The Daily Grind: Should MMOs do away with stat armor entirely?


While I’m all about progression and acquisition for my MMO characters as they journey through the levels, I’m less and less enthused about collecting different pieces of stat gear along the way. WoW Classic has reminded all of us how awful it used to look when we couldn’t tailor the visuals of our gear and had to traipse around looking like we blitzed through a medieval Salvation Army without bothering to color coordinate.

That’s why most all MMOs these days include some sort of transmog or cosmetic system, since the community has shown a great preference to customizing exactly how each player looks. So, I ask you, is there any point to the old system of stat gear? Games like Secret World Legends and City of Heroes divorced themselves entirely from that system, allowing players to snort up special stat items that weren’t wearable or visually noticeable.

What do you think? Is it time to be rid of this concept, or does it still hold use and merit?

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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Yes please. One of the better things I like in BnS was basically this. Also in games such as Mabinogi, players can wear equipment purely for appearances in a different tab than the “real” armors count for stats.


I always found stat-based gear stupid…but that’s more because when I reach what other players consider ‘end-game’ in these games…I often leave.

I don’t gear grind for years to ‘be the best’.

I do enjoy cosmetic systems/ability to alter what I look like/get a certain outfit I like to run around in…but stat-wise, I never play that ‘game’ where they are just feeding you tiny little morsels to get you biting for the next morsel of stat goodness.

Carrot on a stick approach doesn’t work on me, basically.

Also, because I used to have a memory from hell, I used to out-level stat gear real fast…as in, I’d get it, and within a few minutes/hours it’d be obsolete. So it was like…why bother looking for ‘the best’.

I also tended to notice that stat-gear didn’t really do much mathematically for your characters in most games…(Other than force-stacking your specific stat…like endurance for a tank, or strength for a melee character…)…by looking through the stat sheets.

It was really just how you played/what skills you used/how you did your rotation that effectively changed the outputs…if you were used to playing something, you did more, but if you were just learning you were often fumbling around/trying to get yourself functional.

There was many times I’d offer helpful advice to randoms in PUG’s because that’s mostly what I’d do…where I’d try and help them get their character functioning better because I’d played that build previously and could offer a bit of advice…

I mean, I used to be invited by strangers who’d play with me and realize how high my outputs were…to the point where I got raid invites because they knew I was ‘dependable’/could learn the fights/’get gud’.

So, no, I’m not a fan of stat armor, especially as people started to use it as a ‘gearscore’ to decide if someone was ‘good’ or not…and any tom dick or harry could be dragged through somewhere and get a good piece of gear and look like they knew what they were doing…(carried)…when some of them were people who’d be just bouncing through an area and not even actually DOING ANYTHING there.

I think it ruined things in some ways on some games…

Kyle Lymber

What about the way WoW classic does it but with the ability to customize the colors? Similar to Elder Scrolls Online’s dye system. This preserves the visual achievement / progression of the gear and allows a way to look cleaner and more outfitted than random items with different color pallets.


Substantial part of the fun in Anthem, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is the ability to modify character’s outlook any time to whatever I want, regardless of stats. In Monster Hunter: World I had to use mods for that. Ubisoft (and BioWare to lesser extend) knows how to create games with 500 hours / year playtime.

Hikari Kenzaki

It’s not really an either/or sort of thing.
Cosmetics and Stats should be separate
Cosmetics should still drop/be earned.
Cosmetics should still be available for purchase.
Gear should still drop/be earned (If your game has gear. There are other ways to do it, but I’m not against gear).

DCUO’s system was interesting in that gear also unlocks cosmetics but you can set your cosmetic look to change or not based on gear you acquire. So, you had the option of an ever-changing murderhobo look or a fixed look.

As you say, most games have a way to do both. GW2 does a good job of it.

I think the main reason to attach both Cosmetic and Stats to gear is it creates one drop that appeals to most. Some will collect for the stat, some for the cosmetic, some for both.


The thing I didn’t like about DCUO was how limited your options were on a new character. It’s a superhero game, and you can barely make more than a basic single color bodysuit at character creation. Maybe it changed since the last time I played, I don’t know. For myself, I tend to enjoy *creating* characters more than actually playing them.

I have 35 captains in Star Trek Online, because I wanted to try different combinations of looks, career types, and even themes for the crew. I haven’t played in ages, but I made over 40 characters in Champions Online, because I’d have an idea for a new character (costume, powerset, name, whatever) and couldn’t do it properly as just an alternate costume for someone I already had. Most of my Star Trek Captains have slowly wandered towards the level cap, though some are still a ways from it. In Champions, I had *one* max level character, and only two more over level 25. At least for Champions, it wasn’t a game so much as a character creation tool where the character could go punch something afterwards if I really wanted to.

