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What happens when players equip their characters with gear solely based on stat bonuses without consideration to how it will look on them. The end results tend to be... colorful... to say the least. David Sirlin has an article on this phenomenon, appropriately entitled Football Helmet Clown Shoes Guy.
Many games try to circumvent the phenomenon by letting the equipment to be dyed, or allowing cosmetic alteration of equipment so it would look like another item.
Contrast Virtual Paper Doll, where the items usually look better, even though they are superficial. Also contrast Full Set Bonus, where the items are meant to be used together and this is encouraged by giving a full set bonus.
- Shoot Many Robots falls into this. As there aren't very many full sets of equippable gear, you'll wind up wearing all sorts of random crap just to get the stat bonuses you want.
- Quest for Glory V was an early example. It was the first game in the series to show your armour and weapon as you walked around around town. It was a nice idea - except that magic items were primary colours and glowed, pulsing weirdly.
- Soul Calibur 4: The Character Creation mode suffers heavily from this. While you can always play "Standard" mode, where clothing and weapon effects don't count, if you want to do well in other modes, you're pretty much forced to play with either the bastard child of Lady Gaga and a Silver Age superhero or a generic heavily-armored knight. The Random Character Generator in Soul Calibur 3 also produced pretty much exclusively this kind of character.
- Your character's good/evil and cheerful/gloomy stats in Soul Calibur III were assigned via clothing options, meaning you'd often need to hide extra garments underneath your chosen costume to get the alignment you wanted or just shrug and settle for looking stupid.
- Tekken 6 can end up like this in its Scenario Campaign, due to various clothes you can find giving you special boosts. Though, this does vary character to character, as one characters clothing sets can end up mixing a lot better than anothers.
Hack And Slash
- Basically everything in Diablo looks great... Until you start socketing in gems, at which point all of your equipment turns ridiculous colors. In Diablo 2, the best helm was usually a certain astroturf green hood. Some fighter characters preferred the neon purple skull mask, though.
- World of Warcraft is particularly guilty of this due its pseudo-cartoony style and initial poor itemization of gear, meaning it was very easy to build an efficient but stupid clownsuit. This was particularly prevalent in the first expansion, leading to "Outland Clown Syndrome". This is usually only avoided in druids (whose shapeshifted forms mostly hide gear) and arguably trolls (who are stylistically gaudy).
- Blizzard designed gear in the Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack specifically to avoid this, with numerous items sharing models so as to mesh well with other items when equipped. Sadly, they went much too far in the other direction, with very few new item models and most of those hard to distinguish from each other, in a variety of shades that include very very dark purple, brown, very very dark blue, brown, very very dark green and brown.
- Even worse, some of the sets look pretty bad. And it's not like you got much of a choice when it comes to those. At least you can turn off helmets and cloaks, but those shoulders... Developers insist part of the issue is for players to be able to identify other players by a quick visual, with many players falling between the camps of Burning Crusade's armor sets (extremely colorful and science fiction) versus Northrend armor (nordic, down-to-earth, and more realistic) A major complaint of the latest expansion is that Blizzard went too far the other way around — there are only 2 or 3 armor models for each "tier" of armor; there aren't even color differences in most of the armor. Oh, and everything has spikes.
- Blizzard has taken steps to avert this in Patch 4.3 with the Transmogrification feature. This allows players to (for a fee) take two items and combine them into one, with one item forming the stats and the other item forming the appearance. In this way, a player who likes the stats of one item but dislikes the look, and likes the look of one item but dislikes the stats, can now have their cake and eat it too.
- Amusingly, some people are using the feature to turn bland-looking gear in rainbow pimp gear. To each his own...
- Rainbow Pimp Gear in World of Warcraft was parodied in the Machinima The Grind. This is what happens when, faced with an imminent horde ambush, one of the main characters switches to his "Damage Gear".
- Ever Quest and EverQuest 2 originally filled this trope. However, EQ1 introduced armor dye. EQ2 includes a feature where you can equip a piece of armor to appearance, and hide cloaks and hats.
- The now-closed Tabula Rasa MMORPG seemed to generally avert this, as armor colors were generally of a duller shade, and dyes could be made to change the color of most armor, and so, were usually tolerable in terms of color coordination.
