Back when I was playing the Realm Online there was a dye feature. You could tell who’d been playing the game awhile as they’d be running around in flesh colored robes and wielding a huge purple stick. Dye color was a status symbol, the earliest wave of tier gear. Looking back, I think dyes were so popular, not for their fad value, but because there was such a limitation on clothing style and personal appearance. It was damn near impossible not to see yourself every screen as you wandered around the landscape.
I wasn’t very good about using dyes myself. You could pretty much be guaranteed to find me with a black suit of something chain-mail like. I’ve been pretty poor about keeping up with my own appearance in general. I did spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to track down my swashbuckling hat for my red mage in Final Fantasy, and various tiers during my time in Warcraft, but I could always argue that I did it for the stats. My lack of interest in actually bothering to transmog gear would back this up…
If it hadn’t been for Guild Wars 2. From what I’ve seen so far, there’s not much variation in actual gear appearance from class to class. As a hunter, I tend to get dusters and tall boots (no heels, thank you very much) and call it a day. However, the variation in coloring is dramatic.
While I don’t change my colors every single day (honest!) I do swap around my color palette quite frequently as the general outline and shape of my clothing changes or I just get tired of the same old thing. There’s three things that I really enjoy about the way dyes, and appearance in general have been adapted in GW2. One is the ease. The pane above is from my character screen which I can access at any time, anywhere in the world. It makes fiddling with my appearance intensely gratifying as I can instantly do a wardrobe change.
Another thing that is fairly fun, if very random is the discovery of the dyes themselves. They are a simple lootable item, but you literally have no idea when, where or how your color palette will turn out as you start a new character.
The last thing isn’t really dye specific, but I have found to be quite shocking: I have yet to see a clone of myself. I haven’t exactly chosen a look that’s out of the ordinary–I’m a freaking blonde bombshell, right? Yet, I haven’t seen another player with my exact look (even if I’ve seen my hairstyle now and again). While much of this has to do with the character selection process, I think the bulk of this has to do with clothes.
Like I mentioned earlier, there isn’t actually that much variation in cut of clothing style by class. Hunters tend to have one style, guardians another, casters a third. And while the first thing we notice about another character is their clothes, it’s very hard to peg someone as a certain level or progression point in the game, or even to find a matching set of clothes from one player to another.
The dye system is an integral part of this unique appearance of players in game. Each item of clothing can be dyed in several fashions which allows for very distinct looks from player to player. While I could live without this feature, and I have in game after game, the ease of access makes it a very fun addition to getting a new item. I never have to look like a multi-colored vagabond unless I choose to. I think the downside to this array of color options is the very lack of variety in actual clothing design. I can imagine that item styles are limited in order to handle the variations in color schemes and body types that a person may choose.
However, after having the heavily detailed armor styles of WoW and the simple but color rich gear in GW2, I think I would take color customization over fancy epaulets in future games. Because of the cumbersome time/gold sink that is transmog, there is a lack of variety from tier to tier among players, resulting in a homogenization and twinning that can take away from the immersion of the game. It wasn’t until I didn’t find a twin of myself that I realized how fun it can be to be unique, not because of accomplishment per se, but just because I am unique, a player with singular tastes and sensibilities.