New Portraits aka WoD alpha

Count me as completely unimpressed with the new character creator.

No really, it’s not particularly good. It loses the flavor of Eve. Avatars dwell in the uncanny valley, too realistic to be cartoons and too unrealistic to be believable. But worst of all, it’s utterly incomplete. It looks to me like something barely in apha. And that’s, I suspect, exactly what it is, an early alpha test for World of Darkness.

First, let’s look at what it does do. It has a lot of very intricate sliders for different body and facial shapes. That part works and it works pretty well. It’s why people can do gimmick portraits of Freddie Mercury looking really really gay or a fat Conan O’Brien.

But it’s pretty lacking in most other features. There are, as far as I can tell, a choice of three different options for each clothing item. And those are limited to two colors, brown or black, in roughly three shade levels from tan and grey to dark brown and black. Not all items are available in all colors.

Hair options are pretty dismal. Several of the options come off as “hair helmets” and the color options are pretty mediocre and don’t allow for any sort of rebalancing between root and dye color. Nor do they allow dying all the way to the roots. Makeup choices are similarly very limited and you can have blue hair and blue lipstick, but the two blues are incompatible shades. Glasses are great, as long as you want dark aviator glasses.

If we’re supposed to play barbies (and I own a load of Sims games and play Second Life so don’t think I’m immune to playing internet barbies), we need a lot more options.

Then there’s the interface. Most everyone sees the four snapshot options and immediately thinks they will get the chance to create four different looks and switch them. But that’s not the case. You only get one avatar and after you save it, you’re done. You just get to take 4 different snapshots before choosing one and saving it. Then you need to petition for a change, at least during the period when free changes are allowed. It’s strange and honestly makes me wonder if the four portrait slots aren’t there for some feature that didn’t get included.

The resulting avatar is also perfect example of what’s call “the uncanny valley.” It’s a hypothesis, which I certainly believe to be true, that as representations (originally robots) become more and more realistic, they reach a point where suddenly they become very unrealistic and offensive. The notion is when it gets close to real, but isn’t quite real, it just looks creepy. Like a waxwork. Or a corpse.

Finally, where is the flavor of Eve? Where are the bizarre looking Amarrians and all of that stuff? Everyone looks very. Normal. Even mundane. And not at all deep space, but more like some kind of modern cyberpunk thing.

Oh, isn’t CCP making some new cyberpunk game?