Appearance Tabs in Star Wars: The Old Republic

The thread in the official forums for TOR (link to thread) is enormous and has had to be re-started many times. Clearly many people are interested in this feature, more and more often used in other games, and another group is interested in ensuring it doesn’t come about. What is an appearance tab? While there have been many suggestions on its exact implementation it is basically a way for a player to for fully customize the appearance of his or her character. Most versions of the feature would allow the player to wear powerful equipment of its stats, but change the look of the equipment to any other piece, so that those looking at them would see other, usually lower-level equipment with the aesthetics that player prefers, while not gimping them by forcing the poor stats of that lower-level equipment on them. So what’s the problem? Many people point to PvP considerations, suggesting that this would make it harder to determine the power-level of a possible opponent before attacking. In battle grounds and other PvP specific areas the feature could be turned off, but on PvP-servers with open world combat this could still be a problem. I don’t see this as a big problem anyway; should you be able to determine the power of an enemy at a glance in the first place? The problem I, and I suspect Bioware, have with the feature is the amount of effort they have put into aesthetics themselves. They want characters to look both iconic and cinematic, and want certain “looks” to be something low-level players aspire to, and want to ensure the high-level players (who will be encouraged to go back to lower-level areas) look “cool” and awe-inspiring. The compromise suggestion is to allow individual players to turn the appearance tab on or off, allowing each person to see either Bioware’s vision or the individual players. For some this is not good enough, they feel if they put the effort into making their character look a certain way, everyone should have to see the results of their work. I found the (few) people on the forum arguing this way on the forum very annoying, and in fact it gave me a bias against the appearance tab which I now have to actively fight. A word to players attempting to get a feature into a game: be polite and don’t piss off people mostly neutral to your position. Most of the people advocating for an appearance tab are polite and willing to compromise but a few ignorant people can damage your cause quite a bit. Now, the problem with even the choice option is that some (most) people will use the appearance tab relatively well, but some will use it poorly, making stupid looking characters who ruin immersion and possibly cause most people to go to the default, Bioware view. The “ideal” option would be to enable players to click on each character they meet and decide on an individual basis if they want to see their appearance tab work-but this is most likely both a much harder programming solution and much more computationally intensive. I would like to be able to switch between the vision that Bioware has spent so long developing and the vision that dedicated players create themselves, but ultimately I’d rather have a way to cause annoying players to disappear from my screen completely-the ultimate ignore feature! Its also interesting to think of the possibilities of player’s selecting the “gloss” they’ll view the game through, and how this may help alleviate some of the aesthetic problems with user-generated content, like the ugly cities that dominated so much of Star Wars Galaxies, a topic I’ll discuss in my article about incorporating “Sand-box” features into a “Theme-park” world.