Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

Shamus Young

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Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

Taking the developer and publisher of Assassin's Creed Unity to task for their response to a lack of female characters is just too easy.

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unacomn

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Very good and balanced analysis of the subject. And even more so, Ubisoft axed the standard AC multiplayer where you could play as a female character. That's a real bummer for me. Unless they made a multiplayer only spin-off, and they bring back the awesome characters from Brotherhood and Revelations.

I actually pitched an article to the Escapist about this issue (hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink)
 

TiberiusEsuriens

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That was indeed the silliest reasoning to me. The fact that we are all supposed to be playing Arno in our own games makes an amount of sense, but then it's completely ruined by the fact that we can customize and pimp him out to the point that he doesn't resemble Arno at all. If that's the case, then why shouldn't we be able to push it that one extra bit with sex?

That inconsistency is what bugs me most. You can do what they want, just make sure that what you say matches what you're doing.
 

Grim Sterling

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Great article. I think it is pretty fair and balanced as well.

A friend of mine is a rock climber and also gamer and she WAS playing through this franchise because it was well made and she enjoyed a lot of the similarities of climbing and doing crazy agile things. Then she found out about how they're not going to bother with female protags in the future game and took serious offense to it. So much so she put away the games and refuses to play through the rest of them, disgusted by Ubi.

To that extent, they may be ignoring their female fanbase, but with this recent choice, they're also going to reduce it and so strangely make themselves "right" that they have few female players. And it's a damn shame.
 

Shamus Young

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I've read your blogpost about this experience of yours long time ago and I actually wanted to post the link to anyone who think it's just so easy.

More importantly, I can't understand how people can blame The Assassin's Creed series of all things. In AC, you could play as an Arab assassin killing Christan bad guys; a half-Indian; a black guy rescuing slaves; a black woman; and I think also a white woman in one of the portable games.

So, now Ubi decides to make a game about white dudes and everybody is raging. What happened to freedom of art? Would everyone be so much enraged if the game had ONLY 4 black women? Or 4 Asians?

Does every game have to have a 'politically correct' cast, i.e. a white guy, a white woman, a black guy and an Asian woman?

So OK, the AC series makes a lot of money, fine. Still doesn't mean they are OBLIGATED to spent another couple of millions on some particular feature.

Don't like it? Don't buy it.
 

Nimzabaat

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On the one hand (correct me if i'm wrong) didn't they already have female NPC assassins doing all of the need animations in previous AC games? Wouldn't it just be a matter of taking away the "N" in NPC?

On the other hand, didn't people have the same reaction to Aliens Colonial Marines? Didn't the developer then (possibly) shift focus away from making a good game to adding playable female characters into the game? Okay maybe that wasn't actually the reason ACM sucked, but it might have been.

All i'm saying is maybe we should be careful what we wish for. Though i'm voting with my wallet on this one: no playable females for me? No moneys for you!
 

Grimh

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I pretty much agree with basically everything you said this week so I don't really know what else to say myself.
Thanks for making me feel obsolete and worthless you jerk!
 

Lunar Templar

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Yeah, I figured it was just them not having the balls to say they just don't wanna make female PCs

Sgt. Sykes said:
Don't like it? Don't buy it.
You have no idea how much money I save on games following this.
 

Johkmil

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Sgt. Sykes said:
I've read your blogpost about this experience of yours long time ago and I actually wanted to post the link to anyone who think it's just so easy.

More importantly, I can't understand how people can blame The Assassin's Creed series of all things. In AC, you could play as an Arab assassin killing Christan bad guys; a half-Indian; a black guy rescuing slaves; a black woman; and I think also a white woman in one of the portable games.

So, now Ubi decides to make a game about white dudes and everybody is raging. What happened to freedom of art? Would everyone be so much enraged if the game had ONLY 4 black women? Or 4 Asians?

Does every game have to have a 'politically correct' cast, i.e. a white guy, a white woman, a black guy and an Asian woman?

So OK, the AC series makes a lot of money, fine. Still doesn't mean they are OBLIGATED to spent another couple of millions on some particular feature.

