Editorial: Omitting Women From Games Because "It's Too Hard" is Unacceptable

j4c0b1

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With everyone talking about the lack of a female character is, I'm surprised not many are talking about how tacked on a pointlessly crap the co-op seems for a supposed main feature. If your not willing to put the effort into making 4 characters don't have 4 player co-op in a story driven game.
 

josemlopes

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j4c0b1 said:
With everyone talking about the lack of a female character is, I'm surprised not many are talking about how tacked on a pointlessly crap the co-op seems for a supposed main feature. If your not willing to put the effort into making 4 characters don't have 4 player co-op in a story driven game.
I'd much rather have a tacked on co-op of the entire campaign rather then a well developed short side campaign like the ones in Far Cry 3 or Splinter Cell. Even Halo 3 could be taken as tacked on since it never really made sense to have Arbiter and two other covenents with Chief right at the start (in that matter even 4 Chiefs would make more sense, like the 2 identical Chiefs in the Halo: CE).
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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Does anybody else miss the days when videogame characters were anthromorphic space ships with no gender whatsoever? 'Cause I'm starting to. Personally I blame "Miss Pacman" for this whole thing.

On a more serious note though, I see both sides of this argument and I don't think it's easily solved. I absolutely agree with the naysayers that devs shouldn't be forced to compromise their "vision" to pander to someone else's idea of what "equality" is (which may not match their own idea - it's a pretty fluid term.) On the other hand, if ninety per cent of the most successful devs are white American men making games about other white American men, I can understand people who are into gaming but who aren't white American men getting a bit frustrated by the situation, and they're absolutely right to be. (And yeah, I realise I'm ignoring the Japanese market there, or even the thriving Nordic indie market; but that's probably because 90% of the AAA games I'm exposed to are American in origin.)

I think the way to sort it out is to invite and encourage more varied talent into the industry - be it of different culture, sex, race, etc - and to support them with our wallets and our voices when they produce something that's both groundbreaking and of good quality (which happens more often than you'd think.)

Absolutely the WRONG way to sort it out is to start demanding that devs put stuff in their games that they don't want to put in there. If there's something genuinely offensive (eg, the recent "rape tape reward" thing) then raise a stink, try and dissuade other people from buying the game, etc. But insisting that a specific dev "panders" to a subset of critics - who may not even represent an opinion of a majority, or even one that has a basis in commonsense, anyway - is not going to solve anything.

Reward the people who get it right with your custom and your money. Don't buy from the ones you don't agree with, and keep your controversy for the ones who really deserve it. If enough consumers do this, we'll get the games industry that we want. If not, we'll get the one we deserve instead.
 

Nion

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grimner said:
Had the argument and objections been leveled at the lack of a female protagonist, your argument and reasoning would be quite correct, which is why I am assuming that you jumped the gun. Obviously a game's story can be gender specific. Bioshock Infinite could only work with a male Booker DeWitt much like Bayonetta only works with a female lead. but this is not what's in discussion, or at least, I don't think that there's too many people arguing for the andriginous template used by Bioware to become the standard of gaming; but when it comes to animating for female characters in the co-op non canonical elements of games? I really can't think of a valid excuse, especially when it has been done before, including by Ubisoft themselves. Which is why they do deserve the flak they are getting.
Even if they had spent years animating the best female characters for co-op the world has ever seen, exactly zero people in the entire world would play as those characters because exactly 100% of people will be playing the same main character in co-op. At best, some other people would randomly appear female on your screen, and even then they'd have to be using the male animations to not go out-of-sync with what that player sees on their own screen.
 

Rebel_Raven

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TheMadDoctorsCat said:
Reward the people who get it right with your custom and your money. Don't buy from the ones you don't agree with, and keep your controversy for the ones who really deserve it. If enough consumers do this, we'll get the games industry that we want. If not, we'll get the one we deserve instead.
There's a flaw with voting with one's wallet, IMO. In theory it should work, but there's people that hate Pepsi, and won't drink it. That said, Pepsi's still thriving.

Basically, voting with one's wallet won't make a dang if the industry can stay afloat with it's existing customers. the game industry likely feels they can, despite though with the bankruptcies, layoffs, etc.

Provided you have multiple systems, you might be able to get by with a decent variety as far as modern releases go.
If you just have one system, though? Good luck getting a steady supply of games with female protagonists, and get comfy buying old games, and playing the heck out of the ones you can get.

Still, We're getting a decent surge lately, but I'm looking at it through the lenses of someone who's been pretty well starved of the games I want, has multiple systems, and researches.

Frankly, I don't believe people should have to own a dozen systems, or have to research heavily just to find the games with female playable characters in a variety of games.
 

