The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of character-obscuring morphs and modes in MMOs?

When ArenaNet went through Guild Wars 2’s upcoming Path of Fire specs on Tuesday, I was super bummed about the Ranger, the class I’d been toying with switching to as my main this time around. During the stream, ANet made it sound as if the Ranger’s Soulbeast spec would literally be a polymorph. Fortunately, as details came out this week, it became clear that the player will retain his or her own look and weaponry while joined with a pet, so I heaved a sigh of relief.

See, being transformed into something else is one of my huge pet peeves in MMORPGs, pun intended. I don’t want to be a bear and fight as a bear with bear moves. I don’t want to be a dragon, or a turret, or a vehicle, or a glowy blur, or anything other than the character I’ve spent gazillions of hours leveling, building, and designing exactly as I want her. Trying to keep me interested? Great! Give me more customization options for my appearance and my skills’ appearance, City of Heroes-style. Do no negate all the work or time or money I put into my chosen spec, my collected gear, or — especially! — the cosmetic stuff I’ve spent my cash on.

Am I alone here? Are you a fan of character-obscuring morphs and modes in MMOs, or does it drive you as mad as it does me?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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54 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of character-obscuring morphs and modes in MMOs?"

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Anthony Clark

Since the Ranger already has morphs as ultimate moves, additional shapeshifting should not come as a surprise with this class to anyone. No reason to not allow the class to become a true shapeshifter.

Sad that this is a pet peeve of the author. This class can already shapeshift, what would be wrong with having more? Would not that be adding additional powers to the class that already can do it?

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Brian McBride

It would be great if you could customize your transformed self. Like the WoW Druid… come on. They should have had ways to unlock customizations for each one of those forms. But that would mean making artwork for all that armor & stuff. I don’t think Blizzard makes enough money to pay for that or something?

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Louie

I personally love classes in MMOs that let you transform. It’s almost never, ever done anymore, which sucks. I really wish it would come back to MMOs, but there should always be an option to hide the transformation (a la EQ2) for those that want to.

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Johnny

I personally don’t care for it. One game it bothered me in was Devilian. I didn’t enjoy having to turn into a winged guy that looked like most others.

I suppose in some games it might be the proper thing, but I haven’t come across that game yet. *edit – the Polymorph and Disguise skills in UO made sense obviously.

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Orenj

Three words: Storm Breaker Protocol.

That’s hardly the only example, though. While Rift’s pretty bad about it, I seem to recall a lot of this nonsense in GW2 as well.

It’s not potential appearance or size changes that bugs me so much, it’s forcing a completely different set of abilities onto me. If you think about it, every boss fight where there’s some kind of stupid extra mechanic (click all the orbs! throw the rock! salivate on command!) that has no existence beyond that particular scenario, even if it’s not taking over your normal abilities, is another example of this. It’s world-breaking videogameyness, and I don’t like it.

(TSW was actually not bad about this… a lot of those random gewgaws that you first suspect to be another example, turn out to actually be usable and useful later!)

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rafterman

One of my favorite things ever in an MMO was whenever I’d get a new Necromancer skin In EQ/EQ2/Vanguard as I leveled up or when I’d turn into a bear or wolf on my shaman.

Morphs don’t bother me in the slightest, in fact they add to these games IMO. The thing that I absolutely detest is when I can’t use my own skills anymore. Like in The Oculus in WoW, where instead of playing my character I had to play this dumb dragon with three or four skills.

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John Mynard

It makes perfect sense to “morph” your character if they are jumping into a turret or vehicle to defend against waves of many enemies or charge into hostile territory.

The same holds true for “shapeshifts”. I separate the two because one is a mission requirement and one is a class mechanic. Sadly, the only game I’ve ever played that did this even half right is World of Warcraft and my beloved Druid class. And even then, it’s not some great thing, it’s just a variety of stances that allow you to do things.

What it boils down to, for me anyway, is can you justify the form change in game lore and make it fun. Using the Druid as an example, they literally become a bear or a big cat or an owlkin(though there is a way to appear as yourself with a light blue transparency and I wish it wasn’t transparent)

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Paragon Lost

I was glad my main in GW2 the Ranger wasn’t going to critter morph. That said I actually have no beef with the concept and actually the WoW Druid tends to usually be my main, he and my Hunter.

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Castagere Shaikura

Never liked those quest that make me operate a mech or some device to complete it. I always thing it will suck and sometimes it doesn’t.

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Randy Ward

I prefer to retain some customization of my own character. If I can customize the poly, then that helps too.

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Greaterdivinity

Selectively, yep, especially if it’s in instanced content or non-combat areas like city hubs. When it’s heavily used out in the world…not so much.

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NeoWolf

So long as I get to choose when I transform I am fine with polymorphs or shapeshifts etc..

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

I’m not a fan either Bree. How long have Rangers been asking for a petless spec though? This is one of the main draws for me in going back to GW2.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

I pretty much feel the same for the most part. In City of Heroes even my Kheldians were pure human-form.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you got to somehow customize your morphed form as well, but I don’t recall or know of any game that gives you that capability for such transformations.

