Mitch Gross: Writing Samples

Top 10 Character Generation Tips

Posted in Samples by Mitch on January 2, 2009

I’ve spent countless hours with the City of Heroes character generation system trying out many different archeype and power combinations and of course, fun ideas I had for their appearance! I’ve filled two servers (so far) with an ever-changing roster of characters, some of which I’m not even playing but can’t bring myself to delete because they look so cool.

Well, at least I think they do.

Just last night, I was driving home listening to the song “1985” and as soon as I arrived, I ran to the computer, logged in to CoH and created an energy/electric blaster decked out in neon colors, a “Miami Vice” style suit and mohawk! Like, omigod!

Sure, I might not end up playing him much again but I had fun, which is why I am playing this game. Though I have dreams of someday reaching level 50 with a character (especially before Prestige Archetypes arrive), it is just SO much fun making out characters and trying different things.

After all this time spent making characters, I’ve come up with a list of tips that you should consider when making your character. So from the home office in Paragon City, here are my top ten character generation tips:

10. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Especially if you are just starting out in CoH, take some time to look through the different archetypes, powers and costume options. Read up in the manual and online if you want to get even more information. This isn’t a race or work. Making your character sometimes is just as much fun as playing it so take some time and see what you can come up with. There is no pressure and you can take time to make a bunch of characters to try out until you find something you like. Even if you are a dedicated power-leveller who wants to jump into action, it won’t hurt you to take some time to get things “just right” so everyone can see how cool you are!

9. Teal and taupe? UGH!

Unless you like playing in first-person view, you are going to be spending a lot of time looking at your character so make sure the costume design is something you like and can deal with. In the same vein, other people will have to look at your character as well; even though you love bright neon colors, other people in your Supergroup might not want to spend hours during a Taskforce mission being blinded every time you appear on their screens.

8. Does this blue go with electric blast?

When picking the colors of your costume, consider the color effects of your powers. Will they complement each other? Will they make them stand out more? A radiation hero who has a lot of bright green color effects might go with some darker shades to make those effects even more dramatic.

7. Let’s get symbolic!

Take a few minutes to go through all of the symbols and pick an appropriate one. A peace sign might not be the right one for “The Destructive and Bombastic War Guy”.

6. “I’m a loner, kid, I work alone. Wanna team up?”

When picking your archetype and powers, consider whether you primarily want to solo, group or some mix of the two. If you like to solo a lot, you might not want to play a character whose powers are primarily support-oriented. For example, “The Amazing Empathy Guy” might not be the character you make for solo play.

5. You mean there’s more than two colors?

By default, CoH randomly picks two colors for your hero plus a skin tone. All of which you can change of course, but don’t fall into the trap of using just two. Once you’ve picked a couple colors you like you might want to shut off the option to use those two colors on the entire costume and experiment with some others colors as well. Don’t feel like you have to have a rainbow of colors but three or four colors could certainly make things more interesting if they work well together. Certainly a primary color for the chest and pants with a secondary color for gloves, boots, belt, mask and a tertiary color for other accessories and your emblem and a pattern would be better than a two-tone color scheme if you put some thought into it.

4. Accessorize!

A body suit, belt, mask, boots and gloves are not enough! There are a lot of fun accessories and details you can add to your character. Maybe he smokes a cigar, maybe he has a goatee, maybe she has wings on her helmet, maybe she wears sunglasses, etc. Go through all the options and also look at what other people in-game are wearing and have some fun with it.

3. The random button is your friend.

Sometimes I have a great idea for a character template (archetype and powers) but no idea for a name or the look. So I just start hitting the random button and sooner or later something pops up that I like and I mess around with the colors and other settings until everything falls into place. It is pretty amazing in general to just hit that button and see the huge variety of character looks that get generated!

2. Reading is fundamental.

No, the comic publishers didn’t put me up to this one but certainly if you need ideas for character concepts, powers and costumes, your friendly neighborhood comic shop would be a big help. Looking at the material that inspired CoH is a great way to get ideas and to get excited about your character. Just don’t fall into the copycat trap! Get inspired, but don’t read the last five years of X-Men comics, login to CoH and create “Visor Guy” who shoots red force beams from his eyes. Ahem.

It’s also pretty hard to come up with a name sometimes which is why a dictionary and thesaurus (in print or online) are your friend. Sometimes, funny spellings will work too. You can’t use the word “Weird” as it is a title used in-game, so the aforementioned neon-clad energy/electric blaster I created last night was named “Weeird Science” (based on the title of a movie from the 80s). I also considered W3ird Science, We1rd Science, Wyrd Science, etc. as well as names of other movies and people from that time period (St Elmo’s Fire, Real Genius, Kilmer, etc.. The Internet Movie Database and Google are also help here.

And the number one character generation tip:

1. Think about what sex you want your character to be.

Stop looking at me funny! I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of staring at my main character’s leather-clad “man butt” for hours on end. My next character is absolutely going to be a Lara Croft lookalike in short shorts!

Originally published at


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