Don't like it? Don't buy it.
The problem is that they never justified their choice by refering to any artistic vision or merit; they tried to pretend that they could not afford it in one of the largest triple-a franchises in current gaming. They could have referred the examples you mention, they could have released a trailer that focuses a bit more on eventual female sidekicks or story elements (and they will have to include at least some female story characters in a game about the French Revolution, anything else would simply be chauvinistic revisionism), they could have simply said "too bad, we wanted a game with white dudes this time, this is not the game you are looking for"; instead, they mismanaged the situation, making it look like they assumed their audience were idiots or that they were straight up lying.
Tons of games do not include playable female and minority characters, and most of their developers and publishers escape criticism of their individual games by making more well-thought-out claims for their reasoning or simply ignoring the issue entirely.
 

Sigmund Av Volsung

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Dec 11, 2009
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This was probably the most detailed analysis of the subject, and I can agree with Ubisoft's(or at least, the publisher's side) dismissal of female protagonists because of Beyond Good and Evil 2 never seeing a release date.

As for the multiplayer, I think that the co-op is an addition to the multiplayer. I feel that Ubisoft couldn't leave a game without their signature assassination mp game mode, which will probably include customisable characters of many ethnicities and genders. This co-op feels more like it was designed because of Watch_Dogs, which had the exact same sort of mechanism(everyone is Aiden Pearce, but only you look like him, everyone else is a random NPC).

I am pretty sure that most people will agree that unless the game has been made uber-hard, the co-op will be largely redundant. What's sad is that its not even the fun kind where you could do side missions and faff around Paris with your friends.
 

Falterfire

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Nimzabaat said:
On the one hand (correct me if i'm wrong) didn't they already have female NPC assassins doing all of the need animations in previous AC games? Wouldn't it just be a matter of taking away the "N" in NPC?
Sort of, but not really. The biggest difference is how much attention is paid to the side characters. If one of your minions happens to clip through things a little bit while climbing you may not even notice. If your main character is constantly clipping through things the player will notice and the game will feel rushed as a result. You can get away with a lot more minor graphical errors with a character that is normally only for brief periods of time and isn't in the center of the screen.
 

Trishbot

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Sgt. Sykes said:
I've read your blogpost about this experience of yours long time ago and I actually wanted to post the link to anyone who think it's just so easy.

More importantly, I can't understand how people can blame The Assassin's Creed series of all things. In AC, you could play as an Arab assassin killing Christan bad guys; a half-Indian; a black guy rescuing slaves; a black woman; and I think also a white woman in one of the portable games.

So, now Ubi decides to make a game about white dudes and everybody is raging. What happened to freedom of art? Would everyone be so much enraged if the game had ONLY 4 black women? Or 4 Asians?

Does every game have to have a 'politically correct' cast, i.e. a white guy, a white woman, a black guy and an Asian woman?

So OK, the AC series makes a lot of money, fine. Still doesn't mean they are OBLIGATED to spent another couple of millions on some particular feature.

Don't like it? Don't buy it.
It was mainly backlash against the REASON there wasn't a female character, the "it's just too much work" and the "women characters weren't a priority" statements. If they had said, "we're sorry, and we'll look into adding them in DLC and future installments. This was a creative choice centered around how we framed the mechanics of the game. We'll endeavor to be more inclusive moving forward", it wouldn't have gone down nearly as bad.

And the "don't like it, don't buy it" excuse never worked for me, because companies are too stupid to differentiate between "oh, they didn't buy it because we didn't have playable women" and "oh, they didn't buy it because they have no interest in the series anymore".

If you boycott it, fine, but you have to also TELL THEM why you didn't buy it so they get the message clear as day. That's what all the twitter, social tags, and online discussions have been helping to do.
 

Shamus Young

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Johkmil said:
The problem is that they never justified their choice by refering to any artistic vision or merit; instead, they mismanaged the situation, making it look like they assumed their audience were idiots or that they were straight up lying.
True. But, 2 things:

1) That's the current gaming industry. Publishers/devs can't really afford to disclose anything but carefully released hype pieces approved by boards of lawyers and marketers. First, they'd be ripped the shreds anyway, no matter what reason they give, so ultimately what does it matter.

