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Brutally ugly gear will stay ugly


This morning, Mandy asked how everyone felt about the new Season 4 gear that was recently unveiled on the PTR. The general consensus seems to be that the armor sets are -- for lack of a better word -- underwhelming. Reusing the skins from the token gear that drops from Sunwell Plateau, the armor sets seem to suffer from a case of the Jackson Pollocks. Player feedback, according to the comments on this site as well as the World of Wacraft forums, indicates disappointment with the new sets.

Unfortunately, players unhappy with the look of the new gear shouldn't be holding their collective breaths for an update. Drysc has already stated that Blizzard's artists are devoting all of their energy at Wrath of the Lich King. He says that it takes time to develop new armor sets and that he's not surprised that the new (Badge) gear are mostly color shifts. While Arena gear has traditionally been recolored versions of their PvE counterparts -- e.g. Season 1 gear was recolored Tier 4 -- the new sets create problems because they're no longer distinctive to each class but rather to the armor category to which they belong.

Discerning targets is an important part of PvP, and Season 4 gear makes that more difficult by homogenizing gear according to armor category. Take, for example, the Mail Shaman and Hunter sets pictured above. They are identical in design but differ slightly in their coloration. Just remember that Shamans have green accents and you should be set. Well, almost. The same dilemma exists for Rogues and Druids, Warriors and Paladins, and the three cloth classes.

It helps that Warriors have rage and Paladins have mana, making it easier to spot at a glance which class is which. But what about Mages or Priest (shown above)? Certainly, there are many other ways to discern a class such as through their self-buffs, their races, whether or not they have pets, etc., but this homogeneity in armor design really shouldn't exist. Drysc justifies the design as being similar to the way they designed the sets from Ahn'qiraj. Although as far as I recall, those designs weren't incredibly popular with players, either. It's already a chore to differentiate some PvP gear from their PvE equivalents such as the Shaman Tier 5 and Arena Season 2 sets which are nearly identical with one another.

If there's anything about players and their classes, at least in my experience, it's that players take pride in their distinctive appearance. I mean, could any other class honestly wear the Corruptor Raiment? One look and you know it's a Warlock. While its implications in PvP are obvious, its ramifications in terms of class pride, role-playing, and sheer player satisfaction shouldn't be dismissed. Many players like looking good. That's one reason why item sets are so popular. If anything, the minimal statistics raise, prohibitive personal ratings requirements, and the fact that they don't look distinctive per class are disincentives to obtaining Brutal Gladiator gear.

While it's too late to clamor for a change, I certainly hope that Drysc's proclamation that the armor models (among other things) in Wrath of the Lich King being "far and above better than anything in the game thus far" proves to be correct. More importantly, I hope that Blizzard is designing with class personality in mind. While I don't find the Brutal Gladiator item sets to be categorically unappealing, I do think they lack personality. I don't want my Warlock to be running around looking like a Mage. So even if Blizzards artists devote their energies to making super-cool armor for the expansion, if they're categorizing it by armor type rather than class, I honestly think it'll be brutally ugly. Will we see faction-specific class-distinctive (PvP) armor in WotLK? We can dream, can't we?

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Arena

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