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September 7th, 2009, 11:23
I really like the solution in Mass Effect, where the main character is only known as "Commander Shepard". That way, you still get to customize the character to a certain degree, and choose sex, but the developers are still able to build a decent story around the character.

It's something of a hybrid, but I like that solution.

Beyond that, I prefer recruiting interesting NPCs over making them. It adds to the story. A good solution would probably be:
- Let's say we have 5 character slots, 1 for the main character.
- 8-10 recruitable NPCs to recruit (4 available slots).
- The ability to custom build your own party instead of using the NPCs that you meet during the game. You can decide to create the main character + 2 NPCs, and recruit 2 NPCs later on (Baldur's Gate had such a system, but only if you started a multiplayer game).

Also, it's not a bad idea to increase the number of slots through game, for example based on Charisma (like in Arcanum). That way, even the later NPCs you find might be interesting (as you might just get an extra slot at level 30). I generally like the Arcanum solution a lot, where you can decide to either make a tougher main character, or a more charismatic one relying on henchmen/persuasive non-combat options.
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