You know I’m always excited when character creators come out that let you tweak the smallest detail on your characters. Whilst not everyone is going to notice that your character has blue eyes or their unique facial structure there’s always a small sense of pride that what you’ve created is unique in some way. Such in depth customization of your avatar have only become commonplace recently, as the time and effort put in to making such a system is often overlooked by a gamer who’s only intent is to get into the game and play it. There’s also the possibility, a la Oblivion, that no matter what you do your character still comes out looking like they’ve got something horribly wrong with them.
Primarily in depth character customization has stayed well away from the realms of MMORPGs, and with good reason. Players of this genre are masters of the min-max ideals and will take any advantage in order to get ahead of anyone else. With games like World of Warcraft this was usually around tradeskills and if you were going to roll a new character, the race as well. However in Aion there are no benefits for being a particular race or having a certain trade, but there is an advantage in height. In essence a smaller character is much harder to click on, and when your primary game focus is player vs player combat (well PvPvE, but that’s another post in itself) it gives you quite the advantage if your enemy has trouble trying to target you. This was an often lamented issue back in the beginnings of WoW with the Gnome race.
So this of course lead to around 50% of the player base creating characters that were exceptionally small in order to gain a small advantage over their larger sized adversaries. I’m sure the developers gave people this much freedom as it allowed them to only have 2 races whilst letting people differentiate themselves out as they see fit (some of the options are distinctly dwarven/gnomish, like braided beards). However the majority of characters aren’t of this persuasion, they’re just scaled down versions of what the player wanted them to be.
I had no issue with the differing sizes in World of Warcraft mostly because when you opted to choose a gnome you were stuck with the look. It proved to work out well with the majority of the WoW population choosing either Human or Night Elf, as they wanted a good looking character and PvP benefits be damned. In Aion however the unlimited creation possibilities allow users to just have shrunk versions of their perfected selves which takes away the significance of the sacrifice that had to be made when other games gave you a hit box advantage like this. Additionally a world that is populated with characters that are either normal height or tiny versions of themselves breaks any feel of immersion that the game tries to generate, especially when the animations for running have to sped up significantly in order to make them move appropriately according to their speed. At least WoW had some transitional races (Human -> Dwarf -> Gnome) which are (not-so) surprisingly missing in the world of Aion.
It is, in short, a joke.
There’s one simple solution to this problem, and that’s to make the hit box the same size regardless of your character. I know this isn’t currently the case in Aion (trying to click those pesky little people has proved frustrating so far) but it would be an easy change and would eliminate the need for users to needlessly butcher their otherwise beautiful characters. I can understand some people wanting to play an avatar of small stature and fully support them in doing so, but the ridiculous abuse of the system just pokes fun at a system designed to create unique avatars and nothing more.
Am I just having a whinge about a small aspect of an otherwise good game? Probably, and I guess my anger is more directed at the players doing this than anyone else since they’re now choosing their appearance based on advantages rather than they want to look. Or maybe I have a thing against playing in a field of short people, who knows. 😛