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Pre-Character Customization Gameplay

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Character Customization is an increasingly common element of modern video games. It can also be an extremely time-consuming process (especially with how complex character generation has become) that gives the game an extremely slow start. So game developers will occasionally give players the best of both worlds by teasing them with an introductory bit of gameplay to give them an idea of the core gameplay loop before plopping them into the character generation screen to spend the next hour or two making sure their character looks and plays just right.

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Naturally, this requires some clever tricks to mask the fact that your protagonist essentially has no appearance. If the game is in first person, this is easy enough, but some developers will do things like put you in control of a completely different character, or cover the protagonist from head to toe, so the player can't make out any details about them. If there are several voices available for the Player Character, the game may require you to pick one of them before the introductory gameplay section (often combined with picking their gender), or just render them mute for the duration or equip them with a voice changing gadget.

Often overlaps with A Taste of Power. Compare also Crutch Character.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Fighting Game 
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse opens with the player controlling Goku throughout history battling Frieza, Cell, and Kid Buu. It then lets you create your own, fully-customized superpowered fighter to play as for the rest of the game.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • Most Choice of Games stories begin In Medias Res with the player character dealing with an immediate, very specific problem that sets the scene. Only after that does the narration stop to ask the player what their name, gender, and any other identifying features may be, sometimes in the form of a flashback to allow the player to establish the character's backstory.

    Platform Game 
  • Sonic Forces begins with a Sonic stage. After clearing that stage, you get a series of cutscenes before you get to create your own Player Character.
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    Role-Playing Game 
  • Dark Souls II allows the player, clad in completely concealing clothingnote , to wander about an intro area before entering the Firekeepers' house where customization takes place. It's not only possible to fall to your death here, but there's even a branching path leading to a fight with an ogre (this is before you even have access to any weapons or equipment, so most players will simply meet a grisly death.)
  • In Dragon Age II, you start by selecting Hawke's sex and class, but not appearance. You then begin the intro scene, with the default/iconic version of Hawke effortlessly slaughtering waves of bad guys. The game then cuts to its Framing Device, where it's revealed that this is a story being told by one of your future party members while under interrogation, and his interrogator suspects he's making it up. He admits he's exaggerating to play up to the legend that Hawke has become, and the scene restarts, this time allowing you to select what Hawke 'really' looks like.
  • Dragon's Dogma has the player control a completely different Arisen who will eventually go on to become the Seneschal in a segment occurring years before the events of the game.
  • A frequent occurance in The Elder Scrolls series:
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind starts with you waking up on a prison ship and being ordered to speak to a sequence of Imperial officials who ask you questions about your background, allowing you to customize your character. Notably, you cannot toggle the third-person view until you've picked your appearance.
    • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's tutorial level, you select your Birthsign and Class, which convey innate abilities and skill specialties, when the Emperor and his bodyguard ask the player character about them partway through. The bodyguard might lampshade it if your Class is completely at odds with the skills you've used thus far.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim opens with you in a cart taking you towards your execution by beheading. You cannot move freely, but you can look around and trade a few phrases with fellow prisoners, before an Imperial official in charge of the execution asks you about your race and name for the records.
  • Mass Effect 2 opens with a surprise attack on the Normandy where you control Shepard, clad from head to toe in N7 armour, rushing to the cockpit to save Joker. Only after that you get to customise their appearance (before then you could only pick their gender).
  • In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, you first gain control of the protagonist in The Inbetween, the place where souls go when they're separated from the body. Here, the Watcher appears as a vaguely humanoid blob of purple light and mist as they wander along a path while the previous game is briefly recapped, then chat with a psychopomp who handles the chargen process. Once that's done, your soul form changes to a transparent purple version of the selected character model, and shortly afterwards you wake up in your customised body.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Some tabletop RPG campaigns, such as Vecna Lives! from Dungeons & Dragons, start the players off with a group of premade characters, then replace them with characters made by the players. There are also campaigns where you start off as zero-level peasants with no class skills and, should you survive, get to roll up a level one adventurer based on the original character.
  • Character generation in most New World of Darkness game lines involves starting with a Muggle and then adding the appropriate supernatural template. These games propose an optional "prelude" chapter to play out how said Muggle got bitten by a vampire, Awakened to magic, had their First Change into a werewolf, and so on.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Utilized in both Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row 4. The former has The Boss and their underlings all dress up in Johnny Gat outfits (complete with gloves and oversized bobbleheads) and use voice modulators while they rob a bank and get into a massive shootout with the police. The latter includes a mission where The Boss infiltrates a military facility to kill Cyrus Temple from the previous game, this time dressed in full-body combat armor with helmet and being unable to say anything due to a broken radio. And even before this is a cutscene showing The Boss sitting on a massive ornate throne wearing a suit of Powered Armor that they acquired just before the Final Boss battle.

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