I am running a Pendragon game (set on Mars...it's a long story), and got to thinking about the lengthy process of character generation in that system. It takes ages to make a character, certainly in comparison to D&D. There are a lot of choices, a lot of numbers to think about, and a lot of rolls to make. It can easily take an hour.
I don't mind this process. There are horses for courses. Short, speedy character generation works for D&D and similar, because characters are commensurately throwaway and individualistic. D&D characters tend to be men with no names, who appear from the aether as a set of dice rolls. They develop personalities through play, but they are not really part of any social milieu. When they die, it's no biggie. You roll up a new one. The system supports, and implicitly expects, this.
Lengthy, involved character generation works for Pendragon, because the expectations of the game are different. Characters are part of extended social networks. They have families, homes, roles to play in the community. They are not aimless Cugel-esque rogues. They have to do things like looking for wives and punishing criminals.
It's not something that I've particularly considered before, although it's obvious when you think about it, but the longer and more detailed the character generation process for a game is, the more you would expect players to try to avoid character death in the early game. Partly this is because a long, detailed progress involves you in the character more. But mostly I think it's just a function of length. If it takes you an hour to sit down and make up a character, you are going to be much more careful about what happens to the character than if it only takes you 5 minutes - again, with the qualification that it is in the early stages of a game. (Of course, the death of a level 15 D&D character who you've been playing for over a year is going to be a horrible prospect for other reasons.)
It's hard to separate tone from length, of course, and there are so many other variables. Does starting off play with a main character and backup make you less cautious - almost like a moral hazard? What about the role of hit points (perhaps the most important variable)? And what about how enjoyable character generation is? Where the process is more enjoyable, do people mind their character dying less, and thus act more incautiously on a subconscious level?