The Vengeful Polyglot

Newly Announced: Transmogrification and Void Storage

Posted on: August 18, 2011

 

The surprises just keep coming! Just on the heels of the (now partially active) tanking changes discussed yesterday, Blizzard has now provided some firm details about the NPCs pictured in the patch 4.3 teaser above. At the Gamescom convention in Germany they revealed that Transmogrification will be a new gear modifying service. A service that is, unlike the reforging system we currently have, entirely cosmetic. As described in the official preview:

“Visiting a Transmogrifier will present players with a new interface that will allow them to change the appearance of an item while retaining its original stats. This means that you can raid in your paladin tier 12 Immolation set, but look like you’re wearing Lightbringer, while priests can bring Benediction back — at least in spirit.”

Void Storage will be a 100-150 slot gear storage system, intended to go hand in hand with Transmogrification. It is briefly mentioned in the same preview, though it’s own preview should be available here soon (despite showing up on the “related links” from the Transmogrification preview, the page gives a 404 when clicked):

“Transmogrification encourages players to hold onto items with sentimental or aesthetic value, and the Ethereals anticipate that personal bag and bank space will be at a premium now that everyone will be hoarding their frilly pantaloons and leather jerkins. In anticipation of this new demand for additional storage space, they’ll be introducing a unique Void Storage service.”

So, cosmetic gear has finally made its way to WoW. Given the constant, prolonged clamoring on the forums for such a feature (I think one of these threads gets a Blue response every few months or so), I can’t say I’m shocked. The actual implementation of it, and the scale of it, does floor me, though. Sure, I’ve had those vague daydreams of bygone days or tier sets I didn’t complete “in time” (Oh, Benediction, I really did love you!), but in the end… I’d rather be in the best gear currently available. It’s a status symbol, just as much as a nice watch or a good purse would be IRL, and quite aside from that, it’s also in holding with the “silhouette theory” Blizzard has stuck to for so long. A really good explanation of the theory and how this is a marked departure from it can be found at the WoW Insider article here.

Suffice to say, once this change goes live, you’ll no longer be able to accurately “judge” players based on appearance alone as you have been able to so far. That paladin rocking Judgement in your Heroic could be in quest greens, Tier 12, or full PvP gear. Without inspecting someone (a feature which has been bugged into uselessness for me for the longest time), you cannot tell anything about what kind of content they’ve done or what content they would be suited for. To be sure, there are some limits. You can only change your gear to look like something your class can wear. My shaman can’t look like a warlock. But this is a far cry from being able to judge which enemy in the Battleground you’re running is the best to avoid. It’s no longer possible, when players can wear “vanity” gear, to tell the relative prestige of one player over another.

If we were in a social group which had to be egalitarian, or which wasn’t based on a hierarchy of “tiers” of content and levels of skill, this would not be a problem. If I walk around with a purse from Target instead of Burberry, people might make note of it, but it wouldn’t necessarily affect how they judged me. To each his own. But in a game where, for 5 years, we’ve been expected to reliably trust what we can see our friends or enemies have equipped (druids notwithstanding, though the tree form change partially addressed this), I think the difference will be felt.

Basically, we’re going from gear representing your accomplishments to gear representing your personal taste. That’s not an entirely bad trade off — depending on the limitations and how it’s implemented. I honestly expected something on the lines of dyes in games like Guild Wars. I didn’t see anything of this scale coming. Instead of allowing for some customization within the existing silhouette paradigm, we’re completely changing the way appearance correlates to progression and self-differentiation (i.e. “RP” costume vs. PvE tier vs. PvP gear).

There’s also the matter of Blizzard’s motive behind the change. I think art design, and the demands for it, probably had something to do with it. This same issue was brought up in the WoW Insider article I linked above:

“Interestingly enough, I wonder how this will affect tier gear creation and whether there will be an emphasis on less impressive gear and more on different art assets, as players might not even care to see their new armor. I sincerely doubt that that will be an issue, however. Blizzard will still churn out cool-looking armor sets for every tier with each new raiding environment.”

