#womenaretoohardtoanimate
June 12, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Ubisoft dropped plans to have playable female assassins in the multiplayer mode of the upcoming game Assassin's Creed: Unity.
The studio "had to" cut female assassins from the co-op mode, Amancio explained in response to a question from Polygon's Ben Kuchera, because keeping them in would have doubled the cost of pretty much everything: "it's double the animations, double the voices, all that stuff, double the visual assets—especially because we have customizable assassins."
Once again from Ubisoft, Far Cry 4 will not have playable female characters in multiplayer either:
"...I can guarantee you that in the future, moving forward, this sort of stuff will go away. As we get better technology and we plan for it in advance and we don't have a history on one rig and all this sort of stuff. We had very strong voices on the team pushing for that and I really wanted to do it, we just couldn't squeeze it in in time. But on the other hand we managed to get more of the other story characters to be women... We did our best. It's frustrating for us as it is for everybody else, so it's not a big switch that you can just pull and get it done."
Animator Jonathan Cooper, who is currently with Naughty Dog and has previously worked on the Mass Effect series (whose main character could be either male or female, and whose final installment with multiplayer also featured female playable characters for multiple species including human) has another perspective on how the extra work could be planned for and handled. Twitter, with the hashtag in the post title, has its own perspective.

For reference, this is a list of relatively recent games with multiplayer modes which offer male and female playable characters both [1]. Note that some of the second- or third-installment items on the list did not offer multiplayer prior to that installment.
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Destiny
  • Borderlands
  • Borderlands 2
  • Borderlands: the pre-sequel
  • Gears of War 3
  • Gears of War Judgement
  • Tomb Raider
  • GTA5
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Bioshock 2
  • Titanfall
  • Call of Duty Ghosts
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Uncharted 2
  • Uncharted 3
  • Halo 3
  • Halo 4
  • Far Cry 3
  • Assassins Creed Brotherhood
  • Assassins Creed Revelations
  • Assassins Creed 3
  • Assassins Creed Black Flag
[1] This list was not put together by me, but by a friend not on MetaFilter who prefers to be attributed without a name.
posted by seyirci (142 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
It seems like maybe instead of the 146th shitty escort mission you're forced to endure, the AC devs could've included the female media instead. This isn't some indie outfit.
posted by lattiboy at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Mary Sue has a pretty good takedown of this, too.

The hashtag has been pretty amusing the last couple of days, if nothing else about it has been.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:01 AM on June 12, 2014


You know what though? Even if these studios pulled their H's from their A's and just made male/female characters the odds are we'd then have to decry how objectified the females are. I am just freaking DONE with AAA studios and all the bull crap that goes along with them. I don't trust any AAA studio to make anything that matters anymore or that won't just cause a big problem.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:01 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


My favorite juxtaposition yesterday was the one where Ubisoft was talking about how they had to invent when they needed to, followed directly by an article about having female characters was too hard.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:01 AM on June 12, 2014 [15 favorites]




Such a thing would have been so easy that the real reason is likely something stupid, like having a male character is more "on brand".
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find the RPS house style a bit too twee most of the time, but I'll give them credit for Yes, All Men and Bro-op.
posted by figurant at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2014


The thing* that frustrates me about all this is the idea that female characters are bonus, extra, a nice bell/whistle, blah blah.

The willful blindness of the videogame/comic book/film industries to their actual market never fails to amuse** and baffle.

* JUST KIDDING this list is actually composed of MANY things
** okay, infuriate
posted by wintersweet at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: "You know what though? Even if these studios pulled their H's from their A's and just made male/female characters the odds are we'd then have to decry how objectified the females are. I am just freaking DONE with AAA studios and all the bull crap that goes along with them. I don't trust any AAA studio to make anything that matters anymore or that won't just cause a big problem."

This is an interesting thing in the assassin's creed games, though: The prior game set in France had a perfectly reasonably dressed female assassin. No boob-plate, no peekaboo armor, nothing. Even when she was disguised, her costuming was reasonable.
posted by boo_radley at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Gaming was fighting with this crap 20 years ago, back with Rise of the Triad. So the "someday when we can plan for it better" argument isn't one that holds water with me anymore, unless the dev team is guided by people who have no connection to gaming history. And in that case, it's a stronger indictment against the dev, not a weaker one.
posted by parliboy at 10:05 AM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


As we get better technology and we plan for it in advance...

Because we were completely taken by surprise about the existence of women. We'll plan for them next time.
posted by inturnaround at 10:05 AM on June 12, 2014 [80 favorites]


Boo, I didn't know that but what makes me so angry and frustrated is how freaking rare that is! ARRRRGH!!!!!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2014


It's not really fair to compare it to games like L4D and stuff. The new AC, and past ACs, put cutting edge animation work into the protagonist. The level of animation and detail is profound. Doing that twice for a man and a women would require a massive amount of work. Conversely, games on the source engine like L4D just use basic models, and then skin over them. It's a very different type of game.

The new AC could have done it twice, but they calculated the increased sales from the game would be trivial compared to the cost of replicating animation and voice acting throughout the game. And the AC business model is one of a pumped-out series, much like CoD. This means they release new games often and pump them out, as opposed to a less frequent release of a beautiful and polished game. Again, some people don't like this. But this is the model they have chosen, and given the model of tight deadlines and massive studios, this does make sense. If you don't want to buy the game for that reason that's entirely fair and your prerogative. But it's also fair for them to not make investments that won't return them money just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.
posted by jjmoney at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Womenz issues aside, it's startling how often in the software/web/virtual products/etc industry it's like "We can't do __ because our guys* don't know how to do it and they don't want to learn and we don't want to get new guys so let's just do what they already know how to do because that will be cheaper, faster and sufficient. Well, it will have to do, at least."
* in the general sense
posted by bleep at 10:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Google search for 'french revolution assassin' is especially amusing/cromulent to this discussion.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:10 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


My favorite female characters:

-Kresa, my Khajit female thief.
-Sheperd
-My Fallout 2 and 3 characters.
-Dalia, my baldur's gate character.
-Rochelle
-Ayame from Tenchu

4/6 of those are characters I made. I think there is a bigger point there, maybe, but I'm not smart or articulate enough to expound upon it.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:10 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


5 Really Good Reasons Why It’s Fine For Women To Be Underrepresented In Video Games. (In before anyone actually uses any of these with a straight face. Or...or maybe not.)
posted by wintersweet at 10:10 AM on June 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


So are the male AC characters just the same thing with different skins?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2014


boo_radley: "The prior game set in France had a perfectly reasonably dressed female assassin."

Ex. If anybody could find a picture of her other costumes and post them here, I'd appreciate it.
posted by boo_radley at 10:13 AM on June 12, 2014


I'm 41 years old. I'm a woman. I was throwing quarters into Donkey Kong machines when I was 9. We own all of the AC games. The existence of people like me in the gaming world is not a new occurrence and something that needs to be planned for in this day and age!

Plus, I've been playing MMORPGs long enough to know that men play female characters, too.
posted by kimberussell at 10:13 AM on June 12, 2014 [18 favorites]


You know, I remember back during the interregnum between Mass Effect 2 and 3, there was some (totally reasonable) grumbling about the lack of visible females of various alien species, and the response was similar—asset budgets, memory constraints (only so many animation skeletons would fit in the Xbox 360's memory, apparently, etc), and so on.

And you know, I mostly bought the explanation. I wasn't wild with some of the choices they'd made, but I took Bioware at their word. And in Mass Effect 3, they did a little better. Not a lot, but a little.