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Alex Malone

All comes down to gameplay and how much you can customise the morphed shape.

In general, I don’t like it as the morphed character looks like everyone else, plus you have to learn new skills. It creates a massive disconnect between your character and your morph.

However, something like the squig herder from WAR, which could get a giant squig to eat it so that you were essentially the giant squig….yeh, that was awesome. Whilst the giant squig couldn’t be customised, you could jump in and out at will and the gameplay / skills didn’t change much so it was still fun to play.

I particularly despise the short-term morph quests, like the session play stuff from LotRO. You take over a different character with limited skills, play it for 15-30 minutes and then never see it again. Loot becomes meaningless. The limited skills mean no real chance to show player skill. Lack of persistence reduces motivation. Challenge has to be dumbed down due to the encounter being new for everyone. Just not a fun experience from a gameplay point of view.

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Teh Beardling

I only like it when it makes since for the class/role. Like feral druid in WoW. Totally works and flows with the specs theme. The tree form from resto though made like 0 sense to me and I didnt like it. . Or like werewolf form in ESO. you are a WEREWOLF. Not being able to shift would not make any sense. (Personally i wish it force shifted you during full moons)

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Avalon Alduin

I remember WOW from the first few years I played, Druid was my favorite class, the ability to switch to a bear to tank, or a cat to do offense, or just straight up heal as a druid made it by far my favorite class, for the flexibility, and because it did gave a change of pace.. But at the end of the day, I always switched back to my true form, to show off my gear. I left just as they brought in the owlkin – thought that was a pretty annoying and dumb form. In looking at some pics, it appears that the forms themselves differ in appearance now too.. that’s pretty cool.

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mistressbrazen

Not a fan unless it is essential to the particular quest and is temporary and reversible. There were a couple of quests in the old TSW where you became something else, but it wears off at the end of the quest. If transformation is available to a class, it should be by player choice only.

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Utakata

“I don’t want to be a dragon…”

But you see, if the dragon I turned into is pink and could level an entire city with a said color like breath weapon, I wouldn’t mind taking a poke at that class. <3

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Jon Camp

I recall in EQ2 that the “shaman” healers both had a transformation at level 20. This was not well liked as it was a rather large and crappy looking bear that simply dominated the center of your screen — giant bear butt! — and it was also a permanent transition, so the shamans were stuck after level 20 looking like an ugly stupid bear. It didn’t help that shamans sucked since their shields didn’t take mitigation into account, so…. no one played them. Crappy heals and they have to be a bear? Who wants that?

Shadowknights had a similar thing going on at level 30 where they had a permanent transformation into a skeleton that had this REALLY annoying laugh on every action it too. They didn’t suck right at the get-go but they didn’t really have anything to recommend them over a guardian, paladin, or zerk either, so again… people avoided them due to that transformation.

The ability to toggle the morphs off was one of the earliest features patched into the game due to player outcry.

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FreecczLaw

I love them. I am actually so very sad that we more or less never see them in MMORPGs. Shapeshifting is such a cool thing and I really hope we start seeing more of it in the future. That said of course it would be cool to see some development even on what you shapeshift into when you progress in levels/equipment.

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Minimalistway

I don’t mind them, in fact i think Moonkins are cool :-D

It’s when i can’t turn them off, like shadow priest in WoW at the start of Legion, can’t turn off shadow form, people complained, now you can turn it off.

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Thomas

I have to agree with the OP 100%. I do not like being morphed into something else when I’m playing an MMO. It happens a lot in WoW and in other games. I should add that what particularly bugs me is when you have to learn a new set of skills on the fly, for some particular quest or other.

The “turn into a giant” quest in Northrend (Zul’Drak) is a good example of this. And if I must be morphed into something for the sake of storytelling, I at least want to be OP’d to the point that if I do have to learn a new set of skills it’s not going to matter much if I mess them up. :)

As for skills that temporarily morph my characters, I generally don’t use them.

[I should add that when being morphed is an integral part of your character/class, such as cat or bear form for druids in WoW, then that’s fine by me.]

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Sashaa

I love it, when it can be activated/deactivated at will without impact on skills or gameplay.
In EverQuest, we had masks for Bards and Rogues who did just that. It was perfect.
I’ld love to see the same kind of system on ESO, instead of the very limited “polymorphs”…

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TomTurtle

I’ve seen a number of critiques that it doesn’t change your aesthetics when merged with your pet along with the fact that it doesn’t keep the pet out.

I don’t mind morphs like Druids in WoW. It sucks that your hard-worked cosmetics are hidden away, but the theme of being a cat or bear or what have you is fun. Plus WoW was smart enough to finally add some customization to those forms as well.

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Sleepy

My first question when Beornings were announced was “can I play it without using bear form?”

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ogged451

Absolutely. Looking at the available faces in the new and improved and oh so glorious character creator in SWL makes me happy that my Templar PvP tank armour was transferred and I don’t have to look at this sorry excuse for a face.

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Space Captain Zor

I never cared for being in bear form but cat form was always fun and felt like playing the druid fantasy for me.

