Not My Style

July 11, 2012

Note: This post has actually been sitting in my drafts for a while, but then thanks to The Secret World I’ve been waylaid by fighting zombies and solving mysteries for the past couple weeks.

When it comes to MMO characters, I think we can all agree that your avatar’s appearance matters; pretty much every discussion anyone has ever had about games and character customization is a testament to that. But there are also important things that go beyond things like face type, hairdos, and make up — what my character wears. Like, I don’t even want to talk about how much in-game pax I’ve spent on new outfits in TSW.

In a completely different way, another game that really underscored that for me was TERA Online. By the way, this was a game I held off on getting for a long time, but finally caved when it went on sale for 50% off last month. You’d be amazed at how quickly my willpower crumbles when faced with a new game at half-price.

Well, I must say the game itself is very fun. I discovered my affinity for the combat mechanics and controls, which surprised me. Getting used to them was what I initially thought would be the biggest obstacle preventing me from getting into TERA. Alas, it was not.

What really distracted me at the beginning, and continues to do so even now, are the character and costume designs. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I think they’re gorgeous, and just about everything in the game is too. But every time I look at my character, I just think UGGHHHHWEJJSAGAG.


This discussion isn’t just about the hyper-sexualized clothing in the game (though it certainly doesn’t help) as plenty of people have already voiced their complaints about it (and they’d all be right). If only it were just that. No, when it comes down to it, this is about me not wanting to run around the world looking like a fashion crime and not having enough choices.

I’m talking about the general style of the models and gear, which obviously has a huge cultural component. Ironically, I spent most of my life growing up in Asia being bombarded with this highly caricatural art style often featuring a pastel palette, elaborate hairdos and ostentatious outfits on animated characters, but I must say it’s never really rubbed off on me.

Anyway, leaving aside the fact they’re completely impractical for adventuring and monster slaying, the clothes in TERA look ludicrous! I can’t even look at my character or some of the NPCs both male and female and think this is someone I can take seriously, rather than that they belong in some early 80’s glam rock band. By the time I got around to looking like a fool in my third pair of “half-pants”, I’d just about had it; I didn’t think I could look at one more person running in five-inch stiletto heels (a personal pet peeve of mine) or yet another exposed shiny male-elf navel while keeping a straight face.

This is the sort of stuff that falls into the same category as my dislike for the over-large and cumbersome shoulder pieces in World of Warcraft, or the fact I like to hide my helm on my SWTOR Jedi Consular so I don’t look like a BDSM enthusiast or a milkmaid. You might think, “Geez GeeCee, they’re just clothes in a game, as long as you’re wearing some, what’s the problem?”

Well, the problem isn’t as trivial to me as I thought. Maybe, there’s just too much of the old RP’er in me? I tend to like to do things like name my characters in accordance to the game world’s conventions, and likewise customize their appearance to fit the personalities I give them.

I’m sure you can argue that clothing items like half-pants and weird abs-revealing-armored-jackets are considered “normal” in the world of TERA, but still, is it too much to ask for the things I wear to look good but also make sense, i.e. like I actually dressed myself this morning without being under the influence of LSD? Not that other MMOs don’t have their fair share of incongruities like armored thongs or ridiculously over-sized weaponry, but out of all the games I’ve played recently, I think TERA takes the cake. I mean, freakin’ half-pants.

In the case of TERA, I understand the art style is culturally influenced and may come down to a simple matter of taste. And I’m just sorry to say it’s not for me. To a lesser extent, I think I also felt the same way when I played Aion, which could be another explanation as to why that game never stuck.

It’s a shame, because the dynamic, kinetic combat in TERA is the most fun I’ve had in an MMO in ages. I also find the creature designs unique and amazingly detailed, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is not to be beating down on yet another wolf or common bandit in a fantasy game. Like I said, the graphics are incredible too, and I am awed each time I log in to survey my surroundings.

I never thought something as superficial as art style or the clothes my character is made to don would affect my enjoyment, and in a way that galls me about myself. But then again, people have left MMOs for much less.

