Everything that is wrong with this system and then some
Note: I am writing this based off from what I've saw in the alpha, beta, screenshots, images and what more Rare had shed on the matter (i.e. nothing)
The idea is that no two pirates will look the same, even if, like most players, you simply hit the "play now" button and go with whatever design you're given.
This is a horrendous way to start such an open game- which is ironic considering how the dev wants you to make your own legend / be the pirate you want to be; but it wouldn't let you look like who you want to look like. What is even worse is the fact that there will be no way to change or to back out once you select the core character model. What I hate the most about this system is there is no going back to random character model you've seen X draws ago.
Rare made the point that in many other games of this nature, players often simply stick with the default skin. In a game world that revolves around player-generated lore and personal legends, encountering pirates that look identical 75 percent of the time would potentially infringe upon that idea.
I can't sufficiently stress how flawed this argument is and how it fails to understand the motivations behind why players usually skim through the character customization.
Players usually do not stick with default skins. Look up play-throughs of Fallout 4, Skyrim and Dragon's Age Inquisition and you can see most people had simply used the preset model as a starting point to tweak to their desire.
The only games that I've used the default models was in the Mass Effect Trilogy, Andromeda and Divinity Original Sin 2. In Divinity Original Sin 2, picking a default character had extra content or unique dialogue (two things that are not applicable to SoT), while the Mass Effect custom characters looks like a sack of potatoes compared to the beautifully rendered default characters and NPCs. Here is the thing, every NPC and character appears to be made from the same character customization system. Meaning your character will not look like out of place nor inferior.
To clarify, people don't skim through customization out of laziness, it's to skim through disappointment. Rare, this randomization system will spoon-feed us disappointments.
Instead of asking players to do the heavy lifting, spending hours to design a unique and memorable pirate face, Rare will do it for you
If the technical alpha and closed beta are signs of the "heavy lifting" the game has to offer, I rather spend an hour of tweaking sliders than randomizing models over an hour and in great frustration end up compromising on something I had no intention of playing only because by then I realise the best draw I had was 8 draws ago. For the love of Kraken, I DO NOT want to go through that after waiting so long time for this game.
Truth to be told, I suspect Rare is going with the random system because they either could not get it working or did not have the time to finish it - latter of which is worse because of the character being permanent.
What can be done instead?
Focus on maintaining uniqueness not through constrictions but through choice.
I recommend this for example,
- Gender. From what I've saw in the screenshots, there is no filter for
- All players begin with 8 randomized characters, with the possibility of drawing another 8.
- Players can then change major features along the lines from a list of pre-defined assets available:
- eye color
- nose shape
- face shape
- ears shape
- This is optional but if uniqueness is the goal, let players pull and stretch out like in Fallout 4 to customize their characters further. Bear in mind, Bethesda didn't add in numbers to these sliders so it'll highly unlikely to completely replicating another character model by simply "eye-ing" it.