One of the allures of the MMORPG world is that we can be whatever we want to be. Character creation is getting more and more advanced: we can choose what we look like, what gods we worship (if any), where we’re from, what we do, what powers we have, how strong we are, how smart we are, and so many different traits. Our characters represent our desires, our talents, and ourselves – as such, we want them to look awesome.
This week in the MMORPG.com blogs, user wan7830 talks about Character Costumes: The Golden Rule. “Players don’t want to look like each other,” says wan7830. Players want to have unique representations of themselves – so why do so many games pin us in the same 3 armor looks?
“Let’s ignore stats for a moment and assume every visible piece of equipment in-game has the same stats,” continues wan7830. “If everyone is wearing shiny gold armors, I want to wear something else, even dirty rugs is more preferable, because it makes me stand out.” And wan7830 isn’t alone – many gamers like to look unique, even if unique isn’t synonymous with pretty. For example; I have a guildmate in EverQuest, an enchanter, who constantly looks for robe colors that are unique and different. Another guildmate re-dyes his armor at least three times a week, and is unique and well known (and teased) for his constant change.
“The character costumes is one of my tools that I use to rate an mmo,” says wan7830, “If I see an army of clones (exact copies) running around me dancing like bees, I would consider deleting the game, because seeing exact copies makes the game boring.”
User Ciccero comments in reply to wan7830’s blog, citing examples from WoW of the character uniformity that wan7830 is tired of seeing. “[In] WOW, once your level 70, you cannot walk through a major city without seeing 10 people who look like you,” says Ciccero. The same story is retold in Lineage II, Vanguard, and so many other games.
So, why does this happen? If users are so intent on looking unique, why do we all wear the same armor? Why can’t developers give us more choices?
For one thing, we must consider the technology. The more unique character/clothing models that our game clients have to load, the more lag we are bound to have – using repeat models is the secret to many large-scale PvP games. I love looking unique, but I love smooth gameplay even more. While this is becoming less of an issue with time, it’s something that effects older and even current games.
Another facet of this issue lies in gameplay. Players inherently want to wear the best – even if my Lineage II Elven Elder can wear three different sets of armor, I am going to pick the set most efficient to my class – as is everyone else. Another commenter, Maniacfox, agrees: “It’s worth noting in WoW that most people dress entirely for stats, not for style. So at lower than raiding levels characters may look different but they are often wearing a hideous hotch potch of items just because the stats are good.” To be honest, most of us could find more unique armor in MMOs, but the stats would be less efficient and we’d have to sacrifice efficiency for cosmetics.
The good news is that many games are coming up with solutions. From EverQuest to Guild Wars, many games are allowing users to dye their armor. This allows us to pick a unique color, while still maintaining the “status” that a well known high-end graphic might have. In games like Hero’s Journey or City of Heroes/Villains, your armor is merely cosmetic and has nothing to do with your gameplay efficiency. In games like Lineage II, where most armor is still stat-related and very much uniform, users are able to equip some cosmetic items like eye patches, bunny ears, or more.
There are also some solutions in the player’s hands: believe it or not, we don’t have to always wear “the best” item for our class. I recently started playing EVE Online and, while I pilot Minmatar ships, I am a Caldari avatar. Sure, I’m a bit less efficient, but I really liked the look!
Read the original blog entry here.