Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Cosmetic Adventures Away From LOTRO Pt. 2

For those of you that had been following Material Middle-earth last year in September, you may recall a similarly titled post. In that particular entry, I explored other games and their cosmetic systems while taking a break from LOTRO. Whereas I talked about RIFT, Neverwinter, and World of Warcraft last year, I'll be taking you through Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Star Trek Online this year. If you've never played any of these games or are merely curious how cosmetics and/or character customization are handled elsewhere, I encourage you to read this.

Please keep in mind this entry is image heavy, with pictures taken on maximum settings for each game. If you have a slower running computer, I'd suggest clicking on the post title that way this entry loads by itself. Especially while this is the featured content.

Don't worry...I'll be back to LOTRO outfits on Saturday. This is a once a year post.

Guild Wars 2

I started playing this when Update 13 was released for LOTRO. I turned my attention to Guild Wars 2, taking in the bright colors and diverse landscapes, immersing myself fully in a strange new world to avoid LOTRO's agonizing grind. It didn't take long to discover the cosmetic opportunities this game offered. (Is it sad I initially judge games on that criteria?) Guild Wars 2 offers a total of 403 dyes for customizing your outfits! And you know what's even better? Once you unlock a dye, it becomes account bound and has an UNLIMITED number of uses. Having this sheer number of colors allows you to have bold and bright, neutral, earthy, and even completely pastel outfits. If you direct your gaze to the picture below, you'll get see the range of colors offered.

The color customization panel found in the Hero (character) Menu.

Even though that on the left panel is showing the nearly completed set of common colors, there are still divisions for starter colors, uncommon colors, and rare colors. Looking at the equipment panel in the center, you'll also notice that anywhere from 1 to 4 areas can be dyed on each piece. As far as I know, very few skins have undyeable areas. By the way, you can change colors anytime, anywhere.

How do you collect dyes? It's actually simple. You can spend laurels, an in-game currency earned by completing your account-wide dailies, at vendors for unidentified dyes. You can purchase them from the Black Lion Trading Post (auction house, essentially) for copper, silver, and gold. You can earn them from level up rewards. You can also buy unidentified dyes from the Gem Store, which periodically appear there. Anything you have will automatically be added to your Hero Menu.

My Norn warrior, Krysdiana, and my Sylvari ranger, Ardaellia, modeling various armor and clothing styles.

Now for the clothing portion of the game. GW2 offers hundreds of skins, ranging from modest to skimpy and light to heavy armor, all of which can be unlocked as you collect gear. To unlock a skin, you must either bind it to yourself first, right click the piece and choose "unlock skin", or deconstruct that item. Once you've done that, it goes into your wardrobe, becoming account bound. The wardrobe divides everything by armor class, which is then further sorted out by body part, and by weapon type. Once you've unlocked your skin, you don't need to have the piece any longer. You can look at the contents of your wardrobe from any crafting station or bank NPC.

It's probably a good idea at this point to mention that there is a distinction between overlayed skins and outfits. Outfits are full-bodied costumes that you wear over your equipped gear, which can be toggled on and off. Overlayed skins change the physical appearance of your equipped gear. I have not progressed far enough to obtain an outfit, but I'll gladly discuss the rules with wardrobe skins.

My human elementalist, Nathrien, demonstrating the color customization for the same skins.
To use something from your wardrobe, you need to meet three requirements. The first is using skins that match the armor class of your character. For example, warriors can only wear heavy armor and rangers can only wear medium armor. Second, if the skin you want has a racial requirement, your character needs to match that race. Only a handful have this prerequisite, thankfully. Third, for each skin you want to overlay, you'll need to have a transmutation charge on hand. That means if you're changing the appearance of your chest and legs, you'll need two of them. Charges are earned from completed exploration deeds, level up rewards, or purchased cheaply from the Gem Store.

The same general rules apply for your weapons, except that there are no racial requirements and that your class must be able to use it.

The Elder Scrolls Online

ESO is a game I haven't been playing for very long. Maybe a month or two, but I've learned all there is to know about the current cosmetic system. Sadly, this game does not offer a wardrobe or cosmetic skins to overlay, but it has a very simple system with styles you can tailor to your own likes as you progress. Your "outfit" will be whatever combat gear you've got equipped.

Before I get ahead of myself, allow me to begin with dyes. Like most MMOs, as seen in the image below, there are a variety of colors. You can change primary, secondary, and tertiary areas in each piece of equipped gear, and if you've found a color combination that you enjoy, you can save it to the templates offered in the Dye Item window. If you look closely, you'll notice that certain colors are locked. Why? Each is gated behind a specific achievement. Once you've completed said achievement on any character, the dye becomes available account-wide. Naturally, the rarest of dyes are often gated by challenging or long-term achievements. The current color count is 176.

