Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s new outfit system is close to perfect

I can spend hours with an outfit designer in an MMORPG. When APB was a new thing, I literally spent whole game sessions in front of its customization terminals. And I am only slightly embarrassed at the hundreds of millions of credits that I’ve spent on Star Wars: The Old Republic cosmetic armor. I knew it was only a matter of time before Elder Scrolls Online created its version of an outfit designer to steal away my time and money.

When ESO introduced wardrobes and costumes years ago, I believed that we weren’t going to get anything more. However, Update 17 last week added a new layer of character customization. With the addition of the Outfit System, there isn’t really anything else players need to make their character look the way that they want.

ESO‘s designer takes elements from other outfit systems that work and create its own unique way of allowing players to piece together items. In fact, I would say that ESO‘s outfit design is close to perfect.

The perfect system

I have an internal struggle regarding character customization: I believe that the way a character looks (build, armor, etc.) should play a role way the character plays. I have a hard time believing that a gigantic character has a good way of being stealthy. I also have trouble believing that a tiny character could take down a giant with raw strength. That’s not to say that I believe there should be some game-breaking advantage or disadvantage based on a character’s physical build, but there should probably be a different baseline.

In the same vein, I believe that the outfit a character wears should also affect the way a character performs. I wouldn’t expect someone in heavy, clunky armor to be able to sneak up on someone, but at the same time, silk cloth isn’t going to deflect many arrows or sword swings.

Unfortunately, what ends up happening in most MMOs because of the limitation of design time, there ends up being only a handful of armor sets that seems to work the best for a specific role. And everyone ends up looking exactly the same all the time. And even as role players, we end up having people look very similar because of the in-game advantages of specific sets of armor. Part of the appeal of MMOs for me is the ability to make my character look unique, and most armor-progression systems undermine that idea.

Despite my objection to outfit design systems, I absolutely understand why game designers build them and why players demand them.

ESO’s take on an outfit system

If you own Elder Scrolls Online, you have access to the Outfit System. Despite its being released with the Dragon Bones DLC, it is not a part of that DLC; it’s part of the base game. It even draws on elements in the base game, like the dye system. In fact, the Dye Stations have now been converted to Outfit Stations. Wherever you used to change the dye sets for your armor, you can now change your whole outfit.

When you find an Outfit Station, you can change the look of your outfit just like changing armor. The left side of the UI shows the different pieces of armor and weapons your character has on. And to the right are the different pieces that you can choose from. To preview simply double click the item on the right and you will see it on your character in the middle, and it will appear on the left as well. But it will not permanently become a part of the outfit until you hit “Apply Changes.”

The designs you have to choose from are based on the motifs that you’ve learned. The ones you know are shown in full on the right, and the ones you don’t know are grayed out. Although you can overlay heavy armor on light armor or vice vera or anything in between, you cannot replace one slot’s item with one that would fit in another slot. So no boots on your shoulders! Likewise, you cannot replace one weapon type with another weapon type. That means no lightning staffs that look like broadswords, despite how cool that would be.

The dye system remains unchanged, except now you can apply dyes to the different outfits you’ve created.

Unique bits

The outfit costs themselves vary based on which items you choose. Basic armors will cost less than rarer motifs, and shoulder pieces will cost less to change than breastplates. It will also cost more if you dye the pieces – but that’s in-game gold, despite its being a cosmetic change. You can buy an Outfit Change Token from Crown Store, allowing you to change the look of an outfit without costing gold, but that will cost you 400 Crowns — a bit high, if you ask me.

All players get one free outfit slot. (It still costs to actually change the outfit.) The name of the outfit by default is “Outfit 1” but you can rename the outfit to whatever you’d like. And if one outfit slot isn’t enough for you, then you can buy more slots from the Crown Store for 1500 Crowns — also a little expensive (as player outcry last week confirmed).

There are a couple of things that I would change with this designer. I would like to see a “Hide Shoulders” option like there is a “Hide Helmet” option. I would also like to see a way to purchase motifs directly from the Outfit Station. That being said, I do like that it will tell you how to earn a particular motif if you don’t have it. I also like the ability to change the weapon style. It even goes so far as to give you the ability to swap out an axe for a dagger as long as it doesn’t change how the weapon is wielded.

Although it compromises my general sensibilities about armor types and uses, I do believe that ESO knocked it out of the park with this system. But what do you think? Have you had a chance to try out this outfit designer? If not, hop into ESO now and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.

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David Spake

I absolutely agree the additional slots are overpriced, and they should have made those slots account wide, instead of character only.

However, I think otherwise the system is pretty damn good, especially because Motifs are shared across the account, so if my Magblade has a full set of Thieves Guild, all my alts can craft that style whether or not they have it or not.

