobies, but rather the absence of alternatives.

    • machineageproductions says:

      Yeah… I’m not impressed on that front. I get blah, blah, technical reasons. But I think Saints Row IV ruined me for any of those arguments.

      I want better full figure options. Period.

  8. Astalnar says:

    Since they went so far with character creation, I would love to see a scale in centimeters or inches for height. It always irritates me in Guild Wars II when I create a character and fiddle around with its height, yet no reference of how high he is. There needs to be a scale.

    • tyren says:

      This bothered me about GW2 too, and even Final Fantasy 14 because even though you can switch to a background during character creation, you’re not near enough to anything but grass to get a good sense of scale. Luckily, FF14 added what you’re talking about shortly before release.

      • Svardskampe says:

        It bothers me more I wasted 43 euros on GW2 at launch and didn’t get the ‘non-standard MMO game’ I was promised. I hope Everquest Next does better, and luckily it’s f2p so I can actually play it and see for myself whether I want to dump money on it.

  9. puppybeard says:

    I like Elder Scrolls, but not MMOs, and I haven’t seen anything that’s compelling enough to change that in the game so far. Elder Scrolls games are already a big time investment as single player, the way most people like to play them, anyway.

    • Turkey says:

      I wonder if they’re aware that the response to this game by fans and the gaming press is almost universally: “You’re making a huge mistake.”

      • airmikee99 says:

        The possibility of monthly subscriptions and micro-transactions has led the ‘DING DING DING DING DING DING DING!’ sounds to drown out complaints.

  10. bglamb says:

    “hasn’t done much to wow me”

    I see what you (almost certainly) didn’t do there.

  11. Lev Astov says:

    Not to be too positive, but I think the beast races look a lot less hideous in this video than in past ones. Still not Skyrim, but maybe tolerable enough to use.

    • particlese says:

      I was thinking along those lines, too. Although I’m still not digging the new Argonians in general, they look pretty tweakable here, and the devs seem to have transferred all the Staring Eyes to the dude up top. I swear a couple of the Argonians in Riften made perfect “do not want” faces at me…

  12. Sidewinder says:

    So… wait… if the sliders aren’t tiny hamburgers, does that mean we can play ESO as Kari Wuhrer?

  13. Koozer says:

    This video suddenly made me realise how weird the female Argonians and Khajiit are.

    • Detocroix says:

      Yeah, I agree. One has too many breasts and the other doesn’t have enough… well the Khajiit doesn’t necessarily have same amount of “kittens” as house cat does, but still it looks a bit odd.

  14. Mr. International says:

    Is it not worth praise that you can make an overweight character, even female? Not trying to attract any hostility here, but this site does make a point to.. “attack” games that they feel are somehow demeaning to women. Call of Duty announcing dogs first, or kerrigan’s crack not growing itself shut being most recent in my memory. I think it is more productive to praise games that do the real opposite of sexualizing women (and men yes it happens most of my game characters aren’t hulking six pack sporting beefcakes by choice) by allowing you to break the standard for “good looking” in making your character. I find it worse that most games don’t let you create “ugly” characters, especially ones like GW2 that almost try to perpetuate the “everyone has to be a super model” myth. Just some food for thot

    • Lord of the Fungi says:

      But are you able to create an overweight character? Judging by the video, you can at best create one slightly chubby, so that the six-pack is not visible. But saying that being ‘slightly larger and with muscles less visible than the ideal, sculpted model’ makes one ‘overweight’ is not right and only shows how absurd the beauty standards are right now.

      • gi_ty says:

        Eh, pretty sure its not the beauty standards so much as it is logic. If you a warrior adventuring around killing things I think your going to be active enough to not be obese. I mean really lets not just make everything as negative as possible. You can make believably chunky characters that don’t run around in super skimpy erotic armor. Pretty much puts this game way ahead of the curve in this respect, yet you still find a reason to complain. It pretty well reinforces the hypothesis that a large majority of this controversy is blown way out of proportion by people who just like to complain.

        • Lord of the Fungi says:

          Obviously, if you are not perfectly sculpted dehydrated model you are not fit and cannot deal even with the slightest amount of exercise. After all, it’s the body shape that determines how strong, enduring and generally fit you are.
          On the other hand, being perfectly sculpted allows you, logically, to defeat a hundred enemies on your own and then run some 50 miles in heavy armour without stopping, all then while being alternatively wounded, burned, poisoned and bleeding. Fortunately, if you have perfect looks you heal even from mortal wound in span of minutes. It’s only the addition of few pounds of fat that stops ones body from doing that. That’s logic.

