101: The Breasts That Broke The Game

"During the course of the ESRB's examination, however, the organization saw even more it didn't like. Though the Topless Mod didn't change anything but textures on female NPCs, the ESRB found "more detailed depictions of blood and gore than were considered in the original rating." That, combined with the revelation that the skin texture was among the files shipped with the game on release gave the Board cause to approve a rating change from 'T' to 'M.'"

Michael Zenke examines the strange case of Oblivion's exposed breasts.

The Breasts That Broke The Game

The problem lies mainly with the ESRB's whole rating structure. It simply should be replaced with a system which mirrors that of the film industry. The movies' system, while far from perfect, is more refined and has more caregories, and is pretty well understood by just about everyone. An 'M' rating to begin with would not have hampered sales at all, and saved Bethesda a lot of loot. The handwriting is still on the wall, however, as evidenced by Halo 2's delay for Vista because of the reported nudity issue therein. Attacking games is in a very long American tradition of blaming the latest mass entertainment phenomenon for the troubles of our society. I don't see it ending very soon.

What baffles me most is the fact that the game companies can be held liable for material AFTER the release of a game. In the world of movies, DVDs can include special features and get away with simply putting, "Special features have not been rated." No one bats an eye.

It's simply that the politicians have video games in their crosshairs for now, until the next big form of media comes along and makes a more convenient target. Until then, every moddable game had better put a disclaimer along the lines of the Online Play disclaimer, "Game can be moddable, you might be offended if you install a mod that has the word 'Breasts' in it." And every game from Barbie to Manhunt might as well rate themselves 'M' and save themselves the heartache.

I kinda disagree with the whole article. I understand it in spirit, but the facts don't back it up.

First of all, as was explained in the article, the nude content was on the disc sent to stores. That's as deep as I'd need to dig to come to a conclusion. It's the exact same scenario as Hot Coffee. And since this happened after Hot Coffee (and under the same publisher, Take Two) I see no reason Bethesda should be seen as innocent here.

Second, games that have user generated content will not need to be re-rated as long as the publisher does not ship the game with any overly-objectionable material. To see a real example of this, look at the Sims. Underneath the pixelation, is just smooth skin. No details. So the game gets a T rating. There are skins on the internet that let you add various sexual details. However, EA has no control over them, without compromising the allowable content. Therefore, they are not at fault and the ESRB doesn't need to do anything.

I think it would be responsible for a publisher of a user-modifiable game to let parents know that mods exist and some might be bad. But they don't need to re-rate every game, nor do they need to rate every mod. And they had no plans to.

I think Bethesda is getting too much credit here. If this scenario happened in any other medium, it would invoke the same repercussions. Imagine if Pixar released a DVD that had several nude models hidden on the disc. You had to rip the DVD and go through a few levels of encryption or something, but they were still there. There is no defense for that. Was the content on the disc. Yes. Did they distribute it. Yes. They would be guilty and so is Bethesda.

Probot:
Imagine if Pixar released a DVD that had several nude models hidden on the disc. You had to rip the DVD and go through a few levels of encryption or something, but they were still there. There is no defense for that. Was the content on the disc. Yes. Did they distribute it. Yes. They would be guilty and so is Bethesda.

I think this example is flawed. When you're doing 3-D modeling, if you want the stuff that appears over a model to appear natural, there needs to be a natural layer under that stuff. Enter boobs on orcs. I'm willing to bet the princess from Shrek has them, too, and if Shrek had to render the movement on clothing and draw characters as the camera pans around randomly, there'd be some nude textures hidden away on an encrypted section of the DVD. It's like saying models shouldn't have skeletons or muscles.

I think the real problem here is the way contracts between the ESRB and developers are structured. I have trouble blaming developers for their customers using hex editors to get to stuff they're not supposed to. (Not that I blame people for doing it; get all the fun you can out of a game.) The little Johnnys of the world, the people the ESRB is there to protect, aren't going to have access to that type of equipment. And really, like Michael said, until the media got a hold of this mod, no one even knew it existed in the first place, so I doubt a kid would've gone looking for it.

Additionally, I think the real question here is one of respect for the ESRB's calls. If it insists on this mincing, overly puritanical viewpoint, it's going to lose the credibility it has built up. The fact that Microsoft had to repackage Halo 2 on Vista because of a picture of a programmer's butt in an obscure error code only reachable in the level builder, at substantial cost, is ludicrous.

People laugh about it on forums and such, but the subtext is: the ESRB doesn't understand the important things. I find this especially applicable here, because of their claim that they 'found new violence and gore' when they went back to look at the game. Bethesda made it perfectly clear from the get-go how violent the game was; the fact that the ESRB apparently missed this the first time around says things about their observation process. They're not good things.

