More on female costuming in games: Dragon’s Dogma, Tera, Guild Wars 2

So, which of these games is the odd one out among Dragon’s Dogma, Tera, and GW2? If you answered Dogma (because it’s PS3 only) or GW2 (because it has no release date yet), then you’re technically correct but go to the back of the queue.

The answer is Dragon’s Dogma because it gives you a very wide range of looks to pick for your character, covering all the fantasy staples from full ornamented platemail to viking chicks in string bikinis and furry boots.  Unlike the others which stick you in something godawful. I’ve been intrigued with Dragon’s Dogma for awhile since playing the demo at ComicCon last year, and downloading the demo convinced me that it is the one to look out for if you’re interested in an open world fantasy game with a more active combat style than typical MMOs.

You also get to customise your own companion/ pawn, so I made a wizard who looks a bit like my RL partner so I can order him around (don’t pretend you never do this either! Smile ). There’s a good set of choices including fat and skinny characters, stances that are hunched at the shoulder or shoulders-back/boobs-out, and choices of voice actor too. One other thing, which works surprisingly well, is that all the hair and makeup options can be used for characters of either gender. So if you want that gothy male mage with eyeliner or a female warrior with a buzzcut and tattoos, you can do it (or, ya know, vice versa).  I’m really taken with what I saw on the demo, and especially liked being able to target specific parts of the monster in ways that affect the fight. For example, shooting a flying monster in the wings to bring it down, or cutting the snake head from a chimera to stop the poison. Also there seem to be different tactics that can be used, depending on you and your companions skillset and size/bulk – for example a large (and fearless) companion can grab the griffon by the leg as it takes off and wrestle it to the ground.

So thumbs up for Dragon’s Dogma from me, not sure if I’ll buy it at release but definitely aim to pick it up at some point. If you have a PS3 and like that type of game, try the demo.

Apart from the flexibility, what I really liked about the character generator was being able to create just about any fantasy character stereotype that I could imagine. See, I’m not against characters fighting in string bikinis or casting spells in belly dancer outfits, but I want it to be thematic and I want to have choices. Despite some of the clothing being quite skimpy, none of the characters actually looked like strippers. They looked like characters from fantasy art.  I think that’s a powerful point to take away.

More on clothing

Rohan has some screenshots of the crazy stuff his TERA character is wearing, this isn’t one of the prepubescent looking race, just daft armour. I rarely wish ill on any new MMO, but I won’t cry if TERA crashes and burns purely because those design decisions don’t deserve to be rewarded.

Kadomi has a brilliant three part roundup of her experiences in the GW2 beta (which are mostly positive). Go check them out:

Quest Mechanics

A look at the design manifesto (does GW2 fit with what arenanet have claimed?)

Barely covered (clothing for female characters in GW2)

The last link includes pictures of the cloth casters. Having looked at the TERA pictures first, my initial reaction is that GW2 isn’t that bad (see, it could be worse!). The Mesmer looks terribad in both male and female versions, however. Purely from a point of taste. I never really got that ‘dresses like a showgirl’ vibe from GW, the Mesmer there was more of a semi-kinky aristocrat which I think is a look I could go for more easily on a mage of dubious ethical purview. If I can’t have my frockcoat, breeches and riding boots back, I’m not going with the Mesmer for sure.

There’s also something very teen about the Necromancer look. I think it’s the somewhat gothic vibes along with fluffy pompoms on the boots.  I assume ‘perky goth’ is the design goal, but it makes her look about 14.

It is one thing to have a strong design direction, but I’m not fond of the look. I’m just glad I’ll have Dragon’s Dogma to fall back on for my fantasy staples. Even Diablo 3 is starting to seem more appealing, gearwise.

Torchlight 2 Pre-Purchase

Throwing their hats into the pre-purchase ring, Runic Games have Torchlight 2 up  for pre-purchase on Steam for $20/£14.99; release date is “Summer 2012” and the perk you get for pre-purchasing is a free copy of Torchlight (which you could gift to a friend if you already have a copy).