I can’t deny that I’m torn. I like the gameplay of TERA very much, am glad I gave it a chance and want to keep playing, but at the same time the art style frequently becomes too distracting. At times, my brain also cannot handle the dissonance created when one moment I’m looking at my boobs practically popping out of my chestpiece and the next I’m staring at something so sickly sweet and cuddly like a Popori or Elin. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve never truly understood the appeal of kawaii.


  1. Those half-pants are ridiculous!

    I find that character appearances really lend to the player’s immersion in the game world. That’s an important thing. Practical equipment has frequently been a thing of the real world (see Ivy from Soul Calibur for an extreme example of EVERYTHING IS IMPRACTICAL in a game). Some games do it right, some games go very wrong.

    It’s something I always wondered when growing up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation… where’s the body armor? Where’s the heavy weapons? Where’s the personal shield generators? Growing up with Star Wars and Star Trek made me look at both and say “what’s up with the practical personal equipment being in Star Wars and not so much in Star Trek?” Like, how’s a fancy captain’s jacket going to stop an energy beast when you’re fighting like it’s Darmok and Jilad at Tinagra? Gah, wear some body armor!

    In SWTOR, I know some of the headgear looks goofy. I think that’s an MMO trope these days: your headgear has to make you look like you’re some kind of special idiot. I’m fortunate enough to play a level 50 scoundrel now with the wide-brimmed hat of awesomesauce and the kickass cape. I could do without the knee-high boots, but I don’t really notice them that much and I suppose they help me wade through the radioactive coolant in the Black Hole better. Also, thanks to the perpetual skirt of the Consular/Inquisitor, I’m compelled by my personal perspectives of gender stereotypes to play those classes as a female only. Sorry, I just don’t do ankle length skirts on dudes, even when it might be the norm in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

    I suppose when I look at my character now I think, wow, he’s dressed for any weather and he looks cool while doing it. He didn’t always. I’m just glad that Star Wars gives you a bit of an option in the whole “less is more” crap (since you can now spec out the metal bikini to be super functional in high end runs).

    I understand your perspective on this and I believe it’s totally valid. It’s not the mechanics of the game that necessarily keep us there but a sense of belonging and the appearance of the people is important to that sense of immersion. I was willing to deal with Tidus’ outfit in Final Fantasy X because he was from a place out of time… but if everyone was dressed like a taxi cab? Sheesh. The game was fun, but I wouldn’t be able to stand even the gameplay if there wasn’t a good conservatively dressed Yuna to balance out the crazy ass Tidus.

    • Heh heh, I know what you mean. I have nothing against looking cool; in fact, I think a lot of the stuff in game, while impractical and makes no sense, do actually look cool. I suppose you can say my imagination can accept certain level of ridiculousness, and most of the time I’ll be okay if the certain style or fashion of clothing is considered the norm in that particular game world. But when I have no choice, and when almost every piece of clothing makes me cringe in my seat, I just can’t do it.

      I think SWTOR has done well. Consular hats and in a few cases, inquisitor shoulders are the only things that really bug me in that game. I don’t play male characters, so at least I don’t have to worry about the skirt thing 😛

  2. Your mention of over-sized weapons struck a chord. Lately I’ve been internally railing about things like giant hammers. (Not sledgehammers like TSW) Real war hammers were regular-size hammerheads on longer handles. And even two-handed swords are not more than 4 pounds or so.

    • For you it’s over-sized weapons, for me it’s high heels in games, like I mentioned in my post. It comes from having worked a job where I was required to wear a suit and pumps every single damn day and be on my feet for hours. When I see female characters wear these elaborate 5 inch heels when they run around the game world fighting monsters and leaping around like gymnasts, I just can’t help but laugh.

  3. I played Tera in beta and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. The combat is pretty awesome. But the clothing is horrific. And the quests were the same old, same old. What finally broke it for me was that my toon rode her horse side saddle. Even though she’s wearing cuisses and greaves.
    In a similar note, I refused to give Funcom more of my money until the promised changes to the character creation happened. Until I could create a toon that wouldn’t be embarrassed by, I was reserved. But with the character creation change in 1.0 beta, I was sufficiently mollified. I’m currently really liking the different jackets you get for completing a weapon on the inner circle.

