Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Customization - How Much is Too Much?

One of the things that irk me while gaming, and has turned me off of various games is the amount of character customization available to me during the creation of the army. I am not saying I expect every miniature to have it's own rules for creation, as that would be simply too much for the table. I do however go into a force creation wanting to make a force or fleet *mine*, and some games do this better than others.

One of the worse offenders of character creations is Anima Tactics where almost every miniature has a name, stats, and about the only power you have over it is if you give it an accessory or not. They have some absolutely lovely miniatures, but the fact everyone is a special character is a major killer there. They are not alone in this regard either, as WarmaHordes also has this to a degree with the Warlock/Warcasters being 'special' characters right out of the gate. You will find that I don't even really enjoy playing Warhammer or 40K with special characters either. To me, as soon as you add a special character, the force is no longer really mine at that point.

On the flip side, if you have too wide an option for character customization, then you run into the issue of redundant, overpowered, and just worthless pieces of equipment. you see this heavily in WFB and 40K for instance. Look at the WFB Slann and how many people take the Cupped Hands of the Old Ones magic item as just one example. HGB sort of falls into this same category as well to a degree, as there are many gears that simply are outclassed by other available gears. Cheetah versus Jaguar for a quick example.

Wargaming is a strange beast in that even in this topic you will find peoples thoughts vary greatly about what they feel about the use of special characters and character customization. You are going to have people that play games like Mordheim that put HEAVY focus on individual characters because that is the game it is built around, then you have the other extreme of games like Firestorm Armada that has zero special 'characters' as all ships come just as listed.

For me, I find Firestorm Armada's lack of customization fine for some reason because it is in fact a ship and not an actual individual  It could be from all the various Gundam, Firefly, and Babylon 5 episodes I have watched over time (I am sorry but I simply have not watched Star Trek or Star Wars outside of the passing glance if it was on TV so can't talk about their space battles), but for me the tone of a ship should be based on the exploits of the crew aboard that ship. You take that combat to a gear or other man shaped mecha, and suddenly I start wanting more option loadouts available to me as I could easily see a pilot customizing his mecha to fight in his preferred methodology.

Getting back into standard foot soldier themed games though, there are so many good games available to people, and yet I have found so few good character customization options available. Strangely enough, for me one of the best I have seen is the Kings of War ruleset. All the characters have a set stat line, they could be equipped with a great sword, sword and shield, halberd, or a harp if you so wanted, and it wouldn't change their stat line. In fact, even the magic items have a section that state that the magic items warp and twist to the form most preferred to the user. What this allows is for you the player to make ANY character to lead your forces and not worry about massive impacts and gear discrepancy since the weapons you put on the miniature don't actually affect that miniatures playstyle.

As I said, for me character customization seems a weird beast to tame. So obviously the question is, where do the players think the companies should aim for? Make a system like WFB, Mordheim and HGB with multiple loadouts per character, or a simpler game where the characters are preset like Warmachine and Anima Tactics? Should more companies walk that line Mantic does with trying to allow as many various companies as possible?
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