Enter at Your Own Rift Wardrobe blues
One of the aspects of RIFT that I keep trumpeting to friends and strangers alike is just how wonderfully quick, responsive, and engaging Trion Worlds' updates have been. It's almost as if the dev team is engaging in a pillow fight with players, swinging away and trying to pummel us into submission with great content that's not always perfect but usually is great. In comparison, many other MMOs have become stodgy dinosaurs, creaking along with long-promised but never-arriving features.

So while I praise Trion for the bounty of nine major updates since launch, there's one feature that I've felt discontented with every since its inclusion: the wardrobe. For me to say this is kind of a big thing; anyone who knows me knows that I adore it when MMOs give us the option to dress up our characters the way we like. An appearance system was a big wish list item for me, and when Trion casually tossed it in the game early on, I was ecstatic.

Yet over the months, I've grown to dislike the system as a whole, especially in comparison to cosmetic gear systems in other titles that I play. It's a little difficult to put a finger on why, but I've got another 1000 words or so to make the attempt and then discuss solutions. Let's get to it!

Enter at Your Own Rift Wardrobe blues
Fashion 101

The wardrobe system came with last year's update 1.2, early enough in the game's life that I suspect the team was working on it well before launch. Integrated into the character panel, the wardrobe lets you toggle between your actual gear and "sets" of cosmetic outfits. Both costume and armor pieces can be slotted into the wardrobe, although the player is restricted to his or her class when it comes to the armor (so no Warriors wearing cloth armor in the wardrobe, etc.).

Certain elements of the wardrobe, like regular gear, can be toggled off (such as the head or shoulders) so that they do not appear on the screen. Most wardrobe pieces can be dyed, although some are restricted or locked in to a specific color.

I love cosmetic systems like this because of the often-mismatched nature of MMO gear collecting. Sure, your stats may be top-notch, but you can look like a hobo who just threw on any old scrap of clothing without a thought to the overall appearance. How our characters look can often be just as important as how they function, and I know that I take great pride in making my avatars look the best they can be.

I had great hopes that RIFT's system would provide the same satisfaction that I get with designing outfits in Lord of the Rings Online, but after 1.2, I found this not to be the case. How come?

Double double your depression

The key problem behind my dissatisfaction with the wardrobe system is actually quite simple: There aren't enough different types of armor, and the ones we do have aren't that visually appealing.

Let's break that down. In his recent Reddit AMA, Scott Hartsman admitted that the team didn't have as long as it would've liked to come up with a larger variety of armor models for RIFT. I concur on this point because as I've leveled from 1 to 50 during the past couple of months, I've seen the same models recycled over and over and over and over again. I've kept my eye out for eye-catching pieces, but they've been quite few and far between. I actually count myself fortunate that I've been able to cobble together a neat-looking outfit from what I've found.

Not only are there few variations in what we get, but the armor style of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Now, RIFT is a gorgeous game. I am cuckoo for its aesthetic, from the environment to architecture to enemy models. So it's extremely disconcordant to me that the game also has (I'm being kind here) very blah armor design. Maybe it's supposed to be the style of the world, a mix of ugliness and practicality, but it's never worked for me. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm a pretty forgiving guy when it comes to looks -- and RIFT isn't cutting it with the outfits.

There are just so few model variations and so much blah design in what we get. With that hand, I might as well fold.

Obviously, the solution is to get more armor variants into the game ASAP. Some of the high-level stuff looks great, but that's mostly walled off behind group content. I don't think it's a good policy to keep players looking like generic ragamuffins until the endgame, do you?

Costume party

Costumes are the flipside of the wardrobe equation, but its been an underused side at best. The RIFT Wardrobe Wiki (yes, there is such a thing) lists only six costume sets in the game at this point, and unless I hear differently, that's what I'm going with. I know there are other pieces, like the veteran's reward, but it still feels as though the sample size is small right now.

If I had my preference between more armor models and more costume pieces, I'd go with the latter. Trion's shown more creativity with the costume side of things, especially during the game's world events. I still adore my festival masks as some of the few hats I'm not embarrassed to wear. Don't get me started on those bizarre Dwarven happy hats, please.

Enter at Your Own Rift Wardrobe blues
Show me some skin, baby

Another issue I have with the wardrobe is, to put it bluntly, looking like a hooker. Unfortunately, RIFT subscribes to the notion that female characters need completely different armor models for the same pieces of armor, and these suits of armor have about 40% less coverage in favor of showing some skin. Maybe you think it's ideal to go running out onto the field of battle in a mini-skirt, but I'd much prefer looking as though I mean businesses and not that I'm trying out for the Telara Cheerleader Squad.

That's why I keep trying to find armor models and costume pieces that aren't skimpy to the point of silliness but instead look good and practical.

Restrictive wear

The final problem I have with the wardrobe is the fact that Trion keeps archetypes from using armor models for other archetypes for cosmetic purposes. Apart from PvP -- where RIFT could simply force you to show your actual armor -- I fail to see why this has any bearing on the game whatsoever. In LotRO, my characters can use any armor model in my wardrobe, whether it's heavy plate or loose, flowing robes. And that freedom is great.

It just makes sense for RIFT to loosen up on this restriction. For me, I think that the Rogue outfits look far better than the other three archetypes, so I'd love for my Cleric to be wearing those duds. But no, I'm restricted to this class and the four suits of armor I seem to find over and over again.

Lift the restriction and suddenly you've magnified the wardrobe potential several times over. Mixing and matching between different armor types could produce cool new looks. I've always thought that cosmetic systems in MMOs are a great tool for players to exercise creativity, and the more freedom given in this area, the better.

Final thoughts

The interface for the wardrobe is clean, easy to use, and intuitive. What I can put into that wardrobe is a different matter, however. As RIFT goes into its first expansion, I can only hope that we'll be seeing a wealth of variation and options when it comes to our appearance, and I definitely wish that Trion would consider allowing players to look the way they want despite their chosen profession.

Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.

This article was originally published on Massively.