How Will Transmogrification Steer WoW and Its Design?

World of Warcraft’s patch 4.3 brought about a popular new feature – transmogrification – that allows players to change the appearance of their equipped armor to other armor they may have. The feature has proven to be a popular way to customize characters, as previously a lot of people looked the same if they were sporting the most recent and powerful items. There are dozens of websites that you can explore to assemble the best looking set. It has incentivized players to explore and farm old content to obtain nostalgic and unique looks, and it has created an extremely profitable market for players dedicated to collecting and reselling popular items.

With transmogrification as popular as it is, introducing cool-looking armor might be as popular a reward as powerful gear.

Mists of Pandaria is testing this right out of the gate. The new challenge mode dungeons seem very difficult, but they offer a great reward if completed on the highest difficult: a unique armor set used for transmogrification. Most of the difficult raiding and PvP achievements have been rare and unique mounts and titles, but this new type of reward could be a new standard. The mounts have made the “glory” achievements very sought after, but they haven’t worked too well for getting people into rated battlegrounds. What’s the point in getting a new mount every couple of months if you are just going to replace it with a shinier one in the near future? Special armor rewards offer another factor to work towards, especially since the raid finder has made obtaining gear that looks similar to the normal and heroic raid’s models very easy.

What kind of armor designs are going to appeal to players? This is the million-gold question! Players complained during Burning Crusade that the highly stylized armor sets were too wild and thus wearing pieces from multiple sets made them look like a clown. The next two expansion’s gear was definitely less colorful and “out there” and tried to make an overall themed looked for each armor type. There were definitely some unique designs in Wrath of the Lich King, but a lot of people looked the same. Once transmogrification was introduced late in Cataclysm’s lifecycle in patch 4.3, what gear did people gravitate towards? According to MMO-Champion’s scrapes of the armory in December, 62% of weapons were from Burning Crusade, 20% from Classic WoW, and 18% from Wrath of the Lich King. Armor seems to have a similar distribution. There could be multiple reasons for this:

  • Players want an unfamiliar look that stands out, and diving into older armor is a great solution.
  • The ability to pick and choose which crazy-looking pieces a player gives them the desired look with more control – one can have a complete set or omit some undesirable pieces without having to worry about stats.
  • The armor was preferable to Wrath and Cataclysm armor regardless and players complained without known alternatives, actually preferring BC armor to future armor.

With transmogrification, Blizzard has some liberty to release more controversial armor since players can change the look if they don’t like it. I mean, look at the Shaman challenge armor set. Not everyone wants to look like Blastoise (Ed. Note – Resubbing and rolling shaman right now so I can look like Blastoise.).


I think there is a niche that transmogrification will be able to fill in the future with the role legendary items play today. Currently, the super-difficult to obtain legendary items are not able to be used for transmogrification and have to be set aside in lieu of more recent weapons after a couple patches. Perhaps instead of legendaries, this kind of class-specific flair could be added through transmogrification. For example, Tauren Warriors could participate in an epic quest-line to discover their heritage to get the iconic totem weapons used in Warcraft 3 (and the WoW opening cinematic). Dwarven hunters could complete sharp-shooting challenges to get the Rifleman cloak used in Warcraft 3. Pandaren monks could get brew kegs and staves to emulate Chen Stormstout. Night Elf mages could succumb to demon magic and get transmogrifiable demon features from demon hunters, like tattoos and blindfolds. There are many dozen race/class combinations, but adding more flavor through cosmetic rewards tied to epic quests could fill the role of a lasting reward. One of the concerns that exists with the idea of tranmogging legendaries is that everyone will be running around with one. With more specific, flavor based rewards, there would be less of them in the world, and they would be a sign of customization instead of power. Not everyone is going to be a tauren warrior, so the totems would not be that common in game. Having the ability to customize your rewards with dyes or designs could further increase the personalization of these items.

Transmogrification is here to stay, and the potential has yet to be fully uncovered. Where do you think it’ll take us? Leave a comment and let us know!


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