    • I was pleased to discover the jackets tied to the inner circle abilities, too. Very cool.

      • After I finish my deck, I may have to start putting points in the inner wheel for all the jackets. I have three so far.

    • OMG thank goodness I’m not the only one whosaw my character ride side saddle and was immediately like *splutter*.

  4. Those are some pretty astoundingly and ferociously awful outfits. I’m pretty low key about my RL fasion, shorts or jeans and a T-shirt (often even a boring monotone one that lacks any image) is my typical outfit. But man, I get picky as hell about how my MMO characters look. Games that lack appearance slots and couple your appearance gear to your stats drive me buggy sometimes.

    • LOL, I had to show those two outfits on the guys. There are times when I also prefer it if the men could cover up, and this is one of them.

  5. I actually really can’t blame you GeeCee. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of my guild on TERA NA’s sole RP server, Celestial Hills, but the costuming is severely lacking, especially for an Elin, which is what I’ve chosen as my main.

    I originally wanted to play Castanic, and honestly do love the cheesecake and beefcake that the game offers, but I really need more, and honestly, I’m RPing, and that kind of demands at least the choice of practical armor.

    So I play an Elin. Elin are the only females in the game that don’t ride *everything* side-saddle, they wear the most practical armor, and they have the darkest personalities.

    Even with my original Korean skinpacks, which are supposed to be racier than what we already see in NA/EU TERA, the Elin still have the most believable armor, which suits me fine. But I wish there were more of it.

    In RIFT I got a different looking outfit every few levels. In TERA my main, a level 44 Elin Warrior (named Nyddia, CH, look me up, we’ll have fun!) has probably gone through only 10 outfits. Compounding this is the fact that there are no shoulders, no bracers, no helms (unless purely cosmetic, and those are very very rare) no leggings that are separate from foot-gear, and no tabards or capes.

    In fact, I took the time one day to make a mathematical calculation based on all the visibility toggles in the RIFT wardrobe system, multiplied with each individual piece of gear that I had, and I came up with 350 possible combinations.

    And that’s not even counting dye.

    So here’s the gear you get in TERA, not counting stat-less, purely cosmetic gear: Chest armor, Gloves, Shoes.

    That’s it. So for me, a person that with 20 full ensembles on one character *alone* in RIFT (still a favorite) it’s not nearly enough. The outfits are well modeled, (I mean, really well modeled. I have never, ever seen zippers with the individual teeth modeled out in an MMORPG before) but there aren’t enough of them, and worse, each race wearing the exact same piece of gear will look completely different, if you say, stand a Castanic next to an Elf, but get a Castanic say, Archer next to another leather-wearing class of the same race and level range and they will be wearing the same outfit, Id’ say roughly eight times out of ten.

    For a game that leans so heavily on its good looks the lack of costuming diversity is horrific.

    One could say that you can just use the ward-robing system to alleviate this somewhat, but considering that the only way to have custom wardrobe armor is to either buy a ‘template’ from an NPC merchant at an extremely high price (I believe the top design is around 200 gold) or craft your own, with even the ‘white’ quality higher level items taking up to 28~50 units of a rarely dropped rune.. and many patterns need two types of these runes at 28~50ish units each… and to ‘wear’ the template you made, you have to destroy it, making it into a skin for your present armor.. Yeah, let’s just say that the ward-robing system is far from user-friendly, and severely lacks transparency.

    Thankfully, the RP community on Celestial Hills is awesome, and I have a great time in my guild Amity, as well with our wonderful allies and my many friends on the server. Because it’s that and the truly fun combat and controls that are keeping me in the game.

    It’s just crushing that TERA has so much obvious art to it, but to fall down in the field of character customization (ear/horn types are tied to hairstyles, eyecolor is tied to basic face structure) and clothing choice is just reprehensible.

    • LOL! Cheesecake and beefcake, I love it.

      And you do bring up a good point about costumes and RP. I imagine it’d be difficult to take anyone in a suit of metal armor that covered up everything but his torso too seriously. It’s like, hey, evil and dangerous monsters, aim RIGHT HERE!