- It happens in Final Fantasy XI, though not as often or as glaringly as in some MMORPGs. This is an example of a paladin in good enmity gear for the time — not pretty — but it irks the most when the red and semi-revealing Scorpion Harness body piece is worn as part of an outfit with the blue and concealing Dragoon or Blue Mage artifact armor. What an eyesore. On the other hand, it's quite nicely averted with top-level White Mage gear, which is pretty consistently blue and white with the occasional small red highlight. Warriors also get a dark
blue purple ultramarineblurple hauberk and nearly matching purple gloves and black shorts... along with bright gold bananasboots.
With the introduction of a bright piiiink gear set for Monks, Thieves, Rangers, etc, there's now a
true rainbowbottle of Pepto-Bismol to be worn, too.
- RuneScape is so, so guilty of this. Not only can you make your default clothes any color you want, you can also equip any combination of armors in the game, leading to combinations like a fishbowl helmet, a body that makes your torso transparent, a orange and yellow-striped cape, a pink miniskirt, and an anchor for your weapon. Thankfully, most equipment sets look decent (with the exception of the Infinity mage set, which is a set of robes that looks like it was designed by a chameleon on LSD). It's mostly magenta. Luckily, it's recolourable to make it more palatable.
- The example above was designed to be laughable. On the other hand, "hybrid" or "tribrid" gear for players who wish to use and/or defend against multiple styles of combat (melee, projectile, and magical) without changing armour will almost always look absurd. Wearing a robe skirt, leather body armor, metal boots and gauntlets, a visored helmet and a backpack with a chicken in it - while wielding a salamander - is optimized gear for certain activities.
- Even worse, the developers try to give the player some control over the look, by having dyes... that only work when trying to dye armor that basically amounts to Vendor Trash. And basic capes. On the other side, dye wouldn't stick to metal or leather...
- The Helm of Neitiznot, one of the best helmets in the game, is white with gold trim and wings. It tends to go badly with one's (probably brown) armor.
- In The Lord of the Rings Online you can make things like hats, cloaks, and even boots invisible, you can dye all of your equipment in a wide variety of colors, and you can even equip to alternative sets of equipment that replace the visuals of your actual equipment without having any effect on the stats. So nobody has to look like a clown. Except those people who want to.
- Maple Story has this, especially once you get to a level where armour is no longer purchasable, and you have to take whatever colour armour you can get. Luckily, you can fix this with cash shop equipment, which masks over whatever you're actually wearing. (Its rather expensive, however.) If you don't want to be wearing something in a specific equipment slot at all, there's even invisible item masks, which just hides specific equipped items.
Like-colored equipments for classes tend to have like stat boosts. Translation? People who want the most out of a stat will tend to wear only one color — and if they're obsessive enough they'll just hunt down the gear . . . which, given the fact that the resident search engine for the Free Market, known as the Owl of Minerva, costs about 600 NX as opposed to the thousands that any given shirt or pair of pants in the Cash Shop would cost, a high-level player who bothers with NX (and getting all the different sets of equipment) could just bother with saving up their money (both kinds), buying a few, and jumping into the infamous sea of spam to find their armor or spending hours looking for it in the overpriced player stores. This was not actually too bad until Nexon constantly began to release special equipment which outshined standard equipment in stats so much that wearing standard equipment will automatically brand you as someone who isn't playing the game correctly. At least their outfits will match.
Many players have the weird habit of mixing cash items, which has no benefit whatsoever since almost all are purely cosmetic. Particular standouts are the clown faces, animal heads (heads, not hats) and multicolored hair. From left to right, the first player of Maple Story wears standard equipment (worst statistics), a player who wears special equipment (mindlessly overpowered in statistics), a player who has a sensible sense of fashion from using cash items to cover their somewhat not-so-great appearance while at the same time reasonably using their money, and the last one is someone who you can't even tell what they are because they drown themselves in absurd combinations which they believe is stylish.
Then you run into people who practice in Min-Maxing. Let's just say that in any other game, you would not normally be allowed to run around wearing a glowing stone relic for a helmet, a paintbrush as their weapon, green shoes... and your only real armor consisting of nothing but a Modesty Towel.
