Why World Of Warcraft's New Customization Options Are Being Added

A Blizzard developer talks about how the studio wanted to give players more freedom to express themselves in the MMO.

World of Warcraft's upcoming expansion, Shadowlands, introduces a series of new character customization options that give players access to more skin tones, eye colors, and hairstyles to better represent themselves in the game.

Assistant lead quest designer Johnny Cash told GameSpot in a new interview that these new creation tools came directly from feedback from the community, along with the desires of the development team. Cash also spoke to us about the new character Pelagos, who is among WoW's first trans characters.

The updated WoW character creation screen
The updated WoW character creation screen

"There was a lot of push during this expansion, both from the team and from the community, to want to be able to express themselves better," Cash said. "And I think humans are the best example of that. We had people that said, 'I love Azeroth and I play all the time but I can't make a character who looks like me.' That really was something we took to heart and that was really the start of the effort with all the new character customization options."

The focus of the options will be available for human characters, but Blizzard is hoping to expand this to the game's other races down the road.

"Humans being the beginning of that, and then going into our other races too, looking for other opportunities ... whether they want to look like themselves or they want to look like something very different from themselves. [Our goal is to] give players more options than they've had before," Cash said.

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Cash also mentioned that Blizzard hopes to continue adding more customization items in the future, though he did not share any specific plans. Also coming in Shadowlands is the ability to change your gender without paying for it.

The customization options also include things like tattoos, jewelry, beards, scars, and flowers for their hair. Additionally, some of the customization items that were previously dependent on other choices are now freed up. For example, a hair color would previously lock you into the same color for face tattoos, but now you can mix and match freely. For Worgen players, the game now lets you change your appearance independently through a streamlined menu and system.

Head to Blizzard's website to see a detailed breakdown of the new options.

Also in our interview, Cash spoke about the new Shadowlands character, Pelagos, who is trans. Cash said the developers wanted to create a character who was a World of Warcraft expression of trans, and the team went to great lengths to ensure this was done appropriately.

"The designers wanted to put together a character who was the Shadowlands' expression of trans. And what does that look like? Can we do that justice and have a character that feels genuine and make it speak to some of these things?" Cash said. "So working with our LGBT group internally, getting feedback from the voice actor, getting feedback from the community, making sure our writing was done in a way that was genuine, that was heartfelt. And that's just one of many characters that falls into diverse spaces."

"At the end of the day, my point being, that we truly earnestly believe that Azeroth is a place for everyone and so there is a lot of effort in Shadowlands to make that more true than it's ever been," Cash added.

In July, Blizzard shared the first details surrounding Pelagos and his story. Pelagos presented as a woman in his mortal life, but now lives as a man in the afterlife in Shadowlands. Fans spoke up when the game identified him using they/them pronouns, and this was changed to he/him in the alpha.

"The team had originally written him to use they/them pronouns, but received feedback that he/him would be more respectful of the character’s wishes to be identified as a man. This change is simply the result of us listening and responding to that feedback," Blizzard said at the time.

Following a delay, Shadowlands launches on November 23 on PC. Alongside the standard edition, you can preorder a World of Warcraft: Shadowlands collector's edition for $120. It includes a level boost, flying mount, transmog quest, pet, weapon effect, and more.

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