Now, though, we've got a new generation of consoles many times more powerful, and big game studios are spinning the same old yarn about technical and logistical constraints, and it's clear they're are going to keep spinning it for as long as the gaming public lets them get away with it.

The Xbox One and PS4 have 8 gigbytes of memory. Don't tell me there's no room in 68,719,476,736 bits for a little representation.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:13 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the game that only has female characters because making a game with models/animations/voices for both genders is too hard.

And yet... it never seems to happen.
posted by No One Ever Does at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2014 [76 favorites]


I also genuinely don't understand why the marketing geniuses at the big publishers don't get that adding things to games in order to cater to an underserved and underrepresented actual existing market (i.e. women) will, in all likelihood, grow their total audience. The number of troglodytes that they wouldn't buy or play Assassin's Creed purely because it has women options in it has to be so vanishingly small that it must pale into insignificance next to the potential increase in audience.

Women game. Deal with it, you fucking imbeciles.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


So are the male AC characters just the same thing with different skins?

I don't think giving Grizzled White Dude an axe counts as a different skin.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2014


I'm conflicted about this, really. I plan to play Unity either way, but my main problem is that I've just started Liberation and it is.... problematic. One of the "weapons" Aveline uses is charm, or basically flirting with people to get her way, and it creeps me out a lot. One of her first missions is "go shopping for a new dress". I don't want to go shopping for dresses, I want to fucking stab Templars.

I would obviously rather have playable female characters that don't have grotesquely stereotypically gendered missions, but I think at this point I would rather not have playable female characters at all if I'm forced to endure "flirt your way out of trouble while giggling and twirling your hair" especially when it was not a playable option for male characters who were brotastic womanizers like Ezio and Edward.

There's no fucking way to win and it's super frustrating. When they say "oh well we have no idea how to animate women" it's more like "we have no idea how to make a compelling storyline for women that doesn't involve giggling," which is way worse than awkward costuming, overblown boobs, or weird running. The female assassin recruits in Brotherhood and Revelations had almost no weirdly gendered behavior and that was fantastic.

sigh
posted by elizardbits at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2014 [56 favorites]


If anybody could find a picture of her other costumes and post them here, I'd appreciate it.

The Mary Sue has a pretty good rundown.
posted by figurant at 10:20 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


But this "development economy" explanation only works if we/they accept the idea that if you have to choose between obviously male characters and obviously female characters, always choose obviously male.

So as far as I'm concerned, this explanation did not and does not explain anything. It's still coming from a deeply sexist place. Whether or not the people involved are capable of seeing their own sexism, who knows. From an end user's point of view, it doesn't matter, and it just reflects the same old same old stuff we see everywhere (this all dovetails pretty well with my litany of complaints about Star Trek's foregrounded, explicit progressivism and background, implicit, CONSTANT sexism).
posted by wintersweet at 10:20 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.

So, >half the planet is a "trivial slice"?

I mean we can laser hairs in half all day about what portion of women play games and blablapoopfart, but even if it is some lower number that's a huge market, and not a "trivial slice"
posted by emptythought at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2014 [14 favorites]


But it's also fair for them to not make investments that won't return them money just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.

The new AC has 4 person co-op, so Ubisoft already had to design four different characters, find four different voice actors, etc. Making ONE of those a woman would add a tiny increase in production costs, if any. (Anthony Burch, the writer of Borderlands 2, has done a good job on his Twitter debunking some of this "extra cost" stuff from an insider position.)

I know a ton of women who used to love AC and Ubisoft games who now refuse to buy another game of theirs until we stop getting stupid, offensive answers to important questions, and Ubisoft has gotten a lot of bad press for this (and the racial implication of their Far Cry 4 cover). I really think the days of sticking with the sexist status quo for financial reasons are over -- it costs more to exclude women and then make up bullshit reasons for it.
posted by jess at 10:28 AM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


emptythought: So, >half the planet is a "trivial slice"?

I mean we can laser hairs in half all day about what portion of women play games and blablapoopfart, but even if it is some lower number that's a huge market, and not a "trivial slice"
"

Ah, yes, but you see, the way the argument works is that all calculations of value must be based on a finger in the air guess about the current size of that 'trivial slice' - you can't go doing something mad like considering potential future women players who find the current gaming status quo boring, offensive or simply unengaging. That might require you to imagine a future that's not Call of Duty forever and ever and ever.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:29 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]




I was just thinking this morning that I’ve been gaming for 25 years and it was well past time for me to finally try multi-player on a AAA game. This is another reason why I won’t.
posted by saffry at 10:30 AM on June 12, 2014


you can't go doing something mad like considering potential future women players who find the current gaming status quo boring, offensive or simply unengaging

You don't even have to consider potential future women. You can pay attention to the fact that women are playing AAA games, are a significant percentage of the audience, and have been for a long time.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


dinty_moore: "You don't even have to consider potential future women. You can pay attention to the fact that women are playing AAA games, are a significant percentage of the audience, and have been for a long time."

What? Base opinions on actual figures instead of gut feel and what perusing my xBox Live friends list tells me about gender balance? Madness!
posted by Happy Dave at 10:34 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


40 male protagonists from this year's E3

Gaming's diversity problem is so bad, it's not even simply prejudiced against women and non-caucasian men. Where are non-brunette white dudes? Even when they're misogynist and plays to traditional action hero roles, they get shafted.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:34 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "we didn't have time/resources" excuse is so stupid, and easily disproven with even a rudimentary understanding of game development. Like, damn, If you don't want to bother or you think it's bad "branding", say so. I'd rather they do that than just repeat the same old stupid lie. There are something like TEN STUDIOS working on this game, creating a massive recreation of Paris, but a single human woman is way too tough.

Also, it's the French Revolution and you're not going to have female characters??! What even is that. Charlotte Corday, y'all.
posted by sonmi at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2014 [13 favorites]


You know, if I was filling the "B" ark, purchasing a "macho" product or believing something was only worth making as a "macho" product would be near the top of the list for inclusion.

I'm a bit shocked that there isn't a library of generic "starting skeletons" in any big software house to quick-start any character generating process. I mean, women aren't that different from men--last I checked they had legs, arms, etc. Sure, boobs move differently that manboobs, hips are relatively wider, etc...but my point is, surely those are solved problems?

I guess the industry is way behind technically where I thought it might be, if every game's animations are essentially hand made and have to be recaptured for each new game.
posted by maxwelton at 10:37 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm 95% sure that the "trivial slice" isn't the portion of gamers or potential gamers who are women; it's the portion whose decision about buying the game hinges purely on the presence of female playable characters. Game buyers, regardless of gender, are notoriously spineless about sticking to boycotts, and game companies are more than willing to exploit that.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:38 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


The new AC has 4 person co-op, so Ubisoft already had to design four different characters, find four different voice actors, etc. Making ONE of those a woman would add a tiny increase in production costs, if any. (Anthony Burch, the writer of Borderlands 2, has done a good job on his Twitter debunking some of this "extra cost" stuff from an insider position.)

I'm not defending their choices or anything but they did sort of explain that the way they've worked out the coop is to have it be seamless with individual gameplay itself such that everyone in the coop is Arno themselves, and sees the other players as something else randomly selected? So in order to have a female option in coop it would have to be a full single player option throughout the entire game? Or something. So possibly a more significant time/cost outlay than just having a playable female coop option.

idk i find the entire situation so vexing
posted by elizardbits at 10:40 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes, but you see, the way the argument works is that all calculations of value must be based on a finger in the air guess about the current size of that 'trivial slice' - you can't go doing something mad like considering potential future women players who find the current gaming status quo boring, offensive or simply unengaging. That might require you to imagine a future that's not Call of Duty forever and ever and ever.

