Black Friday Is Almost Here!
The Inventory team is rounding up deals you don’t want to miss, now through Cyber Monday. Click here to browse!

The Bewildering Technicolor Dreamcoat of the Character Creation Process

Illustration for article titled The Bewildering Technicolor Dreamcoat of the Character Creation Process

See that guy up there at right? That's "Bogeyman," my DC Universe Online homage to the Hobgoblin as created by Roger Stern and John Romita, Sr. back in 1983. I'm damn proud of him, but I can't tell if his colors match, or can even be called "orange" and "blue."


You'd think getting colors right would be an important thing for an MMO based on comic books. But in DC Universe Online, like every game with these color customization options, it seems, I am given color choices that have no descriptions. Not even so much as a palette of primary shades.

It bothers the hell out of me. I was in a Metropolis nightclub when a villain named something like Salad_Goalie came up and asked me why my costume was green and navy. And I spent the next hour tinkering with my costume colors, coming back no more assured of what I was wearing. I was that kid in sixth grade who needed Garanimals. I couldn't match khaki pants to a light blue shirt for God's sake.


Part of my problem is specific to DCUO because the lighting changes in that game's environments really skew the colors. Transit from Metropolis to Gotham and you'll see what I mean. Oh, yeah, yep, I tried making a nekkid lady character, and I know you have too. Her skin has a lustrous olive hue in The City of Tomorrow. In Gotham she looks like a sunburn casualty at midnight.

Do you know what saturation is? Do you know what hue is? Do you know how brightness affects either? Do you know how to create hot pink or sunset orange? If so, congratulations. I don't. At my dad's old newspaper, I wasn't in the press room matching Pantone strips and taking densitometer readings. I was, er, well I was sometimes on the inserting line, but that's beside the point.

How many times have you been running around in an MMO and someone pops in wearing an eyeball-exploding red getup. You see it all the time in DC Universe, and not just with the freakshows who selected "glowing" skin and wear the chrome beetle helmets either. These are people who just wanted to jump in and play the goddamn superhero fantasy, and gave up in the customization menu because they couldn't hit the proper shade of Captain Marvel matte red and just said fuck it, and drove all of the sliders to the extreme left.

My plea here, and I think color-sighted and color blind alike can agree, is the wheels and sliders are fine for advanced users, but for the rest of us, just give us some easy, trusted and above all, named color choices in character creation. A grid of, like, eight or ten. Here's red. Here's orange. Here's royal blue. Here's navy blue. Here's gold. Here's green. Just name them.


Color wheels and sliders are a cop-out when all that most gamers need are some named, trusted color customization choices.

Or, conversely, give us sliders that show numerical values. That I can manage, because working with actual color samples from the Internet, I can get their hue/saturation/brightness or red/green/blue or CMYK or whatever the fuck and know I'm not running around looking like Ronald McDonald when I think I'm Iron Fist. NCAA Football's old Create-a-Team feature was a godsend for this because it actually used RGB values, and with that and a sample from the college's brand management page, I could be sure that I had the University of Denver's official shade of crimson on my helmet.


I realize how petty this sounds. I know part of this is, as I have complained before, because I am color blind, and the more I play video games, the more I realize I see the world through one truly fucked up pair of eyeballs. Purples, greens, yellows, reds, there is no shade that I see with perfect fidelity, it seems.

But avatar customization is also angst-ridden, often ending in disappointment for those with no artistic eye, and that's not a genetic defect. Color is only one part of this. It's why conveniences like Photo GameFace exist in EA Sports titles and why, when they don't work properly (people have complained of creating zombies in Tiger Woods 13) there is such disappointment. It's why the Mass Effect 3 face importation glitch was such a teeth-gnashing disaster.


There are some talented gamers out there—Fight Night's top created fighters, pitting Ron Burgundy versus Borat, are a real showcase. But there are many more people who, even if given Da Vinci's canvas and paints, would just make a refrigerator drawing of themselves.

Hey folks, Something Negative is a rant. Love it or hate it, we all need to blow off steam on Fridays. Let yours out in the comments.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Every time I ever created a custom face in Mass Effect 1 they looked like some kind of warped, irradiated ham-person. Was a relatively normal face even possible?