Your gear (and why it’s special)
People like good looking gear. It’s a staple of MMO games. You start out with either the bare rags you crawled out the hut with, or the simple trappings of a random citizen, and make your way out into the world. You slowly look more impressive, obtaining sweeping robes or shining armour, until you reach endgame, where the sets are wild and impressive and heavy on the spikes.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Blizzard puts an awful lot of effort into designing decent gear. In Cataclysm’s recent Beta iterations, we’ve seen more and more of the low level gear being reworked – simple low polygon hoods and shoulders are being replaced with smooth, simple models, and no bad thing. It’s nice to see things getting some polish.
But I digress. In endgame, sets are designed to make the wearer look A) Impressive, and B) Noticeable. What’s the point of having awesome gear if it looks like the same rags you walk out the starting zones with? And they don’t stop at doing one impressive set. They diversify (in most cases) to different sets for every single class. This is great. Really great. It gives the class something that makes them stand out, you can tell what class a major raider/PvPer is just by glancing at them, and most of all, they look cool!
Every class has a certain aesthetic that the gear design always adheres to. Take Warlocks, for example. Their gear is designed on the concepts of: Skulls, Death, Cowls, Scythes, Spikes, Green or Red Glows and Evil looking Eyes. If you look at a random set, like for instance, Warlock T5, you can see what I mean. If you take those aspects away, it’s a fairly standard robe, hemi-spherical shoulders and long gloves. By mixing these parts up each time they can continue to create Warlock looking gear. This is a popular way of doing things. It’s understandable, it makes the classes recognisable, and it provides gear pieces that blend in well with the non-set drops you get in whatever you’re raiding.
Sometimes, however, they go for an overall look to the set to make it mimic something that already exists as a full concept. Most of Icecrown’s raiding gear was designed on a class by class basis to look like mobs and bosses frequently encountered throughout Northrend; for example, Rogue’s Terrorblade Set mimics the Geists. This is often met with mixed reactions by the players, because whilst those pieces tend to look excellent when combined all together, missing just the shoulders, helm or gloves of the set can completely offset the whole look, and we start to stray into the much feared Outland Clown Syndrome.
Outbreaks of OCS were seen a lot in TBC, mostly during levelling but a fair amount at the cap too. Gear rewards and drops in Outland were ludicrously coloured, bright, often with luminous glow effects or bright, sparkling patterns. And barely any of it matched. Perhaps your Mage would look impressive if the sparkling blue shoulders with the silver lace were just the icing on top of a sparkly blue set, but often they’d be combined with a flaming red jacket, a purple cowl, jagged green and purple striped trousers and a staff with 500 disconnected swirling shards up and down its length. It wasn’t pretty. If people weren’t geared enough to get into raids and start collecting those pretty matching sets and tier gear (and even then some of the raid drops were atrociously bright and eye-burning) you could easily spot them a mile off.
In Wrath they almost went too far the other way. Cloth gear never ventured far past ‘old sheets’ brown and blue, and plate gear was the same standard ‘spiky Viking’ look. It did make all the characters look like they could plausibly be wearing the gear, but with the unfortunate side effect of also giving the appearance of skintness. Or to put it another way, if they had any money, they’d be in something far far better.
A solution that’s been suggested to Blizzard before and flirted with in other MMOs is the dying of gear. Using dyes purchased from a vendor (which WoW already has a rainbow’s worth of colours stocked, avaliable at any Tailor Vendor) you can colour your gear how you like. This would make even the shabbiest of gear look right. It would mean more work for Blizzard in the short term, but I think it would improve people’s attitudes towards the gear. I would certainly be happier to wear more White and Silver gear, leaning away from this heavy Gold and Orange and Green theme Blizzard have been giving Paladins for the last 4 tiers. Wrathful Gladiator’s gear for Paladins, minus the helm, is my dream set. Lovely jubley.
Take a look at what your character is wearing next time you log in. How themed is it to your class?