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Old 04-20-2006, 01:15 PM   #1
Trevalen
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Lately I've been considering the topic of character creation.

It strikes me that this is a "big deal" because when you get a new player, this is usually the first few minutes of what they will experience with regards to your game. And your game is not worth the hassle -- not yet. They don't know if its any fun, or worth thinking about and making all sorts of decisions they don't know anything about yet. I've read studies before saying that websites have about 2 seconds to capture the attention of a new reader, or many people will navigate away from the site. I suspect the same is true for MUDs.

However, obviously the traditional way for MUDs to work is to have multiple "decisions" made up front. What's your name, gender, race, do you want to see color, what's your e-mail address, what's your hometown, etc. Stuff a new player probably doesn't care about, and can't really decide well anyway. It's problematic especially with regards to an issue like race. I consider it bad design to have race chosen up front, because race is something with the potential to be a really interesting choice with long term consequences. So either you force your new player to do a bunch of boring research from step 1 if they want to be optimal, or you stick them with a long term decision that they made with insufficient information. But on the other hand... how can you decide race *except* at the beginning? You can't really start as a raceless, genderless, nameless hero, without some sort of silly rationalization that would probably look pretty lame.

So I was wondering, has anyone thought of any interesting solutions to get new players into the action quickly, by slimming down or eliminating the "character creation" barrier-to-entry? If so, how has it worked for you?

Also, I wonder if anyone has kept data on what percent of character creation processes are terminated before they are finished -- as in, a potential new player who gets bored and gives up. Any thoughts?

-T
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Old 04-20-2006, 01:20 PM   #2
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It's problematic especially with regards to an issue like race. I consider it bad design to have race chosen up front, because race is something with the potential to be a really interesting choice with long term consequences
This isn't a problem. If you want people to choose race up front but don't want them stuck with their decision, just do what we do: Let people change their race once within X hours of character creation so that if they realize they've made a mistake, it's easily fixable.

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Also, I wonder if anyone has kept data on what percent of character creation processes are terminated before they are finished -- as in, a potential new player who gets bored and gives up. Any thoughts?
We track that kind of thing in some detail.

I tell you what the biggest mistake is for a MUD in terms of getting newbies (newbies new to MUDs generally) started: Telling people to use Windows telnet or to download a third party program if they want to play. Windows telnet sucks beyond belief, and asking someone to download a third party program to try out your MUD will immediately drive most people away.

--matt
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Old 04-20-2006, 01:31 PM   #3
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I would have to agree with Matt
That is one other thing I ike about IRE.They provide the software to play
As far as the character creation,I have no problem with the current system.And actually,allowing for changes in the middle of the game,does bother me a bit as it may become confusing
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Old 04-20-2006, 01:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Trevalen @ April 20 2006,20:15)
So I was wondering, has anyone thought of any interesting solutions to get new players into the action quickly, by slimming down or eliminating the "character creation" barrier-to-entry? If so, how has it worked for you?
Yup - after typing 'create <name> <password>' you get presented with the following menu:

<span style='font-family:courier'>----------------------------[ CHARACTER CREATION ]-----------------------------
Please specify which character creation method you would like to use:

[1] Quickstart : The mud will assign you a well-rounded starting character.

[2] Concept : Select a themed character concept from a list of choices.

[3] Customised : Manually customise your starting attributes and abilities.

If this is your first character, it is recommended that you select option 1 or
2, as each concept has been carefully optimised and tested to provide a strong
starting character. Option 3 will provide you with a great deal more freedom,
but without knowing what works well it'll be very hard to create a good setup.

Note that you may come back to this menu during the game by entering the gym
and typing 'creation' - so if you don't like your first setup, no problem.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------</span>

If you select 'quickstart' it presents you with a rundown of the stats, skills and talents you'll get and asks you to confirm - type 'y' and you're straight into the game.

If you select 'concept' you'll get a list of 20 different concepts. Select the one you want to view its stats, confirm with 'y', and once again you're straight into the game.

Selecting 'customised' brings up a load more menus, as you'd expect. Curiously enough I occasionally see people spend 10+ minutes in this option, then quit within seconds of entering the game.

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Also, I wonder if anyone has kept data on what percent of character creation processes are terminated before they are finished -- as in, a potential new player who gets bored and gives up. Any thoughts?
403 out of 5006 (slightly over 8%)
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Old 04-20-2006, 02:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ April 20 2006,14:58)
Selecting 'customised' brings up a load more menus, as you'd expect. Curiously enough I occasionally see people spend 10+ minutes in this option, then quit within seconds of entering the game.
I think sometimes it's just fun to create characters. I know I created a ton of characters in City of Heroes (best character creation ever) and only played two of them.

--matt
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Old 04-21-2006, 06:25 AM   #6
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I think Avalon has one of the simplest character creation systems you can have. Name, password, gender. Then it's straight into the game.
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Old 04-21-2006, 07:47 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by (cron0s @ April 21 2006,13:25)
I think Avalon has one of the simplest character creation systems you can have. Name, password, gender. Then it's straight into the game.
Gender? I just randomise it (or base it on the starting concept), unless you select the "Customised" option. No need to ask the player up-front.
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Old 04-21-2006, 08:36 AM   #8
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We just gave people three character slots and allowed them to reroll their characters at will. Unless you enjoy playing the same character in every game you try, it's impossible to know which race fits you best without actually playing. We encouraged players to roll up a human (since most people know how to be human already) and try the game for a few days before deciding what character they really wanted to play.