These companies have booths at PAX. They should really look at who is attending PAX.

It's hard to find numbers, but the actual convention is attended by about 40% women(link to a story about a bathroom issue at PAX east that brings this up, i know from anecdotal conversations with friends who staff PAX prime that the number is higher than 35% in seattle).

That's 40% of the potential customers walking by your booth.

That's a lot of money to be leaving on the table. This isn't a "some point in the future" issue, it's a now issue. They're shooting themselves in the dick(heh) right this very moment.

For the most part people who go to PAX are not your average typical customer either, they're hardcore fans who if they like a series will buy every single game. They might even buy your next gen remastered versions, or PC re-releases if it was a console exclusive at first. These are your best customers. These are the customers who tell all their friends when they find something they like or that specifically caters to them(Or just does the Minimum Standards of Decency work, but still).

Yea, big marketing campaigns sell your games. But with an increasing number of people, i'd argue especially nerds and gamers being corcutters who use adblock basically your only avenue is... youtube preroll ads? Those PAX attending dedicated gamers are one of your primary avenues for pushing sales via word of mouth, IMO.

On preview:

I'm 95% sure that the "trivial slice" isn't the portion of gamers or potential gamers who are women; it's the portion whose decision about buying the game hinges purely on the presence of female playable characters. Game buyers, regardless of gender, are notoriously spineless about sticking to boycotts, and game companies are more than willing to exploit that.

Yea it's true a lot of people will Whine and Buy, but what about the people who haven't heard all that much about the game(except maybe "oh yea, it's good" or a random blog post they scrolled by) who would take a second look because it did?

I mean i'm sure they have a big marketing and market research dept that's hashed all this out, but it still seems like weird failed math to me. Especially now that they're doubling down on a "narrative related decision" instead of a technical thing.
posted by emptythought at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


In dark souls 2 there's a coffin you can climb into that changes your gender but doesn't really explicitly tell you it does so. I didn't know what the hell it did for like half the game till I took off my armor to avoid corrosive attacks and was confused by what was underneath.
posted by Ferreous at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


47% of current gamers in America are women. Here's your cite.
posted by danny the boy at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


knuckle tattoos: "I'm 95% sure that the "trivial slice" isn't the portion of gamers or potential gamers who are women; it's the portion whose decision about buying the game hinges purely on the presence of female playable characters. Game buyers, regardless of gender, are notoriously spineless about sticking to boycotts, and game companies are more than willing to exploit that."

Pretty sure that's now what jjmoney meant. Pretty sure he was saying that women are a trivial slice of gamers as a whole. Which is totally wrong, as per danny the boy's link.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:45 AM on June 12, 2014


Yeah, all things considered I agree w/Happy Dave's interpretation of that comment.
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2014


I'm a bit shocked that there isn't a library of generic "starting skeletons" in any big software house to quick-start any character generating process. I mean, women aren't that different from men--last I checked they had legs, arms, etc. Sure, boobs move differently that manboobs, hips are relatively wider, etc...but my point is, surely those are solved problems?

There totally is. Assassin's Creed itself reuses a TON of assets from one game to the next, especially main character animations. But I guess they just somehow lost Aveline's animation rig, or something.

In dark souls 2 there's a coffin you can climb into that changes your gender but doesn't really explicitly tell you it does so. I didn't know what the hell it did for like half the game till I took off my armor to avoid corrosive attacks and was confused by what was underneath.

Reason ten billion and one that dark souls is the best, mostly because of how mad that coffin made so many fanboys who were horrified to discover they'd been playing a girl for 30 hours. I direct anyone who wants reasonable female armor with tons of customization to check it out.
posted by sonmi at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


But it's also fair for them to not make investments that won't return them money just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.

Blizzard has managed to make female characters for every race and class in WoW, and yet, somehow, they haven't filed for bankruptcy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2014 [18 favorites]


Even if these studios pulled their H's from their A's and just made male/female characters the odds are we'd then have to decry how objectified the females are.

The one weird trick here is to not objectify the women. I don't think I've seen anyone complain about objectification of femshep in Mass Effect, except maybe for changing the default face in ME3 (Miranda, on the other hand...). Likewise, I don't recall seeing people complain about objectifying Gaige in Borderlands 2 (Lilith and Maya, now...).

The new AC, and past ACs, put cutting edge animation work into the protagonist. The level of animation and detail is profound.

Then they should reconsider their budget priorities, because it kinda doesn't show. Is it better than, say, Saints Row 3/4, which can cope with whatever bewildering array of shape, size, "sex appeal," clothes and hair you want to throw at it?* Sure. But it ain't that much better.

Nor does that explain why they can't just pull a Mass Effect and apply the same walk cycle to a woman's skeleton. Would it look like shit? Mass Effect is a solid proof that it doesn't have to, so why should I believe that when the default hypothesis that Ubisoft are just being a bunch of mindless jerks is so plausible?

*Hey, Volition. Not being able to have a character with huge tracts of land *and* a big swingin' dick is pure oppression. And you know how I can't have a character that outmasses Jabba the Hutt? Also oppression. Pls fix for next SR.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:50 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Also it's for MP which generally is going to have a hell of a lot less dialogue and cutscenes than SP would.

Claiming it takes too much effort to make a female MP avatar is a really shit excuse, especially for a AAA production house.
posted by Ferreous at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


For comparison, here's the 15 multiplayer characters in Assassin's Creed 4, the most recent game. 4 of the 15 are female (one duplicate), and to my eye 2 of those 4 are not the stereotypical male gamer gaze thing of boobies and bikini armor. Personally I always played the Obviously Gay one because the idea of back-stabbing macho boys with a poofter made me laugh.

I'm sympathetic to the argument that it costs more money to design and rig more character models. And I think that problem is only harder with the requirements of next generation consoles. I'm just baffled why they decided it'd be best to cut one of two genders. Particularly given that Ubisoft's market includes a lot of men who pick the female character because they like looking at her butt through the whole game. If nothing else, you'd think they'd pander to the gamer bros.
posted by Nelson at 10:53 AM on June 12, 2014


The new AC could have done it twice, but they calculated the increased sales from the game would be trivial compared to the cost of replicating animation and voice acting throughout the game...this is the model they have chosen, and given the model of tight deadlines and massive studios, this does make sense. If you don't want to buy the game for that reason that's entirely fair and your prerogative. But it's also fair for them to not make investments that won't return them money just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.

It's also fair to consider whether their cost-benefit model is reasonable, since the argument about development time literally frames gender inclusiveness as an afterthought in the design process. "Okay, we're going to make one super-detailed model of a dude; let's spend a ton of money on that. With that done: do we have any money left in the budget for a lady? No? Oh well!"

Nobody forced them to make the game this way; it's entirely fair to blame them for choosing a development /production /marketing system that prioritizes literally everything over having a female protagonist; plenty of other developers have found ways around this problem.
posted by cjelli at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2014 [14 favorites]


Basically it's because they're incompetent.
posted by ckape at 10:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


But it's also fair for them to not make investments that won't return them money just to placate what is--ultimately for them--a trivial slice of potential customers.

Even if it was only men playing Assassin's Creed, men still like to play female avatars.

