Thoughts on Customizing your Ride

Made popular with series such as Need for Speed and Midnight Club, the ability to customize the look and performance of your vehicle is now almost part and parcel of the racing genre.  What about other types of “rides” in other games? Why not have the ability to customize them as well?

I got to thinking on this as I thought about how many games have horses in them; there are quite a few Western- and fantasy-themed games, so horses are usually the primary means of travel that’s faster than running. Yet horses seem to be treated as irrelevant.

Take GUN, for example. Like many other games, you pick up a horse just as you would a car in a Grand Theft Auto title–see one off to the side, grab it, and go.  There are different models for the horses, but it doesn’t really matter.  In fact, when loading screens pop up, such as when you exit a mission, the model of your horse changes.  It gives it all more a feel like the horses aren’t any more important than your boots.

What I’d like to see is the player given as many customization options for their horse in a Western-themed game as they have for their car in a racing game.  One way it could work is that you’re given a choice of horses at the start—let’s say the Palomino is quick but lacking in stamina, the chocolate-colored one can trot forever but can’t go that fast, and the grey one can leap nearly anything in her path.  You pick one, and off you go.

To upgrade their performance, you train them.  Similar to racing games where you pick what performance aspect you want to upgrade, it doesn’t necessarily need to be much more involved than going to the stable and selecting what you want to train the horse in from a menu.

Customizing the looks would be no less interesting than their vehicle counterparts.  You could start with just your horse and basic rigging, and upgrade it to be a visually stunning creature.  Taken from WoWWiki, this compilation of a normal horse and an “epic” (read: really fantastic) shows one possibility:

Me, I’m one of those gamers who picks out one method of transportation as “theirs”.  In GUN, for example, I was always fond of the Appaloosa.  I’m certainly not alone in that, either, and it extended beyond horse-centered games.  In Need for Speed, I always went after the Dodge Viper SR-10 with a certain set of paints and decals.  I might have created others beside it, but that one was always my go-to car, just like the Appaloosa was always my go-to horse.

There are plenty of horse-centered games out there, and have been for a little while.  Encouraging a player to make one “theirs”, to customize it just as much as their car in their favorite racing game, would only be a good thing.  It would only let players enjoy the video game that much more.


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