Please upgrade your browser for the best possible experience.

Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer
×

PvP and PvE Armor Design: Why Bioware's Design Aesthetic is Fundamentally Flawed

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > General Discussion
PvP and PvE Armor Design: Why Bioware's Design Aesthetic is Fundamentally Flawed

TitusVorenus's Avatar


TitusVorenus
04.21.2012 , 01:38 PM | #1
What follows is intended as a sober, mature discussion on the nature of Bioware's armor designs. This is not a QQ thread. This is not a "Ya screw Bioware they are teh sux!" thread. This is not a "I love WoW" thread. If you can't bother to take the time to read, then don't bother posting "TLDR" because it does not make you "cool".

Many of us--certainly what seems to be by all means a very large majority--are very disappointed with the designs for the PvP and PvE endgame armor sets. Almost all of them are ostentatious, with dramatic spikes or horns or other fluff and coming in a bewildering array of bright colors. In this respect, it seems clear that Bioware's design team--for all the other cool-looking things they've come up with--has overreached in their creativity, not necessarily out of malice but certainly, it seems, out of ignorance.

From another thread:

Quote:
The whole draw of Star Wars, at least conceptually, was that it was specifically designed as a "lived-in universe" or a "used universe". Up to that point virtually all science fiction was depicted as clean and shiny and looking as if it had been built the day before, while the Star Wars universe is dirty and grungy and despite its futuristic nature holds an undeniable logic in its design. Contrast, for example, the various iterations of the Enterprise from Star Trek--which is invariably pretty and spotless--against the beat-up, grimey X-Wings and Y-Wings of the Rebel Alliance. Rebel troopers wear white on Hoth and green/brown on Endor because Hoth is white and Endor is green/brown; they're not catassing around in neon orange or yellow.

That's why these 1.2 designs--almost all of which are ludicrously over-the-top--are so jarring and seem so out of place: it's because they are out of place. The aesthetic is completely wrong, and the designers have really, really missed the mark here.
The exact terminology used by George Lucas--and whatever you feel about him, he is undeniably where the buck stops in regards to Star Wars-- was the "used future". The "used future", as this article explains, is

Quote:
"...a future that was meant to be experienced as reality rather than fantasy. The Star Wars future was not showroom shiny but dented and rusty, as if it had hard use on the back roads on innumerable galaxies. Lucas told an interviewer during production in England that the Apollo casules may have looked brand new when they soared away, but it was clear when they returned that the interior was littered with candy wrappers, empty Tang cans, and other trash, just like the family station wagon."
The article goes on with this image of the Millenium Falcon--"What a piece of junk!"--and crumpled-up scrap metal, along with this excerpt from artist John Powers:

Quote:
A flying saucer had never been a slum before. The immaculate silver sheen of the saucer was reinvented as a dingy Dumpster full of boiler parts, dirty dishes, and decomposing upholstery. Lucas’s visual program not only captured the stark utopian logic that girded modern urban planning, it surpassed it.
And, straight from Mr. Lucas himself:

Quote:
“I was working very hard to keep everything nonsymmetrical. Nothing looks like it belongs with anything else.... It’s a very common thing in science fiction to see a set that has one influence. Everything matches. The chairs match the table, match the rug, match the design of the doors, match the door handle, match the lamps. I wanted it to look like one thing came from one part of the galaxy and another from another part of the galaxy.”