I fully support the ESRB's right to pre-emptively cover their asses. When Presidential hopefuls base a lot of their campaign around having your industry in their crosshairs, the only sensible option is to anticipate anything that'll get you bad press, and make a big show of cracking down on it before the bad press happens. The ESRB drew the line at having the content on the disc, readily available or not. An arbitrary line from a technical point of view, but their opponent is equally arbitrary.

At this stage in the development of the medium, the ESRB is there to make us look legitimate, until such time as our legitimacy is self-evident.

Developers should be more responsible, I think. The big studios reflect on the industry, and if they give a damn about it they shouldn't act like 12 year olds and put stupid crap in there like "hot coffee" or whatever. There is no need for a developer to put in a realistic nude skin, there is no defense for that.

No matter how hard it is to access, putting that data on the disc makes the industry look stupid.

Aside from that, the ESRB has displayed their own inadequacy. They could have been frank and simply told us that yes, the nudity mod was the reason for the rating change, but instead they said basically: in addition, we can't get the job done right the first time, so lets add gore and violence to the list of reasons for the amendment.

I'm sick of hearing about re-ratings of games already out. It's not society, it's not developers, it's not the ESRB, it's all three of them.

Joe:
When you're doing 3-D modeling, if you want the stuff that appears over a model to appear natural, there needs to be a natural layer under that stuff.

Hammer, nail, head. We don't give Barbie dolls a "Teen" rating. The whole thing is absurd.

whoisdialogue:
I find this especially applicable here, because of their claim that they 'found new violence and gore' when they went back to look at the game. Bethesda made it perfectly clear from the get-go how violent the game was; the fact that the ESRB apparently missed this the first time around says things about their observation process.

Indeed.

I also agree that the rating system is broken. For instance, consider:

M -- Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

AO -- Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

Resident Evil 4 is M. So's Gears of War. I love both games, but judging by those metrics they ought to have been AO -- unless the ESRB means something very different by "prolonged scenes of intense violence" than I do. In reality, to my knowledge, no game has ever been rated AO solely for violent content. "Graphic sexual content" is the only hard-and-fast criterion the ESRB uses for making games AO, despite the wording of their ratings.

As far as the issue of whether "Bethesda was to blame" or not, Joe nailed it. Holding them accountable and judging their work as M rated or pornographic would be like throwing the paritioners out of church for being naked under their clothes.

As far as the ESRB goes, they try. They really, really try. And their whole effort, their whole reason for existence, is to prevent the government or a "consumer group" from creating an outside body governing games. That's it. They need to be as strident and as accountable as they can be to prove to government that they are handling the issue and that we don't need a Jack Valenti or RIAA coming in and telling games makers how to make their games. And believe me, if you think the ESRB is screwed up, you don't want to see what would replace them if they failed.

I wouldn't be so quick to judge Bethesda for being irresponsible. There wasn't a hidden nude texture for the female torso on the Oblivion disc. The modder just changed a small portion of the file to point to the male torso texture instead of the female torso texture. Instant nipplage.

I expect full body long-johns in Elder Scrolls V.

At some point I would just expect the developers to ask for an M rating whether the game is even close to it or not, just to avoid the potential risk. Why wouldn't they if the game is susceptible to reevaluation due to user modification? By those standards any game is likely to be rated M months after release.

Has there been any indication that Little Big Planet will allow custom textures? All I've seen so far is the manipulation of assets provided by the game's developers.

Daggerfall was filled with pixilated nudity, if I (fondly) remember correctly. Obviously, I was scarred for life. ;-)

Joe:
[quote=Probot]I think this example is flawed. When you're doing 3-D modeling, if you want the stuff that appears over a model to appear natural, there needs to be a natural layer under that stuff. Enter boobs on orcs.

This is wrong though.

Having two textures overlaid means you have two items in memory, and memory is still the biggest worry for game developers.

The model mesh itself may have a raised nipple made by extending a few verts if using cloth simulation on the model, but you don't texture it - it's a complete waste of memory even for a game as advanced as Oblivion.

If Bethedsa had nude textures on the disc and didn't tell the ESRB, then they are at fault.

If what Danjo said is true, then fine, it's obviously not Bethedsa's fault.

Danjo Olivaw:
There wasn't a hidden nude texture for the female torso on the Oblivion disc. The modder just changed a small portion of the file to point to the male torso texture instead of the female torso texture. Instant nipplage.

I wasn't aware that this was the case, but it makes the whole scenario seem so stupid its just not funny.