          • gi_ty says:

            Ha! You go a long way to reinforcing my assertions with your angry diatribe. I will concede that logic by itself may not have been the best term (even though in context it seems fairly understandable). Perhaps contextual logic would be a more apt description? Just because some aspects are completely fantastical immersion is greatly increased by leaning upon some characteristics that the player can relate to i.e. warriors are physically fit. Furthermore your dehydrated model example is way overstated. This system allows you to create very ugly characters (which in the former games of ES I have always preferred). I am not aware of many models or beauty standards that have hideous features and facial scarring. Either way your ire is largely misdirected at this particular instance when you have much easier pickings among the plethora of titles that do blatantly portray your complaint.

          • dE says:

            Oh dear, what a century of silly He-Man and Body Builder Tropes has brought…
            gi_ty, have you actually seen strong and fit people? Not the joked up wrestling comedians, the super toned pilates hordes or the silly bodybuilders with their pump it attitude.
            But people actually built for combat and not just tanned, oily looks? They look nothing like He-Man and Conan the Barbarian. Or have you seen people that have the endurance to actually run up mountains? They look nothing like He-Man. People looking like the conan and He-Man tropes in the video above, they are short of breath. They’re slow, because their muscles are build in a way that hinders them in anything but straight upwards pumping. Yeah they can punch like a truck. Once. Maybe twice. Before they’ve run out of juice from their calculated diet. Next time you walk past a construction site, see how they look. Next time you watch olympia, look at how the athletes look and how they’re build for specific tasks.

            So do you really want to argue realism and immersion and “need to be relatable” and crap like that? The women in the video would still have a long way to go before they’d be considered anywhere close to fat by sane people. Even the slider set to the largest amount of fat, she still looks like a supermodel. Not like an athlete. But a supermodel. Same with the men. Yeah you can add on scars or make ugly faces. Their bodies are still shaped like some bodybuilders dream or entry point.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Conan the barbarian (in the books) is often described as panther-like. While very strong, you don’t get the muscle-bound look that films (and certain artists) were drawn to. In certain sports, say Sumo, and ‘Merican Football, you see some pretty beefy guys, some of whom are indeed overweight. Doesn’t stop them from moving real fast, and hitting real hard. Don’t think they’d do so well in a marathon, of course.

            Me, in ESO demos, I like making pot bellied muscled up Orcs who look like they could take your head off with one swing, and then eat half the banquet table as well.

          • gi_ty says:

            Well having worked in construction for 6 years then moving on to a combat function in the U.S. Army for 6 more I can say I see nothing that is blatantly out of place for a person that either has lots of endurance and or strength. Somewhat anecdotal admittedly however looking at Olympic athletes only reinforces what I have perceived in life experiences. The male types can have a rather large upper body with a hefty midsection to match much like professional weight lifters, or a thin lithe well defined person indicative of high endurance. As for the vast majority of females I have known to be at high levels of physical training they do indeed tend to have lithe figures as hormonal difference preclude them (vast majority) from having similar mass to males. Given that every largely varying body type brings with it large costs in perfecting animations for a wide selection of items its easy to understand why a developer would stick to one that is not only pleasing to look at but varies enough to have a fair amount of realism. Having been at a relatively high level of conditioning myself I can say you certainly don’t need a highly calculated diet to achieve reasonable definition just a lot of vigorous activity. Also that while certainly not on the level of Conan, definition and lots of mass are not tropes but fairly accurate depictions of people at the top of their physical capability (as one would expect a great hero to be).

      • default_name says:

        0:40 – definitely overweight.
        They don’t usually give the ability to create overweight characters, because you play games where you mostly run around and fight and it’s rather hard to imagine some fat guy doing this for long. Yeah, I know I know, it is a game where you shoot fireballs out of your bare hands and ride giant flying crocodiles and whatnot, but it still looks rather logical…

        • MrEvilGuy says:

          Have you never seen Star Wars Kid?

          But seriously, I know people who are ‘overweight’ and are still very healthy, exercise, hike, play sports and all that. They don’t lose weight because that’s the way their bodies work. So what you see as ‘logic’ is simply the prejudices against fat people you’ve been taught to the benefit of the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry.

