Player-Designed Avatar Characters
While most games have an established character as the player's avatar, role-playing games, especially multiplayer online ones, almost always give players considerable freedom to design an avatar to their own specifications. They can choose the avatar's race, sex, body type, hair, clothing, and other physical attributes, as well as a large number of other details, such as strength and dexterity, that have a direct effect on the way the avatar performs in challenging situations. (For more information on these attributes, see Chapter 15, "Role-Playing Games.") Figure 6.1 shows an example character creation screen from The Lord of the Rings Online. In such games, the avatar is a sort of mask the player wears, a persona she adopts for the purposes of the game. Because the player herself designs the avatar, the avatar has no personality other than what the player chooses to create. In such games, then, your task as a game designer is not to create avatars for the players but to provide the necessary tools to allow players to create avatars for themselves. The more opportunities for personal expression you can offer, the more the players will enjoy exercising their creativity.