Hikari Kenzaki

DCUO wasn’t the best by any stretch. I only mention it as part of this discussion because it presented a hybrid gear/cosmetic progression. CO actually had that early on as well, but it was mostly abandoned.

Hikari Kenzaki

And for the record, I had over 70 characters on ONE server in City of Heroes :) And dozens on other servers.

Castagere Shaikura

I love what the secret world did and the City of Heros had it right years ago. I wish more MMO’s did this. That way you can really customize how your character looks.

Ian Wells

I think people are looking at this the wrong way. Items that provide stats would still drop, but they are non-cosmetic. You get them, equip them, and they modify your parameters but don’t disrupt whatever look you are going for.

My personal favorite example of this has always been the original Phantasy Star Online, which gave a very wide variety of character customization options (peerless in that regard for its time), and the only items that you got that changed your look from that point were weapons. They actually had justification in that the “armor” of the PSO world was really shielding and that the augmentations you could slot in were just boosters to those objects output.

Games like CoH take the idea a little further and have you apply “gear” to you skills, modifying things like cooldown, CC duration, CC chance, damage, ect. Depending on the background you choose, your options have different flavors to them (but are statistically identical to other origins), such as Mutant players have genetic modifications or Magic players taking hold of magical artifacts.

Personally, I am all for these sorts of systems. I would love for them to start off with a fairly limited selection of base looks (enough to satisfy but leave the player wishing they had more options), and then have cosmetic upgrades drop or be crafted. GW2 tried to do something like this, but in the most obtuse and cumbersome way and then had the gall to monetize the whole thing first with pallets costing money and then transmogging require cash shop items. Point being, we can absolutely do better than that.


Warframe and Star Trek Online also separate the systems. Warframe mods act (and look) something like cards, you just equip them in slots until you run out of capacity points. Being able to change the look of a Warframe was something they added at some point after the game got going. Now it’s a really major component of their monetization, since the Warframes and weapons can all be unlocked exclusively through gameplay if you want.

Star Trek Online is from many of the same people who made City of Heroes, so it’s no surprise that your outfit has very little effect on your appearance. They’ve changed the system over time as they’ve updated, dropped or replaced certain game mechanics. Personal armor used to be a visual you could toggle on or off, but were limited to the type you were actually wearing. Career Kits, which held the majority of a character’s ground combat powers, also had a preset appearance. At some point both were separated and the components just became more costume options. Now, the only way gear affects your appearance seems to be the Reputation gear items. Building a full set unlocks the appearance of that armor as another set of costume options on that character.

Personally, I prefer it that way. I don’t care that you have the Giant Shoulderpads of +9000 Epeen, and I’d prefer to not look like I feel into a tub of glue and then a vat of skittles just so that someone else can make sure everyone else knows how many DKP they’ve gotten during their Raids.

Oleg Chebeneev

Its like asking to remove progression from MMOs


Heck no. If there’s one thing I dislike about MMOs it’s when they remove any sense of growth through obtaining better gear. It’s something to work towards at endgame beyond just raising a bar higher to get minor stat increases through a Paragon system or whatever.

FFXIV and RIFT both have a good grasp on it for the most part. Gear progression still exists and you can cosmetic/dye it up however you want.

David Harrison

The idea of your armor looking like the visual associated with the gear you have equipped comes from back in the day when gear didn’t plop out of every monster you killed.

Gear upgrades used to be special, rare, and not be replaced that quickly. Therefore, in games like EverQuest (long ago… not today), you could instantly tell where someone has been and what they have accomplished simply by looking at what they were wearing. It served a purpose, and I loved it.

Then World of Warcraft was released, and EVERYTHING changed over night.

Instead of getting UberSword_002 from SuperRareBossMob_005, you got a new sword about once every ten minutes (exaggeration yes, but you get the point). This completely killed the idea of gear being special, and there was no indication of any accomplishments anyone had made.

Until… the raid gear came in to play. World of Warcraft introduced armor sets that had unique visuals, and the awesomeness of EverQuest’s old gear system was resurrected in the MMORPG genre. Hurray!

And…. then Blizzard decided that unique armor sets was too much work, so they just started reusing armor visuals all over the place, and the gear system died a horrible second death that it has never been resurrected from since.

TL;DR version:
Is gear visuals related to gear equiped? Yes. It is, but only if the game is designed with that in mind.

Alternative Solution
I think there is a hybrid that can be introduced in to the genre that would serve both those who like unique armor visuals and those who want to create their own looks.

Instead of making the armor look like the gear equipped, let the user design their character’s looks how ever they want, but have certain add-ons to the gear that have specific looks, and tie those items to specific gear drops and accomplishments.

For example, let people attach medals to their chest armor, add particle effects to their weapons and gear, etc.

Make it to where if you accomplish big things or get that super awesome rare raid drop in a particular expansion, you can add something to your character’s appearance that shows that.