      In TERA, I wished there were more choices. Most of the gear is very pretty, I’ll give it that. I’ve never seen anything so detailed in an MMO, and I love the colors. But (and I’m going to put myself in an RP mindset here) it’s almost like it’s too beautiful and elaborate, like ceremonial wear or something you’d wear to a gala. Very artistic, but not too practical. Again, I do realize this art style is heavily influenced by culture, so I accept there’s really nothing I can do…but yes, why can’t they add a bit more diversity? I had no idea the choices were even sparser than I thought, until I read your comment. It really doesn’t make much sense, does it? So much effort on making everything look so detailed and gorgeous…but so few options.

      • haha!

        My Castanic Mystic, in comparison to my Elin Warrior, is all Vivian Westwood/HotTopic all the time. Not like Vivian’s work is awful, or that HotTopic (in small dosages) is a bad thing, but I’d like to have a few more choices in designer. Having some Hyun Tae Kim or Masamune Shirow-influenced outfits would be pretty neat for instance.

  6. I can’t stand 1337-tastic armour either. And I so so agree about the problem of ridiculous pauldrons when you hit the upper levels of mmos. I’m not quite sure what the designers are trying to convey to me. Whatever they intend, I always end up wondering how you would get in and out of a lavatory in them, or how you’re more likely to be causing injury to your allies way before you get anywhere near an enemy.

    Far from looking magnificent and dangerous, more often than not, purple items (actually – do all mmos colour code their gear the same?) end up looking like something from a Las Vegas stage show. Or just plain laughable.

    THE best thing about Wrath of the Lich King (the best bit of Wow, full-stop, even better than vanilla) was the gnarly beaten up armour and weaponry you had at lower levels. It looked great. But sadly, the designers just couldn’t help themselves and all the higher level stuff looked stupid again.

    With TSW, apart from not having to grind for gear in quite the same way, I love the fact that I don’t have to wear The Pantaloons of Awesome whilst looking like a children’s party entertainer. I’m very happy wearing my SENSIBLE BOOTS and combats thank you very much.

    P.S. Had a good lol at the elf…er…people. Know what you mean about the 80s hair. Presumably, their enemies die laughing at how seriously they’re taking themselves too.

    • Yeah, purple doesn’t work so well in the real world 😛 LOL, that actually reminds me of a quote from Sonnac in the Secret World that made me LOL.

      In the case of WoW, I think there may be this idea that with every new tier of l33t armor set, you have to make it “better” than the ones that came before, bigger, cooler, flashier!!! So you end up riding this runaway train where the gear models get more and more ostentatious. Seriously, some of the newest sets look like clown suits.

    • Not like it matters, but top quality gear in TERA is gold, not purple.

      • Though with TSW in the picture now, it looks like RIFT finally gets a rival in the clothes-that-actually-make-sense department. 😀

  7. Forgot to mention – the half pants – without wanting to be too technical, i’m not sure quite how they would ‘work’, I mean, they aren’t substantial enough to be acting as armour and yet, I can’t see them keeping everything…ahem…in. So if you are a gentleman, things would just tumble out the other side and if you are a lady you’ll just be flashing your kebab at everyone. And don’t get me started on the wedgie issue…

    • Gee, thanks for the imagery there 😛

    • well there’s a thing. I feel sort of silly and a smart alec now! *rushes out immediately to buy half-trousers*

    • Actually, years back I think I saw swimmers during the Olympics wearing something that looks like that too. But I heard it’s for speed/aerodynamics/chafe-guard or somewhat like that.

      • Yeah, that was the excuse, I believe.

  8. Oh my. Oh my goodness. So many fashion crimes.

  9. Reblogged this on Gigable – Tech Blog.

  10. I guess TERA is pretty open about fashion statements when it comes to armor. I guess there are worse example such as Scarlet Blade! I guess you are right, people always care how their characters look, some may find this a little abhorrent but I can also imagine a lot of people finding a liking to the TERA armor sets!

  11. I honestly really like the “armor” in Tera. I don’t mind that the armor in Tera and other mmo games are the way that they are, but they definitely could place sensible armor in there too, just to please the others lol.

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