Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Thought for the day: Color psychology

Why does it feel better to replace a blue item by a purple item than to replace one purple item by another purple item, even if the difference in iLevel and effect is about the same? Should World of Warcraft extend its color scale?
The same reason why a compressed chunk of coal is more valuable than an uncompressed one: Social norms and/or a very successful advertisement campaign.
Maybe I am an axeption, but nothing feels better than to replace a purple eitem with a blue one, knowing that you just tricked the system and actually are better off this way. In the past you could do this as a druid tank - the best trinkets usually were blue.

Otherwise: The coloring of item description text was a brilliant innovation from Blizzard. Too bad that they inflated it thus that grey, white and green items are trash, blue ones are leveling standard and purple the norm.

This was a very stupid move.
Humans aren't made for numbers. They're a strange concept, especially when they get big. We're good at qualitative changes, such as colors.

It could also be that a color shift gives the impression of being a larger change, of moving to a whole new level. It's almost like how moving 17 to 18 isn't a big deal because it's a year, it's a big deal (at least in the US) because it means a lot more rights and responsibilities.
No, we don't need more colors. I think blue items should be much more common and epic more rare. Most of epic items should be colored blue (loot from daily quest tokens, normal mode epics) and epic items from hard mode purple.

I don't think it's a good thing to have to look at ilvl's to have a quick look at the character's equipment quality.

The color should give us a general idea.
I know what you mean, PEople strive to be "all epic!" but really who cares when its the stats that count?

However; its a vicious circle as often group leaders may choose a DPS with more epics than the other, but not take into account the person or the spec and stats.

I think there should be one colour between Blue and purple, because theres some blue items that are too powerful for blues but not quite purple.

+it'll make the gap between blue and purple bigger so it may or may not feel more rewarding when getting epics :)
Also, why do I feel so cheated that my epics from Naxx 10 don't count towards the 'epic' achievement because they aren't high enough iLvL?
It's my opinion that the range of colours should not be modified, yet everything should be pushed down.

Not in terms of a whole 'colour' lower, just in that epics should truly be 'epic' - even if that simply means 10 man raiding and above only.

Oh, and PvP gear.

Anyone trying to enter an instance in full greens is turned away - yet back in vanilla WoW at the start, seeing someone with an epic was a big deal, let alone an entire set.

In some way this is part of Blizzard's curse - they want to make everything seem like a big achievement, so they have to feed the masses 'apparently' better and better items.

This was proven to be true at both TBC launch, and WotLK launch, where people were using inferior pieces of gear while leveling to the new gap, simply because they were epic.

So much so that I remember seeing a hunter come back to WoW for WotLK after not playing at all in TBC - and he leveled to 80 wearing full tier 2.
Grey, White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Red, Black, Silver, Gold, Electric....

But more than that, the meaning of these colors need to be better defined. Leveling up, a blue item would last you 10 levels before a green item could replace it, a purple item would take 10 levels before a blue item could replace it, and by extension 20 levels before a green could. Somehow due to raiding etc, our item levels inflated over our regular levels by such a huge amount, that we're fighting at over 300% capacity.

Replacing your gear with higher ilvl gear is like gaining a level, and therefore, even in raiding, chasing epics, what we're doing is leveling.

So what is the current difference between ilvl 200 blue and purple?
Purple allows for more stats, so while a blue item gives 2-3 stats, a purple would give 3-5. The quality of the stats is the same though.

If they do add more colors, than alot of what we have now, would probably be demoted to "blue" unless they added the colors up and not any inbetween.
I don't replace blue gems with purple. I believe in Wow, that blue represents moderation, intelligence, and respectability. Purple represents excess, foolishness, and narcissism. I think that Blizzard has gotten carried away with availability of purple items, and what they really need to do is not add more colors, but clamp down and make blues very hard to get in the expansion and purples near impossible. Go back to old-school and bring respectability to the color blue, certainly the most regal, rich, and respectable color there is!
Color schmolor...

For the ultimate in soothed achievement fantasies, you need the ill-fated Dungeon Runner's mythic RaInBoW items!

(Fine print: Caps used as stand-in to replace color. For more details, see
If iLvl is what really matters and color is just convenient shorthand, why not simply color gear by iLvl? If it's above a certain threshold it's purple, lower and it's blue.

