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Developer Blog: Appearance System

By Julia (nitocris83) | Mon 29 Jul 2019 07:00:00 AM PDT

Welcome to the new Appearance System!

For a while we’ve thought that the existing transmutation and dye system could be better. We’re very happy to include the new Appearance system in M17. Here’s a brief summary of the changes, but I encourage you to try it for yourself.

The big change is that equipment’s appearance and colour is now defined per slot instead of per item.  In the old system, you destroyed Item A and up to three dye items to change the appearance and colour of item B. But when you outgrew Item B, or just wanted to equip something else, you had to repeat the process and use up more items to give the new thing the same look. And dyeing all your stuff red took a lot of dye!

Now, you define how an equipment slot looks, and your equipment takes on that look. If you have an appearance override defined for a slot, anything you put into that slot will take on that appearance automatically without you having to do anything. No matter what you’re actually wearing on your head, it can look like a bright pink fedora! (Fedoras not available in all regions. Some restrictions apply.)

There is a new Appearance tab in your character window. We’ve moved everything that affects your in-world appearance to this new tab, and changed how things work there too. In the Appearance tab, you do not use items directly from your inventory. You convert inventory items into “Appearance Library” items. This destroys it as an equippable/tradeable/sellable inventory item, but lets you use it as an appearance override option as many times as you want. Once you convert it, it is available in your Appearance Library permanently. This also applies to fashion items. You have to convert them into Appearance Library items, then use them in the Appearance tab.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To get you started, we’ve automatically converted all of your fashion items (only fashion items!) that were bound to your character. Those will be gone from your inventory and will appear in your Appearance Library. From now on, though, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether to convert fashion items to Appearance Library items to wear them yourself, or keep them as inventory items to trade, sell, or give away.


Your gear and fashion appearance slots are all in this tab now. Any changes you make in this tab will not be visible in the world until you save them (if you just want to switch between your gear and your fashion look, your in-world appearance won’t change until you choose the “Wear Gear” or “Wear Fashion” button). Other players won’t see you until you’re ready to be seen!

If you have no appearance overrides defined, the appearance slot will show your equipped gear since that’s what’s controlling your appearance:

You can change the appearance colours by using the three palette buttons beside the item icon. That lets you set the primary, secondary and accent colours for the item. You get seven base colours to choose from right away. Other colours need to be unlocked (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Your chosen colours will be displayed beside the item, and your Appearance paperdoll will show the change. Remember that your in-world appearance will not change until you save!

We’ve changed the colours of the equipped item, but of course we can also change its whole look.  Unlike colours, though, you don’t have any alternate appearances right at the start.  You will create your own library of only the looks that appeal to you, by converting inventory items into Appearance Library items.

Converting an inventory item into an Appearance Library items will destroy the inventory item, but its appearance will become a permanent part of your Appearance Library that you can use as many times as you like.  This applies to both gear and fashion items!  If an item has its appearance transmuted by the old system, its transmuted appearance will be added to the Appearance Library.

Dye items (bottles and packs) work in a similar way to equippable items. Converting dye items unlocks Colour Library choices (dye packs will unlock multiple Colour Library choices). Once choices are unlocked, they’re available for you to use as often as you want in as many slots as you want. You only need to convert one dye bottle to be able to dye every item you’re wearing red.

Returning to appearance changes, though, once you’ve converted an item from your inventory into an Appearance Library item, its ready to use. Click on the “Change Appearance Item” option from the slot’s context menu.

This will display the Appearance Library choices for that slot. Choose the one you like! Single-clicking will preview the item on the Appearance paperdoll, double-clicking (or clicking the “Select” button) will choose it. There is a cost to use some appearance items, but that cost won’t be charged until you actually save your changes. And remember that your in-world appearance won’t change either until you save, so feel free to experiment with your look!

If a slot’s appearance is being overridden, its background changes to a brighter colour and the item icon is completely opaque.

 You have to have something equipped in a gear slot in order to see any appearance overrides. If you have nothing equipped in a gear slot, the appearance override will still be defined, but it won’t make any difference to your in-world appearance. As soon as you equip an item, though, you’ll see it!


And that’s the basics! Remember that nothing will change in the world until your changes are saved, by using the “Save and Wear” footer button

And remember that while you can toggle the Appearance paperdoll between gear and fashion to test out looks, to actually change your in-world appearance you have to use the “Wear Gear/Fashion” footer button.


Additonal Details 

Thanks for hanging in there all the way to this point! Here are some clarifications of some details that came up in the preview forums and playtests.

  1. Dragonborn characters have the visuals on their equipment head slot permanently disabled, but their fashion head slot still works like everyone else's. This has not changed, but the messaging is clearer.

  2. When you add a transmuted item to your Appearance Library, the current transmuted appearance should be added to the library. However all dye information is lost. We’re sorry about that, but we re-defined all the dye colours in the game to give a better palette and we could not save all the old colours. Dyed items will still look the same, though, so if you’re really really attached to an old colour that you don’t see in the new Colour Library, you could just not override that item’s appearance.

  3. Your appearance configuration is part of your current loadout just like your real gear or power configuration is. There are several shortcut actions to quickly apply a choice (or all your choices) to all your loadouts.

  4. You can still disable visuals on your head, neck, shirt and trousers slots and this is now done in the Appearance window in the slot context menu. If a slot’s visuals are disabled it should be more clearly marked than in the past. You won’t be able to change any of the appearance override information while visuals are disabled, but you’ll be able to convert inventory items to Appearance Library items.


Thanks for your attention, and enjoy the new Appearance system!

Amy Skopik
UX Designer

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