Information on the April 2014 Feature Pack continues, today with two posts: ‘Introducing the Wardrobe System‘, which explains a new way of dealing with skins and transmutation, and ‘Dyes in the New Account Wardrobe‘, which elaborates on how dyes will work under this system – with the big changes being that dyes will be unlocked account-wide rather than character-specific, as they have been. Here we can already see one of the feature pack’s recurring themes, namely old requests being fulfilled at this very late stage. If I remember rightly, dyes were originally advertised as account-based, but were character-based by beta? At any rate, these changes will shake up the economy as well as the way players kit out their characters.
(Also worth noting: these new posts have a list of titles for the remaining feature pack previews to come between now and April 15th, if you’re interested; next up is changes to the LFG system.)
Let’s start with the wardrobe, since this is really the basis of these changes. Ryan Diederich, the programmer who writes about the wardrobe system, says “I’ve personally been working on it since the Wallet was released,” and this isn’t surprising – it’s basically an equivalent of the wallet system, but for gear skins. As with the wallet, part of the motivation is to reduce the clutter of stuff in players’ banks and inventories, which I can’t complain about (if I can store my living story souvenir skins in my wardrobe, it’ll be worth it!). Instead of requiring players to store transmutation crystals and then combine two pieces of armour or weapons into their ideal hybrid, appearance skins for gear will now be unlocked, account-wide, when acquired once.
The wardrobe will be a tab on the hero panel, much as dyes are currently part of the equipping section, and it will display all skins which a player has unlocked and which that specific character can use. Within one’s own panel, a player can try on the armour they have available and, if they choose to, transmute that skin onto their current gear. This now costs ‘transmutation charges’, which stones and crystals can be converted into (removing one more collectable junk pile from my bank; thank you). I’d predict that level 80 transmutations require a greater number of charges, but they no longer need an entirely different item – so accumulating large amounts of regular stones will pay off under this system.
(I’m stealing ArenaNet’s preview images for illustration here)
Once unlocked, a skin is available across all characters on an account. Logging in to a character after the patch will (/should) automatically unlock skins “bound to that character” – I’d assume anything they’re wearing, or that you can equip them with then, although any gear you’ve had and since destroyed is presumably not counted. Items which have been transmuted will provide the skins of both component pieces, though.
My initial reaction to this system was that although I could see its obvious advantages (less storage clutter, more customisation from anywhere in the world, more freedom of appearance), account-wide skin unlocks seemed to take away some of the satisfaction of kitting out each individual character in their perfect form. Under this system, you can acquire things once and then newer characters have access to them essentially for free. However, I’ve already come around on this. Although there is a definite sense of achievement in fulfilling the requirements to earn exclusive skins, running a single dungeon enough to buy a full set of armour already risks becoming tedious. After that many runs, doing it again could be nothing but a chore, and ArenaNet have gone to significant lengths in the past to discourage players from doing the same content over and over again for any reason. Besides, with eight professions over three armour types, odds are good that if you want, say, Twilight Arbor armour on two different characters, they may well need different unlocks anyway.
There are two more notes to be made about the wardrobe system. One is that in addition to the ‘stuff you can use’ wardrobe tab in the hero panel, ArenaNet are adding a wardrobe tab to the bank – which shows every skin it is possible to unlock, whether you have it or not. This is basically equivalent to the PvP locker, without having to go to the Heart of the Mists, and it can be used for exactly what I use the PvP locker for: previewing skins and deciding on an ideal look that I want to work towards. This is a feature I wholly approve of, as it just facilitates something I (and many others) were already doing.
The second note is that town clothes costumes which have been purchased in the gem store will become ‘outfits’, which can be donned over armour without transmutation and have their own slot. This is another much-demanded feature, equivalent to the costume function in the original Guild Wars which let characters wear novelty items in battle without sacrificing the stats of actual armour. Again, this capability was much desired at launch, but ArenaNet pointedly continued to release costumes as town clothes instead, adding the Costume Brawl as a justification for them. It seems strange to renege on that now. Also, as BlueJay noted, wearing costumes in battle will make discerning characters’ professions at a glance much more difficult – something which ArenaNet have previously stated was important (i.e. light armour + greatsword = mesmer). Skills animations may be distinctive enough to judge in a fight, but I find the change of heart interesting. Novelty items will now break the boundary between towns and explorable zones – but then, it’s not as though we were being deadly serious in the battle zones, anyway.
The overriding theme of this part of the update – one we’re seeing throughout this feature pack and that we’ve seen in a number of major update in the last year or so – is account wide collection and achievement. ArenaNet have always preferred treating players as players, rather than as discrete characters; just look at how the guild system works. Since early on they’ve been taking things that were character-linked (like karma) and generalising them, partially on the idea that players shouldn’t have to repeat things they’ve already done just to support more than one character. In light of this, and the wardrobe system, it’s perhaps not surprising that we’re getting account-wide dye unlocks. As mentioned above, this is yet another feature that was much desired but which people more or less fell quiet about, suddenly brought to implementation this year.
In terms of the actual implementation, with the update all dyes allocated to a character will be unlocked across one’s account (a more detailed system for previewing dyes on a character is included too). Any dyes that one has assigned on multiple characters will earn the player one unidentified dye, meaning a chance get a new one. Unidentified dyes will no longer drop from kills, and although they will be available from other sources, they won’t be as common as there will be less demand. A guildmate pointed out that the Gift of Colour, an ingredient for The Bifrost which requires 250 unidentified dyes, will be made significantly more difficult to attain by this change – perhaps ArenaNet will adjust this requirement. Overall, the new dye system will cause some upset to the economy (which was going to happen with the feature pack anyway), but seems like it should work fine in the long run – I just don’t know why they, again, changed their minds and gave it to us after all this time.
It’s possible, of course, that implementing these previously desired systems was just not as simple as it might look from the outside, and it’s also possible if not probable that a lot of these things were set aside until core game systems were improved to a suitable level and the living story stabilised into a sustainable form. If this is the case, I just hope that the playerbase still wants what they were asking for at launch – but ArenaNet are usually pretty good at thinking these things through, and their updates tend to reinforce each other. As the changes described here are mostly UI and cosmetic things, I don’t think I have any major worries – and I get a bunch of bonus unidentified dyes to open on patch day, so that makes me happy!