This is so much of a better deal than any of the other pre-purchase ‘offers’ I’ve seen recently, such as Guild Wars 2 (woo ‘free’ access to beta weekends) or Diablo 3 (no actual bonus for pre-purchase), and gives you a complete game to play while you’re waiting for the release that I’d give props to Runic for thinking things through.

If publishers want me to shell out money up front, these are the sorts of lines they should be thinking along.

High Heels

416px-Tacones_lejanos_poster

(These shoes are more badass that Diablo 3 and everything in it.)

I really felt that I said everything I wanted to say about the demon hunter and her boots last weekend, but it was a post that seems to have struck a nerve. Also it’s way past time I highlighted some of the great blogs who have linked to me recently, whether I agree with the writers or not Winking smile

Liore describes her experiences with the D3 and TERA betas, and also notes that she disliked the heels.

GamingSF discusses the Diablo 3 and the MoP betas, and isn’t overly impressed.

Zubon@Kill Ten Rats talks about the idea of false equivalence, and why a lot of gamers feel that overly sexualised female characters in games are normal, but overly sexualised male characters are ‘gay’. Worth reading for the great note by Meagen in comments:

It’s completely trivial and a waste of our time to discuss and we should be doing something more productive with our time, and at the same time it’s extremely important that no changes be made and extreme effort needs to be made to ensure everyone knows how much of a big deal this totally isn’t.

Tobold exemplifies this last point in an appeal to allow designers to be politically incorrect in the name of artistic integrity. (He doesn’t make that point until the end of the comments.)

Note: Fanservice has minimal artistic integrity, by definition.

Random Waypoint discusses how men are portrayed in video games, given that he doesn’t like power-hungry hunks. I don’t agree that anyone needs to get over it, though. It makes a difference to my choice of games and I see no reason not to talk about it.

Doone posts a very thoughtful criticism of Tobold’s post, and discusses why this issue is so important to so many people. If you just read one of these links, read this one.

Klepsacovic considers sexy characters in games and gives examples of female characters he considers sexy. OK, I admit it, I thought Anders was hot! Tortured blonde academic types with a soft spot for animals/ helping people clearly do it for me :P (Actually I do find kindness to be a very sexy quality in guys, especially if they’re otherwise quite tough.)

What other players think

And finally, I wondered what the beta community thought of the demon hunter look in general so I checked out the official forums. This is a thread where players are discussing whether they intend to play the male or female demon hunter. I’ve tried to pick out some of the comments where people specifically mentioned the heels, sexiness, or badassness. I hadn’t realised the male demon hunter was a controversial model but clearly he brought out the ‘blood elves are gay’ faction.

female cause she’s looking so sexy

Female obviously. The male char looks ridiculous.

what would i rather see? a hot chick in tight leather, or a dude in tight leather? obvious answer, no trolls plz

My obvious answer is probably not the same as his obvious answer.

Male with bow just pure badass, im just hoping most of the head slot armor will be hood-alike.

Female is my choice. I think the female DH is the most badass DH :D

really depends on what toon im playing,but most of the times i prefer males. They just looks tougher and the gear pieces more shiny and biggie :D

Van Helsing? Male of course.

Probably male. I really don’t like the high-heels on the female =/

I’m not going to play a character with metal stilettos *ugly*

Male, ’cause of the resemblance to Van Helsing.

Not really getting the Van Helsing references, did Hugh Jackman really look like that in the film?

The female Demon Hunter is by far the worst from all classes, looks so cheap like it comes straight out from chinese mmos.

The female avatar looks awesome in her heels.

Female, because she looks a lot better than the male, i find that the male looks quite feminine

I dont know but high heels are downgrading to me

I`m all about being a sexy Demon Hutress wering high heels , dual wielding Xbows and having a charming scarf

Yup, co-ordinated (yet charming) accessories are what demon hunting is all about!

Male all the way, cant stand the females high heels

Male DH here. Seems way more badass than the female one ;)

Female for sure – you seen them high heels on them boots !?

Male! I dislike the animation of females, plus the male voice is nice :)

Male, because I think he looks cool, has nice animations and a good voice. :)

That’s a fair point, the male demon hunter voice was great. No one commented on the female voice.

Male looks kind of gay and also picking female just feels right

But isn’t it nerdy to be a female.. i mean she is half naked xD

Male because females are not appropriate for hunting, especially demons.