At as low a level as 18 (out of 200), a fairly simple quest gives out a terribly tacky full-head hat with defense and stat bonuses leagues ahead of any other hat. This, however, renders your head completely invisible, and the only way you can see your face again is to a) wear a less powerful hat or b) buy a NX hat. Ahhh Freemium.
- Another Nexon game, Mabinogi makes it possible to completely avert this. There are many different styles of equipment with identical stats, grouped into three categories — clothing, light armour, heavy armour — with weapons and shields being a bit more varied. Combine this with cash shop dyes (which can be used to dye pretty much anything, including weapons), and it's fairly easy to customize colour and style combinations to create any look you want. However, since all gear, whether dropped, crafted, or purchased from NPCs, comes in completely random colour combinations (some of them fairly hideous on their own), and there are many items which exist solely to look silly (such as the "bald wig" and "tree costume") it is also possible to play this trope straight to truly epic levels.
- Since shop items change colours randomly, it's also possible to create stylish and coordinated ensembles simply by waiting until the desired colours are available. However, this can take a very long time and a lot of shop-watching; and some colour combinations are only available via boss drops, special event rewards, or cash shop versions (such as pink and white shields, or bright purple longbows).
- Vindictus, prequel to Mabinogi, plays this trope very straight. All equips drop or are crafted, and come in fairly random colours. Mix-and-match outfits are discouraged by the bonuses provided when wearing a complete set; but matching colours is a lot more challenging. Unlike most other MMORPGs, especially other Nexon games, there is no provision for choosing colours. There is a function to "dye" all equips, including weapons, but it is purely random; and costs a considerable amount of in-game currency for higher-level gear. Fortunately, the colour palette for each type of armour or weapon is very small, so there are limits on how clownish you can end up looking.
- With later updates, cash shop dyes were released that allow for more control over colour; and create much brighter colours. This means that along with players creating some very coordinated and flashy sets of gear, others deliberately go for the insanely clownish look.
- Along with that, there are some armour sets, especially at high levels, that look pretty clownish all on their own.
- Star Wars Galaxies was unique in that nearly all equipment was fully customizable (since it ran largely on a player-run economy); but it was very difficult to find full sets of armor that were customized in the same way without buying it all at once from an individual, or even to wear every piece of a given armor set at once. (Since there was no armor certification system; the armor itself simply drained some of your other stats while equipped. It was very easy to simply be unable to equip a helmet depending on your class, which would not give you enough points for the armor to drain in order to equip it.) Many players never wore armor at all, opting for the robust clothing options instead. The game has... changed a bit over the years, to say the least.
- In The Matrix Online clothing drops were randomly colored, sometimes leaving articles in colors that should never be viewed together, much less in entire ensembles of visual offensiveness. Any player dressed like a complete clown was assured to be kicking ass in their ubergear. Some kept more fashionable but less adventure-worthy gear for clubbing and socializing, and others amped their absurdity to 11. This was somewhat mitigated by players able to weave their own clothing from the Matrix, but it involved a very expensive skillset and time-consuming farming to gather the raw materials.
- Earth Eternal can suffer from this if one doesn't take advantage of the Armor Refashioners, who can take an existing piece of gear that may be ugly or garish but have good stats, and make it look like another piece of gear that may be from ten levels ago, but looks really nice. This may result in grinding random mobs to see if they drop anything that looks interesting.
- Gunbound. Each avatar item has different stats and not all of them mesh well together appearance wise. Player that often disregards the appearance of the equipment in favor of the stats were called Stat whores.
- Mobsters 2: Most high-level players wear what amounts to a uniform of Combat Pants (puffy camouflage trousers) and a Window-pane Overcoat (a long grey coat over a waistcoat, shirt, and tie). Their bottom half is in the army and their top half is attending a business meeting.
- A common effect in Monster Hunter with new players, who forge whatever they can afford to increase defense without them knowing about skill points. More experienced players equip full sets of armor from a certain monster (which doesn't look tacky) to get the skill points that the monster set gives. Even more experienced players know that, with the right combinations of armor sets, a unique combination of skills can be attained instead of having to go with a pre-made set... at the cost of looking like a rainbow pimp again.
