This is an ongoing series where I compare and contrast different aspects of the games I cover trying to come up with an MMO wish list. Last week was Character Creation. This week I’ll cover equipment.
Table of Contents
I try not to be particular about the style (e.g. cartoon vs realistic) or genre of a game (e.g. sci-fi vs fantasy), but I’m not always successful. One of the reasons I stopped covering WildStar and Blade & Soul were their aesthetics. The cartoonish style of WildStar grated on me and BNS’s blatant hypersexualization of female characters makes me so angry I wish I had never started covering it in the first place.
There are also certain aspects of different games that many people find annoying. For instance, much of the medium armor in Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is based on a trench coat and Star Wars: The Old Republic’s (SWTOR) love for massive shoulders, backpacks, and butt capes (or kama as people have told me repeatedly is the correct term). Another controversial issue for SWTOR is fact that many headpieces will hide the hood of hooded chest pieces, but there is no way to do this manually.
I prefer games that don’t make armor look different on male and female characters. I was in the military for 20 years and while my uniforms were gender-specific (stupid left-hand zippers and buttons) other than having the option to wear a skirt and untucked shirt in my blues they didn’t look significantly different from the men’s. Additionally, I definitely didn’t have female-specific body armor to accommodate my breasts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single example in the games I cover where there wasn’t at least breast cutouts in the armor.
Here’s an example of a significant change though. Why, oh why is the female version of this chest piece in SWTOR cropped?
I’m a little more lenient when it comes to costumes, but I adore what Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) has done. They offer one version of costumes and either gender can wear it. Just because they offer both a Wedding Dress and Wedding Suit doesn’t mean your male character can’t wear the dress or your female character the suit.
Class / Gender / Race Locks
Black Desert Online (BDO) locks every outfit / costume / weapon to classes. While some items in the in-game store look nearly the same on each class, a great deal of it is class-specific. Additionally, they don’t release stuff on the store fairly. I feel bad for people who play Witches or Wizards because they don’t get nearly as many options as the other classes. Also, every time they release a new class, they only release a very small number of outfits / costumes and build up the offerings over time.
At the very least, most games class-lock their weapons. ESO is an exception. Every class can use any weapon combination they prefer. The only (tiny) complaint I have is that you are pretty much stuck with a restoration staff for healing. Cupid makes people fall in love with an arrow, why can’t I heal with one?
Armor vs Costumes
It seems like game companies have a difficult time balancing people’s desires for a multitude of options to dress their characters and a steady progression for end-game gear. Many solve this by having different slots for armor (with stats) and costumes where the costumes overwrite the appearance of the equipment. SWTOR originally took a different approach. A portion of the equipment has slots where you can trade out stat modules for a fee. This allows your character to keep the same appearance while being able to upgrade your stats. Eventually, they added an Outfit Designer to allow you to create multiple outfits for your character that will overwrite the appearance of the main equipment. You can quickly switch between looks while not having to keep the original items. They’ve also greatly expanded the number of items that have module slots.
One of the biggest complaints I have about most costume systems is that costumes comprise of only one piece. You can’t mix and match costume parts. SWTOR’s Outfit Designer allows you to change each armor slot individually, giving you significantly more options for creating unique looks for your characters. Unfortunately, at this time weapons aren’t included in the Outfit Designer. BDO and Revelation Online also give you the option of changing out individual pieces on the costume tab and weapons are included.
Number of Slots
If it were up to me, you would never equip an item that wasn’t visible on your character. I get that all those invisible slots help you tweak your stats, but it sucks to collect additional items that don’t do anything for my character’s look. It seems like most games average three-five of these invisible slots. For visible slots, seven seems to be about average, which seems to work pretty well.
Collections / Wardrobe
Collections or Wardrobes are in-game interfaces where items you have collected are available to your character(s) without having to keep it in your inventory. Each game that has it seems to do it slightly differently. SWTOR’s Collections only applies to those items bought through the in-game store or are provided free of charge through promotions or gifts. To use that item on another character, you must pay real world money to unlock it.
ESO’s primarily ties their Collections to their in-game store, but also to items earned through Achievements. The difference is that once you unlock an item in collections, it’s available for every character without paying anything else.
GW2 has the most comprehensive Wardrobe system I’ve seen. Every single item you have ever bound to a character is unlocked in the Wardrobe and available to every character (provided it’s not class locked). The only downside is you have to pay a transmutation charge to change the appearance of a slottable item. You purchase these transmutation charges from the in-game store, though you did get a fair amount through in-game activities.
