Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Cosmetic Adventures Away From LOTRO

Greetings everybody! I remebered saying in a previous post, that I've been dabbling in other games like Neverwinter, World of Warcraft, Star Trek Online, Marvel Heroes, and Rift while on a semi-break from LOTRO. I had a bit of an idea. This post is going about cosmetics, but this contains little directly regarding LOTRO. This will probably be the only post of its kind, but it'll give me a chance to talk about the cosmetic and outfitting systems of a handful of other games from a cosmetic blogger's perspective.

You see, I can't resist a good outfit no matter the game I'm playing and I enjoy seeing what I can do elsewhere with my background as a outfitter. I'll be talking a little about RIFT, Neverwinter, and World of Warcraft and reflecting on LOTRO in the process. You learn about dye systems, the pros and cons of taking  screenshots, and the acquisition of cosmetic gear. For clarity's sake, I cranked the graphics as high as my computer would let me.

 I hope you'll enjoy this minor excursion while I work on future LOTRO ensembles!


Left to right: Krysanthe, mage; Asphodella, rogue; Aerthain, warrior

One of my greatest pleasures since June has been exploring the landscape in RIFT. I have been absolutely impressed by the design of the world and the cosmetic versatility of many pieces of gear. The designers have certainly performed above and beyond my expectations with the details of every piece on an engine intended for gameplay over graphics. Clipping is virtually nonexistent. Each and every piece fits your race and gender perfectly, as if they were specifically tailored to that model. (If only LOTRO could get that right!) The RIFT Store offers prepackaged outfits, usually in the form of cosmetic end-game armor bundles, both PvE and PvP, and expansion specific sets! Both sexes can strip down to undies and wear festival-earned bathing suits if so desired. Have I mentioned that there is no level requirement to cosmetically slot a piece of gear?

The wardrobe system is very simple and is comparable to LOTRO. Just access your wardrobe and drop the piece into its respective space. Feel free to toggle on and off each piece as you see fit. RIFT features twenty possible wardrobe combinations per character, unlike LOTRO's seven. You can purchase each set with either game money or Store currency and the cost incrementally increases with each purchased.

Oddly enough, this is one of those games where your gender affects how your outfit appears. Unfortunately, I'm very on the fence about this. Unlike LOTRO, the appearance of your characters--females especially--lean towards the more mature, fan-servicey side of the spectrum. Most chest pieces will give you a wonderful helping of cleavage from a variety of perspectives and most leggings will give you an eyeful of her thighs. Even full-plate emphasizes your female character's chest no matter the race, constantly shoving her gender in your face. On occasion, you'll be dealing with the aggravating cleavage wedge. Male characters, however don't have to deal with this issue. This is my only gripe about the cosmetic system for RIFT. You will not find hypersexualized characters in LOTRO, for which I am eternally grateful.

My cleric, Nathellia
You have a wide range wide range of hairstyles available to your characters, some of which must be purchased. Not only do hairstyles differ between the races and genders, you're able to color your hair with the following two options--base color and highlights. If desired, you could stick to more traditional pairings, like a light brown base with light blonde highlights, or the the more surreal color combinations, a forest green with lavender highlights. The range of tones are absolutely phenomenal!

The dyeing process in RIFT is one that I wish LOTRO would take to heart. When you go to dye any armor piece, you are asked to dye either the PRIMARY or SECONDARY areas. Primary areas are generally the main color of the armor. Secondary includes the accents, highlights, or the next most prominent color of the outfit. In the picture directly above, look at the rightmost picture. For example, the primary section of the outfit is the reddish section and the secondary section would be the cream-colored area found in any of those pieces. If I wanted, I could have a dark blue outfit with a sea green trim. Below, you'll see that reddish tone dyes light blue and the cream a pure white.

Nathellia - Showing alternate primary and secondary colorations in gear

Asphodella sporting shades of pink, in addition to blonde hair with cotton candy highlights. (A female Dwarf I too often call a Hobbit!)

Aerthain sporting a new haircut and stylish purple fighter's robes.

The majority of dyes are also readily available through a special vendor found in the main cities of the game. You'll see the basic colors, such as red, blue, green, etc. but you'll also see three varieties of each color--light, normal, and dark. There are also many other dyes which can only be crafted by the Apothcary profession. If you'd like a full disclosure on the dye system, visit this page on the RIFT Wiki. Currently, there are FORTY TWO DYES to choose from, eighteen of which can be purchased cheaply!