The issue is that some gear that should be considered equivalent by iLvl is considered disparate due to color. Make it all the same color. Problem solved.

If they do introduce a new color or colors, it should be to indicate that gear was once of a certain quality, but is now relatively weaker. Keep the highest tier purple and make anything below that iLvl a color that says "used to be great, now there's better".

People who always get the best gear will still get the best gear.

People who think purple = best will actually be right, but they won't be able to delude themselves into thinking that a full set of iLvl 200 "epics" means anything at this point in the game.

People who collect gear will still have an indicator that the piece was once powerful.
only have the current content purple (right now T9) and everything else is blue. When t10 comes in, everyone's gear goes blue again until you get the new purples of t10.

everything is an upgrade, trinkets and relics all included.

same goes for pvp gear.
I recently replaced a higher ilvl green with a purple of *lower* ilevel. It wasn't as stupid as it sounds, the stats on it were significantly better. I had cruddy outland shoulders and I swapped them out a set of PvP purple shoulders. I think I lost like 15 SP in exchange a whole bunch of armor, int, stam, crit and spirit.

I felt kind of ridiculous doing it, and scratched my head. The color change wasn't the problem, it was taking a downgrade to get an upgrade... weird feeling
In vanilla WoW color of the item indicated rarity not quality. E.g. many MC purple drops were no better than the best blue items from the 5-man instances. It looks like this system doesn't work any more with purple items as common as green.
They should NOT change the color scale, because then M&S might notice their gear is inferior and throw a fit about the "elitists" who want to be rewarded with better gear for overcoming tougher challenges (GASP! HOW SCANDALOUS!). Right now, everything being purple obscures the gear gap (what little is left after badge changes). Let's keep it that way, because we all know how entitled the squeakiest wheels in the community are.
I am a casually hardcore player who has been playing WoW since the early days. I am not a raider or elite pvp'er but i agree that so called "Epics" are too easily obtained. Epics have somewhat been cheapened by the easy accesibility.

I believe truly epic items should be earned. Examples would be saving epic items for great raid accomplishments such as downing Arthas himself or earning all of the PVP Achievments and being the Top Rated Arena Team.

As for crafting, which i enjoy there should be some "Epic" crafting quest that can be attained at max crafting level to provide the crafter an "Epic" crafted item that is Bind on Pickup only. No more cheap epics for sale on the AH.

And as for step up gear for raiding and pvp...keep it blue just increase the stats and item level to correspond to the content.

sorry for the rant...its just that i long for a time when "Epics" were truly epic and awe inspiring.
Either it should expand it or remove it completely. I'm personally voting for expanding it. People can handle a few more colors.
You want them to add more orange (legendary) items?

Seriously though, colors are a joke. Everything is related to iLevel now and I would think that will soon be the golden standard for gear inspection.
I'd rather replace a bad epic by a good epic then a blue with an epic.

Then again, I'm the kind of guy who walked with a green + spelldamage equipment when epic +int/sta/spi items dropped in vanilla wow. I'd often prefer blue great items to badly itemized epics. Having a prettier color seems to be more attractive to casuals.

Sadly the colors don't mean much these days. Everyone can be decked out in epics. Yet one epic is not another. Someone in heroic 5 men epic gear can not be compared to someone who has gear from the newest instance. Epic <> Epic in WoW and the color is useless a few months into an expansion.
Don't forget Orange. Even the MTG guys use that one for Legendary.

I still want Cyan.

With twinklies.

Yeah, twinkling text, just what we need to make WoW more like a bad webpage design.
As designer I call this "color psychology" thing for: Feedback Conditioning.
I am a bit surprised that noone noticed this , but in WoW , there is a new color : green is the new purple (and I'm not only talking about that webcomic joke).
This new gear comes in the form of heroic ToC10/25 gear , which is basically normal ToC10/25 gear plus a few levels. One might say that there are still epic (purple) items. Yes , they are , but they're purples with green text which , at least on my server , has been gaining a bit of prestige (even if it's just an item from ToC10 HC , which has the same item level as Toc25 normal , it's "superior").
I consider this a good move by Blizzard. The elite raiders are happy that their gear is purple-green , the rest of the raiders are happy they're in almost the same gear.
Any thoughts ?
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