JET1971

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Ronack said:
I've read somewhere that adding women would make it harder on the animators. It's not just a reskin with slightly different animation, but a completely different of rules more like. Women need to walk with a sway, need to have shapes, need to sound a certain way, need this, need that. THAT is the sexist part of it. And as it stands, that would up the cost a lot methinks.
Actualy no it wouldn't cost allot in a game like AC. There are female NPC's so the body models are already created and the walk/run animations with the female sway are already done for them as well. The only thing that would be required would be scaling the combat and jump animations to fit the smaller scale of the female characters and modify the armor/clothing the protagonist uses. The animation issues may not even actually need to have anything at all done to them if the animations scale to the bones rather than the bones scale to the animation.

Many game engines scale the animation to the bones simply for the reason of using 1 animation for all characters if the animation doesn't require a difference like a feminine walk compared to a body builder male walk such as swinging a sword can be used by both sex and not be noticeable at all. Take Bethesda's games for example. all character animations can be used by all races, body size, and sex. Even Khajiit and Argonian animations can be used by the humanoid characters because the tail animation wont be seen with no tail or tail bones to animate. This is a huge way game companies save money.

There is also the way they make animations, they do not make all animations from scratch for both sex's. Usually it is done by making the male animations then modifying those for female by making the hips roll more when walking and moving the elbows closer to the body as an example. Sometimes they need to add a tail if the character model has one because the tail will use system resources even if there is no tail to animate so adding a tail to an existing animation for those characters is cheaper than making all new animations. Cost wise the original animation is the most expensive to make and converting it to female takes very little time and half the time to test. Litteraly minutes in many cases of converting male to female.

The only time animating female characters that would take an excessive amount of effort would be if they made the animations overtly sexualized like breasts that bounce around like jello and buttcheeks that bounce about half that much and all walk/run animations are done in a overly girly (sexy to pubescent boys I guess) way that maximizes the breast and butt bounce.

Modifying the armor/clothing would take far more time to do than all the animations but any 3d artist knows it is not at all an exhausting task to scale and move vertices unless you are going for a more sexualized look and adding H cup breasts extra wide hips and a crazy narrow waist and your original male shape wasn't Duke Nukem bodybuilder proportions. In the case of AC armor/clothing for the protagonist it wouldn't require all new since the male shape isn't bodybuilder sized and the characters are not overtly sexualized, plus the clothes they use are not skin tight showing manly butt and ripped muscles under the shirt. Moving the vertices on the chest out to make the impression of breasts under a loose shirt and scaling the waist and shoulders to a more feminine size after scaling the whole thing smaller could take an hour or a day and look decent. It's not rocket science and it is what the 3d modeling tools are made to do and have many tools available and many different ways to do it. At the worst case if they need all new models if the 3d artist cannot bang one out in a week then they need to find a new artist to replace that one with.

Creating the face and hair for the female protagonist shouldn't be a monumental task, a bit of tweaking of existing hair models used by NPC's to make it unique and a few changes to the texture and head model is all that's needed there and they may not need to do anything to the head model if they use different ones throughout the game, just use a different hair than the head model uses by NPC's and it makes it look different already.

The only truly expensive part would be voice acting if the characters are fully voiced with hundreds of lines of dialogue. If there is no dialogue then grunts and groans are quick and easy to do requiring no more than a couple days studio time and they will have enough to pick and choose from for a couple games worth. They should actually have stock voice files of grunts and groans from other games the studio made that could be used negating the need to have all new ones, slight adjustment for pitch and tone and maybe the speed and call them good.

No Ubisoft is making an excuse and people are believing it because they have never dealt with what is required. Ubisoft can make a female protagonist for COOP mode in a week, 2 at most and cheaper than the first 5 seconds of an ad for the game itself.
 

IndieForever

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Back in the year 2000 you could probably measure the amount of female gamers as a percentage on the fingers of one hand. You could probably measure the number of those female gamers who had a full flight-sim joystick setup on the fingers of one finger.

And yet, 14 years ago, Chris Roberts & co. could be bothered to invest the time, effort and money into doing this:

[http://postimg.org/image/kb8sbhbv9/]

Admittedly they only had to change the main character's voice, as opposed to thousands of frames of animation, but they did it.

And then, 3 years later, - Freelancer. The stereotypical white male lead character:

[http://postimg.org/image/jx7gbvrrp/]

Something changed in those three years and I'd love to ask Chris what it was. This is one of those cases where it would have been a simple reskin of the character for the (game engine driven) cut-scenes, but they didn't do it. I suspect, knowing the history of the development of Freelancer, that it was exactly the same reason that drove Ubi not to do it as well - time and money.

