Appearance system pros and cons

I’m not strongly motivated by the appearance of my characters; I’d rather they avoid the pastel-shades pyjamas look of the early Burning Crusade era WoW, but so long as the clothes aren’t jarringly mixed styles I’m generally ok. Some MMORPGs make this easier than others, through a variety of methods that collectively I’ll just label appearance systems.

No transmog needed for a Boomkin…

Some games make these systems into actual gameplay features, others treat them as a rather meta-level feature that is just there to use. The latter type allows you to change your current gear’s appearance, usually by replacing an item’s appearance with that of another that was previously owned without affecting the current item’s stat bonuses or other gameplay benefits.

World of Warcraft, transmogrification

Generally I’m a fan of these simple and easy to use systems, since as I noted character appearance isn’t that big a deal to me. I acknowledge that to other players making outfits for your characters is a big part of gameplay, even a self-made type of content if you will. But it’s just not that motivating for me. I’ve never been interested in doing transmog runs of old raids in World of Warcraft (transmogrification is Blizzard’s term for WoW’s appearance system). The transmogrification system is deep and fairly easy to understand. It’s nice that you have a catalogue of collected appearances per item type/slot, and can even optionally see uncollected possible looks. However, I have two issues with WoW’s transmog system that make me very unlikely to use it. Firstly unless you have an eye-wateringly expensive mount, you can only transmog at NPCs in major cities – and you know that as soon as you pay some gold to create a new transmog outfit, the very next dungeon run will see something drop that ruins the look – travelling back to the transmog NPC every time you want to change looks isn’t fun gameplay in my view. It also goes against other streamlining that Blizzard has implemented in the past, when glyphs were first introduced you had to go to a special station in major cities to apply them (sound familiar?). Secondly there are a number of rather silly restrictions on transmog, not a being able to transmog to weapons you cannot wield, nor transmog to white or grey quality items (despite some of those having really unique or cool RP looks).

I *really* should transmog that helmet…

Star Wars the Old Republic, custom gear and colour-harmony

Star Wars the Old Republic launched with an unusual system with the orange-quality custom gear that was/is mostly about its appearance as all the stats come from purchased or crafted modifications that you slot onto the gear. It’s kind of the opposite of the normal way of applying older gear’s appearance to whatever you are currently wearing. At some point while I was away from the game the custom armour system was sidelined/expanded on with the outfit system. I’ve not really investigated the system in more recent returns to SWTOR, though I do greatly appreciate the “match to chest” option to do a colour-sync across gear based on the pallet of the chest armour. That’s a super-simple and super-easy way of making most sets of gear look half-decent with one check box.

Lord of the Rings Online, simple and powerful
One of the better appearance systems that I actually use is in Lord of the Rings Online because of just how useful the wardrobe system is (having a special bank for appearance gear is rather nice) and how easy it is to maintain a look as you level up and gear up.

Everquest 2, appeance gear *and* mounts

A second notable mention is Everquest 2. It has an equally intiuitive appearance gear system, but uniquely (I think) you can have appearance mounts – so you can use a specific mount for its speed or stat bonuses, but use the radically different appearance of another mount because you happen to like its looks. Again, that’s something I do use when I’m playing in Norrath.

Which style of appearance system do you prefer? Are there any must-have features?

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9 Responses to Appearance system pros and cons

  1. Pallais says:

    Engineers that have learned Battle for Azeroth engineering have the ability to make a “Portable Attire Rearranger” that will let you transmog your gear. I believe it doesn’t require engineering to use so you should be able to find those on the auction house. Much cheaper than having the mount.

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    EQ2 has two systems, both good. There’s the old, very simple “Appearance” window, where you can just drop the item whose appearance you want to see into the relevant slot and it will override the look of what you have in that slot on your main character window. Then there’s the Wardrobe, where you can add armor and weapons for each slot into a permanent image store for each slot. I use that all the time. You have to buy more slots with DB Cash, but they are extremely cheap. I spend ages looking at stuff and deciding what to put in there. GW2 has a similar system which I also like.

    In WoW, I have yet to successfully find a Transmog NPC (I have looked and failed several times) and I didn’t even know LotRO had an appearance system, so I’ll have to look into that one!

  3. I have always found EQII’s original “Appearance” tab to be the most user friendly of the bunch. As Bhagpuss notes, you just drop the piece of gear in the slot on that tab and you get that look. And the piece of gear stays there, as opposed to some sort of copy or image of the gear. I have never bothered with the wardrobe there.

    WoW’s transmog has the advantage of allowing you to see all the gear you have saved and to play dress up on your paper doll. The annoying bit is that the look you choose applies to the gear and not to you, so if you get a new piece of gear you have to go back and redo your look. Also, it costs gold to do that.

    I find LOTRO to be something of pain on this front. But part of that is the LOTRO UI is tiny and awkward. It is just annoying to try on gear and annoying to find it in their wardrobe. Your outfits do, however, stick with you as you change gear, so once I have a look I generally don’t change it.

  4. In my opinion, the best system actually comes from Rift. It’s super clean, and super-easy to use.

    It’s a little bit like LOTRO, but instead of having a bank of saved gear, every piece appearance is saved like in WoW’s transmog system. Basically the best of both systems.

    There’s a picture in my post on Rift Prime.

    • Telwyn says:

      I almost included Rift in my comparison, but then I couldn’t find any images and it seemed reductive to add yet another similar system in, it is excellent though I do agree.

  5. Shintar says:

    What in the world is the mount in that EQ 2 screenshot? Looks like the unholy offspring of a raptor and a cow, lol. Anyway, as far as mounts go, Neverwinter lets you freely combine mount appearances and abilities too these days.

    I remember the appearance designer in LOTRO only as one of a bazillion tabs that popped up at a bad time while levelling and I never ended up using it, though I can’t remember why. Either I was locked out of it as a completely free player at the time or I just couldn’t figure out how to use it, so not sure it’s really that simple…

    • Telwyn says:

      I believe they’re called Bovoch, one of the many unique mounts you can get. I actually transmog flying mounts more than ground ones, but as usual I couldn’t find a good screenshot of that in the time I had available…

  6. I’m sure you know by now that virtual fashion is one of my biggest motivators in gaming (despite or perhaps because of the fact I’ve never been very motivated to put much effort into my IRL appearance).

    Of the systems I’ve played with, I think SWTOR’s is the best mechanically. It’s easy to use, not super expensive to unlock, and you can create appearances using any gear, even if your class can’t equip it. I especially like how easy it is to save multiple outfits and swap between them with just one click. I’m always going back and forth between different outfits as appropriate for the situation. Story cutscene? Put on my formal wear. Going to Hoth? Put on some heavy duty armour to keep out the cold. Chatting with companions? Let’s throw on a casual jacket.

    The only downside is SWTOR’s low quality graphics make most of the gear pretty ugly, so it’s not as exciting as it otherwise could be.

    TSW’s system of totally separating clothing and gear with stats is a very close second, but it loses some points for lacking the ability to save and swap between favourite looks like you can in SWTOR.

    WoW’s transmog does its job, but it has too much restrictions and too much inconvenience to rank as one of the better systems.

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