In very broad terms the process of character creation can be broken down into three aspects:
1. Generation - rolling stats, rolling lifepaths, etc.
2. Concept - "I want to play an angsty drow elf that is trying to right the wrongs of his past..."
3. Mechanics - builds, min/max-ing, "controller", etc.
Moving from "old school" D&D to the latest edition, character creation has focused on different aspects.
The oldest versions of D&D focused more on the Generation aspect - roll 3d6, six times in order and see what you get. The Concept and Mechanics resulted out of the Generation. I pick a Fighter (mechanics) because my strength is the highest and his charisma is so low because he was caught in a fire when marauding orcs burnt down his village (concept).
The newest versions of D&D focus more on the Mechanics - 4th edition's "roles", the need for a healer in 3.5E, etc. The balance and structure of the rules requires that the Mechanical aspects of a character be at the forefront. The Generation aspect has been minimized by first using point-buy systems to generate attribute scores and then by codifying a fixed number of hit points instead of rolling.
I would suggest that 2E is the version that most focuses on the Concept aspect of character creation. In yet another way, 2E is the red-headed step child. To me, it is the most "story"-focused of the versions of D&D and how your character fits into that story, the Concept, is a central part of the character generation.
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