On Gear With Stats (Day 10)

Being upfront, I probably won’t say as much as I’d like on this topic because I’m writing it on the train with my phone, whereas most of my entries are written at home in my underwear.

The topic is gear with stats – more specifically, gear with a visual appearance on the character model that also affects statistics, such as in most modern RPGs.

And that’s super cool, right? You find a sweet new piece of gear, it has great stats and-

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Oh.

This is the big, obvious problem – you look like an idiot, but you feel like a warlord. World of Warcraft offsets this with the horribly named “Transmogrification” System, in which the appearance of gear can be swapped with any other piece of unlocked equipment.

This is a great feature that’s present in many games, but to me it feels a bit heavy-handed and half-hearted. Characters not looking cool with the gear they find? Let them wear whatever they want! This isn’t at all a bad thing, I just wonder if a more elegant or user-friendly solution exists.

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Other games let players coordinate the colour scheme of their gear such as in The Old Republic, or even paint their armour pieces individually as in Warhammer Online.

These are interesting solutions as well, but feel like a weaker version of transmog. Armour getting you down? Well, tough – but you can make it yellow!

It’s an impossible problem, in the end. Gear should be varied and interesting, but that means it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Transmog lets people change their armour’s appearance to that of other gear they’ve found, which means they still have to collect the piece they want, but can customise their character heavily.

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One problem I have with this idea is that gear automatically loses its “epic” factor, especially in MMOs. Sure, that dragon skull helmet was a sign of skill 6 years ago,  but now that you can beat it to death solo with just your earlobes it’s a lot less impressive.

This – at least in the case of World of Warcraft – has made all of the players look epic, even the crappy ones. The knock-on effect here is obviously that if everybody looks epic, nobody does.

This is partly due to WoW’s age, but also because they’ve made sure they don’t filter out old gear models. Back when they did, only players that performed at a higher level would actually look the part.

Mans there are all sorts of problems with that idea, too! So make of it what you will. My take is that when the appearance of gear can be changed easily, the appearance loses all meaning outside of the most basic aesthetic effect.

But the trade-offs can also be hugely positive! What are your thoughts? Are there any systems that deal with this that you’ve enjoyed or hated? Let me know!

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One response to “On Gear With Stats (Day 10)”

  1. Robert McPherson says :

    I’ve seen a few games have a ‘costume’ slot, or set of slots. This acts much like Blizzard’s transmogrification (it’s in Diablo III as well BTW) but instead you’re equipping clothing or other armor purely for their looks. It overrides the visuals of your equipped armor without affecting your stats.

    Ultimately it comes down a lot to gear design… WoW took a swan dive off any sanity in its gear a long, looong time ago. Personally I’d love to see more variation in gear rather than “MOAR EPIC!!!!” gear.

    An example of this is the Immersive Armor/Weapons mods for Skyrim (alas SE only has armor so far 😦 ) these add a ton of armor and weapon variants to the game. Thene new items aren’t really any more powerful or easier to make (some can be a PITA to get components for) but the idea is that rather than every bandit, mercinary or battlemage of a particular tier all wearing the same armor and using the same weapons there’s about 3-5 sets of armor and/or weapons per tier they could be using.

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