I don’t quite know what to think of this. Actually I do, it just might take me a while to sort my actual thoughts out from my feelings about this development. Earlier this week, various bloggers in Europe attended an EU Fanday for Guild Wars 2, held in Brighton. I would have loved to go to this, but as a fairly new ‘guild wars’ fan I didn’t get any advanced notice of it (or I didn’t notice it, take your pick.) The lovely people over at Guildmag have posted a transcription of the Q & A session, and Tasha Darke of Attached to Keyboard posted the first half of that Q & A as well. The first half at ATK is more lore and raid/character focused, whereas the Guildmag section has a lot of pvp questions in it. It is the guildmag section I’m going to be focusing on because it touches on some important things about customisation.
Important, and worrying things.
Others have already posted about how bikini-riffic a lot of armour has turned out to be, when put on a woman in the game. The male version of the same armour is often fully covering, and the woman who is an elementalist dances around in an impractical skirt. That said, there are some adorable outfits and a reasonable range, but for me it adds up to another reason to stick with Guardian and Ranger characters. Although they seem to suffer from bikini syndrome too.
Univers-Virtuels: Will it be possible to create less perfect characters or older [characters]? Because your human especially, are very young and the female all are very pretty. So would it be possible to be more flexible in the character creations?
Kristen Perry: All of the characters creation and the different kinds of options that you have with your characters, all of the races have a lot of variety. We have facial sliders now, so that you want to have a larger nose, or smaller mouth or maybe a broader jaw, those are available for that and so in addition to that, we’re trying to also lay around different outings like charr. They have the fur that you can choose, there’s your base colour, but then there’s just a multitude of different kind of animal patterns that youll be able to put on them. The asura have similar things, the sylvari have similar things as well, the tattoos with norns and facial hair and different beards and everything like that, we always intended to have a various static and beautiful [character]. Visage for a lot of our character creation, but we’re also trying to give a lot of variety for the people to create what they want to look like.
Hurrah for the facial customisations, but the asura/charr stuff sounds very obvious. The question here wasn’t aimed at variations along a narrow line, they want real customisation. Granted I don’t think there was much customisation available in beta, but the question really points at ‘young and pretty humans’. Kristen effectively dodges this by not talking about humans.
Univers-Virtuels: So, at the moment the humans are very young and it’s not possible to make it older as a character, or it will be possible to turn off the make up for woman?
Kristen: I’m not sure, we have some variety in there, but largely we want an idealized beautiful base face, so I think the humans are probably going to remain within a certain spectrum.
Univers-Virtuels: So will it be possible to have no make-up for the womans?
Kristen: I think there are bases with different kinds of make-up on them, so you would be able to choose a face that we have more or less make-up on, if you want something a bit more natural and then use the facial sliders to customize it from there.
Aidan Taylor: So there’s no chance to make a really old ugly character then?
Colin Johanson: I’ve seen a few norn characters that looked pretty beat up.
Again, notice how they completely dodge the question about being able to turn make up off. ‘More or less make-up’ is not the same as ‘turned off completely’. I say this as someone who definitely plays with and enjoys the make up feature on SWTOR. The lack of bodily customisation is often made up for with unique hair/makeup/face combos, but at the same time I have some characters who are not at all the sort who would bother with putting swirly stripes around their eyes.
And a few norns looking a bit beat up is not the same as being old or ugly. I know this is a fantasy – I am a young and somewhat attractive woman IRL – sometimes I want to play a crotchety veteran soldier, or a young man who is plain looking but intelligent. Fantasy doesn’t just include the idealised self. Fantasy has a much wider vision than this.
Win some, you lose some
I find the words used in the above quotes very distastefu, especiallyl ‘an idealized beautiful base face’. When the game is supposed to be all about the players choice, and the players customisation – why limit the player in such a way? Yes, less people use the so-called ‘ugly’ faces in Warcraft, but that doesn’t take away from the face that the choice is there.
On the other hand, this is another example that shows how within a games company, certain attitudes are not universal. I’ve become a fan of ArenaNet because their lore tends to avoid the pitfalls that Warcraft walks into with such joy. There are many women in the Ghosts of Ascalon book, and yet they are not tokenised warrior women, they are characters in their own right, with their own individual approaches and foibles. ArenaNet has some of the best public relations in terms of gender and sexuality (although they still have a ways to go in some areas), so to see this regressive attitude towards female beauty and self-adornment is unfortunate.
Yes, I’m still considering that Collector’s Edition.