Monday, February 27, 2023

Have Cape, Will Pose.

One of the more significant reasons behind my ongoing infatuation with Noah's Heart, something I'm still trying to unpick, has to be the costume design. It appeals to me very strongly, particularly for a supposed fantasy title. My favorite in-game look would almost certainly be a variation on contemporary streetwear but I'm much more interested in an exaggerated take on the kind of thing someone in a fantasy world might actually wear to work than in endless versions of armor-through-the-ages.

Whatever the aesthetic, we do seem to hear an awful lot about fashion in mmorpgs, nowadays. I've repeatedly heard the term "fashion wars" used to describe the endgame of two of the most successful western titles, Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 and even players of World of Warcraft, with its cartoonish character models, place huge importance on transmogrification.

It's a direction for the genre that strongly appeals to me. I'm absolutely in favor of mmorpgs as virtual Barbie sims. My problem is that most games I play don't cater to my specific tastes. I frequently dislike most of the available looks and even when I find something I like it often takes either far too much effort to obtain or costs too much real money to buy. 

By an order of magnitude, at least, my all-time favorite mmorpg for fashion is The Secret World. Or Secret World Legends, for that matter, since it uses exactly the same apearance system. I currently have my screenshot file for the original game set as the source for my desktop background and I'm constantly surprised and delighted by just how cool my characters look in those old shots. Noah's Heart doesn't have anything like the same aesthetic but even so it's probably the game where I've most enjoyed dressing my character since I was playing SWL

As I've described before, the primary way fashion works in Noah's Heart is through the Affection system. You build up Affection with your phantoms by giving them gifts and when you reach the final level the phantom rewards you with the pattern for their signature outfit, which you can then craft for yourself.

It's a fairly slow process but striaghtforward and highly achievable. If I put my mind to it I imagine I
could max Affection with a different phantom every week or two and a really dedicated player could probably knock them out like shelling peas, several a week at least. 

The only limits seem to be the number of gifts you can give each day - five hundred in total, a hundred to any one phantom - and the energy needed to craft the gifts, if you choose to make your own. You can also buy gifts using in-game or real-world currency and there are in-game and paid-for means of recovering your energy, so there are plenty of options for the determined but impatient fashionista.

None of this would matter a jot to me if I didn't like what my phantoms are wearing but I do. I really admire the way most of them dress. They're stylish, flamboyant and spectacular, yet also sweet and charming. 

The game has a positively obsessive focus on youth, something that creates a surreal friction with it's equally obsessive reliance on globally famous characters from real-world history. At times it feels like a junior high historical pageant, where no-one quite knows what the character they're playing was really famous for doing. 

It would be all too easy, as has happened in some notorious imports and not a few home-grown efforts, for this paradigm of adolescents playing dress-up to spiral off into something uncomfortably close to exploitation but, although this will obviously vary according to personal standards and cultural expectations, to my eye the game does a solid job of staying on the right side of that line. Just about every phantom I can think of looks either whimsical or wholesome; frequently both at once. It might occasionally be twee but it's rarely, if ever, offensive.

An area where the game might be considered to cross acceptable boundaries, depending on your socio-political criteria, would be the way some of the phantoms are characterised, pscychologically. As is made abundantly clear, both by their ongoing dialog in the MSQ and their leading roles in the storyline of the sixth Season, Mechanical Dog's Dream, several of the phantoms have Autism Spectrum Disorder, the severity ranging from mild social awkwardness to reclusive avoidance of all human society.

Perhaps by co-incidence but also posibly by unconscious bias, the first two phantoms whose looks I appropriated, Charlie Babbage and Jennie Watt, just happened to members of this group, all of whom are scientists and engineers of one sort or another. I picked them because I found their characters engaging and also because I liked their outfits, which no doubt says plenty about my own psychological profile. 

For my third choice, I wanted to go with something entirely different. I chose Johanne Keppler, an articulate magic-user whose outfit, featuring bell-bottoms, gold-trim and cape, reminded me of something Prince might designed for Donna Summer.

Last night I finally handed over the last 300 point Steak Curry I needed to max affection with Johanne and receive my pattern. I had all the ingredients to hand ready to craft the finished item. I just needed to recoup some energy by spending a few diamonds in the Mall and I was done.

Having changed outfits, I spent the next fifteen minutes in photo mode, trying out all of the emotes to see how the cape moved. I was very impressed. One of the big problems with cloaks and capes in most games is the way they clip through the body when you move or get stuck in unlikely positions when you stop. 

Johanne's cape doesn't do too much of either. Mostly it falls into attractive shapes that look very much as if someone designed them rather than left them to chance. I'm very pleased with it.

I'm very pleased with all three of the looks I've acquired from my phantoms so far. I like the three non-phantom outfits I've earned through the main quest, too. What I like most of all, though, is knowing there are far more fine-looking outfits out there, just waiting for me to collect them, the only barrier being my own enthusiasm and interest.

It seems like a fine way to do fashion. It's no Secret World but it'll do me very well for now.


  1. That cape (and outfit) looks somewhere between Viva Las Vegas Elvis and Colonel Sanders. (The Kentucky Fried Chicken founder, not Colonel Sandurz, the character from Spaceballs and was created with a play on that name by Dark Helmet: "What's the matter, Sandurz... Chicken??")

    1. Yes, it's very Vegas, isn't it? As you'll notice from the open-world shots, I quickly decided the headband didn't go with it. Neither do the bunny ears. It's quite nice just to have nothing on my head for once.


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