RIFT also has a very limited emoting system, which makes character posing and dynamic screenshots difficult. Also, by moving forward, the game automatically returns you to a forward facing view, so motion shots from the side can be troublesome to take.


Left to right: Nathrien, in cleric gear; Krysanthe, in control wizard gear; Nathrien, in cosmetic outfit.

Holy crap, Batman! Look at those graphics! Look at how far you can zoom in and keep your entire character on the screen! Neverwinter's engine was mostly built for gameplay and graphics. Clothing moves naturally with the character, though there can be quite a bit of clipping depending on how you move or stop. Anyway, there's not very much to discuss in terms of the cosmetic system with this game. In fact, the system is straightforward...it just sounds more complicated than it actually is. You have two ways to appear to fellow players; you're either wearing combat gear or cosmetic gear. I'll break down this system in two short paragraphs:

  • Cosmetic gear, extremely simple. You have a UI window with three spaces for clothing--top, bottom, and head. You can't place statted combat gear here in any way, shape, or form, even if it's for apperance.
  • Combat gear, a bit more complicated. You only can overlay skins of other obtained combat gear that matches your class, no matter the level of the piece. The overlay process costs a pretty penny, ranging from 10k to 60k astral diamonds, one of the game currencies. You can't use gold for this service. (Good thing that LOTRO doesn't have a system like this!) Whenever you equip a new piece, you'll need to reapply that skin. This applies to weapons and shields as well! 

The dye system is also simple, but a lengthy and sometimes expensive process. You have the ability to change either the accent, the primary color, or the secondary color or a single piece of gear with a single bottle of dye. Or, you can use a dye pack that will automatically color all three areas with colors specific to the pack. Say you have a pack that contains blue for accents, red for the primary color, and yellow for the secondary color. If you use it, it'll automatically be dyed in this fashion. You can't break down the dye packs, unfortunately.

If you look at the above pictures, you'll have some examples. The default colors Nathrien has in her class gear is the "Divine Cleric Dye Pack" and Krysanthe's would be the "Control Wizard's Dye Pack." It gives you an idea how your gear will dye using those. But, I will say it again, packages and single dyes can only be used once per piece of gear. Need more examples? Follow this link to the Neverwinter Wiki!

I'm very happy that we craft all of our own dyes in LOTRO. Ninety percent of the dyes in Neverwinter must be purchased through the Zen Market with Zen, and the rest on the auction house. You either barter for Zen with astral diamonds earned from dailies or spend hard cash in the store. Alchemists can make limited dyes in the form of packages. If you're lucky, you can find dyes on the auction house and purchase them with astral diamonds.

You can also find a limited selection of cosmetics on the Zen Market. A couple of dresses for female characters and some vests or formal wear for the males.

As for screenshots, you have a toggled inspect mode which lets you zoom in and run around without a UI to clutter your screen. However, you can't access emotes without your UI. That means you'll have to be insanely fast between starting an emote, toggling inspect mode, zooming back in, and then hitting your screenshot key. Most of the emotes have too short of a duration to make this effective. Also, using a skill will automatically make your character face forward and give you a wonderful view of its backside. You can capture the initial animation as the character turns, but you have a split second to do so!

World of Warcraft

My mage with a crazy sparkling wand and the coveted Circle of Flame. My ONLY outfit...

Look no further for high fantasy outfits! You'll find nothing crazier than what Blizzard Ent. offers on WoW. Even though the graphics are a bit dated and cartoony, the game is going strong, turning out new gear with each update, expansion, and vendor. The cosmetic system is simple, but functions different from the above mentioned MMOs, Rift and Neverwinter. It's even far different from LOTRO.

In WoW, the system is called transmogrification. Never heard the term? Simply put, it's nothing more than a skin overlay system. The list of requirements to use another item's skin, whether it's a sword, bow, chest piece, helmet, staff, or anything else as a matter of fact, is extensive. But, I can also boil this down for you in a single sentence. In order to cosmetically transform any piece of gear, you have to be able to use both items at that moment and they both have to be of uncommon quality or higher. You can't make your cloth robe look like a plate chest if you can't use plate. You can't make cloth armor A look like cloth armor B if you don't meet the level requirements to wear piece B. Talk about restrictive! Also, transmogrification costs a hefty sum. The cost to use a particular piece's skin is relative to that piece's gear level. For a complete list of rules, follow this link to WoW Roleplay Gear. (LOTRO may have certain things gated behind deeds, but I dearly hope it never becomes this extreme!)

