Pre-Made vs. Custom Characters
When it comes to the use of pre-made vs custom made characters there is not a set rule in the world of RPGs.
However, it could be said that there are three main trends:
Traditionally, eastern style games (Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, etc…), often called JRPGS, make the most use of Pre-Made characters. The player is only given the option to change the names or select which of the characters will be in the adventuring party. The advantage of this style is that it allows the characters to have authentic conversations amongst the members of the group. The conversations are sometimes non-interactive for the player, but they can help advance the narrative. On the other hand, the player does not have as much freedom and it can make for a more linear story.
Player Made Characters
More in keeping with old-school games like Might and Magic, Wizardry and a few other more modern games like Icewind Dale, are games that allow the player to have full control in creating all of the characters that make up the adventuring party. The benefits of this option are that it lets the player identify more with their self-made characters and opens up more possibilities for the player to develop their own strategic ways to play the game.
The limitations of this style is that less narrative story can be implemented through meaningful conversations between the different characters in the party. Most conversations are instead driven by NPCs with a limited number of response options given to the player character.
Player made main character with pre-made group
This is the more modern and common option in RPGs today. Beginning with games like Baldur’s Gate it has also been used in Neverwinter Nights 2, Dragon age and many others. In this setup, the player designs the main character in the story and then later adds pre-made characters to the party as the story progresses. Generally the main character is silent for most of the story except when presented with dialog options. The other characters in the party may have more real story-driving conversations than the main character will actually voice.
Characters in Lords of Xulima
Story is a fundamental part of Lords of Xulima, and the story contained in the first game is just a small part of an elaborate mythology. The plot of this mythology is revealed little by little as the player advances in the game.
When originally conceived, all 6 of the characters were completely pre-made and each had its own personality. Conversations were written for the characters and they had dialogs that were at times intense and dramatic and sometimes touching. The characters were written to evolve throughout the story. Personally, I can’t recall another game where this has been carried out to such an extreme. The characters truly came to life and communicated their emotions.
However, I felt this was betraying the spirit of the old school. I think a fundamental aspect of these games is the way they allow the player to create their own characters in a fashion that I think is lost in many modern games. So with this in mind I decided to do away with the original narrative direction for the characters and take out the conversations and feelings that had been included with the pre-made party.
I still wanted to keep some of the dialogs and intense conversations so the decision was made that the main protagonist would be a pre-made character while the other members of the party would be created by the player.
Gaulen the Explorer
Gaulen is the protagonist and will have numerous, often intense, conversations with the rest of the major characters of the story. He also represents the player because he too will make decisions at key points of the story and dialogs.
We believe that this balance gives us the best of both worlds in the pre-made vs custom made question. On the one hand the player can personalize the party to a great extent while also enjoying a strong character-driven narrative and interactive conversations.