Transmogrification = Content

I know I said that I wasn't going to talk about the upcoming transmogrification feature at length, but since then something has come up that I would like to draw attention to.

Overall the reaction to this new addition has been overwhelmingly positive from what I've seen. Some people have expressed concerns, which is fair enough, but nobody seems to absolutely hate it. There's been one argument against the addition of cosmetic outfits though that really struck me as interesting: that it's "wasted" development time that could have been focused on "real" content instead.

Personally I think that saying the addition of transmogrification doesn't count as real content is similar to claiming that Lego isn't a real toy because it's just coloured bricks, or in other words: it's completely missing the point. No, the addition of a feature that allows you to change the appearance of your outfit is not the same kind of thing as adding a bunch of daily quests or a new raid. It's the developers handing us a tool and inviting us to engage our own imagination, and I think that's a great thing.

Syl wrote a post a few months ago, talking about how depressing it is that Blizzard seems to view WoW players purely as consumers these days. No wonder that people burn out or get bored so quickly, when all there is to do is to work your way through the pre-made story of the newest quest hub and then you're basically done with the game. That kind of thing is valuable, but it shouldn't be all there is. Even a theme park MMO needs some sandbox elements that allow players to go wild. And I do think that transmogrification might turn out to be just one such feature.

To be honest I'm rather bewildered by the prediction that once this feature comes out, everyone will just change into their favourite old set of gear and then nobody will wear anything else ever again. The WoW community may have many problems, but lack of creativity and passion from the side of the players is certainly not one of them. I think people will enjoy switching between different outfits to spice things up, and coming up with new combinations just to show off.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that regularly changing the look of your armour will be enjoyable to everyone, though I think you'd struggle to find a player who's never wished that they didn't have to display a certain piece of gear for the sake of its stats. (A former guildie of mine supposedly once said that he'd happily wear a turd on his head if it was an upgrade, but I think most people would prefer if they didn't have to.) Few features in the game appeal to absolutely everyone, and that's okay. But claiming that it doesn't add anything tangible to the game just because it doesn't really interest you personally is very narrow-minded.

I think that transmogrification is going to be huge and will literally change the face of Azeroth forever. It will add a whole new dimension of gameplay for people to engage in, trying to create and constantly readjust what they think would be the perfect look for their character. If that isn't a whole lot of new content then I honestly don't know what would be.


  1. Honestly, Transmog is Achievements 2.0, and will "generate" content in the exact same way. Perhaps even moreso since 99% of the gear people want will be random drops.

    I truly wonder sometimes whether these kind of Machiavellian design decisions happen by accident, or if the Blizzard devs are really sick, evil geniuses about it.

  2. @Azuriel: Interesting that you bring up achievements. That's a comparison I never would have thought of, because while I'm really looking forward to transmogrification, I remain somewhat sceptical about achievements to this day, and if Blizzard decided to just get rid of them tomorrow I wouldn't shed a tear. I suppose I can see a certain similarity in that they are both ways of giving players a "meta-reason" for working on new content or going back to old content.

    However, for me there are also two big differences. Firstly, achievements always felt very unimmersive and tacked on to me, basically an arbitrary badge system that was an unapologetic way of making people grind to fill more bars. Transmogrification is the opposite, it's about modifying an already important part of your character and changing the way you present yourself to the online world.

    Secondly, transmogrification encourages creativity, by handing players lots of different "building blocks" to combine at their leasure. Achievements did the exact opposite, separating everything in the game into valued and developer-approved activities that counted for something and those that were literally pointless, thus encouraging people to do exactly what the developers prescribed and no more.

  3. I'm 100% with you Shintar. the point is not that EVERY player needs to endorse cosmetic armor (or pets...or mounts etc.), but this bring an additional choice into the game, it brings more variety to potentially enjoy for a group of people.

    And that IS content - content is what we make out of it. player customization has always been a big deal in MMO worlds, WoW is probably a game that has honored this the least up to this point. it's crucial for RPers to name one example, and it's enjoyable for a great many people from there.

    A feature qualifies as fun and meaningful, if a group of people consider it so. it does not have to meet the same expectations for each and everybody. I'd like to think that good MMOs do exactly that: cater to a variety of playstyles.