To provide a mild example, a commonly seen set in Tri is to have mostly advanced magical white armor from a certain Elder Dragon, replace the waist with a lower rank form of the same armor (which looks the same but gives different skill points)... and then replace the helmet with the head of a dinosaur which boosts rewards.
- This very trope was mentioned on the Tibia forums. The game itself suffers from this kind of gear as well, just take a look at the so-called blocking set.
- It should be mentioned that the equipped items have no bearing on a character's appearance and outfits are instead chosen in a menu. That being said, some player's tastes can be questionable.
- Dofus only has three visible pieces of equipment (with the weapon also showing, but only when it's used). Hat, cloak, and pet / mount. A character is also allowed to customize their own colors (but only at character creation or for a small real money fee). These colors, combined with armor that stands out very starkly and tends to be rather absurd (A popular early hat is basically a severed sheeps head with the tongue still hanging out), means that the odds of your character looking not stupid is very low. Of course, anyone going into Dofus intending to look badass is playing the wrong game.
- Averted by Wizard 101. Yes, when you first get an item it may clash, but you can go to a shop in the main shopping district and dye it to match whatever else you have on, if you have the gold (by the second world, you always will). This is good because it's almost always better to use drops instead of buying shop items (except in the case of decks and sometimes wands).
- Though some hat and robe combos might look a bit odd regardless.
Role Playing Game
- Dragon Age tends to avert it, encouraging you to wear full sets of armour of the a specific type as that would give stat bonuses, and armour of the same class tends to be more or less similarly coloured. However, in the Feastday Gifts and Pranks DLC, there is the Butterfly Sword and Ugly Boots (Both are more or less Exactly What It Says on the Tin), which will massively clash with pretty much everything else in the game, but are decent items on their own. (Sten and Leliana will also take a big -50 approval. Because they clearly pretty much agree those items fall under this trope)
- Fallout 3 and its expansions contain a lot of gear that can be just plain goofy looking all by itself, like the tribal power armor with its green color and attached skulls and such, powdered wigs, Abraham Lincoln's tophat, samurai armor, cowboy hats, civil war caps, motorcycle helmets, tinted sunglasses and assorted raider bondage gear. Late game you tend to move toward a handful of proper looking unique armor sets but low level lone wanderers are very likely to look like total jackasses.
- Which seems to have become a post-apoc splatterpunk staple. Just check out anything from Mad Max all the way to Doomsday! Dystopian futures are also in the midst of perpetual fashion emergencies, as any reject-from-the-80s Shadowrun poster will tell you. Granted, in the movies it doesn't grant them any special abilities, but based upon how African warlords dress, it's easy to guess they probably believe it does.
- Shadow Hearts From The New World has a Ninja who actually tells you that no matter how ridiculous something looks, if it raises your stats, wear it.
- Too Human: Every piece of armor is a different color and design (meaning that you could end up with super-bulky armor for your chest and arms but slim and sleek armor for your legs and feet). You can buy special runes to change the color of your armor.
- Knights of the Old Republic suffered from this as well.
- The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
- The strongest armour sets (Daedric and Glass) in both categories (heavy and light respectively) look incredibly ugly. Daedric armour basically looks like a suit welded together from mismatched pieces of metal in various states of rust, with no concern for fitting together, and with added spikes, while Glass has a radioactive green glow. Tragic since the last game, Morrowind had both of these sets look presentable, if not incredibly badass.
- And, while not as garish as most examples, both games have the Bloodworm Helm and the Helm of Oreyn Bearclaw. Both helmets resemble giant dinosaur skulls, which would be rather neat, had the jaws not been open and your character's face peeking out. The fact that they make your head look too big for your body doesn't help.
- The amber and madness armors as well as the golden saint and dark seducer armors from the Shivering Isle expansion are not much of an improvement either. You can avoid this by using the mage guild enchantment laboratory to give your armor a combined chameleon rating of slightly over 100%, so you do not have to look at it (not to mention the rather amusing reactions enemies seem to have when they are hit. Hooray for infinite sneak attacks.)
