Saturday, October 17, 2009
Dragon Age: Faces & Facebooks
What would you say if you logged into the MMORPG of your choice and found that your character's nose had grown by 1 cm due to a bug? Probably nothing, in fact you'd be likely to not even notice. In third-person view the camera is behind your character most of the time, and even if you turn it around, it's probably too far away for you to notice minor facial detail. In first-person view theoretically your nose should be displayed at the bottom of the screen, but in reality isn't, so you can't see it at all. So why does the Dragon Age Character Creator, which Bioware just released ahead of the game, would need *nine* sliders just for the nose of your character?
The answer to the question is that in fact the program isn't a character creator at all, it is a thinly disguised face generator. And as face generator it is an excellent one. You have far more face generation options in Dragon Age Origins than you have in The Sims 3, or any other character generator I remember.
But as a character generator, the program is a disappointment. Not just because it doesn't deliver on it's ESRB label promising "Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content". But because outside of face creation, the character generator is extremely weak. For example you can't modify your character's body at all, not it's height, not it's stature, not even the ever popular boob size of female characters.
Of your 79 attribute points you can only distribute 5, the other 74 are preset according to your class. On the bright side the attribute system is very intuitive, borrowing heavily from D&D, so at least you have a good idea how to distribute the points. There are screens for skills and talents, but you can't set anything at all on those. Probably the nicest feature of the character creator is the "portrait", where you can determine the camera angle, position, background, and even facial expression of your character in his portrait.
And then you can upload your character's face to Bioware's new social network, a facebook for game avatars so to say. I haven't quite understood what the purpose of that would be. Unlike the real Facebook, you are unlikely to be able to find your friends on the Bioware social network, as they will be present only under some character name, not their real name. I couldn't even choose "Tobold" as by Bioware social network name, so nobody will ever find *me* there. But well, I don't really "get" social networks anyway, I'm probably the wrong generation for that.
So all in all, as long as you regard it purely as a face generator, and if maybe you are interested in the social network for the game, the Dragon Age Origins character generator is okay. People looking for something to rival a costume creator in a superhero MMORPG are in for a disappointment. I sure hope the game itself uses your created face heavily in various cutscenes, because otherwise I don't see the use of it. Spinks thinks that choices about your character are better taken somewhat later in the game, and not before you get to play it, and maybe she has a point there.