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WoWSep 1, 2021 5:00 pm CT

A transmogger’s dream: How armor dyes could work in World of Warcraft

A common request from World of Warcraft players over the years has been a method of changing the color of their armor, with the most frequent idea being the addition of dyes to the game in order to do so. Other MMOs like Final Fantasy 14 and Guild Wars 2 already have dyes, and Blizzard itself has armor dyes in Diablo 3 —so the expectation among some of the playerbase is that Blizzard could just as “easily” add a similar feature to WoW.


But the simplest changes are often more complicated than they seem. The games I’ve listed games were designed from the start to allow the alteration of armor via dyeing, and WoW wasn’t. I don’t think it would be as easy to implement as it might seem. But I do think it’s something that could be added in the future, so here’s how it might work.

A color palette for every palate: How could dyes be implemented?

One of the reasons players expect dyes to be easy to implement is because there are already alternate color versions of many armors in the game, which drop from different places. The idea is that if the designers could do this, the players could too. But that ignores the vast gulf between an art program on a desktop and the game software on a server — the art team can recolor a set and be sure it looks right, whereas a program automatically changing colors might make items somewhat less attractive. But that said, the way these armor variants are colored gives us guidance into how dyeing could be implemented into the game.

Guild Wars 2 utilizes the concept of “dye channels,” which are basically pre-defined areas on a piece of armor that can be given a different shared color. Looking at the Vrykul cloth armor in the image above, you can see the same color repeated several times — for example, the trim matches the shoulder surface and the accessories of the belt and horns, as well as the studs below the belt. Studying the image, you can see four dye channels: focusing on the leftmost version, there’s the blue, the gold trim/accessory, the dark brown sleeves/lower surcoat, and the light brown skirt/shoulder contrast. I will note that this last channel shows variation from the base color, but based on other games you can still have it only be one dye channel and the individual segments have different brightness or saturation applied to it to cause the contrast. In addition, the eye/flame effect would be preset and could not be changed, or a 5th dye channel could be added to allow this color to be changed.

The below image shows the concept as implemented in Guild Wars 2; each of the pieces below has three dye channels except for the coat which has a 4th. While you do see repetition of the gold throughout (in the accessory dye slot), that’s a similar effect to what is in the armor above, only now customizable.

Something old, something new: Where would dyes come from?

How dyes are acquired becomes a gameplay issue, although I am most in favor of the game simply giving us a grid of 144 or 256 colors to choose from via an interface. I would also hope the cost is free, just like transmog should be. But considering transmog remains a gold sink, it seems likely any dye system would have a cost as well.

An alternative way to acquire dyes could be to have crafted dyes made with Inscription. But I’m not sure that works as well as I don’t see much opportunity for continual color “releases” and I’ve never been a big fan of color rarity so I would hope that all dyes are obtained the same way — in which case, giving us a palette at the start seems the easiest way to implement.

Something cerulean blue: Dyes could revamp old armor

I wouldn’t expect existing armor in the game to accept dyes — at least not initially. Besides the fact that the sheer volume of graphic objects that would have to converted to a dyeable version would make the entire art development team quit in frustration, I would have to expect that there would be some players who would be upset if their favorite looks changed to accommodate the dyeing system. But a dye system could bring the largest benefit is old armor appearances.

There’s a decided quality difference in appearance between newer armor and armor that’s been in the game for a long time. If existing appearances don’t get updated when this system is implemented, perhaps in the future the art team could dedicate resources to updating old armor to a higher quality while also adding dye channels. We could then have a few tiers or even an expansion where the armor is updated, like the enhanced tier 6 versions from the Tomb of Sargeras raid. Doing this would fulfill another player request while also (hopefully) balancing the workload, as new appearances wouldn’t have to be designed, just existing ones updated.

Color me convinced (if it can actually be done)

While what I laid out above seems pretty straightforward, the reality is that only those who have to tackle the leviathan of Warcraft‘s code knows if it’s even viable. Besides that though, there would be a paradigm shift with the armor that’s rewarded in game if color was no longer a differentiator. While Mythic and elite PVP versions of armor would still have their standard visual augmentation, there would be no differences among difficulties of raids and dungeons, or of faction when Horde and Alliance PVP share the same appearance. I personally don’t see the need for a difference (consider the example of the Vrykul cloth armor pictured above: there’s no indicator which difficulty each outfit comes from), but if there was a need for it, additional flourishes could be added at each level or you could even increase the number of dye channels allowing for more complex coloration when the gear drops from a higher difficulty.

This issue does not seem insurmountable, though, so I hope that the additions of dyes is something we can look forward to in the future. I wouldn’t categorize it as the biggest transmog priority (that remains increasing the number of available appearances for characters), but it could be a game-changer — or at least an outfit changer.

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Filed Under: Armor Dye, Transmog

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