FanFaire Follow-up: What Not To Wear?

Posted: August 9, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts

Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.

-Michel de Montaigne

One of the new features Everquest 2 players can expect to see their servers soon was the new “second layer” of in-game clothing. 

Announced by SOE’s Technical Director, Don “Silverfrost” Neufeld, this little bit of news is barely a blip on the radar of most of the big fansites, but it has the potential to be one of the largest changes to the Everquest world in some time.

On the surface, the idea sounds great.  Allow characters to choose an outward layer of in-game clothing (a second layer) which can be placed over their existing armors, which is often mismatched due to a desire for game stats and abilities. 

So why am I worried?

There’s a lot of different ways to handle character appearance.  SOE’s first real attempt at this was back in 2003, when armor dyes were introduced with the old Legacy of Ykesha extension pack. 

Practically overnight, the playerscape changed.  Thousands of rogues and warriors were immediately indistinguishable from each other as black-on-black became the new black.  Other players thought it would be hilarious to start trying out the most obnoxious color sets possible – indeed, how many of us have stories of hot pink trolls and lime green and electric blue ogres. 

Though some players attempted to alter their armor subtely, to simply build a matching set of gear, most players began altering their colors on a whim.  In my own guild, we’d actually require everyone to set their dyes to the same, boring grey color – so that certain raid officers and the main tank would stand out (the MT would take on a bright blaze orange from head to toe). 

My first fear is in a similar vein.  In one possible iteration of such a system, you have your adventuring gear…and simply assign a completely different look overlay the gear.  In such a case, instead of a second layer of gear, you’d simply have one layer which determined appearance and a second layer which determined stats. 

That fighter your group just grabbed outside of Unrest who looked pretty good in his full matching armor?  HA!  He’s in mismatched treasured from two tiers ago.  Bet that was fun to find out when he couldn’t stay standing long enough for the group to make it through the first few pulls, right?  That mage with the incredible looking robe?  Sorry, try again…it looked familiar because it’s a level 30 guild status item that no one ever wears anymore. 

Think those are bad examples?  I guess you don’t play on a PVP server.  Imagine the joys of not knowing who to attack in the group that’s hammering on you because everyone decided to dress in identically handcrafted tailored gear.

To be certain, I love the idea of a second layer of gear.  I hate the idea of armor dyes as used in Legacy of Ykesha.  I can’t fathom the ideas of a game based around item scarcity suddenly opting to use a system which allows players to essentially disguise what they’re wearing.

It’s a good idea.  On paper. 

In theory, it allows everyone to better differentiate their characters from everyone else.  In practice, I keep remembering every other player in my group dressed in all black. 

So, how would I do it? 

Option 1:  I’d hold off.  I’d wait till it could be done right.  I’d wait for the character model revamps to go through and I’d introduce an actual second layer of gear, similar (but different) from World of Warcraft’s tabard system.  I’d allow certain areas of armor to be covered by specific types of cloth coverings that would be created by tailors or purchased as status loot.  I’d even include a few nifty designs as claimed loot from Legends of Norrath cards.

Option 2:  If I had to work on this idea now, I’d set up “city garb” as a second array of clothing/gear specifically set aside for non-combat areas.  Enter a city zone and whatever gear you have set up in your “city garb” inventory takes precedence.  Make it an opt-in system. 

As an added bonus, start up a second system of bonuses specific to non-combat clothing which can be used for tradeskills, merchant interactions, and in-city diplomatic/status style interactions/quests. 

Option 3:  Clothing sets.  Instant access (ala the “swap” command in Diablo 2) to different sets of gear.  Though this is currently accessible utilizing the (now expanded) macro system, it could be made more of a specific style of system over and above the current system.

As an potential option within this alternative, there could be an auto-equip system set up to allow players with lots of gear (read:  raiders) to automatically equip the best gear in every slot based around specific criteria.  For example, imagine clicking on a button to automatically equip the best “vs. poison” wristguard in your inventory or to put on the best “+WIS” necklace. 

Option 4:  Limited dyes.  Hear me loudly on this when I say “limited”.  Allow dyes to only be used by tradeskillers.  Allow the dyes to only have access to a limited color pallette per piece of gear, specific to the item being dyed.  Allow the dyes to only be used at the time of creation, OR to take up an adornment slot. 

