Into the Super-verse: Seven tips for designing amazing MMO superhero costumes

How near, how far.

While we all know that the real endgame in any MMORPG is fashion, superhero titles take this much further than the rest of the field. Your costume in a superhero MMO is a great part of what defines you. It’s your creativity that you’re putting out there, giving everyone else a sense of what your character is about.

Are you trying to strike fear in your foes? Do you have alien heritage? Are you super-patriotic? Did you have to assemble your outfit on a budget? Are you goofy? Are you part-robot, part-insect? Your costume can say any of this and so much more.

But of course, you’ve got to make it good. It’s incredibly easy to make a lackluster or copycat costume, but a truly amazing outfit takes a lot of sweat, nail biting, and practice. In today’s column, we’re going to go over seven tips to making the best superhero costume you possibly can — no matter what MMO you play!

Tip #1: Learn the color wheel

Let’s be blunt about this: Colors will make or break your costume. How and where you dye your costume makes a world of difference. So it behooves you to learn the color wheel — and learn it well.

The color wheel is a tried-and-true tool in the fashion and advertising world. It shows which colors pair well with each other, which are “cool” or “warm” in tone, and which clash like nobody’s business.

A good starting point for many costumes is to center an outfit around a pair of colors that are directly opposite on the wheel. If you want to be a bit more professional about it, have one of the colors be more vibrant and the other darker.

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid of more than two colors

I’m going to stick to coloring for a little bit because it’s so important to a great costume. Perhaps the most common design choice that I see in games like City of Heroes is that players make a costume with two and only two colors. These costumes can be fine, but are rarely excellent.

A third or even fourth color, if applied right, can go that extra distance to really make an outfit pop. These colors don’t have to be applied all over the place, mind you; sometimes it’s nice to have an accent color. It just takes more work and care to make sure that all of the colors don’t clash or look garish (unless that’s what you’re going for!). Using greys, whites, and blacks as a third color is always a safe choice, too.

Tip #3: Be like Batman

If you want kind of a monochrome outfit, don’t slap one coat of color everywhere and call it a day. Batman doesn’t even do that. Use two or three different shades of the same color and discover depth and texture to your ensemble!

Tip #4: Be inspired — but don’t copy

This is a fine but important distinction to make. We all know that there are plenty of players out there who simply try to recreate classic superhero outfits, but that shows such a lack of imagination. I would instead encourage you to be inspired by elements of a hero’s costume design and incorporate those elements rather than slavishly copy them.

You like Iron Man’s suit? Cool. Ask yourself what makes his suit interesting to you. Write down some adjectives that describe it, maybe “sleek,” “metallic,” “sporty.” And then whip up your own creation that incorporates those elements in your own way.

Tip #5: Create a vision in your head before starting

One way to make a costume is to simply flip through options, pick what looks good in the moment, and then hit “play.” But a better way is to formulate a vision in your head for what you want to make before you even start going through the choices. Having that vision helps you make the choices and, more importantly, eliminate a lot of options that don’t fit what you’re trying to create with your costume.

Tip #6: Sometimes less is more

Here’s a thought that applies to all MMOs with wardrobes: Just because you can show something doesn’t mean you must. Often in World of Warcraft, I’ll disable about a third of the slots on my transmog — usually head, shoulders, cape — to focus on other parts, and it works great.

In superhero MMOs, you have access to so many slots and options, and an ever-present temptation is to use all of them up. But you don’t have to, especially if it goes against the vision you’ve established beforehand. You don’t need an aura and a giant smoking backpack and hulking shoulderpads and hissing snake boots just because you can… unless it’s what you wanted to do in the first place, of course.

Tip #7: Take notes from other players

I’ve long realized that there are always others who are far better at being creative than me, and if I want to get better at anything creative, I need to be observant and take note of what they did to catch my attention.

It might be silly to apply this to MMO costumes, but yeah, I totally do. I love going to costume contests and scouting outfits to see what ingenious ideas others put out for display. Other players have a lot to teach you, if you’re willing to learn.

What are your tips?

I hope this is just the starting point of an engaging discussion on costume design, so post your own outfit creation tips and tricks in the comments below!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.
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