Monday, July 18, 2011

On Vanity: Cosmetic Slots = Gameplay

I absolutely love the ability to slot cosmetic items. Making my toon look the way I want is a game in-of itself as far as I'm concerned. Giving me cosmetic slots to fool with gives me a ton of extra gameplay, and for what would seem relatively few development resources . . .save implementing the system in the first place, of course. As an example, this is what my dwarf champion in LoTRO would look like in his current gear:

It's fine, there is nothing terribly wrong with it [Edit: on further reflection, this is only a step removed from a blind rodeo clown outfit...what were they thinking?]. However, to me it doesn't look like he is really wearing heavy plate armor. Instead he looks to be wearing some odd combination of plate and leather armor.

This is what I've been using for my appearance slots for the last year, and it looks like more like real armor. However, it still doesn't look quite as sturdy as I'd like. Plus I've simply gotten bored with the look.

Quite by accident, I discovered that there are NPC vendors in Thorin's Hall that sell gear that really does look like plate armor. Cheap NPC vendor armor, plus gray dye and a nicer helmet, and viola! This is what my guy is using for his appearance slots now, and to me it looks like he could take a tank shell in the chest and still get up:

The stats on the armor he is wearing (the top screenshot) are very good for his level. He is currently level 53, and it's impossible to craft him a better set of armor until he hits level 58. In fact it took almost six weeks to craft the set he's wearing using guild recipes. Few, if any, random drops or quest rewards will be an upgrade to him until much higher levels. Were I playing a number of other MMOs, I'd be forced to appear as the top screenshot at least until level 58, or take a severe stat hit. In LoTRO I have the freedom to decide how I'd like to look.

Just getting this set of appearance armor together gave me a good hour or two of (to me) really fun gameplay. It also made some random low level vendor items actually serve a useful gameplay purpose. The stats on the gear in his cosmetic slots are so terrible from a stat perspective that they have no functional reason to exist in the game; as seems to be standard with all vendor gear in MMOs for some reason. However, because of the appearance slot system they provided me with a great customization option.

Appearance customization slots also partially alleviate another issue that a lot of MMOs seem to have. Once the level cap passes a given set of raid content to a certain degree, there is really no reason for that content to exist any more. Players are not going to fool with it once the stats on the gear you can get are horrible compared to normal top level solo quest rewards. For example Molten Core and Blackwing Lair currently have no reason for existing in World of Warcraft. They are old level 60 raid dungeons. As badass as some of the armor you can get there looks, there's no real reason for it to be in game right now (or there wasn't when I last played, there was talk of revamping BWL to drop gear relevant to 85s, they may have implemented that by now for all I know). However, if WoW had appearance slots I can totally see going in to get those armor sets on a small party of bored level 85s.

Cosmetic slots turn obsolete encounters and vendor trash into potentially compelling content, even to bored players twiddling their thumbs at the level cap. I've never been able to understand why they aren't a standard feature of more MMOs.


  1. You know, the funny thing is that I've known appearance slots to be in LOTRO ever since I started playing it, but I never made much use out of the feature. It wasn't until I was playing Rift that I started messing with my appearance and wardrobe items. I think part of this has to do with accessibility to appearance items and dyes. Some of the prettiest items in LOTRO came with special or seasonal events, and I was never very patient :P

  2. @Mmogamerchick: appearance slots certainly arnen't an important feature for everyone, not everyone has my damage when it comes to be persnicetry about gear :-)

    In my KS there are maybe about a third of us that really make a lot of use out of them, and 2/3 that generally could care less. However, the new Isengaurd pre-order items look really nice, probably most of KS is using them for at least some of their toons.

  3. ...not much to say on this one except to heartily agree. I'm honestly baffled why more MMOs don't have an appearance system like LOTRO's.

    The WoW argument is something like "but, but, it might not make classes easily read at a distance for PvP". My only reply is that PvP is terribly broken in a gear/level heavy game in the first place. The benefits of appearance slots far outweigh the costs and complaints I've seen to date.

  4. That PvP argument has always puzzled me. It seems that it would be easy enough to disable the system in battlegrounds and arenas. That's what happens in LoTRO, you are set to your gear appearances when you enter the 'moors. If the argument has to do with open world PvP, then disable the feature on PvP servers. On a PvE server, open world PvP is entirely optional anyway ...and largely ignored by most players.

  5. I always wished WoW had allowed for cosmetic gear - certainly one of the big pluses in LotrO. while patching my AoC last week, I actually noticed that this feature has now also been installed there - who knows, Blizzard might catch up!

  6. I'm at the point now where I won't play a game that doesn't let me customize my appearance. I consider it a standard feature like mail, mounts, and auction houses.

  7. @Syl: I agree, it's something WoW badly needs. It's really frustrating to not have such a system when i play it.

    @Blue Kae: it's darn close for me too. I will still play a game that lacks it, but it's a system I sorely miss. Fortunately, for more recent games it seems to be more the rule than the exception to include a cosmetic system.