Someone, somewhere, decided that hiring people for other positions on the dev team was more important than making sure there were enough artists/modelers/animators/voice actors to make a female assassin model possible.

It comes down to a production-level decision, and it was one that guaranteed I would not be buying or playing this game anytime soon.

And hello, this is 2014, when decisions like that are extremely unpopular, for very good reason. Literally, my first thought when I saw the trailer was: "Oh, they're probably still working on the female models." Not: "Oh, they're ignoring my gender's desire for representation." Especially when they touted the "customizable" nature of the assassins. Customizable...but only if you want to be a guy.
posted by offalark at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm sure this would be a depressing thing to have confirmed, but I would have to guess the diversity (in all ways: sex, race, age, etc) of your average game dev team is generally pretty bad--probably worse than software as a whole, which is bad enough? As a general rule, young white dudes have empathy problems, and you need to be able to empathize with your characters to make them great, or, apparently, to have them at all.

The solution here isn't technical, it's social: Make your teams diverse (whatever your industry). Don't make things for women (or whomever) by doing a marketing survey, do it by making sure you have those people working on the product, at all levels, in numbers that match the population. If you have a team which is half women, I'm guessing you don't make a game which is nothing but muscle-bound bros running around.
posted by maxwelton at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


47% of current gamers in America are women. Here's your cite.

The ESA statistics are encouraging, but they suffer from not breaking down gamers by platform. Mobile device gamers through console gamers through beefy gaming PC rig gamers all get lumped into the same set.

I don't think there is much reliable information for how "AAA" gamers break down by gender, but one troubling statistic is that BioWare's internal numbers showed only 18% of all Mass Effect 1 or 2 playthoughs used a female Shepard. That's not especially reliable as a marker of players gender, but it might point in roughly the right direction.

Apart from anything else, it means the vast majority of ME players are idiots. FemShep is BestShep.
posted by figurant at 11:01 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


The solution here isn't technical, it's social: Make your teams diverse (whatever your industry). Don't make things for women (or whomever) by doing a marketing survey, do it by making sure you have those people working on the product, at all levels, in numbers that match the population. If you have a team which is half women, I'm guessing you don't make a game which is nothing but muscle-bound bros running around.

David Gaider talked about this (in regards to video game writing) a while back.

And also we had a thread on video games created by women.

I'm glad that at least some people are getting it. I mean, not even getting to the fact that women aren't the end all be all to diversity, it's baby steps, but at least there's some outrage now?
posted by dinty_moore at 11:03 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Basically it's because they're incompetent.

They are also lazy sods.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:04 AM on June 12, 2014


There's always trade-offs when animating female characters. It cost millions to create the level of realism achieved with Ms. Pacman's bow, lipstick and beauty mark, but as a result she had far fewer bonus foods to choose from. #Bananas<Galaxians
posted by ericbop at 11:07 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


I have some sympathy that an animator doesn't like doing "Generic human of indeterminate build" but wants to be able to have some confident knowledge about the body they're working with.

But then this makes me wonder how much of this is they just want to add a sashay to the walk:
He added that the process doesn't work the other way around, as the male character then has a more effeminate set of movements.
Now I want to play a Hawkeye game where he uses the crotchal powerthrust.
posted by RobotHero at 11:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


As an expert on both animation and women, I gotta say I hear what Ubisoft is saying here. I mean come on, all our tentacles take at least 4 hours PER TENTACLE to animate on a simple battle clip.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Re: Mass Effect, that data-dump also revealed that a huge percentage of players started the game with a bog-standard White Guy Space Marine and never finished it. I'd be curious to see what the figures look like when you look only at people who made it to the ending.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:12 AM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't think it's so much that they're incompetent (which is still a step up from, "The thought never crossed our minds.") but that they aren't competent enough to do it profitably.

It sounds to me like, if hadn't cost them any more to include models of both genders, they totally would have if only because it was the right thing to do. However, it does cost more and being inclusive of both genders won't help them sell enough extra copies to justify that increased cost.

If doubling the playable genders would double sales, I'm certain they'd have been included. At some point, there will be more of an increase in sales by being inclusive, it will get cheaper to be inclusive, or both. Or maybe somebody just needs to step up and show that that day is already here.

I guess what I'm saying is, while we're busying dumping on Ubisoft for being lazy and incompetent, let's not forget to dump on the many gamers who are sexist pigs.
posted by VTX at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2014


The ESA statistics are encouraging, but they suffer from not breaking down gamers by platform. Mobile device gamers through console gamers through beefy gaming PC rig gamers all get lumped into the same set.

But even if women are mostly playing on mobile platforms, they're still women playing games. Specifically, playing the games that are by and large marketed to them. So what that says to me is that women love playing games-- it's just that many of them don't want to play games or play on consoles that actively seem to not want their business. And who can blame them? AAA companies are staring a massive, untapped market in the face and deciding it's too much work.
posted by sonmi at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


The level of animation and detail is profound. Doing that twice for a man and a women would require a massive amount of work.

From what I understand, the boob jiggle physics emulator was taking months of work, and doubled the memory size of the game.
posted by happyroach at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


None of these "takedowns" seems to have bothered asking any artists, modelers or animators familiar with the demands of latest-generation content what the estimated costs would be.

I've worked on some major AAA games, and I have some idea of what goes into building a hero-level character at that fidelity. It's not easy, and it is definitely the case that using a male skeleton on a female body looks broken. They're not wrong when they say that it doubles a large body of work, and it can absolutely see a stressed out producer making the call to cut that work.

I DO think that not having playable ladies in these games is sad and off-putting, but the dismissive hand waving of the critics really irks me.

It's essentially the same lack of curiosity seen in the grumbling about the lack of networked multiplayer in SportsFriends, a few months ago.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:24 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


The upside to most of the major gaming releases being so same-y is that I haven't felt the need to upgrade to a new console or to beef up my PC yet, as well as not being tempted to buy any games, so it's saving me money.

Until DA: I comes out, anyway. Damn it, Bioware.
posted by rewil at 11:26 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Again, these are triple AAA studios. They are investing huge amounts of resources in this. While the effort of modelling a female character is a lot, it's still a drop in the bucket compared to the whole game.
posted by Ferreous at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


being inclusive of both genders won't help them sell enough extra copies to justify that increased cost

Is that even true, though? Look at some of the best selling games of all time -- Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, The Sims, Guild Wars 1+2. You can play a lady character in all of these. In the top 20 best selling games (console and PC) last year you have Tomb Raider, The Last of Us (where you play Ellie for a few levels), and Saints Row IV. Far Cry 3 lets you play a lady in co-op, as does huge recent hit Watch Dogs.

Now, did all these sales come directly from the fact that someone can play a lady? Of course not. But did it help...? Absolutely.

Look at Gone Home -- it's an indie darling that sold 250,000 copies as of February and benefited HUGELY from appealing to marginalized markets. No, that's not AC money, but it shows that including women can literally lift a game out of Steam obscurity, and that is buying power that Unity is going to be missing out on now.
posted by jess at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


jess: You can play a lady character in all of these.

Not in Minecraft, at least not without a mod (unless it got added in a recent update).
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:33 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


But even if women are mostly playing on mobile platforms, they're still women playing games. Specifically, playing the games that are by and large marketed to them. So what that says to me is that women love playing games-- it's just that many of them don't want to play games or play on consoles that actively seem to not want their business. And who can blame them? AAA companies are staring a massive, untapped market in the face and deciding it's too much work.

