She’s Got the Look

Posted: September 5, 2007 by zobek in Character Development, Everquest 2, General Game Concepts, Patches

Let me apologize up front for using a reference to an 80’s song as a post title. May the gods of big hair strike me down!

With Game Update 38 for EverQuest II coming down the pike, players will be able to equip items of armor for appearance only – at long last putting an end to the days of patchwork tanks and such. One would expect the news to stop here, usually with something along the lines of “… and there was much rejoicing”, but in reality, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

Instead, we’ve got a thread on the official forums that’s up to 47 pages of replies (at the last count) filled with people decrying the system, all because SOE has chosen to implement restrictions on what items a player can wear in the appearance slots – and how.

For those of you not familiar with the situation, just one day after the patch was pushed to the Test server, a restriction was added so that items in the appearance slots would show only if they were of an equal or heavier armor class than the items in the regular slots. As Rothgar subsequently explained – on page 26 of the replies, I believe – their intent was so that a plate class could wear a chain breastplate with better stats, but keep a plate look, for example. He also referred to the relative “shaft-factor” where without the restriction, cloth wearers only have cloth looks available to them, while plate wearers would have had access to anything.

That’s all well and good, but I think the core issue here is that it’s a simple case of missed expectations. Rothgar’s post attempts to put it just as keeping characters in a unified armor style. For the players, though, it had been thought to be far more.

For many players, the current appearance of their characters in-game fails to live up to how they have been envisioned. Skim through that massive thread, and you’ll see many a post about mages in plate, or monks in robes, or assassins wearing leather instead of creaky, clanky chainmail. When news of appearance armor slots started to leak out of Fan Faire, and subsequently when the update first hit Test, players were rightfully excited – for they felt were finally being offered a chance to close that gap.

In-game, the image you portray is crucial. To adapt the classic adage, on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog – but they also don’t know that you’re a ninja or a battlemage unless you tell them.

It’s all part of branding and identity. As we develop our characters, no matter how deep we go in developing their persona and backstory, at some point we become attached to them. We begin to identify with them. They become more than a collection of pixels on-screen and start to assume a life of their own.

The way your character looks affects other players’ perceptions of him or her, and by proxy, their perceptions of you. Seen in that light, it’s easy to see how players desire a greater degree of expression in appearance. The outer directly reflects the inner, and we want to be known as the coolest-looking, the snazziest, or for some, just oh-my-gawd-where-in-the-world-did-she-get-that-fugly-hat?

While just having a secondary set of armor for appearance may not have been the best of implementations (a topic I believe Kendricke is planning to discuss), I do believe that allowing players more freedom of choice in looks is a good thing and hope that SOE removes the restriction. I imagine we’ll see tanks in Santa suits and naked mages for a while, but more than likely the novelty will soon wear off.

Until then, I’m keeping my arrow and cat masks from Nights of the Dead at the ready… you never know, one of these days I just might get Lord Vyemm to die laughing. 😉

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