Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Hibernation of Style

One of my biggest complaints about playing a Druid is that when I tank, I have to have a gigantic furry bear ass filling my screen, and trust me, when you're backed into a corner while tanking, it really IS what you see.

At level 10, I was excited and pleased to be able to transform into my first animal, a bear. I was sturdier and it was a lot of fun and whetted my appetite for my panther form to come at 20.

On my way to 20, Bear form was really of limited use (I did this prior to the 1.8 feral overhaul), but I used it. I wasn't fond of the visual, but I figured, "I won't be spending all my time in that form!"

How wrong I was.

As it happens, I am only effective when in a form. The same applies to dps Druids (whether Cat or Moonkin) and healers (Tree of Life, to be sure). So when we play, we look like fat-assed bears, purple panthers, malnourished saplings or giant laser-chickens from space. In and of itself, this is not a problem. We're turning into something, after all. Animals or laser chickens or trees.

The problem comes, especially for Ferals, in that you spend all your playtime in this form. At least Balance and Restoration Druids have some of their leveling time able to see their character and that character's gear, but even they eventually find that all their time is spent in a single form in order to do their job.

Maybe that's the real reason for the popularity of a Dreamstate healing build.

Regardless, one of the fun things about all of the MMOs I've played is the ability to play dress up. I know that sounds silly but hear me out.

One of the draws of this sort of game for me and for many others, is the ability to take on this fantastic persona, to pretend to be a different person with pointy ears and massive swords and particle effects, maybe a different race or gender. As characters in these games progress, the gear they wear gets progressively more spectacular. It is used as a gauge of competence, bragging rights, and personal vanity. It is integral to the experience of the game.

Sadly, Druids largely miss out on this unless they want to spend a lot of time standing around posing for the masses. Aside from speccing Dreamstate Healer, though, Druids can - and typically do - spend the vast majority of their playtime looking just as they did at level 10. They look about enviously as their compatriots get neater and neater gear they get to adventure in while they wonder if some epic waterproofing gel will drop for their fur, feathers, or bark.

Are there solutions to this? Most likely.

First, find a way to display armor on a Druid in forms.

This is likely the most problematic. In spite of watching the Golden Compass and wondering why I can't have badass bear armor like that I understand that Malorne shoulders might be hard to skin onto the bear model and if a healer dropped into Bear while wearing the Panties of the Naaru* they might look a bit silly.

It would require the most effort from the art team and is hence the least likely option.

At least one friend of mine said that it would also put more strain on the systems running the game by bumping the models per zone...but I see so many effects and models and such that I have a hard time buying that.

So what about basing appearance on level, and at 70, changing appearance based on total iLevel of the gear worn by the Druid?

This enforces some standards while still allowing a form of progression.

Suppose every 10 levels, each form gets an overhaul with flashier effects or more accoutrements and so on. Who wouldn't want their bear to look something like this?

Then at 70, certain iLevel totals would be assigned a new look, allowing for Druids to continue progression of appearance just like other characters busily fighting for life and loot.

Additionally, this provides quick identification of a Druid's potential capability, something you can eyeball with any other class in Arenas and BGs.

A third option would be allowing Druids to, at the point of getting each new form, to select the animal they like from a list. While the least capable of fulfilling the request, it would be the easiest to implement. Beasts already have models and animations necessary for their use and it'd be easy to slap a Druid sigil on their shoulders for identification.

For example, Bear form could be re-described as Tank form with Dire Bear becoming Dire Tank. Players could select a Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Boar, Turtle or Crocolisk. At 40 with Dire Bear, they could again select from this list, but with larger and possibly slightly more ornate versions of those animals. True ambition might include a Worgen as an option...but that one could wear gear...and show weapon animations...gah, I'm getting sidetracked.

Cat form could be re-labeled Melee form. Options would include the standard panther, snow leopards (yay!), raptors, spiders, lions, wolves, or hyenas.

Travel form would include the standard cheetah, foreststriders, talbuks and so on.

Aquatic form seems pretty self explanatory.

Moonkin could be given the option of selecting a furbolg or maybe one of those big trolls from ST.

Trees of Life...treants or small ancients?

Sadly even this option would require a rather sizable code implementation that is unlikely to ever occur.

Until and unless we see a new form or WoW 2.0, I seriously doubt that Druids will look any different at 80 with Wrath of the Lich King than they do now at 70, or than they did at 60, or 50, or 40...you get the picture.

So there you have it. The real reason Druids whine...we don't get to look as cool as you.

*Not that there's anything wrong with the Panties of the Naaru.


Razorbax said...

I love the idea of choosing forms when you get them and would also like the ability to change them at a later date. I think a questline would be the easiest way to implement this. They could also come up with Rare, hard to achieve Forms that require far more work to achieve and give the druid something a little unique.


Wyrmdog said...

Exactly! Something like a Mage's Polymorph, eh?

Seven said...

I too know the pain of staring at bear ass day in and day out.

I'm intrigued by your ideas of selectable forms and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.


Nelthilta said...

It would be nice to be able to choose forms. Or at least maybe different color variations. Something so that not all kitties, bears, etc. look the same. Or at least a difference in the male/female forms. I am all the time going up to kitties and /purring at them. Is it a handsome boy kitty, or another evil she-kitty like me?!?!

Leafshine said...

Oh, yes. I'd love my change in gear to have some form of impact on Tree of Life. It doesn't matter how much gear I get from Kara, I look exactly the same through every fight. I've taken to dropping tree between fights just to see my gear…