Second, we know what happens when games get a peak of the actual design process. Every tiny hint of a claim done in passing would be blown up as a promise; plus everyone is suddenly the wiser and feels they have the right to ***** about every little decision the designers make.

I'd like to see what goes in the heads of the devs, but unfortunately I have to understand why they're so closed up.

2) At the end I think their claim is true. We don't know how much work it would to make a woman playable character. Let's assume it would take 20 people one month of work to implement well from scratch to finish. That's already some $100 000 cost. Why exactly is THIS particular $100k feature more important than some other $100k feature that would need to be left out instead? You cannot put everything in one game and you need to avoid feature creep. Even a $200 mil budget is still a budget, i.e the development needs to be budgeted. Something goes in, something goes out. Just like if you buy something this month which means you can't buy something else.

The fact that so many people get worked up by this little fact of life just proves that they don't want to hear it.

Again, I can't blame the devs for not wanting to disclose the details even though I'd like to hear them.

Trishbot said:
If they had said, "we're sorry, and we'll look into adding them in DLC and future installments. This was a creative choice centered around how we framed the mechanics of the game. We'll endeavor to be more inclusive moving forward", it wouldn't have gone down nearly as bad.
I really hate when someone suggests what someone else should have said. All this is doing is encouraging more spoon-fed lines carefuly made up by lawyers and marketing.

How exactly is this different from "So we didn't include females. So? Leave us alone, go play Tomb Raider if you want to play as a woman."? It would provide exactly the same amount of information: they decided to not include women for some reason.
 

Nimzabaat

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Falterfire said:
Nimzabaat said:
On the one hand (correct me if i'm wrong) didn't they already have female NPC assassins doing all of the need animations in previous AC games? Wouldn't it just be a matter of taking away the "N" in NPC?
Sort of, but not really. The biggest difference is how much attention is paid to the side characters. If one of your minions happens to clip through things a little bit while climbing you may not even notice. If your main character is constantly clipping through things the player will notice and the game will feel rushed as a result. You can get away with a lot more minor graphical errors with a character that is normally only for brief periods of time and isn't in the center of the screen.
Fair enough. But the work is at least started, right? It's less of a "takes double the time" and more "takes a bit more time to polish"? I played Black Flag and there was quite a few graphical glitches that made it through the process as it is, a few more in the name of some diversity wouldn't hurt, in my opinion.
 

The Random One

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I think you hit the nail on the head, Shamus. But it serves Ubisoft well. They're the only big AAA company that knows their big AAA model is dying, they put out a lot of strong female characters in their small $15 titles (Child of Light, AC: Liberation... I'm pretty sure the crazy bucktoothed barbarian in Rayman Legends counts as well) and then they insulate their big $60 game in a dudebro bubble. It may not have been the company more deserving of this hot potato exploding in their hand, but maybe it's the company who'll actually do something other than deploy carefully constructed PR.
 

Falterfire

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Nimzabaat said:
Fair enough. But the work is at least started, right? It's less of a "takes double the time" and more "takes a bit more time to polish"? I played Black Flag and there was quite a few graphical glitches that made it through the process as it is, a few more in the name of some diversity wouldn't hurt, in my opinion.
I don't disagree with you - Even if it cost the full amount, it's not like Ubisoft is making budget games - I was just answering your specific question about whether a simple import of existing assets was possible.
 

oldtaku

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They're game devs, so they have different standards for what would be acceptable in a female character. It would take some time to redo all the animation so the butt swooshes and jiggles around enough while moving, and then you have to redo all the outfits so they have boob and butt windows. Definitely not just two days.
 

Seydaman

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Clive Howlitzer said:
Was it really necessary for almost every single person on this site to do an article about this?
We have to be really sure that we understand the issue

I'm not opposed
 

Dinosorcerer

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they already had a female model in aveline though. and she didn't just appear on the Vita, she was part of a DLC for Black Flag. the could have used her animations for at least one of the characters