This is not an isolated musing. I’ve seen post after post on the forums bringing this up (which, obviously, doesn’t guarantee validity — just that the concern is at least somewhat prevalent), and several of the WoW blogs I follow have mentioned it. To quote from the blog Blessing of Kings:

“There are issues with gear art at the moment. There are too many recolors, diminishing the uniqueness of the art. Tier art is reused for off-spec pieces, so everyone looks the same, instead of having Tier sets being instantly recognizable.

But I think those issues could have been solved without cosmetic gear. I think cosmetic gear will prove to be a mistake in the long run. We play these games for a long time, and fashion needs to cycle, to refresh itself with new ideas. Allowing time to stand still, to grow stagnant and ossify, will only hurt WoW.”

Of course, all of our guesses about the future ramifications and motives behind the change are just that — speculation. Nevertheless, they’re not formed out of whole cloth. There have been issues with the art; the textures are worlds better, but resources are recycled, recolored, and just not that “inspired” anymore. My favorite recent(ish) tier, say, since Wrath, was T7: a revamp of an even older tier! Despite it being suggested, though, I still have enough faith in Blizzard to think that this change isn’t based on laziness or lack of new ideas. Like most of changes or quality of life features that get implemented, I think it’s aimed at pleasing the player base, and letting players have more control over their characters.

Despite this, I do think there will be gameplay-related consequences. I don’t think it was the best idea to do away with the silhouette theory, or with the connection between achievement and gear. Even though I enjoy having lots of old gear (and my bank therefore eagerly awaits Void Storage), I’ve still taken pride in updating my gear with newer and better pieces. It’s a badge of honor. I suppose that while I’m not willing to condemn the change as terrible, I also am somewhat disappointed. Personally, I would have preferred something of a more limited effect, like dyes, or more “non-gear” customization: new hairstyles, new skins for old races, the dance studio, more visible jewelery, an implementation of that “overcloak” concept that got scrapped during the battle for Gnomeregan and the Echo Isles, etc.

We’ll just have to see how it goes on live, I guess. I won’t put in my final verdict until we’ve seen the actual implementation. I’m not convinced it’ll be good, though. 😦

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6 Responses to "Newly Announced: Transmogrification and Void Storage"

While I haven’t played since Jan (not that I’ve canceled my account), as a long time player (since almost launch) the death of silhouettes is a weird idea to get used to. I think it might really devalue gear. Once of the most awesome things historically was that ability to spot the “uber” players at a glance and know that they totally had no lives. The strutting around value of top gear was extreme in the Classic and BC eras when having the leading raid tier meant that you really did have no life.

Personally, I can’t exactly why it was after leveling and gear in Cataclysm that I lost total interest, but I did. Maybe it’s just having played 4 endgames. Maybe it’s that after the total faceroll that was LK returning to even moderate difficulty was tedious (PUGs usually failing etc). Maybe it’s the extreme homogenization that the game underwent in the big overhaul. Who knows. Looking back on it, BC was the most fun.

You should play and we can Heroic together! The cross-server RealID grouping is live now, and free! Also, I think PUGs are slightly less fail now, as a general thing.

I agree with you, though. It’s going to be really eerie to see people not “wearing” what they have equipped. I didn’t play much in BC (I hit 70 just soon enough to run Kara once before Wrath launched), but I do agree things are quite different than they were then, and that this change is moving away from where the game was and probably should have remained. :/

You do have to have the old armor. Good thing I kept all my tier gear (even T1, T2) and all those holiday suits in the bank. Now I’ll have to move them to the “void storage.”

Yeah, I’ll have to try out the cross realm dungeoning. That would help. You have tanks too 🙂 The 40 min Q time was another factor that killed things for me. I should have leveled my healer (who is still 80).

What?

Don’t worry about it. 😛

[…] too surprised. The whole silhouette theory seems to have gone out the window a bit, as I’ve mentioned before, so both factions having access to a race doesn’t seem off the wall at this point. The idea […]

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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