More character customization, please

Nerfbat hates current MMORPG character customization, and I can't blame him. Either the artists cop out and force the players to screw up their characters' propotions or they offer a very limited set of options from which to choose from. You then spend 90% of your time looking at the characters from a faraway viewpoint where you can't even see their faces, even when they're not helmets or or other armor. And when they do, it feels like you're surrounded by clones. Everyone wears the same gear and thus look the same.

However, there are games that do customization right. Wrestling and boxing games are a good example, and GTA: San Andreas isn't bad, either. These games do allow you to customize everything from body shape and facial features to clothing. They have presets but allow the player to fine-tune their avatars up to the most minute detail. But this model also has caveats that MMORPGs can't ignore. In most fighting games, your character's clothing has no effect on his statistics (except in Def Jam series) and all action is up-close and personal, leaving ample opportunities to marvel at your avatar.

MMORPGs are a bit tougher, because your gear is a direct gauge of your character's strength. Even if a particular item looks like crap, you have to wear it for the stats. And most of the time, there are only a few or no choices if you want the best gear. A tauren warrior in full tier 5 gear will always look like every other warrior in tier 5. In WoW, this problem is made worse due to the fact that only a few of your items change the way your character looks, especially with casters. A robe covers your pants and boots, and gloves cover your bracers. Your ranged weapon and your offhand are hidden when you're not using those. That leaves your main weapon, robe, gloves, belt, shoulderpads and your hat. And if you wear a tabard, that hides your chestpiece.

Having the tier 0-2 sets available as different recolored versions is a good start. So is having both robe and vest versions of cloth gear. But a better solution would be to increase the ways to customize your character. Animations should be changed to display pants and boots under robes. All enchants should be visible, and so should ranged weapons, gems and trinkets. But WoW could also steal one idea from the venerable Ultima Online: being able to wear clothes over your armor.

One other improvement would be decals. Decals are partially transparent detail textures on top of the existing textures. Other games use decals for tattoos, facial hair, logos, scars, fractures, bullet holes, scorch marks and other additions. With these, even a fully armored character could be made to look distinct from others.


An Inevitable Outcome

"..and make sure that you pick up the next shipment of bandages from Nutral. Oh, and don't forget the letter to Baron Revilgaz about our purchase order. Those jumper cables will be direly needed if the Betrayer makes a move."

"I'm on it. Is that all, Sha'nir?"

"For the moment, yes. Also.."

Sha'nir did not finish her sentence. She heard a scraping sound from outside. Like metal on stone. She glanced over the shoulder of the human volunteer and at the tall figure standing in the doorway of the Shattrath Infirmary.

"Can I help you?"

The figure took a step forward. As Sha'nir's eyes adjusted to the light, she could see the figure better. It was a slim one, obviously a female. It was wearing a blue robe, tattered with blood. The right arm was hanging limply and the left arm was lazily holding a long sword. The tip of the blade was being dragged along the floor. The arms ended in large, ornate shoulder guards. The head was resting on an unnatural angle on the left shoulder guard, with dirty dreadlocks covering the face. An undead?

Before the figure could answer, it collapsed on the floor.

"Quick! Get my kit and prepare the table!"


Sha'nir's report on unnamed female troll admitted into the infirmary at the eighteenth hour of the sixteenth day of the month.

Third and fourth ribs broken on the right side. Right shoulder dislodged from it's socket. Right elbow shattered and flesh peeled off. Deep lacerations on abdomen, possibly caused by a large feline or other wildlife. Superficial horizontal cuts on both sides of the face, neck and torso. Small amounts of salt found in several wounds. A horizontal burn mark on the left side of the face and a small, deep burn mark in the middle of the chest. Several tendons on the neck severed. Both ears cut off by a large blade. Severe blood loss. Numerous vertical cuts on the back. The formation of scar tissue suggests that these wounds were inflicted much earlier than others.

Treatment: Subject stabilized. Elbow reinforced and immobilized with temporary metal bars and shoulder re-attached. Wounds cleaned and bandaged. Head supported and tendons stitched together. Prescribed Strong Troll's Blood intravenously. Subject is still unconscious, but is responding to treatment.

At the time of admission, the subject was wearing an enchanted blue robe with gray trims. Andrion Darkspinner indentified the material as Frozen Shadoweave cloth, but declined to identify the subject. The subject was also holding a long, deep purple, ornate sword. Superficial examination revealed that the sword is enchanted, but offered no hints on the subject's identity.


Gold selling ads on Nihilum's site

After months of denials, Nihilum has finally introduced blatant goldselling ads on their site.


The Grand Crusade

Aah.. there they are.

Shalkis adjusted the zoom on her goggles to get a better view. With a quiet whirring sound, the ragged band of humans came into view. Their numbers had halved since they had fled from their ill-fated assault on Brill. Among the withered plants lie at least a dozen of the survivors. A few of the figures were standing and judging by their gestures, having a heated conversation.