It's just a shame that nearly 15 years ago, devs were starting to think ahead; to them it was natural that the ace fighter pilot in a fleet of male pilots could be the female. Some of this has been lost. (As an aside I believe Star Citizen will allow you to play as either.)

Anyway, last post on the subject from me. If anyone's interested in the technical side of this debate, and things like why the comment about desynch using female animations is laughably wrong, please feel free to drop me a PM.

(@JET1971 - Thank you for taking the time to explain to everyone what is involved in the animations. I have a rough idea, but I don't work in animation, rather I deal with what they produce. I will add that we did mo-cap 2 different actors, but the cost of that is coming down every year.)
 

sweetylnumb

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The Plunk said:
Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise. When only a small segment of your target audience is going to care about not being able to play as a female character, it makes more sense to focus on something else.

INB4 "muh 45%". That falls under the latter category of "lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Dude. They only had to put a female face on one of the assasins, and get a female voice actor. They are all under clocks and assasin outfits anyway, would anyone have really cared if her hips didnt sway or her chest didnt stick out or any other thing females are supposed to do when moving according to the games industry? Doubt it.

And where is that even coming from. Everyone's just like FALSE, as it half the worlds population isn't worth pandering too because they might only be 30% of the gaming population or something -.-

I mean just think of the money. If it takes a cheap voice actor and a bit of extra work to make one assassin look and sound female, and your pleasing 30% of the audience, isn't that going to translate to profit?

Its.Not.That.Fucking.Hard
 

mrdude2010

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That's easily one of the dumbest excuses I've ever heard. Female's aren't difficult to animate, they're just being lazy.

My only thing is I don't want games so sacrifice quality for the sake of inclusivity. If it makes absolutely no sense for the player character to be a female, then the game is making itself worse by shoehorning the option in. Go back to Far Cry 3, for example. Either the plot would have made even less sense, or the studio would have had to do a ton of work rewriting a whole bunch of lines to have it make as much sense as it did. It's inexcusable to not have female characters be an option in a game based around individuality and creating your own experience, but it's equally inexcusable to pander to a demographic and make your game worse in the process. It's like how Reach included bloom and armor lock because casuals would die too easily otherwise, or league of legends making its balancing decisions based on their forum's highly accomplished group of whiny shits, or all of those fucking hats in TF2 ruining perfectly good visual design. Hell, those armor pieces for females that are basically just steel bikinis are terrible for the industry, that kills my immersion even more than a pants-wearing woman with fancy yet functional clothes and hair running around Victorian England with a crossbow.

tl;dr: There are times in history where a dude loaded down with 3 different swords and a crossbow would draw less attention than a woman wearing pants. If your game takes place during those times and is shooting for immersion and accuracy, shoehorning a female character in just sticks out like a sore thumb.
 

mrdude2010

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Alterego-X said:
The Plunk said:
Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise.
Like your own quote just said, making ANY character is expensive. Including male ones. This doesn't seem to stop the industry from churning them out by the thousands.
There are already tons of male character models, it's a lot easier to recycle and reskin what you already have than it is to make a completely new one. Ever notice how almost all of the characters in the assassin's creed games walk identically, regardless of appearance? The only slight variation come from people carrying stuff or bowing their heads.
 

J-Think

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Its really unfortunate that they are omitting playable female characters, especially since probably the most well known assassination during that period, Jean-Paul Marat, was killed by a woman, Charlotte Corday.
 

Therumancer

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erttheking said:
Really the whole "would take to long to animate" thing reeks of being a bold faced lie shoved out by executives who are extremely out of touch with their consumer base and truth be told, the very game that they're selling.
Actually, each specific "type" of character typically takes a separate model to be developed, and separate artworks to be created for each possible position that model can be put in, and then it can be skinned however you want. The difference between background characters that do a few, very specific, things, and playable characters that have to be animated in sync with the rest of the world is substantial, not to mention that the environment needs to mesh well with the models, despite how it might seem, what looks right and works well with some 6' dude isn't necessarily going to look right with a 5' 6" tall woman. Basically you need to design the entire games with both the model in mind, and that means a lot more work.

If your looking for a good example where a lot of this was explained, think back to some of the conversations back when "The Old Republic Online" was being made and the comments about how they were having problems with the female models originally and getting them to fit/sit right on the speeders and other vehicles. According to some excuses the adjustments this required are a big part of why the game suffers clipping issues with vehicles until this day as the solution they came up with that didn't involve re-doing the entire vehicle/character model mesh system more or less worked but had the side effect of a lot of capes, cloaks, etc... clipping through the vehicles. A point I routinely bring up in my criticisms of ToR since while I like a lot of things about it, the clipping issues with vehicles are absolute crap no matter how they justify it (and the amount of time that has passed makes it worse). I believe during E3 (I think it was) they even made an apology in one of their streaming videos about how at the time one of the characters they were showing off, a female bounty hunter, didn't mesh up with the handlebars correctly.