All those locked colors! As you can tell, I've only made it so far...
To even dye anything, you must be at a Dye Station. Luckily, these are found at major cities in every region of the game. These stations are simple and cost absolutely nothing to use. If you're lacking in choices, ESO has a hotkey programmed at the station to randomly, yet universally dye your equipment. If you use this method, your primary areas will be one color, your secondary areas will be another, and the same goes for the tertiary areas. Below are pictures of outfits provided by two of my gaming friends, Jo and M'Nal, respectively. (The first models, other than my own, to be featured here in over two years!)

Jo's light armored outfit in a stylish blue.

A fierce M'Nal always ready to take his enemies down with flame and steel.

Moving forward from dyes, I must say the crafting system provides you with much visual flexibility. For every tier, whether it's for armor or weapons, there is something known as "style". By reading various racial motifs, which are discovered by looting homes or corpses of creatures you've killed, you'll permanently unlock styles that alter appearance. For example, there's Breton, Argonian, Altmer, Nord...bascially one for every playable race and then a couple more. Each time you advance a crafting tier, every style becomes increasingly elaborate. You might find extra studs, extra patterns, more feathers, and sometimes ornamental affixes on your armor. The same thing happens with weapons. For example, staves may have larger gems, more gems, or a simple staff head might be replaced by a metallic serpent. These outputs are purely cosmetic and will not affect your stats.

This is an Argonian style robe. From left to right, the robe adds more feathers and patterns with each step up the crafting tiers.

ESO is relatively new and features are still being added. The dye system is, maybe, two months old at the time of writing this. We've yet to see a "dressing room" or preview window for crafted gear, and that's rumored to be a work in progress. Whether or not an overlay system makes a debut remains to be seen, but I doubt that will happen given the crafting outputs.

I don't think there's anything else that I can add here. So, let's move to the next game on the list!

Star Trek Online

This might not be too recent of a game, but it's a secret hobby of mine. I've always loved everything the Star Trek franchise has offered (except for Abram's reinterpretations) and I've loved taking control of a starship and virtual crew courtesy of Cryptic Studios even more. I'm probably out-geeking myself by revealing I play this. I'll be actively playing this when the next expansion, Delta Rising, hits mid-October.

When you first play the game, you'll have a small variety of futuristic uniforms for each of the main factions: Klingon, Romulan, and Federation. And, for each of those uniforms, you'll have an extensive customization panel from which to modify clothing. Not only can you detail your badges and belt buckles via this window, you can chose from nearly 350 colors in the process. So, if you desired, you could take your tactical officer's uniform and change it from a traditionally deep red to a pine green. Not everything can be customized, however. Depending on the uniform you're using, the advanced panel (seen below) may provide you with either more or less options.

A sample of the advanced customization panel. The lower body section is below the picture cutoff.
I've opted not to include the starter uniforms for this post. Instead, I'll include below some of the store purchases. If you're a Star Trek fan, you'll recognize the clothing from ST: First Contact, ST: Wrath of Khan, and the classic Romulan stylings from ST: The Next Generation. Traditionally, the Romulan uniform is grey and black, but I spiced it up a bit with tans, golds, and blues. I even made the Wrath of Khan jacket a more brilliant red to approximate the film. There are dozens of other uniforms to explore in the store, each of which you can make your own. Many of the cosmetics (uniform and off-duty) this you find in this game cost cold, hard cash unless you're willing to grind for dilithium to trade for Zen, the store currency.

When April 2014 rolled around, changing your outfit no longer cost you energy credits or costume change tokens. Outfitting has become free in this game, so long as you're using what you already own. Also, as you level, you'll unlock additional outfit slots for a total of 3 at level 50. If that's not enough for you, the Zen store also offers additional slots.

Last but not least, in this short STO exposé, starships have also been given some love. There's not much you can do, as the ship you're customizing is limited to models of the same rank (commander, captain, admiral, etc.) and type (tactical, engineering, or science). At the very least you can change window designs, add colored patterns to your hull, nacelles, saucers, head and whatever other parts it has, and then some of the materials that comprise your vessel. Anything more than that, like swapping hulls or saucers, will require Zen, but who will be checking out your ship while engaged in 360 degree fast-paced combat? The Zen options for ships are entirely aesthetic and have no bearing on performance. Notice those purple and green stripes on that D'deridex class warbird below? They're one of a dozen free options.

Thanks for reading! Hope this gave you a decent glimpse into the cosmetic systems of three other games!


  1. It's awesome that you play Guild Wars 2, as well as STO! I play both as well :D both the dye systems in those mmo's are especially superior to Lotro's, but Lotro has them beat when it comes to clothing variety and customization.

    1. I play quite a few games, especially if they're free to play or don't require a subscription after purchase. The character customization systems have always been the biggest selling point to me. If I can't change my character's appearance without a ton of hassle, I won't play it. STO and Guild Wars 2 have both been very gracious in that department. And you're right, the dye systems of both games are vastly superior to LOTRO's...but nothing come close to the variety of styles that LOTRO provides. I'll continue to outfit in LOTRO for as long as possible.

      I also love games that allow you to dress in a nonsexual way. That's why TERA will never make an appearance on this blog. :)


Contact Form for Material Middle-earth


Email *

Message *