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Columns: Appearance Tab Redux - Modifying Armor

By Michael Bitton on September 07, 2011

Appearance Tab Redux - Modifying Armor

The folks staffing the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums will create new threads for topics that have reached 1000 posts, and the ‘Appearance Tab’ discussion over at the official site has been restarted an epic 20 times so far. That’s 20,000+ posts for those of you keeping count, and it clearly illustrates that people aren’t interested in a game set in Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  Now, despite all of the attention this topic is getting, the developers at BioWare have been firm about the appearance tab issue. Namely, that there isn’t going to be one.


I’ve personally lamented the lack of appearance tab in at least one of my columns so far. You see, I’m one of those vain players who don’t want to look like everyone else, and I also loathe the idea of having to compromise form for function. It’s 2011, and damn it, I should be able to kick-ass and look good doing it! This is especially true for a game that wants me to feel heroic. While BioWare won’t budge on an official appearance tab, they have a different system in place that allows players to modify armor. We’ve known about this system for some time, but over the past year we’ve learned that it may just be serious enough to accomplish the same goal as an appearance tab while also adding some fun layers to gameplay. 

Recently, we learned that players could take one of the game’s early armor pieces and modify it all the way up to level cap so that it can keep up with your progression and actually remain viable to use. That’s great, but we all know that developers say a lot of things, and while I’m not accusing BioWare of being dishonest, there are some additional factors to consider. I have no doubt that BioWare is serious when they say we can take early level gear and basically use it all the way through to the cap by continually modifying it, or that we can even make it viable in Operations if we get modifications or materials to craft them. But how many resources are they going to devote to making that kind of itemization worthwhile? And will this stuff only be viable for the easier difficulty of Operations?

I have a feeling that, at some point, you may find it impossible to progress through the tougher Operation content using modified gear over Operation set pieces. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I feel like this system will only be viable up to a point, and then they’ll want us to suit up in their really good stuff. Why put in the time and effort to make the gear and create the art to go with it if I can basically get the same function through some mods?  There’s also trading to consider. Will Operations grade modifications be bind-on-pickup just like rare drops or Operation sets would be? Or will players basically be able to buy their way into Operation gear? One of the more promising aspects of the modification system is what it could mean for crafters, but I’m not sure how that jives with the ultra-high end content.

And what about PvP? Are we going to be able to acquire modifications that confer PvP-oriented stats to items? Or will we be able to look cool in PvE, but be forced to look like a clown or a clone in PvP if we want to be viable? The system sounds promising, but there are still a ton of questions that make me a bit nervous about it. It’d be a crying shame if I find something I really like while leveling only to have to give it up once I get really serious about PvE or PvP endgame.  This is definitely a subject I’ll be keeping a close eye on as we move towards launch.

To my vain brethren out there, has BioWare assuaged your fears with what they’ve said so far on the item modification system? Do you need to hear more? Or will you only be happy with a straight up appearance tab? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined as the site's Community Manager.