I think I'm going to express myself badly here, but... I'm a mobile gamer who tends towards "female" games (Candy Crush/Pretty Pet Salon/Buttons and Scissors right now). Nothing on earth would get me to buy a console. If those women are playing mobile games for the same reason I am (because they're low-investment in every sense), the big budget games are never going to get their money, no matter how many female heroes they throw in.

I'm wondering now if there's any sales data that shows that women buy more games with female protagonists. It would be nice to have some information to base opinions on.
posted by Leon at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2014


Not in Minecraft, at least not without a mod (unless it got added in a recent update).

Ah, you're right. I was thinking of the modded game. It's worth noting though that Notch designed the default player character to be "genderless".
posted by jess at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


None of these "takedowns" seems to have bothered asking any artists, modelers or animators familiar with the demands of latest-generation content what the estimated costs would be.

The Animation Director on Assassin’s Creed 3 and the Senior Technical Animator on Watch Dogs did have a couple of comments.
posted by rewil at 11:37 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


None of these "takedowns" seems to have bothered asking any artists, modelers or animators familiar with the demands of latest-generation content what the estimated costs would be.

You mean other than Jonathan Cooper, Animation Director for AC3 and currently working for Naughty Dog, known to have some of the best graphics in gaming?

I've worked on some major AAA games, and I have some idea of what goes into building a hero-level character at that fidelity. It's not easy, and it is definitely the case that using a male skeleton on a female body looks broken. They're not wrong when they say that it doubles a large body of work, and it can absolutely see a stressed out producer making the call to cut that work.

The AC games (like all of Ubisoft's big titles) are each worked on by 1000+ people and already contain super detailed modeling of entire cities. The Far Cry guys were repeatedly talking about their fancy elephant animations. But a female character model... oh no!
posted by kmz at 11:40 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


None of these "takedowns" seems to have bothered asking any artists, modelers or animators familiar with the demands of latest-generation content what the estimated costs would be...They're not wrong when they say that it doubles a large body of work, and it can absolutely see a stressed out producer making the call to cut that work.

What aggravates me about that defense is that it's only a 'doubling' of cost if your default state is 'we don't have female protagonists in our games.'

And, of course, that there's no chance they'd cut the male player model to save on money.
posted by cjelli at 11:41 AM on June 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


FemShep is BestShep.

FemShep is BestShep except that Bioware won't let her make nice-nice with Tali. Stupid primitives.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Look at Gone Home -- it's an indie darling that sold 250,000 copies as of February and benefited HUGELY from appealing to marginalized markets. No, that's not AC money, but it shows that including women can literally lift a game out of Steam obscurity [emphasis mine], and that is buying power that Unity is going to be missing out on now.

Gone Home is a progressive game at its heart. Its appeal is far, far different from an action game that adds in a playable woman (or doesn't) after the fact. You don't get a game like Gone Home from ticking a box that says Has Women In It; you build it from scratch to be a game that tells a story about family, about empathy, about certain thematic elements I'm trying my best not to spoil.

I mean, any inclusiveness would be better than none, but there's no way the latest Assassin's Creed installment would get the same kind of attention and sales boost that Gone Home did and for good reason.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


VTX: "If doubling the playable genders would double sales, I'm certain they'd have been included."

That's a weird standard to hold any feature of a game to. Why is gender the only thing that has to double sales in order to be worth the effort? Marketing people measure engagement and sales in tenths of one percent. I highly doubt that a 100% increase in sales is a valid or realistic measure of why we can't have female character models.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:49 AM on June 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


I'm a 38 year old female occasional gamer, and I just got into AC about 2 months ago mostly because of all of the strikingly beautiful game art I was seeing on elizardbits' tumblr. I started with AC 2 and I was looking forward to playing through the whole series. My husband has no interest in it. (data point)

But, ugh. this whole thing is putting such a bad taste in my mouth. I find their excuses for not including female characters insulting (well, female protagonists I should say -- there are plenty of female characters. So many prostitutes! All of which are female, which, if you want to be historically accurate, they could include some men there). Haven't decided if I will buy the next one, but I am certainly turned off by this.
posted by antinomia at 11:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Too bad that there is no Title IX in the Gameverse. . . . .
posted by Danf at 11:57 AM on June 12, 2014


Of course FemShep can't make nice with Tali. Tali IS DEAD, YOU MONSTER. (Well, in all MY save games, anyway.)

But thinking of the AC games -- I can play as a female character in AC3 and AC4 multiplayer, right? But not in the new one? So this isn't just an omission -- it's an actual step backward.

I don't buy it. Ubisoft can recreate a huge chunk of Paris. They can crowd eleventy dozen NPCs onscreen and have all of them react believably when I toss a body from a rooftop. They can fill a virtual world with sparkly trinkets and meticulously-researched sea shanties.

But nope, can't mo-cap a woman assassin. That'll break the bank.

Horseshit.

This isn't a matter of CANNOT, it's a matter of DID NOT meets post hoc ass-covering. It's really "we didn't think it was all that important" justified after the fact.

And that's just lazy and stupid.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2014 [27 favorites]


Maybe if Ubisoft scaled down on all of the stupid superfluous tutorials and extra pointless optional fetch quests and collectibles they can have the resources to add some female characters.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:05 PM on June 12, 2014


The Animation Director on Assassin’s Creed 3 and the Senior Technical Animator on Watch Dogs did have a couple of comments.

While Cooper knows way more about animation and rigging than I do, and I defer to his judgement, I do have to snicker slightly about his estimates for adding a female assassin model. He was also the lead animator on Mass Effect 1 and 2, which just straight-up used the male cutscene mocap and combat animations on the female skeleton, probably with some automated scaling. It produced some interesting situations, particularly if you were wearing the dress that came with the Kasumi DLC.
posted by figurant at 12:19 PM on June 12, 2014


The ESA statistics are encouraging, but they suffer from not breaking down gamers by platform. Mobile device gamers through console gamers through beefy gaming PC rig gamers all get lumped into the same set.

First of all this kind of sounds like no true (woman) gamer. Or fake geek girl, if you prefer. I don't believe in the argument that being specific to console, or to "hardcore" games or whatever arbitrary tiny slice, is the only valid framing to examine inclusiveness in gaming.

But secondly, if you really care about those specific slices, per the demographics section of that wikipedia article:
The same 2010 study showed that 46% of game purchasers were female,[42] and this figure increased to 48% by 2012.[37]

In fact, 38% of Xbox users are female and 51% of them have children. Nintendo claims that 50% of its users are female as of 2013.[40]

Thirty percent of women are playing more violent games.[44]
posted by danny the boy at 12:22 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


One of her first missions is "go shopping for a new dress". I don't want to go shopping for dresses, I want to fucking stab Templars.

To be fair, "Go buy some new clothes" is a typical early mission for the dudes in all the other Assassin's Creed games.
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's a weird standard to hold any feature of a game to. Why is gender the only thing that has to double sales in order to be worth the effort?

I'm not saying that including both genders must double sales before they'll be included. Just that, if one could show that it would double sales, no effort would be spared to get women in the game as playable characters. They'd delay the game if they had to.

Realistically, it would just have to increase sales sufficient to offset the increased cost and they'd have to have enough confidence in the numbers be sure they'd recoup the investment. I think that is generally true for anything that they would add to a game.
posted by VTX at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2014


danny the boy: "First of all this kind of sounds like no true (woman) gamer. Or fake geek girl, if you prefer. I don't believe in the argument that being specific to console, or to "hardcore" games or whatever arbitrary tiny slice, is the only valid framing to examine inclusiveness in gaming."