A man who--brilliantly--understood precisely what Mr. Lucas was going for was, of course, the legendary late Ralph McQuarrie--and it is obvious that he understood it from the very beginning, as the stunning slideshow on this page shows. As a separate article explains:

Quote:
McQuarrie’s great achievement with his Star Wars designs, and his enduring legacy for all of science fiction, was his pioneering of the “used future” aesthetic. Whereas most previous sci-fi — from the borderline camp of Star Trek to the experimental visions of 2001: A Space Odyssey — featured environments that were scrubbed clean, brightly lit, often monochromatic, and generally antiseptic, McQuarrie’s “used future” designs for Star Wars imagined a lived-in galaxy that was gritty, dirty, and in advance states of decay. In short, the perfect home for ever more freaky forms of scum and villainy. And, yet because of his laser-focused attention to that Galaxy Far, Far Away’s grainy details, McQuarrie’s Star Wars concept art also possesses an element of surrealism. One famous design, showing prototype versions of C-3PO and R2-D2 against the craggy Jundland Wastes of Tatooine, best exemplifies his style: strongly geometric subjects rendered in muted colors against a flat, purposefully compressed backdrop. A McQuarrie Star Wars design looks like what would have resulted if Salvador Dali had sketched concepts for Universal’s 1936 Flash Gordon serial by way of Sergio Leone’s Old West.
McQuarrie's designs are not only starkly beautiful, but because they hold such a strong sense of "realism" it is immediately obvious what everything is when you see it. An X-Wing--a super-fantastical exaggeration of period jet fighter design design--could be nothing else than a starfighter. The Imperial Star Destroyer immediately says "battleship" because it was influenced by First World War battleships. Imperial uniforms are modeled after German designs from both World Wars; both the design and the heavy use of feldgrau (or "field-gray") obviously signifies them as "the bad guys", even if we're not consciously aware of it. As previously mentioned, Rebel soldiers wear white on Hoth because it is a snowy, icy environment and green/brown on Endor because it is a forested environment. Even stormtrooper armor has its own inherent logic: they're supposed to be scary, intimidating, and soulless. (It's worth pointing out that, though it's not obvious in the movies, stormtroopers are not actually the base footsoldiers of the Imperial Army--they're a separate organization, and supposed to represent an elite).


The upshot of all this is that, for all its fantastical nature, everything in Star Wars is firmly grounded in a form of reality, allowing us to accept them without a second thought because things just look the way they're "supposed" to. We can see ourselves piloting an X-Wing, or running around on a battlefield in stormtrooper armor.

But these designs from Bioware? What idiot is going to run around a battlefield filled with laser beams and walking tanks in bright yellow or orange--and not get exhausted because the armor is the size of a small car? How can a Jedi and a Sith (who, mind you, are almost always depicted wearing nothing more than simple robes) be expected to have a kinetic duel with each other when they can't see anything and they're worried about their oversized helmets falling off? We don't believe in the designs because the designs aren't believable.

incidentally, I will point out that we shouldn't be too harsh on Bioware, because they are only following industry precedent in making their designs ever more over-the-top and fanciful. Knights are always running around in full Gothic armor when they mostly looked like this. As a military historian and historical reenactor (I'll point out that you can trust me when I say that armor is already heavy enough as it is, it does not need to be made heavier for the sake of miscellaneous doodads), I always find it appalling and disappointing--especially because there are so many existing looks in the historical record which look so much better. Consider, for example, these two accurate depictionsof an elite, wealthy triarius and a younger, poorer hastatus from a Republican Roman legion (respectively). Don't they already look awesome? Do they really need to be made "moar 1337"?

But I digress.

I think what's most disappointing about these crazy designs is that so many other places in the game, Bioware nails it. All the starships look like they belong, from the high-tech prototype Agent ship to the beat-up Trooper one. From levels 1-49 Jedi and Sith run around in robes and Troopers run around in clean, efficient armor--contrasted with the more garish, but still clearly functional, armor of Bounty Hunters. We interact with Imperial NPC's wearing neofascist uniforms, and we fight Republic soldiers in sleek body armor.

But all that changes at level 50. Yes, we can now--thankfully--swap out mods (though not, of course, for ugly Recruit gear, which for many people who can't afford or don't want to grind warzones is the best armor they can get), but that is prohibitively expensive to do and it still does not excuse the appalling designs of the gear itself. Bioware's design team needs to get back to the nitty-gritty, not the ridiculous.

