FriskyDingo quoted a bit of speculation from our recent Upon Closer Inspection article, and got a clarifying reply from Bashiok on the B.net forums.
“Several times in the early days of Diablo III, the developers told us they were trying to avoid the clown clothing style of mismatched item types that we so often suffered in Diablo II. (I?m looking at you, Mr. Puke Green Shako.) They didn?t spell out how this would happen, but it?s widely assumed that there will be some automatic matching of gear. “
They also said many times over that with all of the combination of item types that no two characters would look the same!
I say keep the mismatched item system! I am incredibly disheartened to hear that there could be something implace to automatically make one item look like something else so that it matches up better.
Bashiok: That’s not a feature or desired feature. I think what was being said was that applying color shades to items and making them a mess of bright purple or bright green is not very visually appealing, and so we’d like to avoid that. And we have, we do have dyes which alter gear color, but it’s allowed in very measured and specifically tailored ways so that it doesn’t look so garish.
I want every player to be unique, to never run across someone else with the same armor on and stand out from the croud if they even want it.
Bashiok: Well, there are a finite number of items, so being able to interact with potentially millions of players and never see two people who look alike unfortunately isn’t too realistic. In addition, there are only a certain number of set looks per class, and so eventually there will be points where all the highest end players have the highest end set. That’s where dyes, and even runes come in, among other things, to visually distinguish individuals. It would be awesome to have unlimited amounts of art going in to the game, but there has to be a line somewhere. Hopefully we can keep that line moving every once in a while though.
How can runes alter how we look?
Bashiok: Assuming you’re not standing around just admiring each other you’ll be out and about killing stuff. Since each rune alters each ability in a visual (and usually mechanical) way, even if you and another wizard look exactly alike it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have the same skills chosen, but if you do, you’re even less likely to have the same runes socketed.
That’s good news about the variety of character armor looks, but I’m still unclear how Gear Sets work. The devs have shown off all those cool matched sets of items, and said there are 18 different ones for each character. But if every item we’re wearing shows up just how it looks on our character, will anyone ever actually have a full gear set on? Won’t we always be mismatched to some extent, and thus never quite in a gear set? (Barring set item gear sets, I guess.) So why did they spend all the effort to make matched-looking gear sets, and show them off at a Blizzcon panel as if gear sets will be how characters look in the game, if no one’s ever going to look like that? (That’s why many were speculating that some items would change appearance to match in gear sets.)
It’s likely that there are not 18 different items or item looks for every type of item. Clearly there are 18 body armors all of which look different. But there probably aren’t 18 types of shoulders and bracers and belts. (Diablo 2 has 5 boots, 5 gloves, 8 shields, 9 helms + 2 circlets, compared to 16 types of body armor. Not counting exceptional/elite versions.)
Hypothetical example: Say there are 7 types of shoulder armor. Each one looks different than the others for each class. On a Barbarian those would go from something like a small leather shoulder pad, up to a huge chrome thing that looks like it came off the back of a pick up truck. But since there are only 7 of them, the gear sets incorporate that. So gear sets 1, and 2 use the 1st level shoulder. Gear sets 3 and 4 use the 2nd level shoulder, and so on, until gear sets 16-18 all use the 7th level shoulder pad. (Which might look slightly different in each case in order to blend perfectly with the body armor?)
It’s also possible that players might find some mixing and matching looks better. Maybe the 4th type of boots goes really well with the 12th body armor and 9th helm, on Witch Doctors. Fashion show!
Or maybe we’ll all be too busy trying to get better items from monster drops and crafting and we won’t even stop to care about how our characters look until like, 2015.