Exactly. This isn't about 'appeasing' some fringe group. This is about game companies getting out of their own way. This is a market failure. They have no idea who plays the games they make and large parts of the industry are so myopic they are leaving money on the table because they can't see the reality of shifting gamer demographics.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


If "it's too expensive" is their answer, why don't they try putting a price tag on it (creating female models and voiceovers will cost $x,xxx,xxx), starting up a kickstarter ($20 gets you the add-on, $50 gets some unique in-game loot, $1000 and your image get a starring role, or something similar), and if the fans really want it and are willing to pay for it, then do the development and release. If not, well, you made the effort, gave them the option, but the money just wasn't there.
posted by Blackanvil at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2014


I've worked on some major AAA games, and I have some idea of what goes into building a hero-level character at that fidelity. It's not easy, and it is definitely the case that using a male skeleton on a female body looks broken. They're not wrong when they say that it doubles a large body of work, and it can absolutely see a stressed out producer making the call to cut that work.

Yeah, but Ubisoft is about the most ridiculous company to make that argument. The amount of content in the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry and Watch Dogs games is mind-boggling. Their attitude toward making these games is clearly, "Throw in tons more stuff. No more. MORE! And damn the production costs. Now DOUBLE IT ON AN EVEN BIGGER ISLAND!"
posted by straight at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


VTX: "Realistically, it would just have to increase sales sufficient to offset the increased cost and they'd have to have enough confidence in the numbers be sure they'd recoup the investment. I think that is generally true for anything that they would add to a game."

Yeah, I bet they really run the numbers on how many customisable weapon types they'll need to capture another percentage point of sales on DudeBro Battle Meltdown IV.

This argument is horseshit. They don't know, so they're handwaving away nearly half of their potential market.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


To be fair, "Go buy some new clothes" is a typical early mission for the dudes in all the other Assassin's Creed games.

AC2 - beat up bullies, go get medicine, race your brother
AC:B - catch a horse, target some cannons, carry a box of flowers for a lady
AC:R - visit the blacksmith, test out your hookblade for climbing and ziplining, aside from the entire Masyaf sequence which is basically "follow Altair's ghost and kick Templar ass"
AC3 - kill someone at the opera (Haytham), plus hide-and-seek, tracking animals, and finding feathers (little kid Connor)

So unless Edward, Altair, and Adewale go clothes shopping for their introductory missions, I'm thinking maybe you are confusing/conflating the "find a general store" thing from AC3, which primarily exists so that Haytham can get weapons.
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Even if these studios pulled their H's from their A's and just made male/female characters the odds are we'd then have to decry how objectified the females are.

I'm pretty sure this is the real reason. They don't think they can create good female (or minority) characters that aren't going to bring down even harsher criticism. And they're probably right.

Now if it would only occur to them that they could hire some people who can. Except they'd probably need more clues than they have just to figure out who those people are.
posted by straight at 12:47 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


As we've seen in many other places, it is incorrect to assume that people who run companies are all rational economic actors and therefore if they make decisions that neglect a certain demographic, they are doing so for strictly economically justifiable reasons.

If you start from a certain bias and set of assumptions, then your conclusions will reflect that--and you won't ask the right questions that would tell you whether it's a rational economic decision. Or any questions at all.

In other words, the idea that leaving out female characters is the result of long nights crunching advanced numbers and doing intensive market research, rather than making a lot of lazy assumptions based on what other people are doing, is giving them too much credit.
posted by emjaybee at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


None of these "takedowns" seems to have bothered asking any artists, modelers or animators familiar with the demands of latest-generation content what the estimated costs would be.

FWIW, the Animation Director for AC3 and the Senior Technical Animator for Far Cry 3 and Watch_Dogs both chimed in to point out that, no, it's not the massive undertaking Ubisoft is making it out to be. So if you want the opinion of not only other animators to chime in on the process, but those intimately familiar with Ubisoft in particular, there you go.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


So unless Edward, Altair, and Adewale go clothes shopping for their introductory missions

I guess I'm thinking of "introductory" more broadly. It's many hours into the game when Ezio gets to the Villa and starts buying pauldrons and fancy new colors for his capes, but it still feels like part of the tutorial.
posted by straight at 12:55 PM on June 12, 2014


Well yeah, but that's available throughout the entire game in AC2 at tailor shops, and in AC:B&R once you destroy the nearby towers and renovate the neighborhoods. Plus it's always optional, not required gameplay.

I mean in the game's defense she is buying clothing to disguise the escaped slave she just rescued but it's still in essence a required fashion-based mission in a game starring a female character, which is like... is that really all they could think of?
posted by elizardbits at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


emjaybee: "In other words, the idea that leaving out female characters is the result of long nights crunching advanced numbers and doing intensive market research, rather than making a lot of lazy assumptions based on what other people are doing, is giving them too much credit."

Bingo. A multi-billion dollar worldwide industry is being run, in large part, based on faulty received wisdom of what sells that's probably at least a decade out of date.

Hey, still works for Hollywood, I suppose.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


According to the Animation Director of AC3, when they did Aveline's animation, they took Connor's animation data and redid a tiny fraction of it. And in fact, they specifically built technology for AC: Brotherhood to enable this.

Having previously worked on a game which never saw the light of day: we had separate idle, walk, run and sitting animations for male and female characters. Everything else was the exact same data.

Male and female characters had the same skeletal rig. We didn't have bouncy ponytails or breast physics or any of that. And actually, it was the same skeletal rig for a four foot tall race, a seven foot tall race, and a catlike race which had tails -- we just masked the tail when it wasn't needed.

More art? Yes. But really not much more art than what goes into a basic NPC.

More voice acting? Okay, yes. But if they stuck to the line that the single-player game is all about Arno and the female assassin is only in co-op -- which I think would have generated a whole lot less rage among fans -- that would also be pretty minimal.


The honest truth is they just decided that female characters weren't important enough compared to some other thing on the schedule. And it turns out they're wrong, but they won't actually admit it.
posted by Foosnark at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


The main diff between Aveline and Connor, that I can tell, aside from height and weight, is facial shape (Aveline's is more heart/oval shaped where Connor's is blocky) and buttswingingness while running. Their climbing technique is virtually identical (at least it's the same as young Connor's) and their fighting sequences are similar enough that there isn't much to learn controls-wise in AC:L if you've played AC3.
posted by elizardbits at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2014


So let me get this straight. They created 4 male characters to play in co-op mode, then after the fact realized they might need a woman character and now say it would be too expensive to add her in?

Sounds to me like the problem is they didn't make one (or more) of the 4 players a woman to begin with. I guess it's because men are people and women are women.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


figurant: "The ESA statistics are encouraging, but they suffer from not breaking down gamers by platform. Mobile device gamers through console gamers through beefy gaming PC rig gamers all get lumped into the same set. ."

This is not an attack on you personally figurant, but I just want to point out that EVERY time someone brings up the "46% female gamers" stat (and hint: it's up to 48% in their 2014 report), there's a response of "oh but some of those are like candy crush". It drives me up the goddamn wall, because here's what's wrong with it:

1. Mobile games are not inherently less worthy than console games. There are several turn-based strategy games for android, for example, that I would consider "real games".

2. Console and PC gamers aren't subjected to the same amount of scrutiny. You wouldn't dare tell a gamer who only plays CoD that he's not a "real gamer". (on the other hand, there are plenty of women who only play CoD who are apparently not real gamers).