Dyes are one of the more contentious aspects of character customization. SWTOR did an abysmal job with their after launch addition of dyes. They took their slot system and added a one or two-color dye module that you can add to each individual piece. They have recently begun adding in some new and useful color combinations, but for years, many of the colors they’ve chosen to group together are horrendous. Most items have three color channels, so you are stuck with one color that you can’t dye. Adding insult to injury, all dyes are one time use. While you can preview a dye, once you pull it out of an item it’s lost forever. Most dyes are available from RNG packs from their in-game store; so many dyes become difficult to find once that particular pack has been out of circulation for a bit. The only bright spot in the system is the fact that you can color match any item to your chest piece.
ESO’s dye system was excellent…until they added in dyeing costumes. Originally, dyes only applied to armor. There are two to three dye channels per piece and all dyes are unlocked through achievements. Once you’ve completed the appropriate achievement, that dye is available for that character’s use forever. Unfortunately, you can’t dye weapons. The costume dye system is a bit more constrained. Costume dyeing is only available to ESO+ members (those that pay a monthly subscription to the game). The same dyes are available for costumes as well as armor, but they’ve also added Dye Stamps sold in the in-game store. Dye Stamps are one-time use three-color dyes that you can apply to one costume. Every week a collection of 18 new dye stamps are available and you don’t have to have unlocked the colors to use it. On holidays and during in-game events, special dye stamps with colors never before seen are also available for a premium price. You do have to travel to a dye station (located in most cities and larger towns) to apply dyes.
BDO has a robust dye system. You can dye just about anything, including weapons and mounts. Each item has a different amount of dye channels. You obtain dyes through questing or purchasing through the in-game store, though those are random. You also have the option of purchasing Merv’s Palette, which gives you access to all dyes for 30 days. Once your time runs out, your dyed items revert to their normal colors.
Because I spend most of my time doing pictures for the sites, in-game preview of equipment is very important to me. My favorite preview system for armor and weapons is SWTOR. It’s very rare that the blue background interferes with viewing an item and I have complete control over how far I want to zoom into an item. I can also do a complete 360-degree view. I like that I can have several windows (preview, inventory, collections, etc.) open at the same time, but I do wish I could make the window larger. One tiny complaint I have though is your character doesn’t stand still so I have to wait until it’s done moving around to take a pic. On the other hand, the decoration preview is not very good. The image quality is much poorer and it’s often difficult to zoom in and keep everything in the frame.
GW2’s preview is similar, but the brown background is often to close in color to the items and it’s impossible to get a Charr completely in the frame. One nice thing about GW2 though is every item has a code where you can type it into chat and it will bring up a preview of the item without having to track it down.
BDO’s preview for in-game store items is nice. It takes up nearly 2/3rd’s of your screen. There are several preset backgrounds to choose from and you can zoom and rotate. One issue I have with it is some of the controls are located on the preview side and it can be difficult to zoom out enough so you don’t see the controls. It’s especially difficult with boats and wagons.
ESO’s preview system is awful. For the most part, it’s non-existent. You can preview some items within the in-game store. Usually this will bring your character into greater focus, but it leaves whatever you happen to be standing in front it in the background. If it happens to be night, you won’t have very good lighting in your preview. The furnishings preview is slightly better because you have a dark background, but you can only rotate an item on a horizontal-axis. The worst part of this is you can’t preview any crafted items at all. ESO has a robust crafting system with thousands of different items, but you have no idea what you are going to get until you craft it (or use ESO Fashion to get an idea). You can log out to the character select screen to get pics with decent lighting, but taller characters get their feet cut off and it isn’t a lot of fun to log in and out hundreds of times.
Most games allow for a wide variety of sources to obtain equipment, though many offer significantly more options for costumes in their in-game stores. BDO offers very few or significantly ugly armor options through normal game play forcing you to pay real world money for decent options for your characters. While SWTOR does have some looks that are only available from the in-game store, the vast majority of options are available from a variety of sources giving you multiple ways to obtain a specific look for your character. ESO also has world drops that are identical to crafted options or are available prior to being able to craft the same looks.
MMO Wish List
My perfect MMO would have:
- ESO’s realistic armor style with very little differences between male and female armor and no class / gender / race locks, including weapons
- BDO’s equipment slot options where you have as many visible costume slots as armor slots, but with no invisible armor slots (e.g. jewelry)
- GW2s Wardrobe with ESO’s ability to use it without paying anything
- ESO’s dye system (I like that you have to work for the dyes through achievements)
- SWTOR’s preview with the option to expand it to nearly full-size like BDO’s and GW2’s chat code system
- SWTOR’s availability of the same looks for equipment through a wide variety of sources
What would your perfect MMO’s equipment options look like?
Next week: Cash shops and auction houses