This brief installment of Upon Closer Inspection is taken entirely from images compiled by Varquynne in a forum post, so credit to him for the concept and image compilation.
As he pointed out in that thread, and as the Diablo III developers have promised, the items seen on display by the Blacksmith’s wagon are identical to the items seen equipped on characters. If you go through the screenshots and compare them to the loot sitting around outside Haedrig Eamon’s wagon (where everyone knows your name) they look just like them. You can see that clearly enough in the comparison shot to the right, with the Monk‘s shoulder pads in her character selection screen attire compared to some sitting on the Blacksmith’s display shelves.
Click through for more discussion, several more item-matching screenshots, and an update on the fact that we’ve only see the Blacksmith’s wagon through the eyes of a Monk and Barbarian so far, which might have a big effect on the artwork shown.
Pick Yourself Out a Nice One
The items on display at the Artisan‘s wagons (we’ve only seen the Blacksmith‘s so far, but the same sort of realistic display will be used for the Mystic and Jeweler) are decorative, rather than literal. The items offered for sale at any given moment won’t exactly correspond to what’s on display, which means you can’t act like a spoiled rich girl on her birthday; you will not be permitted to point at the shiny while announcing, “WANT!”
At least we don’t think so… I suppose it’s possible that the items on display might actually correspond to the items for sale? I mean why not? Assuming that the game loads new items each time you return to the Caravan, why couldn’t the stuff on display change to correspond to what’s actually in the inventory?
That would be awesome! Imagine you were looking for a specific item type, like a specific type of shield or a big axe. You’d know what it looked like, and as you ran up to the Blacksmith you’d see that item sitting there, on display. How hasty your steps would grow, with the item type you most wanted awaiting you!
Of course the stats, once you loaded them via the sales interface, would undoubtedly be cracked sash-esque. But at least you had that momentary thrill of hope as you pulled the slot machine lever! Or not.
Gear Sets and Clown Clothes
The other factor to consider is the Gear Set issue. We know there are 18 different gear sets per class, all of which look quite different from each other. But we do not know how mixing and matching them will change the look of your character, in-game.
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.
For a hypothetical example, say your Barbarian is wearing the helm, body armor, and shoulders from gear set #14, which gives him that unforgettable elephant look. And then he finds rare body armor from gear set #17, with great mods. Does that ruin his look? Would he still appear to have the elephant shoulders and helm, with some totally different, mismatched chest armor? Or would the chest look like the elephant set? Or would the chest override the look of the shoulders and helm? Unknown. UNKNOWN!
Depending on how that shakes out, the items we see on the NPC displays might not look like that on our characters, after all. Would you prefer changed item appearances to make a more pleasing, uniform whole? Or do you want everything to look exactly like it does when lying on the ground or sitting on an NPC’s display rack, clown clothing be damned? Or is worrying about what your character looks like beside the point, when you’re there to crush?
Update: Something I forgot to mention in the original piece that NorthAmericanPenguin reminded me of in comments. We’ve only see the Blacksmith’s wares from the PoV of the Barbarian (in screenshots) and the Monk (in the Artisan Video). Thus the items displayed may be generated based on those characters. If yo look at the available images you see a lot of fairly generic stuff; swords, shields, horned helms, etc. You do not see any ranged weapons (all screens were released before the Demon Hunter was revealed) cloaks, or Wizard starfish hats, and you certainly don’t see any Witch Doctor tribal masks, dog-bone chest pieces, or coconut shell bras.
There’s no telling if the Blacksmith’s wares are just background art or if they do indeed reflect what your character is wearing, especially since we’re seeing the game in progress and the final art will probably be a lot different. It will be interesting to compare what the different classes see, though. Even if the items don’t actually reflect what’s for sale on that particular visit, I hope there are at least some different displays for the game to show, based on your class. It would be odd for a player controlling a Witch Doctor to see only the big heavy Barbarian-type stuff we see in the current screenshots, when nothing a WD wore would ever look like that.