Shalkis adjusted the zoom again. Unsurprisingly one of the figures was Seiken Trollbane, but she did not recognize the others, but there was one of the humans' holy men among them. Apparently Trollbane now had official approval for his.. crusade. Of course, by now it was obvious that the crusade had turned out less glorious than they thought. She had heard that the bulk of the forces were now maggot food at Arathi. Additional reports spoke dismissedly of the combat prowess of these forces. Just a few soldiers, but many apprentrices, younglings, old people, feeble human females and other rabble. These were the hard core, the zealots. And even among them, the morale was obviously crumbling.

Shalkis heard a growl behind her. Before she could turn, the growl was followed by the dull humming of her barrier. One of the mangy beasts inhabiting the area had made the grave mistake of picking her as it's next meal. Without looking behind her, she extended her arm and grabbed the wolf's muzzle with her hand. Her soft whisper was followed by a muffled yelp, and the beast struggled for a second to free itself from her grip. The struggling stopped. She released her grip and pulled her arm back. With her other hand, she broke away the bloodied icicle extending from her palm.

With the distraction out of the way, she was free to monitor the humans once again. The wounded were being helped back to their feet. The conversation had stopped, and the Trollbane was standing in front of the others, barking out commands. Whatever disagreements they did have were now resolved. Those who still had horses mounted them.

They started to move at a walking pace south, towards Brill. Surely they were not foolish enough to attempt an another assault against the heavily guarded town? She followed them, making sure to keep at least a hill or a tree between herself and the humans. When they reached the outskirts of Brill they broke formation and started running, past Brill and towards Undercity. But a few of them could not run anymore.

This is insane, even for him.

That move made no sense whatsoever, but one should not doubt such obvious blessings. If Trollbane really wanted to die, all he had to to was to ask. But to bring so many down with him.. She took off her goggles and strapped a wooden mask to her face. The pale glow from her hands illuminated the grim features of her mask.

Shadra, bless these fools.

A frozen missile erupted from her hands and pierced the lung of an elf. The next one found his heart.

For they have listened to the lies of the infidels.

An another bolt struck the leg of a dwarf, shattering it and sending him tumbling down a hill.

And know nothing of your grace.

An icicle impaled the dwarf, halting his fall and his life.

Let them fall into your web, and not to the darkness.

A female Draenei's head was engulfed in ice, causing her to fall backwards and shatter her head on the gray cobblestones.

Let them not be judged by the sins of others in the afterlife.

A gnome was completely encased in ice. Shalkis saw him futilely gasp for air.

And may their next life be a trollish one.

The frigid winds shattered his prison, along with him.

A single voice yelled from inside the city. She still couldn't understand Gutterspeak, but she knew the meaning of this particular phrase.

Once soldiers of Lordaeron..

The yell was answered by a chorus of voices behind her.

Always soldiers of Lordaeron.

What followed was inevitable. In a few minutes, there was nobody left to bless.


Mage vs Warlock itemization

I've been watching the "debate" about Evocation with some amusement. Like most mage issues, this is about feeling inferior to warlocks. And in a way, is more of an itemization issue than a specific skill issue, not unlike the one protection paladins face versus protection warriors.

Simply put, a PvE mage needs more types of stats than a warlock.

+Spell Damage
+Spell Hit Rating
+Spell Critical Rating
+Mana per 5 seconds

+Spell Damage
+Spell Hit Rating
+Mana per 5 seconds

Each item has a set amount of "item points" at their disposal, depending on item level and rarity. These points are used to "purchase" stats. Different stats also require different amounts of points. For example, Stamina is cheaper than Intellect and Spell Damage is cheaper than Spell Critical Rating.

If we assume that mage and warlock items have the same amount of item points at their disposal, warlock items will always have superior stats, since the item points are spread between fewer and cheaper stats.

If you are a smart mage who wishes to optimize your damage, it is very tempting to skip mage gear and use warlock gear exclusively, even if you won't benefit from all that stamina as much as a warlock could. Many have done exactly that, and I'm one of them. I'm offsetting the negative sides of this choice with a liberal use of consumables.

In a sense, the mage itemization is also a vicious circle. If you are running out of mana even after all of the tricks mentioned in the original thread and here, you might feel tempted to stack up on spirit, but that gimps your damage. Since you do less damage to the raid boss it won't die as quickly and thus the fight gets longer. Which of course requires more spirit gear for you _and_ the healers.


Corpse graffiti spam - a way around spam reporting

Apparently the gold spammers are now using hacks to transport a bunch of gnomes to Ironforge and having their bodies spell out the URL of the goldselling site.

While many commentators find this hilarious, there is a very strong reason why the goldsellers are doing this. With the current reporting feature, the spammers are up against every single player that doesn't like spam. With the corpse graffiti, only a GM can stop the spam. It's much easier to overwhelm a bunch of GMs with spam than to overwhelm all WoW players.


Azeroth Movie Top 3

Beware the wrath of Murkzilla.

If it walks like a duck..

Apparently Wandering Goblin isn't convinced that Affinity Media is out of the goldselling business.


Beyond the Dark Portal Novel

Apparently the novel version of Tides of Darkness was fairly good, since there's a sequel in the works. The new novel will follow the plot of the Warcraft 2 expansion, including Grom Hellscream's antics at Azeroth and the shattering of Draenor. Too bad Tides of Darkness isn't available as an ebook (hint hint)..