          • default_name says:

            Prejudice? Have you ever seen a fat olympic runner? No, because that can’t happen. With that amount of physical activity it’s nearly impossible to stay fat. Plus, you can’t train yourself to run as fast and/or long as a guy who weights let’s say 30% as less as you are, because human body simply has its limits.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          Right. Wizards make a lot of sense too, you know? I mean, they’re all fit because they spend their time running around throwing their wizard high-school fireballs at critters and asking every person with a gigantic exclamation mark on the head for menial tasks so that they can improve their magic. You know, instead of actually spending any time learning or understanding spells in a library or something, because logic dictates that magic everywhere is not about knowledge but about exercise.

          And yes, my argument has little logic as well, so stop with the “it’s only logical” nonsense and let’s break these idiotic conventions already.

          • gi_ty says:

            Well it would appear from the video you could make a short pot bellied wizard as easily as a tall rather gaunt one. I guess it comes down to what constitutes fat or overweight and what exactly is this convention your talking about? These are opinions which a rather ill defined. Look at any person that is at the top of their game in combat sports, you see well defined often heavily muscled people, both male and female boxing portray this well. I would expect most heroes to be at the top of their physical ability as well. Given budgetary constraints it is easy to see why a developer would give priority to a model that is relatively flexible while still getting as much realism as possible, and yes is also mostly pleasing to look at.

          • DestroyYourEgo says:

            “Right. Wizards make a lot of sense too, you know? I mean, they’re all fit because they spend their time running around throwing their wizard high-school fireballs at critters and asking every person with a gigantic exclamation mark on the head for menial tasks so that they can improve their magic. You know, instead of actually spending any time learning or understanding spells in a library or something, because logic dictates that magic everywhere is not about knowledge but about exercise.

            And yes, my argument has little logic as well, so stop with the “it’s only logical” nonsense and let’s break these idiotic conventions already.”

            So good it beared repeating. Lol- I wish this was the top comment on here.

  15. Stevostin says:

    Omg Kahjit have transmuted into cosmocat.

  16. aliksy says:

    Why do the lizard people have boobs?

    Also, the usual “I’ll try it when it’s free.” Not very interested in another theme park/progress quest mmo.

    • foop says:

      Because game designers have forgotten what boobs are actually for.

      • misterT0AST says:

        Their primary physiological function is to increase sales.

  17. Barberetti says:

    Not seeing an option to pause the animation there anywhere, so I guess I’ll be creating my character the usual way.

    Click randomise button
    Slap hair style on
    Enter character name
    Play game

    Nothing more frustrating than trying to get your character looking how you want when they’re bobbing their head all over the fucking place.

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      Character customization with a slightly bobbing character is a non-issue.

      • Barberetti says:

        You don’t decide what is or isn’t a non issue for me.

        • airmikee99 says:

          Your use of hyperbole to make a point is hilarious.

          Nothing is more frustrating than a character that’s moving during the creation process? So if a family of spiders crawl into your computer and cause your GPU to short out and fries the whole motherboard, burning out your CPU and RAM in the process, you’d still think the character bobbing its head is more frustrating?

          Applying for a job only to find out it was a bait and switch con when the benefits and pay you’re given at the interview don’t match the ad you read that brought you there, but that is absolutely nothing compared to character that bobs its head when you’re trying to get the eyes to look right with the hairline?

          You’re right, nothing is more frustrating than a character that moves when you’re trying to make it, cause tracking movement across a few millimeters is damn tough work. How can you possibly enjoy any kind of video game when there’s so much distracting movement?

    • particlese says:

      Let me thank you for the phrasing on that last sentence there — between that and airmikee99′s comment, I think I’ve gotten my fill of RPS comment hilarity for the night.

      I really hope someone someday uses eye tracking to make it literally impossible for you to look at the character’s face directly. It could even be a legitimate practical joke if it were in one of those games where you import your own face or use it for facial animation.

  18. Chris Bischoff says:

    Wouldn’t it be awesome to have this tech change your character throughout the game?
    Have your hair grow, have your muscles change in size? Have your character get fat if you don’t use them, or their muscles get bigger when you fight a lot? Run a lot and you get skinny and lithe? Drink a lot and you get a beer belly?

    Tattoos would come from battles,or tattoo artists in far away lands…make your character REFLECT the world?
    That way when you see a huge muscled dude, covered in tattoos, with hair down to his ass, you would KNOW that he is either someone you want to be friends with, or need to avoid.

