Character Customization

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Altering the statistics of your character in relation to the game the character is in. It could either be altering the stats of an existing character, or it could be making one from scratch.

This has been around at least as long as Roleplaying Games, and became a Video Game staple well beyond that genre.

The exact statistics depend on the game, but there are some general ones:

  • Name
  • Personal information (age, family, background)
  • Physical information (height, weight, hair and eye color)
  • Equipment and clothes the character is wearing
  • Attributes, often including at minimum:
    • Strength
    • Speed
    • Agility
    • Endurance
    • Constitution
    • Intelligence
  • Skills and abilities
  • The character's job (often means more how they fight rather than a profession)

These are chosen either arbitrarily, from a list of presets, series of packages chosen with the background or randomly (usually by rolling dice), but usually some combination of these methods. These can also be changed later on if the game allows it (especially when characters level up).

Compare Virtual Paper Doll (which can overlap if that is part of the customization), Class and Level System.

Examples of Character Customization include:

Tabletop Games

  • Just about every Tabletop RPG does this, since Dungeons & Dragons set the standard.
  • The Hero System is quite literally (the most customizable tabletop game in the history of tabletop games, to the point that all of the subsidiary "rule books" aren't rule books at all, but guidelines and advice on how to use the base rules in a new setting. Essentially anything that can be imagined can be given stats using basic games rules and enough time.
  • As mentioned, GURPS is second only to the Hero System in terms of sheer variety (the only thing keeping it from overtaking the Hero System is the fact that GURPS is modular - it adds a separate set rules that tweak the base system for every new setting and genre, while with Hero System, the basic rules don't need tweaking at all to be truly universal.
  • Not far behind either of those two is Mutants and Masterminds, Especially with the more customizable 3e "Afflictions", where their point-buy system and usage of certain cost-reducing tactics allows nearly any character to be very well recreated, even as a PC build. Granted it falls apart with Glass Cannons, but Small houserules (Minor Offensive and Defensive Level trade offs being a glaring example).
  • Risus is yet another RPG with customization potential - "cliches" system, hybrid of background- and trait- based. It's thoroughly streamlined - basically, you can create your own Fantasy Character Classes in only a few seconds. This is exactly as powerful as it sounds.
  • The Saints Row series has a very extensive character appearance system. Especially the second and third, where you can be a guy or girl.
  • Twilight 2000 offered the ability to customize a character's entire background, choosing hobbies, career and education for the character throughout his entire lifetime. Each choice allowed the player to increase specific skills related to that choice, giving a character who has both a history and physical/mental attributes to match that history.