- On completion of a major quest, the city of Bruma will erect a statue of you in your honor. Your statue will wear the "best" armor and gear that you had in your inventory at that moment, not necessarily what you're wearing. The results can be interesting. In fact "Interesting" doesn't even begin to describe the weird things that can go on with this statue. On one hand, sometimes it equips magical equipment you no longer possess, due in part to a glitch that sometimes gives you magical bonuses for items forcibly taken from your character; on the other hand, if you carry out the insane task of completing the mission while carrying one-thousand torches, a one-handed weapon, and no shield, you're rewarded with the sight of your statue wielding a flaming weapon. So if you know how to manipulate the results of the statue, you can make it look like a big-headed dinosaur with a fiery sword. No matter what, though, the NPCs will comment, "You look just like your statue!" Why yes, I do have a dirty great staff implanted right through my arm, thank you for noticing. A particularly odd result can have the statue wearing the hood of the Grey Fox, leader of the Theives Guild and the most recognisable criminal in the entire province. And people still don't connect you with the Fox. Another effect is with a certain dagger you get from the brotherhood. The most powerful weapons in the game, but it's pretty small, and a statue heroically lifting a dagger to the sky does not have the intended effects.
- Morrowind gets in on the act as well, as all enchanted items look as if they've been covered in plastic wrap and placed under tinted lights.
- Morrowind takes this to new extremes with separate item slots for the glove on either hand, either pauldron, a cuirass, trousers, either boot, helm, and skirts or robes that can be worn over regular armor. Combine this with the Enchanting System and...
- Continuing the theme of Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim generally avoids this trope, due to a vastly improved graphics engine over Oblivion and considerably more realistic colors. The game also encourages the player to wear a complete set of armor, since there is a high-level Perk in both categories of armor that gives you a bonus if you wear a full matching set. However, it can still come into play if you mix-and-match armors just right. Wearing, for example, a Dragon Priest mask, the dark-grey Nightingale Armor, blood-red Shrouded Gloves, and shiny green-silver Glass Boots just looks gaudy. As was mentioned earlier, though, this is usually inferior to actually matching your armor pieces.
- Many of the heavier armor suits in Baldurs Gate 2 suffered from this, particularly given that they couldn't seem to figure out how to do the color red, so it was not uncommon to end up with someone wearing bright green armor, a pink helmet, and a glowing pink halberd.
- Hellgate London had a mechanic to color shift all your gear to match. Unfortunately this translated into a lot of brown (because Real Is Brown!) and similarly dingy colors.
- Neverwinter Nights and its sequel both have "Rainbow Armor", which according to the item description was made by a colorblind mage. The item itself has decent stats, but isn't particularly exceptional. You can also do some awesome things with custom modules and armour dyes. Also: Prismatic Dragon Boots. They give you great bonuses to DEX and AC, but they are so painful to the eye that they drain your CHA.
- The best equipment in a 3D Might and Magic game tends to look extremely gaudy and ridiculous. The in-game descriptions of said items tended to lampshade this.
- Even though there is no visual representation, it still felt weird making most of your characters in Final Fantasy VI wear earrings to boost their damage output.
- Armour can end up looking pretty ridiculous in Mass Effect, particularly the pink-and-white Phoenix armour.
- Mass Effect 2 has the "Death Mask". Faceless, looks like an elephant head, and somehow makes your paragon/renegade speech scores higher.
- Dragon Quest IX hits this badly due to widely varying equipment styles and occasionally counterintuitive bonuses. For instance, a leather kilt is better than cotton pants as warrior gear despite covering less, but iron armor is predictably more effective than a shirt, so a warrior may have substantial upper-body coverage and bare lower legs.
- Almost every player runs into this problem because it's really easy to obtain the "Gooey Gear" early in the game, which has great defensive stats at that point, but looks completely ridiculous. It's literally a stack of brightly colored slimes that's worn by the character. Parodied in this fan art.
- The Sonny series is pretty bad about this. Game two has perhaps two or three sets of equal-level equipment meant to be used together. For the rest of the game you are stuck with pick-and-mix gear in widely varying styles trying to maximize the attributes your skills depend on.
- Opoona's equipment is solely for the floating things above its main characters' heads (the Energy Bonbon), but it affects the appearance of said bonbon quite a bit. Some very silly combinations are possible, like a glittering tentacled cybernetic mace with a UFO orbiting it.