As far as the effort to collect the Motifs go, I see no issue with it. Motifs have always been highly prized in the game, and I see no reason why an outfit system should make them less so. It takes time, energy and effort (not to mention a fair bit of luck) to collect them. To hand them out willy-nilly, only degrades the accomplishment of having collected them. Besides, if you HAVE to have some Style, then either grind out the motif yourself, buy it off an auctioneer or pay someone to craft it for you. Plenty of options there.

Travis Laborde

ugh. sounds great except for the “motifs” part. so many times I’ve hated to upgrade gear because my new gear looks worse than my old gear. maybe because the old gear was just awesome looking. made me really like my character.

would be SO MUCH BETTER if like Rift, where “any armor you’ve ever had – you can make your outfit use it.” why only motifs? why not based on loot you’ve had? oh, money for motifs. !$%@!#%$

Steven Williams

That’s great, but could they make armor less like skin-tight lycra suits with 2 or 3 pieces of leather/plate glued on? Not that I mind bulging Khajiit bois in skin-tight leather… It just looks really, really uncomfortable to wear.

Unless it’s actually bodypaint and not armor.

Nick Smith

The high cost of trying to collect all motifs and buying extra costume slots takes advantage of what advertisors call the “first buyers”. These guys are fanatics and will buy anything at almost any cost to be first… give it some time and they will change how the system works and or lower its cost.

Nick Smith

I agree that 15 bucks for a non accnt wide costume slot is a bit much.


I’m sorry Larry but I hate the new system.
1. It favors veterans over newer players who have less cash or time to chase dailies. Most new players are trying to get more bag space, bank space or level horse speed. Not buying motifs.
2. It favors gear crafters over non gear crafters. Crafters have been collecting motifs forever. If you are a Provisioner why would you keep motifs? I am sure those folks are pissed right now for selling those
3. Motifs are now more than DLC in the crown store. Really bad optics on ZOS.
4. SWTOR’S system is better. Let people who don’t have the motifs use dropped armor to get the style they want, then stamp it in the outfit designer. Or use motifs. Boom fair.
5. Causing inflation for real crafters who are collecting motifs for crafting.
6. If you are RP’ing and don’t steal or kill you can’t get some motifs unless you guild store it. And then, See item #1

David Spake

1) What system doesn’t favor Vets over new players? As far as cost, since learned styles are shared account wide, you only need one toon with the style.
2) Uhh… yea. If a player don’t care about motifs before the system, why should you care after outfitting is implemented?
3) Absolutely agree. I know the costs to run a game of this size are immense, but geez…. have some common sense devs.
4) meh. I played Rift (a similar style to SWTOR I hear), and it works for Rift. However in ESO Motifs/styles are an accomplishment, and I see no reason to degrade their value just because a new system comes into being.
5) Agreed.
6) Yea, even using guild stores and auctioneers some of those motifs are astronomical. As far as money goes though, one toon, spending 10 minutes a day crafting the 6 dailies can earn (gross) 25K. yea, mats cost, style stones cost, etc… but the money aspect isn’t horrifically difficult.

Randy Savage

There is absolutely no way to justify charging $15 worth of Crowns for something as arbitrary as additional outfit slots. I can’t think of a single other MMO that does this. Even SWTOR doesn’t stoop that low. And to make it worse, it’s not even account-wide, making it unjustifiably heavy handed. I don’t know how anyone can look at it objectively and defend that price point. Apart from that though, it’s a fairly adequate system. It’s just sad that it has to be marred by corporate corporate clowns who have their heads up their asses.


This actually makes me less likely to play ESO. Not due to how the feature works, but rather the way its monetization works.

This kind of system is something I always want to fully unlock in all games I play, but at the same time I absolutely refuse to purchase with real money (or store cash) anything that isn’t account-wide. And if there is something in-game I would want to have, but can’t obtain in a way I find reasonable, I’m likely to just avoid the game altogether.

Kathy Davis

I like it.

Stkmks Returns

Perfect yeah but at the same time useless.. you have to get the motifs (or equip the style? not sure) before you can change to the appearance.. that’s either an immense amount of in game work or an immense amount of cash shop money.

Maybe i’ll get to use such perfection one day :) All i can change to in a perfect manner is a bunch of brown sack like robes.

Kickstarter Donor

I need to get over my feelings towards this game so I can go enjoy the housing and cosmetic system. Sounds nice… now does the outfit system work as a static appearance or is it like WoW’s transmog where it has to be applied to every piece of new gear you get?

Mr. E.™
Mr. E.™

If you change “real” armor pieces while wearing the “outfit”, the “outfit” does not change.


i.e. – its better than WoW transmog :)