Male, everything about the Demon Hunter class screams a Male character to me…this isn’t helped by the fact the female DH looks stupid and terrible with ugly armour and silly artwork. <…> Leave the women to classes like Mage and Monk, Demon Hunting is a mans game.

“Demon hunting is a man’s game” – best comment ever?

diablo is not really an rpg and male looks are … unsetting … so yea female DH

Male. At first I was going for female due to male’s buttfugly hair, but after I saw those damned high-heels and her beyond stupid crossbow and bow animations I decided to roll male. <….> females animations just scream: “I’m dumb wench who just got her first bow and I have no idea what I am doing!”

i’d choose male since DH will be my first choice, but he is thin and skinny.. So my vote goes to sexy high heels

male-DH just feels wrong to me even tho there is absolutely nothing wrong about him. Okay, he might remind some of us of Male Elves from WoW or look a little emo/gay, what have you, but that’s just subjective perception.

Seriously, they got it right with an alluringly scrumptious female demon hunter.

OK, what I take from this is that the character designs on this class are quite controversial, with several people saying that they changed their mind after seeing them. (Which is interesting because in the actual game, your character is very tiny.) The heels in particular do get singled out; some people think they’re sexy and awesome, others that they are ugly, degrading or silly. There’s no doubt in my mind that the artists could have drawn the character in a less polarising way.

The comments about her look being silly or stupid are interesting too. Those aren’t qualities that most players want in their characters (although there’s definitely a place for silly in games.) And ‘degrading’ is even stronger language than that. But for some players, a female character who looks highly sexualised is automatically also less competent.

I’m particularly intrigued by the person who said they thought it was nerdy to play half naked female characters. Actually all the female characters in D3 are half naked at the start, but I figure he’s talking about half naked in an overly sexualised, “Hello Boys!” kind of way.

[D3] In which I warm to Diablo 3, but not to the demon hunter stilettos

I have a theory that while female models in games pretty much started out based on underwear models and haven’t moved on significantly from there (depending on whether you think Sonic is female or not), graphic artists are now tending towards two male forms for all portrayals of men in games.

1. Bald space marine

2. The guy from Assassin’s Creed

I think we should applaud this diversity, since some of us like our guys lithe and … err… assassiny. In fact, if Blizzard had only made their original male blood elf model look more like Ezio (which admittedly would have required a time machine since TBC was released first IIRC), I bet none of the beta testers would have whined about them looking gay.

This is a roundabout way to introduce the topic of Diablo 3, which I have been playing some more this weekend as and when the servers allow it. So without more ado, this is the demon hunter.

demonhuntercombo

 

The top two characters are the level 1/ starting male and female demons hunters. The guy at the bottom hunter is the demon hunter from the end of beta, and the other chick is the Vanquisher from Torchlight. I just had two points to make here:

1. You can see that the dude is getting gradually more assassin’s creed-like over time

2. those thigh high stilettos are TERRIBLE. I really wasn’t over-reacting when I said I hated them. That character in the top right looks as though she’s going to strip, or go to a BDSM party, or pose for a pin up. I wanted a female version of the male dude. The comparison with the Vanquisher is fun because the two characters have a similar look and are wearing similar gear. But because the Vanquisher has sensible boots and a stronger pose, she strikes a better balance between sexy and badass. (NB. I think the female demon hunter is a beautiful piece of art if you wanted a pin up model, but it’s oddly over-sexualised compared to every other character in the game. I blame the boots.)

I am looking forwards to playing D3 at release, and have been making more of an effort to note any cool tweaks and updates to the genre that have impressed me particularly.