    Plus, think of the digital gyms you could have. Screw grinding for gold. I’m working out!

    Seems like a bit of a waste…

    • gi_ty says:

      I like this a system similar to GTA San Andreas. That was awesome for its time and could be massively improved upon. I don’t think designers realize how much more your online persona would mean if there were stories behind the appearance rather than well that’s just how I wanted to look. Make your character scar and tattoo based on what you have done would be much more satisfying.

    • LTK says:

      If you ate too much in Fable you’d get fat, but that was pretty inconsequential. Real-time beard growth would be awesome, though.

    • Grygus says:

      It is an MMO, all of those things would be based on /played time. So all the beautiful people are the hardcore raiders and AFK jockeys, and all the fat ugly people are the casual players. If you take a break, you come back as a Falmer.

      • jrodman says:

        Shouldn’t it relate inversely to the amount of time you play a week?

    • KhanIHelpYou says:

      Cant tell if fable 2 joke or not.
      Melee gave you muscles, ranged made you tall, magic gave you tattoos, food made you fat, death gave you scars and of course moral choices either gave you a halo and porcelain skin or horns and a suntan 5 stops past hades.

      All of these factors combined to create something which was honestly fairly terrible. You often felt like you didn’t actually have much agency over your characters appearance. The only things you could easily control were the moral and fat by scoffing 20 sticks of celery.

      • aDemandingPersona says:

        Not fable 2, the first Fable (Lost Chapters).
        In Fable if you got hit by enemies you received scars. Armor decreased this. Eating too much made you fat. Not eating made you lose weight (don’t try at home).

  19. Jake says:

    I love character editors but this one doesn’t look very special, I think APB still has the crown as far as they go. I spent much longer on the APB editor than actually playing the game.

    Looks like this editor will not allow me to play as Volstagg the Valiant, Lion of Asgard. Disappointing.

    • airmikee99 says:

      Haha, fairly soon after its release I had a friend that literally spent hours in STO’s character and ship editors, constantly redoing the look of her toon and ship. She never even went on a mission or did anything in game and when her free trial ended she was upset she still didn’t have things looking the way she wanted.

  20. jimangi says:

    If this were releasing as a free to play game or with the Guild Wars 2 model I would be all up for giving it a fair go. As it is, with its subscription model, all I can do is look at it and think “Looks kinda neat, shame it’s probably going to bomb or reboot 6 – 12 months later with a miserly free to play option”. There’s no game that I’d be prepared to pay the price of a nice indie game every month for to continue playing. Still, the model’s probably not quite as self-destructive for them as it will be for Wildstar.

  21. Tei says:

    The actual faces you can create are too similar to other games.

    This is tecnically very good, but don’t seems to have any strong art direction. Why is this too real?

    • tyren says:

      I don’t get the complaint? Previous Elder Scrolls games have never gone for very unique or stylized visuals for their time, I don’t see why that’s automatically a bad thing.

  22. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Slightly off topic, but …. Next Gen and Fallout 4, this is a tasty prospect. Not that you’ll see the faces underneath those beautifully rendered shiny Brotherhood helmets, but still. Maybe you can engineer ways in quests to expose your gorgeous irradiated man (or woman) face for cap rewards.

  23. particlese says:

    I like the Bosmer mustache about two minutes in, even though it hides one of only two smiles in this entire video. (The Art Director’s is trying to find a mustache to hide behind.)

  24. airmikee99 says:

    I checked Mercedes website, they do not have an ‘Almost New Green’ colored E-Class Wagon. You’re full of shit.

    • Arglebargle says:

      And Dick Grayson just has to call in a favor with his friend Bruce Wayne, if he needs the money to get a Mercedes with a custom ‘Almost Green’ paint job.

  25. The Random One says:

    I liked the part at about 1:10 when they show a Conan the Barbarian type and then make him short and chubby.

  26. DatonKallandor says:

    It’s really absurd that they’ve effectively rolled back all the interesting changes they’ve made in Skyrim to stop Elves from being “really pretty humans with different skin colors”. In Skyrim all the -Mer races were ALIENS. They had crazy inhuman facial bone structures, their eyes were freaky coloured, shaped and HUGE. They were truly different races, unrelated to humans and unique.

    Now in ESO they’re green-human-with-big-teeth and yellow-human-with-pointy-ears. It’s so generic. So boring. So uninspired and cowardly.