Video Games

  • With video game RPGs, a major difference between most Japanese games and Western games is that Japanese games usually have pre-made characters, while only recently allowing customization with leveling up, while Western games tend to allow customization from the beginning of the game.
    • That applies mainly to offline RPGs. MMORPGs on both hemispheres will embrace this trope.
      • Even that varies. Many Final Fantasy games allow a player to structure their spells, abilities, and even stats of a character, depending on the system.
      • Final Fantasy XI allows you to use any of the game's jobs (classes) as a sub-job to the main job being used, at half the main's level, provided it's been sufficiently leveled up before. There's also the option of earning Merit Points for boosts in stats or abilities, but those are only after you reach the level cap. However, some main/sub combinations and merit builds tend to be more widely used, although one can define a character by having a less-used build.
    • Perfect World, an Asian MMORPG, has a HUGE character customization system, you can alter your character's appearance within two days of creation, and the Boutique item Makeover Scroll allows you to customize after that. Not to mention your choices in skin color...
    • A big sort-of exception to this for JRPGs is the RPG Maker series. You get to customize the characters when making the game, but the completed games usually leave them fixed.
  • City of Heroes has, as one of its main selling points, a robust character creator, and the complete separation of costume and powers. This allows for absolutely freaking ridiculous levels of customisation, and it is no exaggeration to say you will never encounter two identical characters that weren't made so deliberately.
    • Just to elaborate, there were three Body types, eight sliders to adjust that body type's individual "build" for different areas of the costume with each around six subzones which you picked a item for, which was then color customized with two colors and a pattern for those colors, and even the freaking attacks were customized. of course there were colors you could customize and for weapon-users you could change and recolor the stick you swing around or shoot people with. Then came recoloring everything.
      • Holy F***
      • In fact, the character designer was so much fun people often created characters just for the sake of creating characters. And after the shutdown of the game in 2012, some clever individuals figured out how to use the now-orphaned client program to still let you design and save characters!
    • The Mission Architect feature that allowed you to create custom missions also allowed you to use the same character creator to make custom enemies as well.
    • And with the game's resurrection in 2019, all the costume parts that originally had had to be found as a drop or bought with an expansion pack -- along with some which hadn't been available to PCs at all -- were made available for all characters right from day one, making your initial array of choices (and consequent results) that much bigger.
  • Cryptic's most recent effort, Star Trek Online, takes this to logical ends of absurdity. You are fully capable of customizing the race and appearance of your captain, of all your bridge officers, of your ship, your ship's interior (well, the bridge at the moment, with more coming), as well as the names, biographies, and abilities of your captain and all your officers.
  • Many sports video games have a "create-a-character" mode.
  • Nintendo's Custom Robo series allows you to customize a fighting robot by putting together a central chassis body, a main gun, a secondary bomb weapon, a back-mounted pod launcher, and a leg attatchment.
  • Wrestling games often rely on their create-a-wrestler mode.
    • The Acclaim series of WWF games popularized the CAW feature in the US. WWF Warzone had almost fully customizable appearance, and its sequel WWF Attitude had for its day an incredibly elaborate CAW feature including the first fully-customizable moveset outside Japan.
      • The Create-A-Legend mode in the Legends of Wrestling game series was an interesting experiment, allowing any move whatsoever (even a regular punch or snapmare) to be a finishing maneuver and allowing the loading of an in-game wrestler as a physical template. Another added bonus is the fact that unlike THQ's WWE games, a LOW CAL will look just like an in-game wrestler and fit in perfectly with the rest of the cast.
    • WWF No Mercy sports a lot of customization room, but enough premade stuff that it takes a fraction of the time to make a No Mercy CAW than it does to make one on the Smackdown series.
    • One of the draws of the Fire Pro Wrestling series is the sheer number of CAWs you can have. And since Fire Pro has 2D graphics, a lot of the programming that would have gone into the graphics instead went into being able to fully program the behavior of the created wrestler, making it big for simulators as well.
      • Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium is the first wrestling game ever with this feature, making it the Trope Maker.
    • Some wrestling games have actually tanked due to an insufficient create-a-wrestler mode. We're talking about you, Rumble Roses XX - a dozen different pre-made templates and pre-made movesets doesn't cut it anymore.
    • Sadly, many more recent games (especially in the Smackdown vs. Raw series) are moving away from complete customization, preventing players from playing female characters (such as Cute Bruisers) in the story mode, and blocking any attempt to add custom patterns or objects near the crotch (and chest of female characters). Got to keep it PG, after all.
  • Several Fighting Games.
    • The Soul Series, starting from Soul Calibur III, allows you to have custom characters, via the "pre-existing moveset+new appearance" scheme.
    • Mortal Kombat Armageddon had this feature applied to almost every aspect of the fighter, including moveset and endings. The bad thing is, only one character per profile is allowed, and you may need to kill some time on unlocking additional attire and moves.
    • The sixth installment of Tekken, as well as the Virtua Fighter series starting from part four allow the player to change the already-existing wrestlers' costumes. Not to mention that VR has this also incorporated for the arcade-going player character himself.
  • In the JRPGs Persona 3 and Persona 4. you choose the Main Character's name, and due to the Dialogue Tree, the character's overall personality. (This doesn't effect how the characters think of you, however. At least not during Social Links.)
  • The Super Robot Wars series is understandably limited when it comes to the weaponry of the various mecha under your command, although the distribution of pilot and/or skill points and parts can be used to make Kouji Kabuto into a nimble dodger, even though he's predisposed to be more of a Tank. The Original Generation games though, are a little freer in the availability of mechs, and at least half the weapons can be freely distributed among any Real Robots on your team, making it much easier to alter various pilots to fill a needed niche in your forces.