  • I like the events that you encounter in the dungeons, they make a neat change to standard boss fights and I can see there’s lots of scope for Blizzard to add more of them as time goes on.
  • The achievements work really well in Diablo also. I’m not an achievement minded person, but I was thinking about how to do some of them (like kill 20 mobs in one go) and which build would be best suited for it. There is plenty of scope for fun play there.
  • It feels quite quaint that the characters are so non-customisable, and that the loot will tend to end up looking samish also. I assume unique items and sets will have different looks to them.
  • I love how the game keeps track of your ‘high score’ for things like killing streaks on both mobs and destroyable items, and number of mobs killed in one blow even if you don’t hit the achievement. It gives a good sense for when you’re getting better.
  • I like the voiced lore items and journal entries. I did encounter at least one lore item (skeleton I think) which was not voiced, which struck me as an unusual polish fail.
  • The character voicing is not very good. Some of them are pretty terrible. Particularly the accents. I realise they may be the same actors as previous versions but they’re still not very good. But I feel less waspish about it now, because the male demon hunter sounds very cool.
  • I am not one of the people who complains about lack of talent trees, I prefer not having to think too much about which abilities to take. And the beta only covers the first few levels so it’s a bit soon to judge how well anything is balanced. But this is also Diablo and mobs come at you in packs, so the classes with the better AEs are easier to play.
  • I’ve played the beta through on the barbarian and demon hunter now, as well as the wizard. On the demon hunter I mostly did this in open groups so that I could try out the co op. The barbarian was simple but effective, it wades in and swings around with a large axe (or dagger in my case since the dagger had better dps) and bodies fly around. The demon hunter seemed to be a single target dude in an AE world, but I love that they have a channeled ability to fire the crossbow off like a machine gun. That’s very bonkers, but amusing,
  • Co-op groups mostly consist of people doing speed runs. Even if they don’t say so, that’s what they will do. Many of them will also have speed boosts on their gear so it’s easy to end up running after everyone else through corridors of dead mobs and then seeing the end of quest achievement pop up before you get there. D3 does make everyone zone into boss fights together, so you will at least get to see those. And it’s quick xp. In fact, if you want to level fast when the game goes live, just do co op runs.
  • No one, but no one, is going to enjoy having to deal with lag and server disconnects in the single player game.

I don’t know, I’ve never Diablled

diablologo

So it’s Diablo 3 weekend (sorry, any other game that was having free trial/ open beta weekends this week) and although unsurprisingly the servers were full last night, it’s a bit quieter this morning. Let’s hope they’re going to be able to cope with the rush on May 15th when the game is released.

D3classes

The picture above shows the five classes, in female versions.  I don’t want to pull the race card straight out of the gates, but you will notice that four of these characters are very pale (like: vampiric pale) and the witch doctor is very dark skinned. That makes me a little uncomfortable. I do like that the barbarian is a chunky-looking chick who has an appropriate wrestler’s build, especially in comparison with the skinny everyone else. Also, the demon hunter has stupid heels on her boots, but the male demon hunter is prettier anyway so there is that. Just as an aside, I like how they have the witch doctor and monk in a good, powerful stance on that login screen too.

I’ve played through it once on a Wizard (about as explody as you’d hope) and basically, it’s Diablo with some tweaks. So if you were hoping that Diablo 3 was going to be more of the same, you’ll likely be very happy with it.  The game feels more linear and prone to sending you running down corridors of mobs than Diablo 2, at least in this initial section.

I couldn’t tell you a lot about the storyline because I wasn’t very clear as to why my character was there in the first place. Presumably there will be a video intro in the final game to explain this.

D3barrel

As you can see from the screenshot above, you still get to explode barrels. And this brings me to the eternal ethical paradox of Diablo – if it is wrong to destroy bookshelves, why do they drop loot?

They have done some nice tweaks with the achievements, which are awarded for the sorts of things you’d probably expect. Such as killing lots of mobs, exploding things, finishing bits of the storyline etc. You can also sometimes destroy bits of the scenery, bringing chandeliers or walls crashing down, and there are achievements for destroying monsters with scenery also.

I wonder if the devs have taken some inspiration from Torchlight as well, because they seem quite keen on having mobs pour through holes in the wall at some points. The short cut scenes in the story are nicely integrated, and you can also meet and pick up heroes as companions. The only hero I found in the beta was the templar, but sadly you cannot murder your own companion for being bloody annoying so I gave him a better sword and shield and hoped silently that he’d commit suicide by mob. Templars are apparently like cockroaches though  …

Some of the other tweaks are around crafting, where you can level up your game’s blacksmith by throwing money at him. The blacksmith can also ‘disenchant’ magic items for you into components that you can use to have him craft new stuff. The new stuff I saw has randomly assigned magic abilities, so this is effectively letting you recycle unwanted magic items into ones that may or may not be better.  Gathering gold is going to be quite important in this game if you want to craft any of the higher level stuff. The powers and how the talents work have been described quite thoroughly elsewhere – basically it’s quite linear and you don’t even get to swap which powers are assigned to your left and right mouse buttons. As you level up you will get more choices around powers and how to tweak them, and I imagine it gets deeper and more involved, but you don’t really see much of that in the demo.