3. The implication that women are disproportionately larger consumers of mobile/casual games than men. According to one site (grain of salt), women make up 53-54% of mobile gamers. So it's enough to skew the 46%, but not nearly as much as you'd think.

4. Finally, the idea that there's any point to distinguishing them AT ALL is laughable. If you identify as a gamer, if you play video games, then you can damn well be called a gamer. As Scalzi said about girls in geekdom, there is no gate and you are not the gatekeeper.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


This argument is horseshit. They don't know, so they're handwaving away nearly half of their potential market.

How so? I'm saying that if someone could show them that they're missing sales by not including women as playable characters they would get included regardless of whether or not Ubisoft is sexist, lazy, incompetent, or whatever else. Someone at some level took a look at what it would cost to add women as playable characters and made a judgement call. Maybe they had marketing drum up some numbers on how it would affect sales, maybe they didn't. It doesn't really matter. The point is that this isn't just a problem with game developers.

There are gamers who just don't care that women are under-represented or they do but it doesn't affect their buying habits.
posted by VTX at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2014


This is not an attack on you personally figurant

I accept that, and I agree with all your points. And actually, I just bring that out when I see the ESA stat because there do need to be some caveats about that specific number. But the Wikipedia article linked by danny the boy above actually has much better statistics that I didn't realize were available, so I can probably stop being a pedantic bastard about the ESA survey.
posted by figurant at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


VTX: "How so? I'm saying that if someone could show them that they're missing sales by not including women as playable characters they would get included regardless of whether or not Ubisoft is sexist, lazy, incompetent, or whatever else. Someone at some level took a look at what it would cost to add women as playable characters and made a judgement call."

And I'm saying the inclusion of diverse characters is the only thing that is held to this standard where people say 'oh, we need to show the value of including that'. Why do the industry need their hand held, the poor little indecisive lambs? What have they got against making more money? Because they would make more money. The stats above and the numerous women chiming in on this thread demonstrate that, quantitatively and qualitatively.

VTX: "There are gamers who just don't care that women are under-represented or they do but it doesn't affect their buying habits."

That's not who I'm talking about. That probably is a fairly small slice of the global pie. I'm talking about gamers who aren't straight or white or male who want to see the option to play characters they personally identify with, and aren't given the chance because the industry doesn't understand its own market. The market is demonstrably there and one of the biggest companies in the market that makes some of the largest, most complex AAA games in that market, is badly fluffing servicing that market. It's incompetence.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2014


Quote from Ubisoft

"Girls are like, hard to draw and stuff."
posted by stormpooper at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


The number of women who play AssCreed games seems irrelevant to me. They should make at least one of the multiplayer characters a woman because it's the right thing to do no matter how many women play the game.
posted by Justinian at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


The stats above and the numerous women chiming in on this thread demonstrate that, quantitatively and qualitatively.

There are also honkified dudes who sometimes like an avatar who's a woman, and not just for gross LOOKIT HER BUTT reasons, or a nonanglo one. Spice of life an' that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Girls are like, hard to draw and stuff."

Here's a cheat sheet that might help: male bodies are made primarily of curves while female bodies are made primarily of angles
posted by straight at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2014 [22 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: "Spice of life an' that."

Totally - I went the whole way through Saint's Row 3 with a female character who had a broad Russian accent and a sweet haircut. She was cool.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2014


Because they would make more money. The stats above

As I said above, including playable female characters is the right thing to do and should be done. But the stats don't necessarily demonstrate what you're saying. Women play games a lot... but men account for the big majority of actual spending, far more than the proportion of gamers they make up.
posted by Justinian at 1:50 PM on June 12, 2014


Maaaaaybe they'd buy more games if they weren't such a relentless parade of Grim Scruffy White Dudes? It's a cart/horse issue, really.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Which is why it should be done no matter what the current stats say. I'm just putting forward that the argument should be that "it's the right thing to do" rather than "current statistics indicate that women... blah blah blah".
posted by Justinian at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2014


As I said above, including playable female characters is the right thing to do and should be done. But the stats don't necessarily demonstrate what you're saying. Women play games a lot... but men account for the big majority of actual spending, far more than the proportion of games they make up.

Then again, you could read those statistics as showing that, in the absence of playable female characters in games, women are less interested in spending money on those games.
posted by cjelli at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2014


Sure, see my previous comment.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2014


I'm just putting forward that the argument should be that "it's the right thing to do" rather than "current statistic indicate that women... blah blah blah".

There's money in the budget to make both arguments.
posted by cjelli at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Justinian: "Which is why it should be done no matter what the current stats say. I'm just putting forward that the argument should be that "it's the right thing to do" rather than "current statistics indicate that women... blah blah blah"."

We are of one accord, coming at the same thing from two different angles. It's both the right thing to do and a massive missed opportunity. I'm just sick of the self-justifying circular logic that women don't play games (not true) so we shouldn't have female player options because it's not worth the cost (not true) because women don't play games (not true).
posted by Happy Dave at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, see my previous comment

Preview failed to show it, sorry -- I actually agree with you that it should be done for its own sake, costs aside, and that that's sufficient on its own. I just think that the cost argument, in this particular context, is nice in that it's a direct rebuttal to Ubisoft's own statements about 'it would double the cost.'
posted by cjelli at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2014


I'm certainly not going to disagree that Ubisoft is a stupid company which makes stupid comments. Their UPLAY system alone makes me basically unwilling to buy one of their games.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2014


I have the solution. Ubisoft hires an all woman dev team, pays them 70¢ to every male dev dollar and then they can afford to create female playable characters.

Two birds, one stone. Feel free to ship the Best Idea in History Award to my work address.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Count me in as another woman saying "hello! I play games! I earn money! You say it's too hard to put women in games? I say that proves you aren't worth my hard-earned money."

En français, pour UbiSoft. Au fait, bonjour UbiSoft, j'ai été votre relectrice de trads en anglais pour vos press releases, pubs et textes d'exposition pendant des années – traductrice au féminin. Vous ne le saviez pas parce que vous êtes passés par une agence, agence d'ailleurs tenue par deux femmes.

Non mais allô, quoi. On est au 21ème siècle. Y a des femmes qui jouent, des femmes ingénieurs en informatique, des femmes développeuses, des femmes chefs de projet, chefs de programme, bref, y a des femmes. On gagne de l'argent. Vous en voulez ou non ?

J'ai été à Versailles ce week-end. L'un des guides me disait, "vous savez, Madame, les vraies pionnières de la Révolution, je le dis au féminin, car c'étaient des femmes. Les femmes étaient les premières révolutionnaires ! Les hommes sont venus après. Ce sont les femmes qui prenaient de vrais risques."

Translated back into English: I was at Versailles just this last weekend. One of the guides said to me, "you know, ma'am, the true pioneers of the [French] Revolution were women. Women were the first revolutionaries! Men followed afterwards. It was the women who took the real risks."

Peut-être il serait temps que vous soyez des révolutionnaires. Que vous suiviez les pas de vos compatriotes en prenant des risques. Au féminin.
posted by fraula at 2:25 PM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


As a professional developer and a woman, I'm irritated on, like, all sides.

No one ever said women were too hard to animate, so that strawman bandied about is really bothering me and it sucks to see it repeated here. Lampooning it by saying "it's so easy!" just trivializes the amount of work that goes into AAA games. It's not, like, the biggest undertaking in the world, but it does mean a whole lot of work.