The bottom line is that coming up with ONE model for a hero is usually the most efficient design decision. If they do more that's great, and something I myself would like to see more of, but it's understandable when they don't, especially if they have a rather clear vision of what kind of game they want to create and a specific hero in mind that they are building the game around.

I'd also imagine that with Ubisoft and the general style/quality of their games, and all the running, jumping, etc... that goes on, they aren't kidding when they say it would be too difficult, if they pulled it off they would pretty much be doubling the work load for the same basic amount of content... especially if they want to give the main character a voice, and not write scenes in a rather awkward gender-neutral manner, which of course means recording almost every character interaction at least two times.

Now, of course they can just re-skin a male character as female, but that generally isn't going to be what most people are looking for in a game that is this heavily animated, and truthfully it's quite possible that the results would wind up to a lot of complaints about them being lazy. Men and women do move a bit differently, and so on.

I'm sure a lot of people will get on my case for saying this, but honestly from what I've seen with other games over the years, it seems like a rather honest answer, even if it's not what a lot of people want to hear. Understand it's not generally about being able to do the core gameplay, it's about every bit of the game matching up (ledges, handholds, animations when sitting in a chair, etc...). MMOs and such that have a lot of models and such frequently get by due to cutting corners in a way something a game like "Assasin's Creed" can't. In many you can't climb, or even sit in a chair or will ever be shown doing so, and when you can in a lot of places it looks like complete crap, and people are expected to just go with it because you know "hey, it's online".

That said, apparently Ubisoft was satisfied with the performance of "Assasin's Creed IV: Liberation", so I imagine there will be another female lead eventually.
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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Rebel_Raven said:
TheMadDoctorsCat said:
Reward the people who get it right with your custom and your money. Don't buy from the ones you don't agree with, and keep your controversy for the ones who really deserve it. If enough consumers do this, we'll get the games industry that we want. If not, we'll get the one we deserve instead.
There's a flaw with voting with one's wallet, IMO. In theory it should work, but there's people that hate Pepsi, and won't drink it. That said, Pepsi's still thriving.

Basically, voting with one's wallet won't make a dang if the industry can stay afloat with it's existing customers. the game industry likely feels they can, despite though with the bankruptcies, layoffs, etc.

Provided you have multiple systems, you might be able to get by with a decent variety as far as modern releases go.
If you just have one system, though? Good luck getting a steady supply of games with female protagonists, and get comfy buying old games, and playing the heck out of the ones you can get.

Still, We're getting a decent surge lately, but I'm looking at it through the lenses of someone who's been pretty well starved of the games I want, has multiple systems, and researches.

Frankly, I don't believe people should have to own a dozen systems, or have to research heavily just to find the games with female playable characters in a variety of games.
I agree in a way... I for one would like to see of the more "un-masculine"-focussed PS-Vita games on PC, because I sure as heck aren't going to be buying a Vita any time soon.

I think my point is more that people should pick their targets with care and remember that "not enough non-white-male protagonists in games" does not automatically equate to "specific developer who only uses white male protagonist in game needs to be stigmatised." In some circumstances, yeah, I'd agree completely, but it's very much dependant on context. Sometimes a factually or contextually incorrect defence of a position is worse than no defence at all.
 

Kilo24

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grimner said:
Kilo24 said:
...I didn't read a single counterargument against that claim in this editorial - nothing like "It becomes much easier with proper asset management" or "You don't need to make the animations as detailed since the player's model that they themselves control will never actually be female". There's only this: "But let's pretend for a second that the "it's too hard" excuse wasn't total bullshit. So what? That's your problem, publishers; it's time to do your jobs." In other words, "I've decided that you should double your 3D artists' and voice actors' workload because I want other players to have a random chance of seeing me as a female character when I want to play multiplayer."...
Don't know if you read the news surrounding what prompted the editorial ( not to mention the editorial itself) but no one is arguing that AC:U should have a gender option in its main campaign. This editorial (and the whole #womenaretoohardtoanimate thing) is in response to Ubisoft's argument defending the exclusion of females in the co-op. THAT argument is total bulshit, whether in AC:U or in Far Cry 4, and that is demonstrable by the fact that Ubisoft already implemented co-op/MP in previous versions of both franchises. Not only them: Tomb Raider's MP has male templates, Mass effect 3's co-op has females (and even non human classes)