Arb and I played in co-op for a short while and that was fine. You are able to teleport from the town to wherever the other person you are grouped with is, and you can earn co-op achievements together. The loot drops in co-op are completely separate for each character and I couldn’t even see what drops she was getting. Also, you get to use your own blacksmith in the co-op game, you don’t have to jointly level a new one. Once you add someone to your friends list, you will also get to see their achievements pop up in the same way you see your guildies achievements in WoW.

Anyhow, short form: it’s fun, if you liked Diablo 2 and Torchlight and wanted a game like that then go for it.

I don’t feel Blizzard have really been pushing the boat out here too much. So while I do look forwards to playing Diablo 3, I’m going to be intrigued also at what Runic have in the pipeline for Torchlight 2 because I think you could do more with this genre.

[DAW] Developers Appreciation Week: Jane Jensen

Scary has been hosting/ encouraging a week of appreciation for the developers, storytellers, artists and coders who create the games and gameworlds into which we players sink so much of our free time.

My game of choice right now is SWTOR, and I give huge props to Bioware for having made a game that I still thoroughly enjoy playing well after the usual 3-month mark. But I’m winging my developer appreciation this week in a different direction.

Gabriel_Knight_2_29_57_Chapter_4_Neuschwanstein

Ah for the heady days of old school adventure games, where the best of the bunch featured solid research, cool characters, and totally hatstand puzzles. Syp, in timely fashion, has been indulging in some nostalgia and describing his experiences playing Gabriel Knight for the first time. The screenshot here is from Gabriel Knight 2, in which our hero goes to Munich, hangs out with werewolves, and searches for mysteries hidden in Wagner’s operas and Schloss Neuschwanstein. I also seem to remember a scene where one of the sinister yet strangely compelling male alpha  werewolves comes on to your (male) main character, or maybe I imagined that part.

Yeah, imagine that in today’s gaming world. A story that hinges on classic opera. And some batshit puzzles – although not quite as crazed as those featuring in Gabriel Knight 3 which Old Man Murray argues convincingly helped to kill the adventure gaming genre. I have fond memories of playing GK2 with my boyfriend, who had just come back from working in Munich, and was impressed at the attention to detail in aspects like the map of the metro system.

The author behind these classics is Jane Jensen, who has continued to work in the field as well as publishing some GK novels. She’s the developer I’m picking to admire this week because she succeeded in telling the sorts of exciting dark fantasy stories in her games that have made it into gaming history, made a name for herself as a female developer in a field which was still mostly male dominated, and is one of the few old school game designers who was particularly known as a  writer who could be easily named by fans.

She also has a kickstarter up at the moment to produce more story based adventure games, so if you like what you see then go support them.

Peer pressure and single player games

I’ve seen a few people write that after having played MMOs, they find themselves uncomfortable picking options in single player games in case they pick a poor class/ build.

And it occurs to me that even if you did, as long as you could still play the game and have fun, you might never know nor care if one of the other options was more powerful. Or if you did realise, you’d put it down to poor game design.

These days we’re far more likely to share our single player game experiences with others online than we were in the past. Maybe this will be via blog posts and comments, or posts on a forum. Maybe it will be via Steam achievements or an online high score table that you forgot to opt out of. Increasingly single player games are also requiring an online connection as an anti-piracy measure, and trying to manufacture some social networking via sharing player progress.

I wonder what the effect of this will be in terms of peer pressure. Looking up optimal builds and strategies for every game should be a harmless (if anal) alternative to just playing the darned thing and figuring out something workable for yourself. But if the lessons of MMOs are true, this will become more and more the default playing style, fuelled by social pressure and people not wanting to look like idiots in front of their friends.