The Character Creation Process

I would like to thank Sam Natale for helping with the coding of this data set.

How do people decide what character to create? Do they always pick certain character classes? Do they carefully read through class descriptions before deciding? Do they go by their gut reaction? To get players to talk about the process they use, I asked respondents to imagine that they had just joined a new MMO and were about to start a new character. I asked them to describe the process they used to create their first character and in particular what factors were most important to them in this process. We then took the open-ended responses and came up with a set of codes and then coded through 500 responses. Below is the distribution of codes, in descending order, along with examples of what players said.

Class Type (20%) Players in this category have a certain class type they prefer and will always go for that type when it is available.

It would be a druid caster, preferably of the healing specialty but magic DPS would work as well. [WoW, M, 41]

First and foremost I'd look at Ranged Damage Dealers, mostly mages. Look for the one that looks like it'll do the most base damage as well as being unique to its origins (IE the Herald of Xotli in Age of Conan). [Age of Conan, M, 21]

Class Abilities (17%) Players in this category look for particular aspects of character classes that are often independent of class types. This may be the most overpowered class, the class that is most challenging to play, or the class with the most crowd control abilities. In a sense, these players are trying to maximize for a factor that is sometimes but not necessarily tied to particular classes.

I look for the race/class with the least magic and the most 'toys'. That usually ends up being the ranger or hunter class. [Pirates of the Burning Sea, M, 38]

I try to discover sort of character is good at both group and solo play, capable enough to solo without dying _TOO_ often and with at least one attribute that's desirable for groups. This is usually a combination of race and class. [EQ, F, 61]

Race Aesthetic (11%) Players in this category look through the available races and pick the race that most interests them as their first decision.

I first look for the race I like the look of best (generally something pretty), then look for the healer class or a ranger/pet class. I pick one or the other depending on class abilities given by the particular game. My characters are always female (as I am in RL). [EQ, F, 50]


Game-Play Factors (10%) Players in this category are trying to optimize for a game-play factor, whether it is soloability, utility in groups, end-game utility, etc.

Research which classes are easiest to level/most in demand in endgame, etc. Beyond that I go by aesthetics for race (I like pretty humanoid races) and class (I prefer finesse style melee to strength style melee) [WoW, M, 22]

I look for character classes that have high grouping potential. If there is a healer class, I'll look at those; i prefer healers that have a good array of buffs. I also like melee classes that can cast spells. I'll look at the pure casters, but if they are just nukers, I won't roll a character in that class. [EQ, M, 54]

Class Research (7%) Players in this category have no preference for class types or class abilities, but they base their character creation primarily on choosing a class. So they first read through all the class descriptions and then pick the one that most interests them.

I look through what the role of each of the classes is and then pick the class that I find most interesting. I then choose the race whose stats best fit that class. Unless I really dislike the look of a race, the appearance of the race doesn't influence my decison. [FFXI, M, 23]

General Appearance (5%) Players in this category use character appearance as the primary decision factor in creating their character. They try to find a race/class combination that has a look that appeals to them regardless of functionality.

I start a female character first. I like pretty characters, both male and female. That's why I don't like to start horde characters although they are pretty neat to play [WoW, M, 43]

In fantasy MMOs, how plate armor looks is important to me as that is what I'm more then likely to be wearing, and in sci-fi MMOs, how the ships look with guns blazing is something I pay some attention to. [WoW, M, 20]

Specific Combo (5%) Players in this category have very specific race + gender + class combinations that they will go for first if available. Oftentimes, players in this category are role-playing and have a character concept in mind that they are trying to fill.

A female, likely human, of a warrior-like or otherwise nonmagical class. Appearance should be nice, without being overly attractive. Starting area, if not purely determined by race, should be a mildly peaceful 'normal' area. My intent is to have a character unlikely to have an unintuitive way of fighting (charge and slash at things) while still being a character I'd like to eventually have as my main. [WoW, M, 19]

I mostly have an image of the character I want to play in mind, so I compare my image to the classes and according skills/stats/powers to see what fits my idea best. Starting zones are mostly irrelevant. [City of Heroes, M, 28]


The remaining categories have fewer than 5% of codes and will be described briefly without examples.

Race Type (4%) Players in this category always go for a particular race if it is available.

Companion Complement (4%) Players in this category create a character that best complements a friend or romantic partner they are playing the game with.

Gut Reaction (3%) Players in this category do what feels right and fun at the moment.

Uncommon (2%) Players in this category research what the most uncommon character is and create that.

Alts (2%) Players in this category will create many characters at once to try them out and then after a while pick one as their main.

Racial Abilities (1%) Players in this category will first look at racial abilities and start there.

Starting Area (1%) Players in this category will find the starting area that appeals to them most and go from there.

Given the large number of codes and the limited number of coded responses, I did not look into age or gender differences as the cell sizes would have been too small to be reliable.