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“Ten minutes playing through tutorials, and then two hours in face customization.” This is a saying widely accepted among players of modern MMORPG games.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

August 29, 2023

8 Min Read

“Ten minutes playing through tutorials, and then two hours in face customization.”

This is a saying widely accepted among players of modern MMORPG games.

In recent years, the face customization system has gradually become a standard feature of role-playing games (RPGs), and many players are addicted to it.

In games with socialization functions, when players play their customized game avatars, they project their expectations of themselves onto these avatars and behave more friendly and enthusiastic in game social interactions because of the avatar's beautiful appearance, which influences their behavior to be more similar to that of the avatar.

The face customization of modern game characters is becoming increasingly sophisticated, allowing players to approach their ideal game character image through these highly customizable options. From the early days of only being able to change facial features, hairstyle, and body shape from a given set of templates, the face and character customization system has evolved to allow for adjustment of size, position, and rotation in hundreds of customizable dimensions, with a level of detail that most players feel impressive.

At the same time, while the increased freedom and detail satisfy the ultimate pursuit of character customization experts, the system also presents a barrier to entry for beginner players. In game communities, we hear more from experts who express their needs for character customization, while the voice of ordinary players is often overlooked. This blog has summarized the feedback of ordinary players in various game character customization tests, analyzed how to enhance the experience of them in complex character customization systems, and provided examples from different games.

  1. Increasingly powerful face customization system

The use of the face- customization feature in game is roughly divided into two types: preset selection and fine-tuning. In the preset selection, you can choose your favorite style from several options provided, and directly use this style to enter the game, or you can choose to enter the fine-tuning mode. In fine-tuning mode, players can adjust the size, position, direction, color, brightness, and other parameters of each part of the face step by step. It is not an exaggeration to say that there are one thousand parameter results for one thousand players.

And for most games, fine-tuning is divided into three major categories: shape tuning, makeup, and hairstyle.

The current facial shape tuning function covers almost every muscle in the face, as an example in the game "Revelation Mobile", there are up to 36 subdivision modules in the facial shape section alone, and each module has 4-6 parameter settings. Shape tuning will cover most of the face shape, eyebrows, eyes, nose, and mouth, each part is subdivided into multiple sub-regions for adjustment. In the adjustment of eyebrows, in addition to the major projects such as eyebrow shape, eyebrow position on the face, and eyebrow spacing, the position of the eyebrow tip, middle and end is also open for custom adjustment. Moreover, "Revelation Mobile" also features the adjustment of the ear part, players can adjust the ear angle, and sharpness, etc.

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The makeup system can add more personalized settings to the face based on shaping, fashion sense and atmosphere. The makeup customization generally includes several core components - eyebrow makeup, eyeliner and eyeshadow, eyelashes, contact lenses, blush, lip, facial accessories, and skin tone, or overall facial contouring and highlighting. Players can customize the style, color, and concentration of each part of the makeup. In more some other games, players can even adjust specific areas to achieve color and blending effects.

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Compared to the previous two parts, the complexity of the hairstyle customization is obviously much simpler. The function of this part is mainly achieved through preset styles, and players can choose from more than ten hairstyles. In some games with high freedom, players can customize the length of their hair, the position of their braids, etc., and the hair color can also be adjusted through a full-color palette. Even gradient colors can be set.

  1. Non-professional players who are confused by the system

After the above review, it is clear that although the phrase "face customization" may seem simple, it covers a very rich content. With such high freedom comes high threshold; the more customizable options there are, the harder it is for players to find their own direction, especially new players. In user research, many players have said that, "I can customize faces, but in the end I use presets or just buy pictures and then import. I can't really do customization well and get frustrated after a while.”

Most ordinary players will express themselves very kindly, saying "it's their own problem ". But in actual experience, it is difficult and helpless emotions occur, because they feel frustrated by the feeling of failure in customizing their appearances and lack of confidence, which is a real problem in many cases.

Specifically, under the high threshold brought by high degree of freedom in face customization, ordinary players (or non-expert customizers) may face the following difficulties when using the custom appearance function.

The first type of difficulty: the naming of various facial structures in the high degree of freedom face customization system is too professional, and there is knowledge threshold. In a highly flexible face customization system, a face can be divided into dozens of components, which are professional names for human facial muscle structure or makeup, and each part has multiple adjustment methods and directions. Players who are not familiar with these in their daily lives are inevitably confused by "what is this? And what is that? It looks too similar".

Without enough face-customization experience, some players often need to spend more time looking and trying one by one to figure out what each part of adjustment is responsible for, and the final combination effect may not be satisfactory. The joy of DIY may be missing.

The second dilemma is: some players lack facial aesthetic knowledge and are unclear about how to achieve the expected feel and effect through specific customizations. Just like people who don't pay attention to makeup, when they first learn makeup, they don't know how to highlight, how to draw eyeliner and eyeshadow to achieve the makeup feel they like. For non- master and new customization players, it is similar: lack of systematic aesthetic and makeup knowledge makes it difficult to get started.

The third dilemma is: The ability of ordinary players combining the overall facial aesthetics is insufficient, and the combination of various parts they create is far from their target faces. Players have their own preferences for the specific appearance of some facial features, but their control over the overall customization is relatively vague. When a player spends a lot of time and effort adjusting each part one by one, but after combining them, they find that although each part is roughly what they want and looks good, the whole face is not coordinated and good-looking. They try to modify but feel the pain of "not knowing where to start", "what to change to make the face distinctive".

  1. New demands of ordinary players in a high degree of customization freedom design

Many game developers have noticed the difficulties that non-professional players face when experiencing the face customization system, and have come up with a series of solutions to reduce the control and knowledge thresholds, allowing players to enjoy the fun of thousands of faces. In terms of specific face customization system settings, the solutions can be divided into the following categories.

Type 1: Divide the system into two modes - easy and expert - allowing players of different levels of expertise to find the appropriate level of freedom.

Generally speaking, in the simple mode, the customizable parts are less, with fewer adjustable parameters, suitable for players who pursue overall effects but do not pay much attention to details; in the expert mode, the parts that can be adjusted are more detailed, with richer adjustable parameters, suitable for professional players who pursue high precision.

Type 2: Provide a large number of optional templates to help players locate the overall effect they want. Including:

  • Prepare a number of preset faces, eye shapes, eyebrow shapes, lip shapes and other styles. Players can create exquisite faces simply by combining various templates.

  • Randomly customize the face, and players can directly choose your favorite one from a large number of randomly generated appearances.

  • In the face-customizing sharing lobby, players can directly use popular facial templates, or obtain sharing codes on external sharing platforms for one-click import.

  • Provide different concepts of face shaping and customization, and players can choose the key word of effects they want to achieve through the system.

Type 3: Give reset, undo, restore, and save functions to allow players to undo their customization in real time and reduce the cost of trial and error.

The character creation system in games usually includes two basic functions: "undo" and "recover", allowing players to easily compare each modification before and after. At the same time, some games also have built-in functions to restore the initial state and reset the current part, allowing players to reset the entire area or part directly with one click in case of dissatisfaction.

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Type 4: Using AI technology to assist players in visualizing from concept to image, creating their desired facial features in one step. This includes customization from photos, real-time AR expressions, text-based face customizations, etc.

  1. Summary

The character customization function in RPG games is becoming increasingly powerful, but high freedom often comes with high thresholds, bringing a series of experience difficulties for non-hardcore players. Game developers could take some measures to reduce the control and knowledge threshold, so that non-professional customization players can also enjoy the pleasure of creating faces they love.

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