Perfect Ten: The perfect MMO cosmetic system
Whenever I hear about or get into a new MMO, one of the very first things I’ll be asking is if the game has a cosmetic outfit system and how involved it is. Wardrobes used to be a rarity in the genre, although as time went on these systems thankfully became more prevalent.
So yes, I’m a grown adult man and I’m totally into playing dollies with my video game characters. C’mon, it’s a pretty fun thing to do. You get to stand out from the clones around you and express your own personality through fashion that costs you, if not nothing, then far less than you’d buy at the mall.
But not every cosmetic system is created alike. When I was thinking about the best systems found in MMORPGs, I realized that many of them had drawbacks and advantages that differentiated them from other games. So what makes for the “perfect” MMO cosmetic system? I have a few ideas. Several ideas. OK, 10 ideas.
1. Separation of gear and cosmetic outfits
Let’s start with segregation. I’m not a fan of “transmogging” or whatever the hip young kids call it when you modify the visual appearance of your current gear to the desired look. It’s too fiddly and often is a way to stick it to players as a money sink (or even a real world money sink, if you have to buy tokens to do it). Plus, every so often I do want to see the actual appearance of the gear I’m wearing. Ideally, a cosmetic system should be separate from your real gear visuals, in its own clear category with its own UI.
2. Great selection of dyes
Cosmetics aren’t just about the actual clothes; they’re also about the colors that those outfits sport. Having dyes period is a must, which is why it’s a shame when an MMO eschews dyable outfits in favor of making you collect one of each fixed-color piece.
But if you have dyes? Go to town with them, devs! Offer a vivid and fun selection of colors to make us recall the glory days of opening up those massive packs of Crayola crayons and choosing shades that aren’t merely primary colors.
3. Dye channels
Continuing in this vein, offering more than one dye channel (a region of armor that will accept a dye color) is definitely preferred. Sometimes you encounter MMOs where there’s only a single dye channel or the dyeable area is so small that it’s washed out by the fixed color of the piece. The more potential for control and customization over how an outfit is colored, the happier I am.
4. Saved patterns
A recent trend in the cosmetic scene is where MMOs remember and store looks of any gear you happen to pick up (or equip, even if temporarily). This not only saves so much space in your bank but it allows players to enjoy “shopping” among patterns that they’ve unlocked as they’re creating a new outfit. Anything the game can do to keep me from having to juggle more inventory is always welcome.
5. Multiple outfit loadouts
I will become a best friend to any MMO that makes the extra effort to save and load outfits that aren’t actually in use at the time. It’s really frustrating when I want to switch outfits in a single-outfit game and then have to overwrite cosmetics with new ones… only to have to go through the same process later on to change back. If we’re spending a lot of time fine-tuning an outfit’s look, some sort of save feature would be appreciated.
This, I feel, is an absolute must. If an MMO is going to do cosmetics at all, it should give you more than one cosmetic outfit in your wardrobe. One outfit is the bare minimum of flair, a “nice try” effort. Nay, I say! Shower us with multiple loadouts so that we can revel in your game’s system and create outfits for all sorts of occasions! When I log into a game, I want to have the freedom to easily swap my outfit based on my mood or what I’m doing in the MMO that night. It’s a great boon to roleplayers as well, who dearly appreciate different outfits that keep casual and battle wear separate.
6. Great and varied armor design
You could have as fully featured a cosmetic system as was ever designed, and yet if your armor and outfits suck, it’s all for naught. It seems elementary — yet necessary — to say that your MMO has to have outfits I actually want to wear and think are really neat. Additionally, there must be a wide amount of variety in types; if all you make is jagged plate or billowing trenchcoats in a thousand different designs, I’m probably going to get sick of all of them in one fell swoop.
7. Expressive cosmetic-only pieces
Don’t misread that as “expensive.” While I do enjoy creating sensible and modest outfits, every so often it’s fun to cut loose by including cosmetics that express a lot of personality. This may be through exaggerated designs, lighting, particle effects, or animated bits. Sometimes accenting an outfit with just one of these out-there pieces makes it cool without being obnoxious.
8. Free (or cheap) cosmetic swapping
My question: Does your game allow me to swap between saved outfits with or without a cost? If it’s with a cost, then I am frowning sternly in your direction. I’m not talking about unlocking outfit slots, but the cost associated with creating and changing between outfits. As I said before, I want to be able to pick the outfit that appeals to me on a given day without having to weigh an associated cost with it.
9. Cosmetic weapons
Not every game sees weapons as part of an outfit, but I always do. And while cosmetic outfits are pretty standard, allowing players to cosmetically pick or alter a weapon skin is not. When I find that perfect weapon look, which is usually slim and smart-looking, I want to stick with that instead of being forced to hoist around whatever endgame monstrosity the art team created.
10. In-game guide
Collecting gear pieces is a huge motivating factor to my play, and if I happen to find a shirt or pair of boots with a design I’ve never seen before, that is a bigger reward to me than something with two more points of stats in whatever. But where to find these? A perfect cosmetic system would not only show you what you’ve attained but also list the uncollected pieces and where to find them. As always, the more information an MMO can give me in-game is always appreciated.