Meanwhile, I've heard this "limited resources" excuse so, so many times about lack of female characters in games - heroes, enemies, NPCs - and it has enough truth in it that it's hard to fight while also frustrating beyond belief. Having a company that has, like, nine studios devoted to a single game also say "limited resources!" is just the straw that broke the camel's back.

The first game I worked on professionally was a 2D puzzle game with plans for a female hero, with art all done and shared animations, but they cut her because of vague reasons like "limited resources", all because they just didn't want to expend the effort. In the second game they promised she'd be playable and then, yes, cut again. After I left I found out she did end up in the third... as a damsel in distress. The "limited resources" excuse is both a reflection of the real costs of adding content to your game AND a symptom of cultural misogyny. It doesn't have to be either-or. You don't need to trivialize the work needed to get both male and female characters in a game in order to prove that the choice to only have one is sexist, when that "one" is almost always the male hero.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:29 PM on June 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


And I'm saying the inclusion of diverse characters is the only thing that is held to this standard where people say 'oh, we need to show the value of including that'.

I don't think this is necessarily true. I think it's something that get's thought about when they decide how many weapons to include in Battlefield 4 or the latest CoD or how many maps to include at launch vs. how many should be in each expansion.

I recently played through Batman: Arkham Origins and was looking into how to unlock the various alternate costumes. Most of them are rewards for having pre-ordered the game from specific retailers. It's art resources that were created specifically to drive more sales.

I'm talking about gamers who aren't straight or white or male who want to see the option to play characters they personally identify with, and aren't given the chance because the industry doesn't understand its own market. The market is demonstrably there and one of the biggest companies in the market that makes some of the largest, most complex AAA games in that market, is badly fluffing servicing that market.

I'm with you there, I think part of the problem is that this is a growing demographic despite the fact that precious few developers are being inclusive of those demographics. In the same way that I rail against DLC that is available at launch, on disc DLC, and the like but keep on buying it. I'm also kind of loath to suggest that those demographics are responsible for driving the change. I think it's more fair to saddle the developers and male gamers with that obligation.
posted by VTX at 4:18 PM on June 12, 2014


4. Finally, the idea that there's any point to distinguishing them AT ALL is laughable.

I think there is some utility in separating out the statistics by platform only because it doesn't seem to me (I could be wrong) like there are the same kind of gender problems with tablet games that there are on consoles.
posted by VTX at 4:44 PM on June 12, 2014


The Ass Effect dress thing probably would have worked better if they had put femShep in a suit. Then she would have read like femShep in a suit, because Hale owned the role.

With a handful of exceptions, I have a couple of criteria for games. 1) is there a female character and 2) does she get to wear pants. I gave transistor a pass because there's actually a brief narrative cut-scene that explains the weird costuming.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


There could be plenty of reasons to distinguish them; if mobile gamers spend a fraction of the money on games than do PC or console gamers that alone would make them very different. But none of that is particularly relevant to whether there should be a woman avatar in Assassin's Creed.
posted by Justinian at 6:18 PM on June 12, 2014


I suppose that's relevant from a developer point of view and not necessarily relevant to whether we view people as "gamers" full stop, though.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2014


I've been noticing for a while that I basically don't get any AAA games that force me to play as a dude. I mean, the only Assassin's Creed I have is the one where you're a black lady in New Orleans. I quit bothering with GTA when they stopped having the change character codes.

I will give little indy games a pass. But if your budget is bigger than most feature films you can fucking well spend some time inviting half the goddamn planet into your world.

I didn't really have major plans to buy AssCreed N+1 - I really haven't been having much fun with whichever AssCreed I do have, because the opening missions are so fucking boring; when I finished them I immediately just ran around finding all the high perch viewpoint markers, and have absolutely no interest in slogging through more plot - but now I'm definitely not going to buy it.

I mean, I'm a transwoman. I spent twenty five years of my life trying to pretend to be a guy, I don't want to pay to do it in my leisure time now.
posted by egypturnash at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2014 [13 favorites]


give me a copy of blender and i can do up a female character model right now, in my basement, without getting up or wearing pants. this is the most pathetic excuse i've ever heard
posted by young_son at 10:44 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow, elizardbits, that's just ... stupefying.
Who the fuck wants to play an adventure game that's essentially an animated version of Mystery Date?
Especially when there are Templars who require ventilation: Here's your mystery date, buddy - stabity stab stab stab...

sigh, indeed.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:54 PM on June 12, 2014


I'm a little further into the game now and it remains troublesome. She has 3 personas she can adventure as, and the Assassin persona is always notorious. This means that guards and enemies are always on the lookout for her and will always react negatively to her presence when she is in the normal gameplay mode of every other game. In order for her to reduce this notoriety, she has to bribe corrupt magistrates, instead of bribing heralds/town criers on the street or tearing down wanted posters as in previous games. The only persona which can successfully bribe corrupt magistrates is her Lady persona in a fancy dress.

So in order to complete game missions in what is the standard persona/appearance for all other lead characters in all other games in the franchise, she has to put on a fancy dress and flirt with men and bribe them.

I'm really frustrated and disappointed.
posted by elizardbits at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Her third persona is a slave, which she uses to infiltrate high security locations and collect information. There's a lot to unpack there as well, probably, but my main issue with this persona is that if you freerun through town in this getup people grow suspicious and your notoriety increases. Yes, you become automatically notorious because you are dressed as a slave and you are running.

Add that to the facts that 01) in the Lady persona your dress hampers your movements and you can't sprint, freerun, or climb, and 02) in the Assassin persona you are constantly notorious, and it just gets worse. Additionally, you are an ineffective fighter and have limited tool and weapon use in every persona aside from Assassin.

So you are further forced into the flirty role by the very mechanisms of gameplay, or are forced to cover large distances walking slowly.
posted by elizardbits at 7:14 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


David Gaider talked about this (in regards to video game writing) a while back.

BioWare's David Gaider: more inclusive games make sense from a "business perspective"
posted by homunculus at 1:31 AM on June 14, 2014


I have high hopes for DA3. Given the much longer development time when compared to DA2 I'm cautiously optimistic that they learned their lesson and are giving the game the attention it needs and deserves. They know damn well if they don't hit at least a triple on this one the DA franchise is dead in the water.
posted by Justinian at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2014


Ugh. And if they hit that bullseye the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have high hopes for DA3. Given the much longer development time when compared to DA2 I'm cautiously optimistic that they learned their lesson and are giving the game the attention it needs and deserves.

Yeah, it sounds like they're going to get it right this time. I'm looking forward to it.
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on June 14, 2014






...and some of those don't have male PC's.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:41 PM on June 14, 2014


All I know is, if you're playing any of the Mass Effect games as anything other than FemShep, you're living in the world wrong.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


But Taaaaaaliiiiiii.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:37 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]




Garry Newman, developer of Rust: I never understand the misguided outrage of the self elected video gamer feminists. He's trying to say something more subtle but just comes off like a sexist jerk.
posted by Nelson at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2014


Wow. Such Tonedeafness. Much bullshit.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2014


The Historical Case for Playable Women in Assassin's Creed: Unity. It's quite a bit more detailed than just pointing out the existence of Charlotte Corday. If, like me, you agree in the abstract that Ubisoft is making a bad call by cutting female avatars for co-op but can't muster much actual outrage, it's worth a read. I didn't know much about the role of women in the revolution, but looking at the decision through that lens it looks completely tone deaf in terms of the themes the game is presumably going to be exploring.
posted by figurant at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2014


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