Had the argument and objections been leveled at the lack of a female protagonist, your argument and reasoning would be quite correct, which is why I am assuming that you jumped the gun. Obviously a game's story can be gender specific. Bioshock Infinite could only work with a male Booker DeWitt much like Bayonetta only works with a female lead. but this is not what's in discussion, or at least, I don't think that there's too many people arguing for the andriginous template used by Bioware to become the standard of gaming; but when it comes to animating for female characters in the co-op non canonical elements of games? I really can't think of a valid excuse, especially when it has been done before, including by Ubisoft themselves. Which is why they do deserve the flak they are getting.
Considering that the paragraph of my post that you quoted and I left quoted above contains two references to the proposed change being restricted to multiplayer, it should have been obvious to you that I already was informed of that fact at the time of my post.

You are right that the scope of the work would increase dramatically with a gender selection for a single-player protagonist, but you are underestimating the amount of work it takes to create a female mesh and animate it to the AAA standards of the Assassin's Creed series for even just co-op multiplayer. Melee combat with other models that need to react to your individual animations (unlike Mass Effect or Tomb Raider) introduce a large amount of clipping issues and - though you do definitely have a point that Ubisoft could do something similar - there is still enough work added that
it's still a considerable amount. It may or may not be a good enough reason, but it is very far from "bullshit".

The additional voice acting for grunts and barks and such is still an issue, but not a big one. Alone, it would indeed be "bullshit", but it still adds a non-negligible amount of work.

In any case, my opposition to this article is because it completely disregards the reason that the developer gave for not including female co-op characters and instead just ranted. I agree with her overall position, but I find the lack of a coherent argument insulting to the readers and insulting to the developer who did give a reason for the decision - not a transparent excuse. It's worse than useless as a persuasive piece because anybody who holds an opposite opinion would be insulted, not convinced.

But I doubt that persuasion or providing facts was the aim in the first place. If she wanted to rant with everyone else and feel righteous fury at the evil lying big publisher who's conspiring to keep women away from games because they cost too much, it's a great editorial. That type of editorial certainly provokes more reactions than a reasonable argument does, after all.
 

Erttheking

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Chaosritter said:
No you aren't. When you order a burger, you are entitled to the burger. No ifs ands or buts. What you're trying to say is that people have a misplaced sense of entitlement.

"God given right"? You'll forgive me if that sounds a little bit like hyperbole. And maybe people would be more willingly to take no for an answer if the reason for the nos were less stupid. "Too hard to animate"? For Christ's sake. I would've respected the devs if they had said "This was our artistic vision and we're sticking to it" as it stands it makes them all look like idiots.

I doubt that defense would fly for you advocating for saying, for example, that EA was well within their right to sell horse armor DLC. And what you're not realizing is that just because a game will always be criticized, doesn't mean the criticism will be of the same caliber. Metroid Other M and the Last of Us were both called sexist by some people. The thing is, with Metroid Other M just about everyone agreed it was sexist, while just about everyone jumped on the people who called Last of Us sexist and said they didn't know what they were talking about. Not all backlashes are equal. And at the end of the day, Metroid Other M is remembered for being a sexist sack of shit and the Last of Us is remembered for being an emotionally gripping master piece. And that comment has a very "These games are meant for men" vibe, which I find rather short sighted. Even women made up only 20% of your consumer base, that's 20% you shouldn't be ignoring. And tell me something, why shouldn't women have more of a representation in media? They make up half of the world's population.

See my above comment about not all backlashes being equal. If you can't handle criticism, you shouldn't be in a field were you are exposed to it. Increase in sales? A. Since when does that matter when it comes to the quality of games B. Citation needed.

And have you ever considered that there's a good reason for that? Because it's symbolic of how so many people treat gaming as a "Boys only" club. Because I'm a guy and I'm sick of the sausage fests. In fact, I consider the fact that a male protagonist being put in a game to aim it at me as insulting. Because it's not like I was exactly starved for those.

Because I literally have no reason to. Be tolerant to the people who said "We could put in a female character but it'd be too much work" Yeah, that's not happening. They're here to impress me, not the other way around. This isn't about them having a different point of view, this is about them being lazy and stupid.
 

Erttheking

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Signa said:
So, based on what I've been reading about development, catering to these interests is probably just going to make games suck more as devs will be given less time to make what matters: better games.

I swear, I saw this coming when that Anita chick started running her mouth off.
Please explain to me how the gender of the main character would have an impact on gameplay.

Also, please explain to me how people would've found the phrase "programing female character is too hard" perfectly acceptable if Anita had never happened. She didn't give birth to feminism.