- In Find Mii and Find Mii II, a game that the Nintendo 3DS comes equipped with, the colors of the shirts the Miis are wearing determine what kind of magic they'll use. Luckily, it never looks particularly bad, at least any worse than the characters themselves look outside of this context, as the shirt color is the only Mii attribute that determines anything at all.
- The Last Story allows the player to dye the characters's clothing, item by item, as well as partially undress them and so on. The colours you are given at the start of the game include orange and hot pink. The uniforms include one with assless chaps. Hilarity Ensues.
- Half Minute Hero, since most of the items are deliberately mismatched and stupid, and since you can't take equipment you gain in later levels with you. You will probably be wearing a long brown wig for most of the early game due to its big critical hit ratio.
- A cause of Memetic Mutation amongst Japanese fans of Metal Gear Solid 3, who enjoy combining Big Boss's shirtless uniform (or occasionally his Ga-Ko uniform, which is printed with Kawaii-style ducks) with his Monkey Mask and Torch. This gives him a lot of protection against dogs (they ignore him in the Monkey Mask and the smoke from the Torch irritates their sensitive noses) but looks absolutely stupid.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Saints Row has a variant - you can pick colors on just about anything, but really, the most bang from your buck will come from purple gear - which happens to be the Saints' flag.
- Spore can get quite silly in the tribal stage, with a wide variety of items available in different categories. Getting the best stats for a creature requires some unusual combinations of clothing, but the game's built-in colour-coordination and ability to move and size the items generally averts total ugliness. Still, it's tricky when you find that your Badass warlike tribespeople absolutely need cowboy hats. One method for dealing with that is to make it as small as possible, and try to hide under something else.
- In the Creature phase, it can happen with body parts, particularly for a "social" species. It doesn't help that they're acquired randomly.
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: You can make some pretty outlandish things to CJ with the various clothing accessories. A chainsaw-wielding loony with a hockey mask, wearing what could only be considered a "diaper", and cowboy boots. Where's my respect, man?
Non-video game examples:
- Forgotten Realms: Jarlaxle is this trope exactly, possibly due to living in a world that is also a Dungeons and Dragons setting. Everything he wears is highly magical and very, very... unique. He almost fits this trope literally, as he wears a color-changing rainbow cloak (it also cycles through ultraviolet!) and a large be-plumed hat that could best be described as pimptastic. Of course, he's probably doing this on purpose, as he's quite flamboyant and is happy with his look. It also makes him quite memorable, which is what he's going for. Jarlaxle's reputation is "He dresses like a goofball, but don't screw with him." It also helps that everything he wears has a perfectly practical use. Even the ridiculous plume on his hat can be used to summon a monster in a pinch.
- In an early The Order of the Stick strip, Haley describes finding a pair of boots that would have been great, except that they were lime green. Later on, you see her wearing them in a flashback, and her Nemesis's first words to her are sarcastically noting the "nice boots". It turns out she's not only been carrying them around, but she also had them dyed to go with her new armour.
Haley: ... so the Boots of Speed were totally powerful, but they were, like, lime green.
- Sir Bob in The Noob is an example of this.
- Parodied by Stolen Pixels in regards to Dragon Age Origins. Dragon Age actually tends to avert this by giving stat bonuses to characters who wear a full set of armor (e.g. chainmail breastplate + gloves + boots.) At that point in the game, though... yeah, most characters fit the trope.
- In Eight Bit Theater, Red Mage states he would wear his underwear over his armour if it granted +3 Endurance. An obvious jab at this trope and super hero suits that really look like they wear briefs on top of spandex.
- While not as colorful as the example above, this strip of Penny Arcade also makes fun of the trope.
- Peganone's adventuring outfit in Our Little Adventure. Randi even makes the comment that her outfit makes her look like one of the Holograms. She explains that her outfit gives her a lot of combat and stat bonuses.
- In Goblins, Minmax finds a suit of armor in the Maze of Many while in dire need of it (having lost most of his clothes). To his great dismay, however, the whole armor is pink. Although it might be more pracical than he thought, subverting the trope.
- In one Xkcd comic, the protagonist gets a shoe that grants immortality. Too bad it has creepy individual toes.