Customization and playing together in Guild Wars 2’s feature pack

As of last week, ArenaNet has revealed all of the major features Guild Wars 2 players can expect to see in April 15th’s highly anticipated feature pack. When I say “highly anticipated,” I mean that a large part of the playerbase is collectively vibrating and may soon gain enough momentum to will April 15th into arriving immediately. If they don’t manage it, at least we’ve only got a week to wait.

Until then, we’ve got plenty of GW2 discussion to tide us over. Most of the feature pack announcements have been well-received, and there’s a lot to look forward to, but I still have a few minor nits to pick. Blame it on nits being easier to find when everyone’s head is 200% bigger.

I’ve never gotten much use out of town clothes in their current form, which is a shame considering how many of them I’ve bought (oops). Sometimes I slip them on for screenshots or for mapping cities, but in the latter case it was always annoying to be reminded how fragile the illusion of wearing clothes was when I could step down from a ledge a wee bit too hard or fall into a puddle and swap back to armor. And just about everyone who’s heard me talk about GW2 for more than five minutes has heard me grouse about not being able to wear my Necromancer’s reading glasses in combat. If nothing else is ever changed about the way the new wardrobe system is planned to work, I’ll consider it a net gain both as a roleplayer and as a person who likes playing internet dress up.

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That aside, there are a few details I think could be better. Unless you’ve been following every part of the conversation, it’s easy to miss what exactly ArenaNet plans to do with town clothes you’ve possibly paid real money for and whether or not they’ll even be something you want to keep after the patch, so I’m going to break it down one piece at a time.

Possibly the most perplexing part of the town clothes update is ArenaNet’s plan to turn some retired town clothes pieces into tonics. The clothing this applies to might not even be remembered very well by most players because they were removed from the gem store months ago: Certain fancy shirts, hoodies, cargo shorts, and “riding” equipment fall into this category, as do the special promotional dragon emblem t-shirt. As tonics, they cannot be dyed or used in combat.

Outfits — as defined by the original wardrobe blog post and further clarification by developer Curtis Johnson — are one-piece overlays that will not cost charges to equip, can be dyed, can be worn in combat, and will respect the head slot toggle. This category encompasses most of the town clothes sets we have now, including holiday costumes and the pirate captain’s outfit. These sets are losing functionality only insofar as some of them were made up of separate pieces that could be mixed with other sets; the Wintersday set, for instance, will become a one-piece item similar to the Bloody Prince outfit.

Last but not least, we’ve been told that many individual pieces — mostly head slot items, from the looks of it — will be converted to and unlocked as universal armor items.

So we have three different categories town clothes are being shuffled into. Two of those categories arguably make sense, as the head slot is a good place to put universal armor items and having an overlay for outfits is pretty cool. It also makes sense that town clothes can’t simply be converted to armor skins across the board, necessitating an alternate solution. I wrote up a post speculating on why it wouldn’t be a simple conversion, and Johnson confirmed that it was basically the right idea; the short version is that the underlying framework of every armor weight is different. It’s the reason a medium armor trenchcoat is one piece, while a light Heritage Greatcoat consists of a top and a bottom half that form the illusion of a coat (and both of which look silly when mixed with other armor pieces, but that’s another gripe altogether).

According to Johnson, town clothes in their current form essentially count as a fourth armor weight class. Like other armor classes, they cannot be mixed and matched with others without causing problems — and yes, I remember enjoying the brief period of time when we were able to preview mixed armor weights through the sPvP locker, but I also remember that while it worked sometimes, it also occasionally resulted in really bizarre graphical glitches that went far beyond clipping issues. Experience has taught me as a non-programmer that it’s not safe to assume anything is easy to fix no matter how simple it might look, so while it’s disappointing to see the mix-and-match functionality taken away it’s probably still a reasonable solution.