Blizzard needs to steal character customization Ideas from other MMORPGs

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|03.31.08

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Blizzard needs to steal character customization Ideas from other MMORPGs

The idea of being able to customize your character's look and feel beyond choosing one of 4 or 5 basic face and hairstyle choices at character creation or upgrading to a new piece of loot is one that's near and dear to me. I'm an RPer, so I like to think of each of my characters as a unique person with unique quirks, ideas, and fashion sense that I can't always express as I'd like to due to the limitations of WoW's mechanics. I've even had some very good friends quit WoW because their characters weren't customizable enough.

The idea came to the front of my mind a few weeks back when I was visiting my brother. We played EverQuest together, but when it came time to move on from that game, he (and most of our EQ guild) chose Everquest 2, and I chose WoW. So, of course, he ribs me about it quite often, and since I was visiting, he decided to load up EQ2 and show me what I was "missing."

Now to be honest, I'm still a bigger fan of WoW, but that's a subject for a different article. One thing I will say for EQ2 is that I was very impressed with the wider range of options to customize your character and show off your character's accomplishments. There's a few ideas related to character customization from EQ2 and other games that I'd really like Blizzard to continue emulating in future patches and in the WoTLK expansion that I believe would deepen the game experience for me and my friends, and for many other players as well.

Now WoW has titles, but it really doesn't have much on EQ2 in that arena. My brother has at least 10 various titles available to him, and he's a relatively casual player. In EQ2, there's titles for having good reputation with various factions. There's titles for killing a massive amount of certain enemy types. There's titles for your rank in an established guild. There's titles for completing certain quest lines or collecting rare items. In WoW we seem to have fallen behind, title-wise. There's at least some effort lately to fit in some a few titles, but non-raiders and non-PvPers deserve some love too. We can wear tabards to show our loyalty to certain factions, but it would be nice if factions got titles too. There is the Shattered Sun Offensive title coming on us quickly, hopefully we start seeing titles like that more as WoTLK comes out. I'd love to have a "Of the Cenarion Expedition" title for my Druid. How about a quest that ends in letting my Warlock be known as "The Enchanter" for his pursuit of the Enchanting profession? Being able to display a title that signifies our interests, achievements, or factional loyalties at all levels of the game would be a way for each person to feel a sense of investment in their character and in the game world in a big way. 2.4 has started the baby steps down the path, but here's hoping the team expands this coming into WoTLK.

The other nice thing about EQ2 (And EQ before it) is that it lets you pick a custom last name at a certain level. Sure, you can do that via addons currently, but only other people with the addon can see it, and the addons in question are generally memory hogs and don't play nice with other tooltip addons. A nice integrated last name that would show up by default to everyone would be a simple and sweet way to make your character stand out. Yes, admittedly, you will get the chuckleheads who will deliberately name their character Phil at creation and make their last name McCracken, but hey, you can always report those same as always. Add a little biography window that can have a tab in the inspect window, and you'd go a long way to making WoW a much more friendly place for RP and general character customization.

Finally, possibly the biggest thing I'd like to see bought from EQ2 (you can also find this in other games such as LoTRO) is the ability to have a second "cosmetic" layer to your gear, an outfit that people who looked at you would see as opposed to what you're wearing for the stats. Yeah, Sometimes you're lucky enough that your battle gear matches up perfectly and looks pretty awesome, but just as often, you're going to look like a bit of a clown, or even some sort of weird TV tower thing. Being able to choose how you look at all times would, for me, be one of the biggest ways I could take charge of my character. My Hunter could always look like she's actually dressed for hunting. My Druid could always be dressed in the traditional garb of the Night Elf Archdruid. A Fury Warrior could make themselves look like a rugged berserker or a Herod type instead of just another dude in full plate armor. The list of possibilities goes on and on. I'd prefer that the look be permanent and always on, but I'd even accept the option to swap to the new look in town or when out of combat without sacrificing bank space. Since you'd have to have the gear to get the look, there's no loss of feeling of achievement -- You aren't going to be seeing level 5 newbies running around with Tier 6 gear in their cosmetic slots. You'd probably have to disable it for PvP in order to stop Arms Warriors from disguising themselves as Mages, which would make it a little less useful on PvP servers, but I think that downside shouldn't stop the implementation for all of us on the carebear servers. If this was announced for WoTLK, I'd have a new favorite expansion feature for sure.

I think it's pretty clear that most MMORPGs learn from previous generations, learning what works and what doesn't. WoW learned a lot from EQ, UO, and other elder statesmen of the genre, and the game is better for it. But now I think it's time WoW learned a bit from its peers. I still believe it's an amazing game, but if it has one weakness, it is certainly lack of character customization. I'd love to see WoW take a page from some other games on the market and give each character an opportunity to feel at least a little bit more like a beautiful and unique snowflake among the millions of characters that inhabit the World of Warcraft. What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? Do you have others for greater character customization? or is WoW's current level of character customization fine?

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