46 hair styles. 12 voices. 4 tails. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I logged into FFXIV ready for the challenge of character creation, but first had to decide on a few things. The first was choosing a Data Centre aka regional server. The choices were US, EU, and JP. While Japan makes the most sense geographically - and hence maybe a better ping - I chose US mainly for the (assumed) language barrier the JP servers might present.

Next I had to choose a Server, which seemed random. They were bunched into subzones, so I chose Primal, then Hyperion (Legacy). A quick lookup told me that the servers tagged Legacy were from the original launch, so I figured they might have a bit more player history to them. As it turned out I ended up on another legacy server (Excalibur - some kind of genre crime happening there maybe?) as Hyperion was full, which made it strange that it was ever presented as an option.

I do wonder at the wisdom of MMOs making this kind of choice before anything else, as you really don’t know what to choose or why. I guess if you have friends you’re joining it’s easy, but if not they may be better served just assigning you to an appropriately populated world. The ‘onboarding’ isn’t as smooth as you might wish for, but we’re all used to it I guess. And the era of a single virtual server for all players can’t be far off.

After choosing the server, I finally arrived at the character creation. There were eight races on offer, and it was mildly disappointing to find that they followed the SWtOR model: basically humans. Human humans, tall humans, (very) short humans, cat humans, ogre humans, and dragon humans. The final two races - Hrothgar and Viera - were locked down to Shadowbringers expansion owners. Which was unfortunate as a web search revealed that the Hrothgar were the only non-human race by the looks, being male-only lionlike felines. Strange how the first definitely non-human race in SWtOR (the Cathar) were also feline - what is it about cats?

One of these is not like the other

The Viera on the other hand: ick. Basically nearly naked female-only rabbit eared humans? It’s a little unforgivable that they are only women (even if it’s lore-sound), that they are pretty much undressed, and that it sure seems to be pandering to a particular fan. Maybe it’s just the screenshots - I couldn’t see the real thing in game. I’ll give Square-Enix the benefit of the doubt, barely.

For the other races, there are both sexes, and at least the men are as handsome as the women, albeit in far stronger poses for the most part. The Au Ra male at least was nicely fey (something Warcraft tried and abandoned with the Blood Elf males, from memory).

There’s a muscle slider from smooth to chiselled

I settled on an Au Ra female, as they seemed at least a little non-human (part dragon, if the myths are to be believed). And then came the options. The many, many, many options.

Women have bust size, alas men don’t have an equivalent

If you’re like me, creating the right look for a character is very important to feeling a kinship with them. I’ve deleted countless character builds in SWtOR, Warcraft, and GW2 due to a slight miscalculation at creation - wrong horns, skin tone not right, tattoo misplaced - which only shows up once you see the character in motion, so I have to admit to a slight panic when faced with the FFXIV setup. Then I remembered that this is a one month project, and if I decided I liked the game enough to pay for a sub after that, I could spend as long as I needed to get the character just right. Though I suspect I will bond with my first character pretty fast.

Buoyed by this plan, I worked my way through the options until I had something satisfactory. I even quite liked her by the end of the process, so I either got lucky or the options are clever enough to make most things look good.

Amazingly there was still more to come. I had to choose a birth month from an astral calendar, then a deity (who unfortunately you couldn’t see a visual of), and finally my class. Class is normally a fundamental choice you face at the start of any game. It informs everything that comes after, and can have a huge impact on whether you enjoy the game or not. Accordingly I’d normally heavily research this choice before starting a game. Whilst I haven’t played or researched FFXIV in any depth, I had read many blog posts from people like Aywren and Blessing of Kings, and updates on the more general gaming news sites, and from those I think I gleaned that in FFXIV you can basically play all of the classes (or is it ‘jobs’?) on a single character, swapping between them freely. I’m not sure if that’s quite accurate, but it’s enough to make the initial choice far less weighty.

So I chose a Gladiator, because nice armour and shining outlandishly-sized swords are usually a fun place to start. It was either that or a ranged Archer type (pets are usually good company for a solo player), but I’ll start with swift slaying and reckless attack and see how that plays. Interestingly the class choice, rather than race, seemed to determine starting city, so I’m off to the desert city of Ul’Dah to start my adventuring.