Beyond that, yeah, I do enjoy the occasional fun costume toys in WoW. I mean c’mon, y’all know everyone loves to turn themselves into a Gnome for 10min. I’m gonna light you up, sweet cheeks!

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

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Utakata

One of these items didn’t properly morph back with the character… O.o

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Space Captain Zor

lol is that pointing out of his punisher zone?

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Peenisher, perhaps?

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Space Captain Zor

haha hate myself for not thinking of that *chugs covfefe*

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Melissa McDonald

Yeah I don’t really care for those “shape of bear / shape of wolf” type spells that much. I almost always play a druid or the closest thing to that, but don’t care to take those forms.

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Oleg Chebeneev

I never do that. Many of my twink guildies love that furbolg transformation in BGs, I never used it and never cared about it or any other transformations.

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kidwithknife

I dig ’em, I love shapeshifting characters. I never did stick with WoW for long, but when I did play I absolutely adored being able to turn into a cat or bear as a druid. Really, really cool.

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Hirku

Any feature that gives me a break from seeing the same backside for hundreds of hours is a welcome one.

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Green Dragoon

So I do occasionally enjoy some morphing in my class. It’s a nice break from being yet another very human looking race, at least for a little while. That said, what I like even better is when the developer doesn’t just cop out and some of your customization carries over into whatever you’re morphing into. I have to give Lord of the Rings Online props on this one, not only Beoring’s fur color match her hair color (white, so she look like e freaking polar bear) but her bear form retains the tattoo on her face.

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Veldan

I like transforms. I was sad when they removed the steel angel visual from my harbinger ability in RIFT. These things have a place in fantasy games in my opinion. As long as they don’t take it too far, like Aion with its ridiculous 1 hour long transforms where everyone is playing like some silly penguin or other random thing that totally does not fit in the game world.

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Michael18

It depends.

If the morph is one of the key characteristics of a class from the beginning, then it is fine and whoever does not like the morphing in general or the particular form can avoid the class. For example, Druid was my 2nd main in WoW and I loved the class.

But if it is suddenly added as a mandatory mechanic to an existing class, I agree it’s problematic because existing players may not like this profound change to the look and feel of their class.

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thalendor

Not a fan of morphing myself. Particularly in cases where you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time morphed as in some WoW Druid specs, it’s enough to discourage me from rolling a class as a main.

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Serrenity

It really depends for me. In WoW, I loved the cat form / flight form polymorphs. In EQ2 I hate polymorphs for my Fury so I always turn them off. I think it really depends on the quality of the polymorphs and having the default character model influence the polymorphed model.

For example, Druids in WoW all started as the same deal – one cat didn’t look any different than another. Then I think in Cata (maybe) they made hair color change the color of your polymorphs, which was awesome. In Legion, your artifact started showing up on your cat form as well.

In EQ2 – the models were weaker, and ultimately didn’t look as good as my character. I always play Fae in EQ2, so I mean I also like seeing my wing-y bits so that probably helps to.

Tl;DR – The answer is ‘maybe’

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MesaSage

The Beorning was kinda fun at the beginning, a novelty, but it quickly grew tiresome.

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BalsBigBrother

The Beorning is one of the reasons I am not too fussed about not doing the Mordor content right away because I am enjoying playing and levelling as a bear. Just goes to show different folks, different strokes and all that :-)

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MesaSage

I have two of them sitting at around 50, which is one of the points my alts take retirement. I have to love a class to go through Moria with them, so they may be waiting at Del Boca Vista Moria Condos for a long time.

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BalsBigBrother

The exact opposite for me.

While I was watching the GW2 expansion reveal I was pretty much oh that is nice for most of it but not super excited. Then when it came to the new Ranger specialisation and it at first sounding like you could morph then I got incredibly excited for the first time. Then when later they showed it in action that excitement was snuffed out which led to a feeling of disappointment instead.

So yeah I am a fan of morphs that would add something different to the normal mode of gameplay and allow me a bit more flexibility on how I approach any given fight or situation.

It regard to cosmetic morphs that don’t add anything other than an appearance change then I could agree to a point but some of those are fun too.

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CthulhuDawg

I missed being a tree all the time when Blizzard took that away from my Druid.

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Jaymes Buckman

They added it back with a glyph. Now you can be a tree in any specialisation. Trees everywhere! Forest on the move!

threeknee
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threeknee

It depends on the situation. Some druid morphs in WoW were pretty cool, but then there’s the bear and all the bear does is swipe his paw every once in a while. Not to say I expect a lot of flashy effects from a bear, but that’s pretty terrible and boring. If you are going to make me morph, make it cool.

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Michael18

heh, Druid was my main in WoW and bear my favorite form. I felt like the slow assed nature of the bear’s animations was a perfect fit when tanking. Also I loved its look when sitting down during a break on an instance run. Hilarious. Also, running instances in bear form with a balloon hanging on a rope around the neck was epic.

But I always thought they should give the bear some special emotes and some cosmetic gear. That was bit of a missed opportunity.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

I am a fan of it, but only if they allow the morph to be fairly customizable as my character.

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