Now, that's from the role-player's perspective, which was most important to us. But I realize that in lots of games race plays a large part in how well you do with skills in certain classes, etc. To me it's just logical to let people play a bit to learn about the game and then make it easy for them to delete their characters and recreate them how they really want. Changing race mid-stream wasn't an option for us. Joe Dwarf showing up as Joe Elf two days later wouldn't have fit the atmosphere of consistent RP we were trying to establish.

Multiple slots helped some as well. It allowed experimentation with several character configurations without necessitating reroll of what you'd accomplished.
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Old 04-21-2006, 11:47 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the replies, interesting to see the different approaches so far.

Matt, you mentioned tracking the data on disconnects during character creation -- unless that is top secret for some reason, it would be very interesting to compare to the information KaVir provided. I checked out character creation on both God Wars II and Achaea, so I'd love to compare those two. Is it possible to share your percent with us?

I see how the ability to change race later in the game mitigates this problem. Due to roleplaying concerns it's not a great solution for me personally. Also I wonder if it really addresses the main problem -- of new users struggling with a boring decision because they *think* that it's important. For instance, in the Achaea creation process I did not see any mention that race could be re-chosen later. Just starting a new character if you screw up seems like a poor option also, because it sounds demoralizing, and you probably don't want to demoralize a new player who is already likely a bit overwhelmed.

To me the race issue violates two principles of design that I try to adhere to: 1) Do not make a new player think or work before they try the game and have some fun, and 2) Never force new players to make long term decisions before they have enough information.

Those "rules" have made me question the traditional way that race works. Why on earth should very important things like a character's strength or intelligence or HP or mana for the rest of that character's existance be based on a decision they made before they started the game? Perhaps a system where race modifies your starting statistics (or abilities or whatever), but is outweighed by other factors as character development occurs, would be better. Has anyone here tried anything of that nature?

-T
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Old 04-21-2006, 12:18 PM   #10
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Actually, in our system, development of mana and stamina and the like depended upon stats (empathy, strength, et all) more than race, and the rise and fall of stats depended upon how you trained each level. If you spent relatively little time learning magic skills over the course of your career, your mana would be relatively lower.
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Old 04-21-2006, 04:27 PM   #11
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In Ilyrias race, stats and skills are the three important factors. For creation one must choose your stats and race, skills can be chosen later in the game. The way we handled this is:

Step 1, pick a race. There's no short cut to this, we give you a little blurb(that you can choose to read or not) about each race, and their starting stats and (dis)advantages.

Step 2, Adjust your stats. Everyone gets 10 stat "points" to put on top of their racial stats, up to a natural max of 18. It is possible IG to go over 18, but with a diminishing returns on anything over 18. You can choose for random, or even spread(2 in each stat) if you aren't sure where to put them.

Step 3, You can choose a starting skill package. These are predefined packages(like warrior, mage, etc the common fantasy/D&D style names) and the system will automatically give you the appropriate skills.

Every player will be allowed to change race once during the game, and modify their stats once during the game. This means if you're new and after playing a bit realize you made a wrong choice, you can adjust it.

For skills, all skills can be forgotten and other ones selected. Most players that already know the world(alts, or people with friends showing them the game) will probably start blank and choose each skill they want. Skills can be forgotten and learned as often as you want in game, but with a loss of lessons/learns. Those determined to still be a newbie(by level, perhaps time played also) will be able to forget skills with no loss.

We feel doing it this way allows for new players to pick these three important things as quickly as possible, without being stuck with a bad choice forever.
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Old 04-21-2006, 04:33 PM   #12
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On the note of tracking where people leave, we've got a fairly complex system designed. Luckily for us, one of our team members has a lot of experience in web marketing and just loves to sit and watch traffic(a hobby I've picked up lately, it really is interesting to see where your traffic is coming from).

We will track where everyone comes into our site, what part of the site they leave from, and how long they stayed on our site. Then IG we will compare ip's with ip's from the website to see how many unique people are moving from the website to actually playing the game.

After that we will track how many quit during each part of character creation, newbie introduction and if they make it out of "newbiehood."

Doing this will(should) allow us to see what advertisements are doing the best, see how many visitors to our website are being converted, as well as detect any possible bottlenecks IG, and hopefully fix them.
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Old 04-21-2006, 06:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ April 21 2006,08:47)
Gender?  I just randomise it (or base it on the starting concept), unless you select the "Customised" option.  No need to ask the player up-front.
I didn't design the system, so I am not sure why gender (actually I just checked and it is presented as sex, with a choice of male or female) is included as it could easily be assigned in game. I suppose it has something to do with old fashioned psychological ideas about how important gender perception is to identity and social interaction.

I know you aren't really interested in creating a game that runs any deeper than its combat system, but seriously, randomising character sex is a pretty hardcore thing to do  
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Old 04-21-2006, 07:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by (cron0s @ April 22 2006,01:24)
I know you aren't really interested in creating a game that runs any deeper than its combat system, but seriously, randomising character sex is a pretty hardcore thing to do  ???
Why is that hardcore? Gender is just a cosmetic flag - and I allow people to change it whenever they like, so it's no big deal if they don't like what the mud assigns them.

Now 'hardcore' would be the original Gladiator Pits, which didn't even have a concept of gender ;)
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Old 04-22-2006, 09:54 AM   #15
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In Accursed Lands you are limited to three races up front, all of which are pretty well self explanatory, human, mysrra (cat folk), and goblins. The character creation process is a series of life choices in ones youth, and some menu driven choices about certain things to do with appearance.

It may not be as fun as one that has been mentioned above that the person said they made multiple characters with! But, I have found it pretty entertaining. Point being, making character creation fun has to figure in strongly to whether or not people stick around through it to play.
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