Thursday, December 08, 2022

An Issue With Skins

 I was thinking about skins in games and wanted to talk about one of the things that annoys me.

TF2 Silhouettes
 First I want to get nostalgic about Team Fortress 2.  One of the things that I felt the game got perfect (at least at launch, not sure about current state) was the visual feedback about what class a player was playing.  The heavy was very distinct compared to the scout who was distinct compared to the sniper/medic/etc.  Every class was visibly identifiable the moment you came across them unlike other FPS games of the time where it was very difficult to get a sense of your opponents capabilities at a glance.

 Fast forward to the modern age and the explosion of skins as a key revenue stream for online games and the one thing that annoys me about skins: skins obfuscate a characters role in the game.  For example I will use my current game of choice, New World, and how it uses skins.  

 Skins are available and can then be applied to any equipment slot for a player.  The problem is skins are not visually tied to armor weights so a heavy armor user can apply a skin that looks like light armor and vice versa a light armor user can dress up in heavy plate armor skins.  Most annoying is shield skins where players can use the skin for a small round shield while using a big ole' tower shield.  

 This means I lose out visually on clues about my opponent.  A character running around with a small round shield should be indicative of a light armor load.  If I jump in to attack them thinking that and end up hitting a wall because the player is actually a heavy armor tank with a tower shield (more damage reduction) it is a "feel bad" moment. And I will admit I've used to this my benefit by being that heavy tank with a round shield skin baiting in attackers thinking I was a light weight.

 Even though I've benefited from this skins situation it still annoys me.  Skins in games should not change the visual distinction needed for the game to give good feedback to the user.  In New World's case it is as simple as making skins require specific armor weight to apply (i.e. can't apply a round shield skin to a tower shield, can't apply a light armor skin to a heavy armor piece).

 So I plead with game developers: please don't sacrifice visual feedback to players during game play in the favor of giving more skins to players.  Please make skins as minimally impacting on playing the game as possible. 

 Thank you for listening to my rant.  Agree?  Disagree?  Leave some comments.


  1. I think this is a battle that was fought and lost well over a decade ago. It used to annoy me for role-playing reasons but the arguments against it for PvE are very much a minority perspective. Foe PvP the competititve advantages it gioves are much clearer but even there it seems as though most players prefer to take the hit for the aesthetic choice.

    It's always seemed to me that the very simple answer to it all is to have a toggle at the client end that either blocks all appearance data or, if that's too complex, one that simply uses a default class/level appearance for everyone. The player character could be exempt from either, allowing people who wanted to see their own skins but no-one else's.

  2. I do agree the client setting to disable is a good feature for PvP modes. I've also thought MMOs could go with a system to have "town clothes" vs "combat mode gear" that changes fluidly as you move between game areas/modes.


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