Want to read a Feral’s point of view on the matter? Currant of Scarlet Crusade, guildmate, friend, and author of Druid Tank talks about his issues with static forms.
Although many Druids opt to swap to a healing build at or just before level 70, many of us level up by speccing and gearing Feral (not me; I was silly and levelled Restoration). We get our first Feral form, Bear Form at level 10 and then pick up Cat Form at level 20. While both the Tauren and Druid Bear Forms are mouthbreathers with sizely posteriors, at least Night Elves are fortunate enough to have an attractive cat form (sorry Taurens). This is all quite exciting for those Druids who like to beat things to death on their way to level 70 (you know who you are). And at level 40, Druids get access to an improved version of Bear Form called Dire Bear Form which, while stronger and more heavily armored, looks disappointingly the same as its predecessor.
And these are the forms that we Druids keep all the way to level 70. And then keep for our entire tenure at level 70. And will probably keep while we level up to 80. While other players are changing appearance as they level or becoming more and more daunting aesthetically as they progress from Tier 4 to Tier 5 and beyond, a Feral Druid looks forever like the form she assumed at level 10 (or 20 for those who prefer kitty). And while there has been some some quiet grumbling about this for a while, it’s only recently become a large source of complaint, prompting a 50+ page, tongue-in-cheek thread in the official forums in which the same picture is linked over and over and described in terms of the “great gear” the player is ostensibly wearing.
Why is this a big deal?
Many players have a hard time wrapping their head around why this issue matters so much to Druids. If you don’t play a Druid (or if you play a Druid that doesn’t often use her forms), imagine how you would feel if every new item you picked up looked the same as the items you were given at level 10 or 20. Your avatar would be static with no visual clues of your in-game accomplishments, to you or anyone else. This, of course, includes your weapons and enchants which remain invisible for a Feral when in forms (which, while raiding, is 95% of the time). I think that most players — even the hardcore number crunchers — would agree that this would detract substantially from their enjoyment from the game.
And it isn’t just Ferals…
While this issue affects Feral Druids the most (since both Moonkin Form and Tree of Life aren’t acquired until level 40+), it affects all Druids who play in forms at one point or another. A Laser Chicken comes in two varieties: purple or brown and at least can show off her weapon of choice. But one Tree of Life is identical to all others, regardless of her faction (Horde vs. Alliance). This in and of itself is kind of insulting as all of our combat-oriented — and Flight — forms differentiate based upon faction. To have all Trees look the same seems to imply that healers are excluded from participating in cross-faction rivalry (of course, with its movement impairment, PvPing in Tree Form could be considered suicide).
What could be done?
So what’s the solution? After all, we don’t really want our animal forms to walk around wearing (visible) armor, do we? Well no, it’s been rare that I’ve seen that idea suggested. But there have been other suggestions that could satisfy many Druids were they implemented:
Reskin the Existing Forms
Creating new skins for the existing meshes used for Druid forms would be a very simple method of allowing for additional customization. In fact, the Night Elf Cat Form already has two additional skins in the game since it’s a model that’s used elsewhere:
Making these skins available for selection — and creating additional ones — would let each Druid have at least some control over her appearance. At the very least, Night Elves in Tree of Life should be changed to use the Ashenvale Ent model (the one that’s purple rather than the autumnal colors more commonly associated with Taurens).
Implement Scaling Aesthetics
Determine one or more “core” stats that would be logically associated with the strength of a particular form. Use the already determined Blizzard Item Values to create an index of how a given player’s gear compares to that of other players and adjust the appearance of the player’s forms on a incremental scale. For example, assuming that Spirit and +Healing were considered to be the “primary” aesthetic stats for a Tree of Life, a player with 450 Spirit (450 IV) and 1500 +Healing (0.455 * 1500 = 682.5) would end up with an Aesthetic Index of 832.5. A better-equipped player with 600 Spirit and 1800 +Healing would have an Aesthetic Index of 1419. The latter Druid’s form could then be adjusted to reflect her better gear. Some ideas for adjustments by form might be:
- Tree of Life: Wisps that flit among one’s boughs, in various color, quantity, and glow strength; glow level of the Tree’s eyes; height; fullness of foilage; color of foliage or bark (to actually look alive).
- Cat Form: Length of claws, more rugged looking fur, a more wicked looking tail, eye glow.
- Bear Form: Size, length of fangs, more rugged looking fur, tribal markings or items sewn into the fur coat, eye glow.
- Moonkin Form: Additional feathers and beads, eye glow intensity (possibly in different colors), smoothness of coat, original or spicy.
- Model Selection
Ferals have frequently clamored for the ability to select from a variety of animal forms to fulfill their tanking and DPS roles. For example, instead of Bear Form a Druid might choose to shapeshift into a Gorilla. Instead of Cat Form, a Druid might shift into a Wolverine (snikty snikt). If I had to choose between the two implementations, I’d definitely opt for #2 over this one.
There are more important things for developers to be working on.
Do we really need more of this?
The changes described above are in essence model changes, possibly model creation. Blizzard is currently hard at work on creating a new 25-man dungeon called the Sunwell. This dungeon will undoubtedly contain several new models, models which will more than likely only be seen by 1% of the playerbase. On the other hand, Druids comprise an estimated 4-6% of the playerbase. And these are OUR models, not models of NPCs that we will encounter. And any development effort in this vain would be appreciated long after we’ve all moved past the Sunwell (due to the release of WotLK, not because many of us will ever see the Sunwell). I’m not sure why the creation of a high-end dungeon would ever take priority over aesthetic improvements that are long overdue for one of the game’s classes.
More models, meshes, and model adjustments would take up more memory.
There are already a ton of available models for Hunter pets. And every model can be tamed in a variety of different skins, allowing a Hunter to further customize herself through her pet selection. Many Hunters pride themselves on a collection of rare and special-looking pets kept safely stabled. The fact that all of these models and meshes are tameable means that they are available to load into memory. Shouldn’t a character class be afforded the same “luxury”? As for the various glow effects, a Druid in a Feral form isn’t currently displaying enchantment glows. Allowing their eyes to glow would take up no more memory or video processing power than a weapon enchant.
If it’s so important, why haven’t Druids complained sooner?
Partly because, while you’re levelling up you’re still gaining in power from new talents and new skills (as well as gaining access to Travel and Aquatic forms). But when you reach the maximum level cap — be it 60, 70, or 80 — your entire progression boils down to gear … and maybe PvP ratings. For a Feral Druid (or one who spends the majority of her time in Moonkin or Tree Form), the impact of these changes is greatly lessened for its invisibility to others.
But it’s important that Druids be easily recognizable so I can blow them up!
… no, it isn’t. And honestly, would it be that hard to learn that an animal hurtling toward you to Mangle your face that doesn’t have the worlds “Soandso’s Pet” under her name is probably a Druid?
The models used for Druid forms are the same as they have been from Day 1. With the exception of our admittedly majestic Flight Form and Epic Flight Form and a couple of minor aesthetic tweaks to the cosmetic travesty that is Tauren Cat Form, zero development effort has been applied toward Druid forms. Even the Tree of Life form that was introduced prior to the release of the Burning Crusade expansion was recycled from an existing (some say “ugly”, I say “cute”) model. After three years, we are long overdue for some aesthetic attention.
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