Regardless of which option is chosen – one of mine or some other option completely – the idea that a second layer of clothing should be used to hide or disguise the gear a player has is completely contrary to one of the basic tenets of these types of games – the idea that the appearance of loot has value over and above the statistics such loot provides. 

I truly hope that whatever system is chosen takes this into account.  I hope the developers who did not play old Everquest speak to players and other developers who did – and who remember the “joys” of multicolored pastel iksars standing alongside an army of blackclad rogues and shadowknights. 

Give us a system that allows for more customization and control of appearance, without creating a system that actually encourages us all to look more similar than we already do.

Finally, give us a system that does not hide who we are and what we’ve accomplished.  Don’t take away that instant recognition of gear.  When I see a player online, I want to be able to tell instantly if that character is a ranger or a templar, and I want to know what general level of gear that templar is wearing. 

I shouldn’t have to inspect a player to find out what class they are, and I shouldn’t have to guess at a player’s level because the level 15’s look identical to the level 65’s.

  1. Jaaissa says:

    Have the game analyze all of a player’s equipment and then allow/disallow certain styles based on how good their ‘score’ is.

  2. kendricke says:

    I can just see it now:

    Kendricke gets a 0.2 out of 10 possible points. He must pack his bags and leave the apartment immediately. Kendricke is hereby dismissed from Project: EQ2 Fashion! Get off the runway!


    In all seriousness, how would such a system work? Even presuming it worked, how would it solve the issues of hiding or disguising gear, or preventing 20 identically dressed rogues from standing next to each other?

  3. Staranah says:

    Good post – lots to think about with this!!!

    Ikind of agree and kind of dont!

    I like the idea of armor/clothing being more customizable – as I like certain aspects of different armor pieces and do get tired of looking like a thrift sale special, but do think some of it should be restricted to the crafters as to dye colors maybe a selection of color – if it’s for armor – if it’s just an appearance thing – not a two layer hiding whats underneath (hadn’t really thought of it as a means to be sneaky!), there’s no reason the underlying stats couldn’t be revealed through the top layer – I’m not a programmer though so ?? to SOE!

    Myself one of my toons is a mage – I’m not real keen on all of the mage available armor at times, so being able to have something else more to my liking on top would be nice. And so many people do play anonymous you have to inspect if you want to know!

  4. kendricke says:

    I guess the message I’m pushing here is this:

    Don’t use a gimmick to cover up bad design/code.

    If you can’t tell what someone’s wearing, is that a problem that requires a second layer of customization – or a problem with the choices available to players in the first place. If you’re not happy with all of the armors available to mages, is that a problem that should by fixed by allowing you to wear low level guild status gear and still retain the stats from your armor – or should there just be more armors available to mages in the first place?

  5. Lessling says:

    As usual a nice post with a more in depth look at an upcoming change. I’d really not thought about PvP (or even judging a prospective group member). What I’d love to have is the ability to apply my guild symbol on different elements of my gear (mainly on the chest and shield). This could be done without masking what the item is. Mind you I have been walking around in totally mismatched gear for so long I have been tempted to add a tag saying he’s colour blind!

  6. Laldail says:

    I’m of the opinion that armor design should differentiate the specific tier of that armor. The color (within a range of possible colors) should be selectable by the player, with whatever limitations seem appropriate.

    Think Tier 1 being rusty and beatup looking, very plain. Tier 2 somewhat cleaner with a bit more design element showing. Tier 3 a bit richer, elaborate, etc. etc.

    Armor should be immediately recognizable by design, with each tier having a few variations, visibly apparent, and that are separate and distinct from color variations. This would allow players to still see immediately (or at least upon more than a passing glance) what tier the armor is and still allow the individual player some leeway in how it looks as an ensemble.

  7. kendricke says:

    Though I’m obviously not against more armor choices, Laldail, the problem with what you’re suggesting becomes one of minimum requirements.

    Armor graphics take up big resources. Even if you’re only wearing a handful of graphics, your harddrive (and RAM) have to account for EVERY bit of geometry that comes across your screen. I believe tinting is actually easier on system requirements than actual geometry, which again leads to why there’s only a handful of actual designs with a few extra textures – but 8 hojillion tints on top of those.

    That said, I still feel that it could be done and done well given the new upcoming character model revamp. So I’m not entirely against what you’re suggesting, provided the tinting choices are limited (again, thinking of those hot pink ogres and armies of black rogues here).

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