Examples taken from WoW Roleplay Gear 

As a result of this, the system is incredibly limiting until the higher levels (50 and above). You'll see many players, including yourself running around in their unmodified equipped gear for levels on end. Yup, only your equipped and transmogrified equipped gear is visible at all times. No wardrobes or outfit slots exist here. Additionally, you can't purchase most armor that looks like a set from vendors. You'll be spending substantial time either raiding, crafting, dungeon crawling, reputation grinding, or killing creatures for bind on equip pieces to put together outfits like that. Odds are you'll have better luck mixing and matching to make something worthwhile.

There's also little variety in gear skins, at least within each armor class (cloth, leather, mail, and plate). You'll see the same skin over and over again, either recolored or with slightly varying details. Your character's sex will sometimes affect how your gear looks. And sadly, you can't dye armor at all. The only dyes in game are used in crafting recipes as an ingredient.

All of these reasons, in conjuction with the fact WoW requires a monthly subscription, are why I only have one outfit on my Mage. I don't have the time to sit there and raid for 4 hours a day and nor do I have the month generally required to gain max rep with a faction. Take a look at the compilation pictured above for some examples.

Taking screenshots is as easy as it is in LOTRO. (Phew!) The camera won't fix itself if you move forward. You can remove the UI. You've got an enormous pool of emotes you can use. It's easy to take action poses. Really, other than not having a personal lantern that you can toggle, it's the same as LOTRO.

Click this image for a larger version : )
Segueing back to LOTRO entirely, I think we're fortunate to have the system we have. An actual shared vault that is dedicated to wardrobe space, seven customizable outfit slots, all dyes can be crafted, a convenient UI system, gear that's easy to mix and match, a high variety of dyes to choose from, and so much more. Granted, there are things I'd love to see added, changed, or borrowed from other games, but we already have a multitude of tools to use in our outfitting. LOTRO may not have top end graphics, but the clothes our characters wear in the game makes it feel almost real. We've got lore behind every cloak and robe, a personal background story for every headpiece...something other MMOs have yet to achieve. Despite the graphical glitches we sometimes see, we LOTRO players have it made!

I hope you enjoyed reading this massive wall of text and thanks for your continued support and encouragement! Keep an eye out for a LOTRO outfit either later this week or early next week!

Much love,


  1. Really interesting to hear how cosmetic systems in other games work. I've been playing a little Neverwinter (pretty fun game!) and I noticed there were some cosmetic possibilities but I wasn't intrigued enough to figure out how the system works. I guess I'm just not as invested in whatever fantasy gobbledygook world that game takes place in as I am in Middle-earth, where I want my characters appearance to fit into the world as I understand it and as Turbine has interpreted it. :)

    Really interesting post, thank you Nathrien!

    1. You're welcome! Each time I tried a different game, the first thought to come into my mind was "What kind of nifty outfits can I make?" Turns out that I was asking a pretty big question. I had gotten so used to the way we dress our characters in LOTRO that I found myself instinctively using those rules in RIFT, WoW, and Neverwinter. Each game had its own system and it took some time to learn the ropes. It was an experience that I carried with me, back to this blog and to Middle-earth. And as I mulled over everything I posted here, I figured that it'd be a good idea to share all of this. It took a couple of hours to compile all the info, but I think it was well worth it!

      As much as I love a good fantasy game, nothing seems quite as grounded or as realistic as LOTRO.

  2. This is excellent! And good timing! My eyes had just skimmed over the RIFT shortcut in my Steam library, and it occurred to me to ask you if you'd ever played around with the cosmetics in that game, and what you thought.

    After spending a month or so in RIFT, I thought the cosmetic system in RIFT was even better than that of LotRO's; I'm thinking of how it has the many varied dyes and the two dyeable portions per piece while matching LotRO in ability to use statted armor as cosmetic. Previewing dyes did seem a little jankier though. I did find the looks of RIFT's late-game armor selection too over the top. Like this here: http://riftwardrobe.wikia.com/wiki/Defiant_Raid_Plate_Set

    Thanks for the post, the whole wall-o-text!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this, even though it's a bit long-winded. RIFT does have some wonderful pieces of gear, but I do agree that a substantial amount of the end-game pieces are over the top...especially the set you linked. Never understood those shoulders on that set.

      I completely forgot to mention the previewing system for RIFT! In fact, I may have to go add that in sometime. But yeah, it could use a little work. You have to apply the dye to whichever portion desired to see how it'd look, but you'd still be able to confirm/deny the application as the final step in the process before the dye is officially used.


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