The Daily Grind: What informs your cosmetic choices in MMOs?

Should or shouldn't?

The days in which it was an active debate whether or not a given MMO should have a system of cosmetics have passed us by, thankfully. Now, it’s just a question of how your game of choice handles matters of cosmetic outfits. It varies from game to game, but no matter the title, you can play dress-up to your heart’s content in basically any MMO you care to name. Which means that the question becomes how you choose to play dress-up and what you want your characters to look like.

Some players like to come up with elaborate fashion ensembles based on character traits or the lore surrounding a given set of character options. Others just go for something that looks cool, others opt for something setting-appropriate, and others try to imitate specific characters or other media. And, of course, some people just slap on the skimpiest outfit possible. So what informs your cosmetic choices in MMOs? What motivates your fashion choices in online games?

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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I’m definitely one of those FFXIV players for whom “glamour is the true endgame” and I really enjoy coming up with a wide variety of character appropriate outfits for my character, a Keeper of the Moon huntress. She’s got an established sense of style at this point, although if I think something looks cool but not what she’d wear everyday I usually can come up with an excuse for her to wear it (date night, religious ritual garments, etc.). Any outfit that’s just not in-character I’ll change pretty quickly, no matter how good I think it looks.


context and attitude, represented via skill, flavor and theme for an unique appearance.

since my attitude is progressive, iam also a vet (skill), so my textile preference is rarity via challenge trophies. these class based themes* usually require some additional flavor, as in example CM Gold (MoP) Paladin set shoulders distort the overall ratio (in relation to the other set-pieces).
but (referring to the given example as general guideline) CM sets gold and blue flavor has a nearly overdetermined saturation, which requires a counter-focus, not a clear contrast, but a fluid deviation. so gold and blue transcends into Purple – the weapon of choice has to be the purple flavored Shattered Ashbringer (Mage Tower + Kil Jaeden hc skin).

the context here is the relation of personal investment (in comparision to others) to express my attitude: i succeeded the test(s) of time(/WoW), evident on (first) sight. cuz thats fun (to me), achieving and refining those rares into something unique*. and also, quite inherent, but of primary importance: i simply like these looks.

(*ww monk in wrestler look, outlaw as musketeer etc)

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As an altoPHILE, I like to go for themes in alts.

For example in CITY OF HEROES I had

Col. Jaguar O’Neill, Dr. Daniel Catson, Maj. Samantha Catter & Mil’c of the C.A.T.(Cosmic Access Tunnel) Command’s, C.A.T.Gate-CG1

I also had characters who had a shared origin, one involving a temporal event, allowed a variety of origins and styles.

Same was true in CHAMPIONS ONLINE, I’ll include a sample that you see if you can get the theme. Fans of classic literature or movies will have an advantage.

In STAR TREK ONLINE, I like to go with themes for my Bridge Officers

For example, James Tabbyrius Kitt commands an all-Caitian senior officers.

And, well, I post another for you to guess.

james tabbyrius kitt.jpg
star trek firefly.jpg
heroes of oz.jpg

My “snob” character only has the appearance of artifact items or above. That’s about it really. Did a scarlet bride in FFXIV but it felt out of place in dungeons but fit right in within a maze holding a cheese knife in stealth.

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Sometimes I have a concept going in, other times I just assemble something from pieces I like (unlike real life, I don’t have to worry about whether or not game clothes actually look good on me).

Reflecting, it swings strongly one way or the other along game lines.

Pre-conceptualized characters:

STO – My ADHD space pirate alter ego from high school writing projects. (If you eyeroll at my former cringeworthiness, allow me to assure you I am still every bit as cringeworthy today.) When they added Harry Mudd’s Discovery coat the look was completed.

ESO – I had a wood elf Warden that was designed to look and dress like Nissa Revane from Magic the Gathering. My wife played as a Breton Dragon Knight designed to look like Chandra Nalaar. She would run heedlessly into spawns and set everything on fire, and I would quietly use plant heals to keep her alive. Roleplaying is effortless if your personalities match the characters in the first place.

ESO – Had the character pop into my head one day who was a tsundere ice princess in a ball gown with a giant two-handed katana strapped to her back. So I made that. (Told you I’m still cringeworthy).

Evolved from options:

SWTOR – Years ago I found a top I quite liked on my Jedi Sage and built a look around it – long white formal gown with lace and gold trim, and a pair of kickass black combat boots tucked discretely under the hem. “I am here for a formal diplomatic function, but if you choose to Start Some S–t, I am well-prepared to finish it.”

SWTOR – I found a top that reminded me of a sniper’s ghillie suit, with a green camo poncho over the shoulders (I think it was inspired by the Rebel commando outfits in RotJ). I built a “post time skip” outfit for my Trooper based around that, figuring she’d gone from white-armored Republic line soldier to irregular militia at that point.

SWTOR – My Sith Inquisitor has another look built around things I picked up and liked, but I’m really happy with the outfit I made for companion Ashara Zavros, a mix of parts from the store outfits Tribal Champion and Huttsbane, plus boots that were a high-level random drop.


At the moment the only game I’m playing even close to a “true MMO” is Star Trek Online. At this time, appearance is entirely separate from equipment. There are some sets of “reputation grind” equipment where building at least one complete set unlocks more costume options, and a handful more items that you can choose to display on your character or not. (Many of them are just weapons, but there might be some armors left with an actual appearance option.)

But in general, STO leaves how your captain looks up to the player. It also comes with a TON of uniform presets, so that it’s almost easier to create a “generic but in-character” outfit than a Skittles Abomination. There *is* a Randomize button though. :(

In Star Trek Online and Warframe, I try to create appearances I find visually appealing and that feel (to me) to be “in character” for the setting. So I strongly avoid garish colors, or combos like “white-magenta-cyan-yellow” which I feel makes the wearer look like a walking billboard for SweetTarts candy.

I don’t assume I’m particularly creative, or even just “kind of adequate” artistically though. Among many other failings, I tend to bias towards kind of limited selection of colors. In Warframe, many (but not all) of my Warframes seem to have ended up with Dark Blue-White-Gold, with either black or dark gray as an accent color. There are a few exceptions though.


Really all depends on the tools we’re given. Most games cosmetics are simply outfits that you can sometimes dye.

When given more robust options, such as GW2, I tend to go with a theme based on various items. For example my all time favorite is my Charr Mesmer which I made entirely because of the Aetherblade light armor being a button up shirt and vest with the top hat. Since then I’ve incorporated other items like phantasmal looking weapons (sword there) and a full array of mounts I’ve colored to also look like phantasms. Another example is I saw the shackles from Holloween and knew I wanted to make some sort of “unleashed” looking character which I think worked pretty well with Revenant given their pseudo story of being trapped in the mists.

Otherwise just general themes. Tiny Sylvari in super bulky armor that makes it look normal. Subtle color additions that works well with character ability/glows. Just a straight up encased in a suit of armor. Maybe a middle eastern mix.

Ben Willows

Normally I go with something that fits my class, and race but isn’t a common look.

Bruno Brito

Options gud. Lack of Options bad.

Also, if the fanart of the game is way more complex than the in-game fashion, i hate it ( WoW and ESO >:C )

At this very moment, my favourite Fashion MMO is GW2. And it’s still quite lackluster.


Mostly pop cultural references, colour and pigtails… o.O