I said it before, and I will say it again:
We don't believe in the designs because the designs aren't believable.

Thank you for your time.
The Former Dalexeo Cobja of Starsider
Vorenus Faustus--Vanguard, Helm of Graush
Sygnus Faustus--Scoundrel, Helm of Graush
Vorbeck--Sniper, Ven Zallow

ShavedEwok's Avatar


ShavedEwok
04.21.2012 , 02:02 PM | #2
Thanks OP for a very nice write up, couldn't have said it better myself and I fully agree.

I think one of the most interesting (and IMO valid) points made, is that much of the armor pre-50 looks spot on and in many ways more "epic" than the post-50 stuff which supposedly should give the impression of your character being BA.

Like OP pointed out, ship design is IMO spot on (props to those involved, great job!) in SWTOR and so is the majority of concepts for the NPC armors. In fact, I would argue that many NPC's wear stuff looking a lot more epic than the player end-game gear.

Working with an existing and well established IP such as Star Wars, of course has it's challenges. On the other hand, since it is so well known and has been around for so long, it shouldn't really be that hard for any good designer to come up with concepts that fit well within the context while still being original.

IMO, the main problem with the current 1.2 high-end gear is that it simply doesn't fit in. The designs are generally too far out there and you get the feeling the designers haven't really done their research and looked at the actual world these are being placed into. Much of it just looks too much horror-fantasy, is too extravagant, has proportions all over the place and last but not least, does not seem to take any regard whatsoever to being practical. The latter is basically a cardinal sin when working with the Star Wars universe IMO.

I know it's really easy for us self-declared "online experts" to criticize and complain...but while that is true we who do that still have eyes and many of us have more or less been growing up with Star Wars, making us very familiar with the IP which also makes us notice when something seems "off".

While I can appreciate the designers wanting to "take it to the next level", I personally don't think that's the way to go. Instead of trying to create something completely new, I think you should stick to what works and then iterate on that instead. Be creative, but do it while being firmly rooted in the established IP. It's a challenge, sure...but the abundance of other great designs in SWTOR is proof that it's possible. You've done it before, so perhaps it's time to go back to the basics a bit?

SE
80% less stupid

thebigdoubleu's Avatar


thebigdoubleu
04.21.2012 , 02:05 PM | #3
Good job OP on a well thought out thread.

I feel that there's some kind of disconnect between what BioWare artists are designing versus what we feel Star Wars looks like.
Build three farms and a barracks.

bsmolke's Avatar


bsmolke
04.21.2012 , 02:21 PM | #4
Yeah I don't feel like lvl 50 is within the realm of Star Wars anymore, just another universe because the way things look just doesn't fit the IP

ShavedEwok's Avatar


ShavedEwok
04.21.2012 , 02:23 PM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by thebigdoubleu View Post
Good job OP on a well thought out thread.

I feel that there's some kind of disconnect between what BioWare artists are designing versus what we know Star Wars looks like.
Hope you don't mind, but I "fixed" that for you.

On a more serious note though, my point is that this is not just about a purely subjective "feeling", it's actually a very specific design and artstyle which in itself is something pretty concrete and distinct. There are rules and measures in design which apply here as well and there is indeed such a thing as an overall "Star Warsy" look. At least enough so for roughly noticing whether something does fit in or not so much. I'm not a full-time designer myself, but I dare say I think many professional designers out there would agree at least to an extent.

SE
80% less stupid

Beslley's Avatar


Beslley
04.21.2012 , 02:31 PM | #6
You hit the nail on the head, OP.