    • Super Robot Wars Alpha allowed you to choose from eight starting characters and then customize their name, birthday, blood type, and other details. The birthdays determine which Spirit spells your main pilots get. All eight of the default characters featured in the Original Generations series.
    • Depending on the origin of the character in question, and the various plot surrounding them, you can even customise what they pilot. Many Super Robot pilots are stuck in their mecha of origin, except for certain mid-game upgrades into something better, but most Real Robot pilots can switch into anything else in your roster, so long as it's from their series, (and thus has controls they know how to use) so you can have Amuro Ray in a Rick Dias, or Emma Sheen in the Zeta Gundam, or even put Boss into the Mazinger Z, and Kouji in the Boss Borot. Not that it's a good choice, but you can do it.
  • In the Rock Band games, you start out by picking your character's name, hometown, attitude (Rock, Metal, Punk and Goth; this determines what moves he uses onstage), skin color, eye color, hairstyle and color, and set his physique with a pair of basic height and weight sliders. They all come with some basic clothes and instruments; new ones have to be bought later, using money earned in Tour mode.
    • However, due to memory limitations and pre-recorded song scenes, the Wii and PS2 versions of Rock Band feature pre-made characters, similar to those in Guitar Hero.
  • Similar in Guitar Hero. Instead, you can choose the moves your character uses before the gig, after he played the song or if he got booed off the stage.
  • Darklands has elaborate Background-Based System of character generation. You could also customize the character's appearance, as well as his coat of arms. Unfortunately, a bug in the game meant that occasionally, a character's visual appearance data could get corrupted, ending up with neon-colored hair, clothing or both.
  • Elder Scrolls: Oblivion allows changing a character's face entirely, with several dozen controls for all facial features. This means you could spend a long time getting your character's face 'just right'. Unfortunately, your face will be obscured for most of the game, especially if you choose to wear heavy armor helmets (which often obscure it).
  • Nearly all of Nippon Ichi's games feature this to some extent, but the really big one is Phantom Brave. Through a very complex fusion system and a level cap of 9999, your characters and their weapons can become customized to a huge extent. You can cut a bloody swath across the dungeon while wielding a starfish.
  • This is present in Ludia's ports of game shows as of 2008, such as The Price Is Right, Family Feud and Press Your Luck.
  • The Fallout series of computer games, which are generally pretty good about making any type of character a workable choice.
  • The gameplay of Spore is based on this- the parts you use for your creature determine its abilities.
  • White Knight Chronicles gives you complete customization of one PC. While he doesn't say anything or do anything outside of battle, but just seeing him get into position for a boss fight gives you a jolt of pride because you created him
  • The last Fire Emblem game, which was a remake of "Mystery of the Emblem", will let you create a character a la the tactician from FE-7. You can choose their hair, face, eye/hair color, and their class.
    • This feature returns in Fire Emblem: Awakening. However, the role your character plays in the plot is far more significant. He/she also has the privilege of being able to marry almost any opposite gender character in the playable cast.
  • The faces and hair in We Cheer, and even more so in the second game.
  • Halo: Reach, oddly for an FPS, allows you to customize your character, Noble Six, for every game mode: you can pick gender, armor colors, and dozens of armor pieces that you can purchase with credits, earned in the game for just about anything. All the changes are completely cosmetic, though dialog will change slightly depending on chosen gender.
    • This is especially funny since the first game in the series was infamous for having everyone play as identical Faceless Mooks, in contrast to most FPSs where all the character models are default options for MP, and typical servers are full of custom player models.
  • The disc-based version of Crush Crumble and Chomp allows the player to make their own monster.
  • Battlefield Heroes, while it doesn't let you customize your character's gender, gives you total control of them otherwise. Hair color, skin tone, and background are all up for grabs, as are weapon loadout and clothing.
    • This is funny because one of the factions is similar in every way to the nazis, yet on that faction there are tons of players who have made themselves dark skinned. (Bonus points if they made themselves a black Hitler)
  • Brink has a very large customization system in which outfits are unlocked as you level up.
  • Dragon Quest X let's you make a character from one of Five Races, and choose your character's vocation (which can be changed later on).
    • Dragon Quest IX, while only having human characters to create, has a TON of Character Customization. The player can choose skin tone, hair color, hair style, and eye color and style. They can choose the character's vocation (which can be changed later on) along with which weapons to have them use and level up with. What's more, there are over 900 Clothing Items to choose from.
  • The Japanese only Cocoron offers 8 weapons, 16 body parts, and 24 head parts for when you make your six characters during the course of the game. This allows for 3072 combinations of characters.
  • F-Zero AX/GX has a create a Vehicle mode. Incidentally, most of the player-made cars can or will be better than most of the stock vehicles.
  • NHL Hockey: Though players can make their own players, there also exists a way for them to create NHL players that were otherwise passed over by the game.
    • NHL '12 now allows for female players to be made.
  • The Empires sub-series of Dynasty Warriors allow you to create your own warrior and edit their costume, body type, voice, and weapon style (DW 4 E allowed you to use original weapons, a la Soul Calibur 3, but in DW5E and DW6E your characters can only replicate styles used by the canon DW characters).
  • This is one of the biggest draws in Dark Souls. You're given a choice of ten classes, eight "gifts" that can be added to your starting equipment, and have access to a powerful appearance editor with more options than you can shake a stick at. The game is also a Stat Grinder, focusing on leveling individual stats to fit your build. And that doesn't even touch on the metric shit ton of gear and spell options available in the game proper.
  • World of Warcraft May just be Face, Skin, Hair, but then you realise it has 8 (and counting) races with 2 genders all of which have 3D models.
    • And now you can make your character wear just about anything and have the final gear stats. while this isn't unique, we ARE talking about a game where weapons are as varied as lightsabers to your plain old insanely large sword to a tentacle to, a FISH