Have you ever walked through the town of your choice — be it big cities like Stormwind or Orgrimmar, forlorn capital cities like the Exodar or Silvermoon, or little townships or camps like Nijel’s Point in Desolace or Desolation Hold in the Southern Barrens — and someone walked or flew by you and you recognized them instantly? Maybe you just read their name tag. Hopefully, though, you recognized them by their silhouette (maybe you are like me and have nameplates turned off for both ally and foe).
Silhouettes are an easy way to make an impression. Let’s do a little test, shall we? Here I took a few screenshots of WoW celebrities. Can you recognize all five of them?
(solution: 1. Deathwing, 2. Thrall, 3. Arthas as the Lich King, 4. Kel’Thuzad, 5. Garrosh Hellscream)
Well, how many did you get right? Tell me in the comments. Now back to your regularly scheduled programme.
Of course, silhouettes are not the only way to be recognized. Mixing and matching colours for astonishing-looking armour sets is one of the most fun you can have with transmogrification. In fact, more so than a silhouette, colours make you stand out even more from the croud. If you look at any of the many fabulous transmogrification websites and blogs (Go Mog Yourself, for example) you will see that their primary concern is probably colour matching, not creating unique silhouettes. You can have the most interesting silhouette, and it will make a hell of an impression if you are far away or shrouded in mist or shadow. Once you step out of the shadow, however, you might not have the same impact on people. Or a completely different one:
What has all this to do with anything? Well, Blizzard has shown their tendency towards more asymmetrical armour sets and other little things lately. You just have to take a look at the Mists of Pandaria sets; almost none of those are symmetrical. Here is a quick example:
The upper image is the rogue challenge mode set in a golden tone. The two images below are what the set would look like if it was symmetrical either way. Now you might think “That’s not that bad? I don’t like any of them / I like all of them.” It doesn’t look like there’s much of a difference, does it? Well, let’s see what happens when we simplify these into silhouettes:
Sure, they still all look kinda cool and mysterious. But I would say that the upper image looks way more interesting than the lower two. Don’t you?
As you can see from this short example, an asymmetrical aspect on your armor makes your character quite a bit more interesting. Assymetry in your shoulders isn’t the only thing that can influence your silhouette and appearance. During the last BlizzCon, Blizzard have stated that they will try to make more armor pieces stand out on their own. The first thing we see the effect of this on are belts — belt buckles, specifically. Looking at a few of the new belts, we can see once more how they change your appearance. From the same set of armour as before:
Although Blizzard may have gone a bit overboard on the size of the belt buckles (who would wear a belt with a buckle that big? It would slow you down tremendously), it’s nice to see this change. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a world (of warcraft) in which every piece of your armour looked and behaved like it would in real life. That would be incredible. And nearly impossible to code, I would think.
But we don’t have to have it all in place perfectly. And not all at once. Belts and shoulder pieces are only the first steps into a less flat character silhouette and therefore, a more dynamic character appearance.
I asked on Twitter what some of your favourite armour sets were. Now let me entertain you with what some of these armour sets could look like on your characters. All I did was take screenshots from WoW Model Viewer and paint over them. You might not see much of a difference, but if you look closely, you might see a few surface changes. The red arrows and the few sketches from the side might help indicate changes, too. It’s not much, but it should give you an impression of what your character might look like if Blizzard keeps going in the interesting silhouette direction.
Edit: Maybe I should end on something like a disclaimer: while old armour sets are fun, I don’t think it’s feasible to expect Blizzard to retroactively change old armour sets to fit the “new” model. They would have to redo most of the sets completely. But if we arrive at the point where feathers stand out like feathers, plates are stacked on plates and cloth flows like cloth at SOME point, I’ll be really happy.