Bravo.
<Death and Taxes>
Prophecy of the Five

Beslley - dps sorc | Arenatah - snoipah | Nef'arian - dps op | Alexstraza - slinger
KHEM VAL IS MY COPILOT

Natareus's Avatar


Natareus
04.21.2012 , 02:35 PM | #7
I agree OP. I remember before the game's release (for example) Bioware was talking about how the jedi knights should look. They said dark, earthy colors, with a robe or a cape.(Referring to Guardian armor mostly but Sentinel armor is the same except a different color) The level 50 knight armor is pathetic. The war hero armor for PvP looks like a bright yellow and red scuba diver. The Battlemaster gear doesn't come with a robe or cape or anything like they said it was supposed to be. I'm sure this is true for all the other classes as well. The level 40 PvP Gear for guardian looks just fine but the level 50 pathetic. For all the warzone grinding and work we do to get the armor we should at least be rewarded with a decent looking set, not a red and yellow astronaut. I looked at the other war hero armors for level 50's and they are pathetic as well. I don't see how the design team at Bioware actually said "Yep, It looks good let's put it in the game". I also hope BioWare addresses this issue soon.
A jedi's life is of sacrifice

Beslley's Avatar


Beslley
04.21.2012 , 02:42 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Natareus View Post
I agree OP. I remember before the game's release (for example) Bioware was talking about how the jedi knights should look. They said dark, earthy colors, with a robe or a cape.(Referring to Guardian armor mostly but Sentinel armor is the same except a different color) The level 50 knight armor is pathetic. The war hero armor for PvP looks like a bright yellow and red scuba diver. The Battlemaster gear doesn't come with a robe or cape or anything like they said it was supposed to be. I'm sure this is true for all the other classes as well. The level 40 PvP Gear for guardian looks just fine but the level 50 pathetic. For all the warzone grinding and work we do to get the armor we should at least be rewarded with a decent looking set, not a red and yellow astronaut. I looked at the other war hero armors for level 50's and they are pathetic as well. I don't see how the design team at Bioware actually said "Yep, It looks good let's put it in the game". I also hope BioWare addresses this issue soon.
It could be worse
My sith sorc is full rakata and looks ridiculous.
Huge triangular shoulder pads, weird, starched butt cover, and a downright goofy helm.
To top it all off, my sorc is female, so she's got her midriff showing.
And this latest tier is even more worse looking, if that 's even possible.

I thought I was supposed to inspire fear, not laughter

It's a shame, because a lot of the leveling gear looks great, with dark colored robes, and cool, sithy body armor tops with cloth robe bottoms. Did the 1-49 designers get kidnapped or something?
<Death and Taxes>
Prophecy of the Five

Beslley - dps sorc | Arenatah - snoipah | Nef'arian - dps op | Alexstraza - slinger
KHEM VAL IS MY COPILOT

CharleyDanger's Avatar


CharleyDanger
04.21.2012 , 02:52 PM | #9
Thank you! I think well thought out threads like this carry more weight than the traditional "Why u sux Bioware at doing the gear??????"

Bioware has to understand that the vast majority of the community is displeased with post 50 gear, and for good reason. It's not like the people speaking there minds on this subject are roaming trolls that hate everything that moves. The people speaking up are true fans SWTOR and everything Star Wars. As the OP stated so well, its not a matter of personal opinion, its a matter of the gear not logically fitting into the Star Wars universe.

I would take it even further and say that some of the post 50 gear does not logically fit in any universe. Why is a smuggler wearing a cape? I would say that being inconspicuous is a pretty high priority for a smuggler. So why would a person that is trying to not draw attention to themselves be wearing the most attention grabbing piece of attire in the galaxy?

DarthBastila's Avatar


DarthBastila
04.21.2012 , 03:03 PM | #10
Excellent post. You clearly put a lot of thought and heart behind it.

I largely agree with it too.

It seems the problem is that they feel obligated to make something over the top and "EPIC" at 50, rather than just continuing with the tried and true Star Wars aesthetic that was portrayed in large 1-49.

"Creativity, immersion, story telling, fun, and creating memories that will remind others of an earlier and happy time in their life are what making games are all about."
- Me -