Last I heard there wasn't anything wrong with a guy who has man-boobs walking around topless, in fact many people would think that was heading away from the sexual content end of the spectrum. So where did the ESRB get the idea that the included textures (which as stated, are from a male torso) are pornographic? Just because someone made a mod that makes all the girls look like guys?!

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I think the biggest problem here is not with the organisations that define and enforce the ratings, but with the values of the society that these ratings stem from.

There are many many countries in the world were girls (real girls, not computer animations) going topless is not only acceptable but somewhat expected in public areas like beaches. For a country that is so bound by the concepts of freedom, like free speech and the right to own a gun, the US has some bafflingly close minded views about what is unacceptable with respect to nudity and sexual content.

That's what we get for living in a country founded by Puritans.

Sabrehawk:
That's what we get for living in a country founded by Puritans.

Obviously, the solution is time travel.

And pr0n ... lots of pr0n.

Sabrehawk:
And pr0n ... lots of pr0n.

I, for one, welcome Sabrehawk to this discussion.

Echolocating:
Daggerfall was filled with pixilated nudity, if I (fondly) remember correctly. Obviously, I was scarred for life. ;-)

At a resolution so low as to seem censored by today's standards. I love it.

Goofonian:
So where did the ESRB get the idea that the included textures (which as stated, are from a male torso) are pornographic? Just because someone made a mod that makes all the girls look like guys?!

Well, the mod still leaves the female torso model, so they have boobs, and then with the guys' texture they get nipples. The end result is pornographic by WalMart standards. Honestly, I don't think the ESRB or Bethesda looked into it very deeply at all. The ESRB because they don't know what they're doing, and Bethesda because they know it would just cost less to just bend over and take it.

There seems to be confusion on what the nature of the toplessness in Oblivion was. I read what the modder who created the topless mod described how they created it from the site where it was posted(though I forget what the site was). When all clothing is removed on a character in oblivion, there is always an ugly loincloth on the hips on both genders and on females a bra made of an ugly rag. When clothing is worn on a female model, the bra is removed as not to clash models with the clothing. When the bra is removed on the topless female model by modding, you see nothing; the breasts are invisible. The skin is absent on the breasts and you can see right into the character model. Now, the skins for females and males are the same, so the modder simply changed how the skin was applied on the female model so that the breasts could be seen. The combination of removal of the bra and modification of the female model skin application was the topless mod.
From my understanding, bethesda created a situation where you couldn't see the breasts unless you actually changed the game itself, and was thus beyond ESRB guidelines. I do, however, understand that the ESRB and to do something, even if nothing needed to be done(which nothing needed to be done, in an ideal world), and rerated the game to defend against the forces of ignorance and hysteria using the violence as an excuse to give to the gamer's side.

Archon:

Sabrehawk:
And pr0n ... lots of pr0n.

I, for one, welcome Sabrehawk to this discussion.

That's what I'm here for. :o)

Joe:

Probot:
Imagine if Pixar released a DVD that had several nude models hidden on the disc. You had to rip the DVD and go through a few levels of encryption or something, but they were still there. There is no defense for that. Was the content on the disc. Yes. Did they distribute it. Yes. They would be guilty and so is Bethesda.

I think this example is flawed. When you're doing 3-D modeling, if you want the stuff that appears over a model to appear natural, there needs to be a natural layer under that stuff. Enter boobs on orcs. I'm willing to bet the princess from Shrek has them, too, and if Shrek had to render the movement on clothing and draw characters as the camera pans around randomly, there'd be some nude textures hidden away on an encrypted section of the DVD. It's like saying models shouldn't have skeletons or muscles.

They'd probably fake it with normal mapping and bone weights, anyway.

In the production of 3D movies, yes the models they use have layers and are most assuredly naked under the clothes we see them wear, but when exporting to the movie files, the frames are pre-rendered and flattened to image files. A frame of animation is not stored any differently on a DVD than a frame of live-action, or, for that matter, on a VHS. If you could get ahold of the source file the actual animators used on their computers, you could easily remove the clothes (and you wouldn't need to hack, just select and delete), but DVDs do not contain the sources, and once it's on a DVD, you can't hack something out of a scene. If you wanted to make Princess Fiona naked on the Shrek DVD, you'd need to open each frame in a photo-editing software and paint over what you see.

Video games, on the other hand, cannot be pre-rendered, because you can choose what your character does, so they have to render it on demand. So games actually DO include poly-models. Now, whether those models actually have anything under the clothes you see depends on the game. If you cannot choose the character's costume (or unlock alternate ones), or if you can only choose the color, generally speaking, animators don't bother putting layers on the model, we just make the outfit the skin texture. Now, it's still easier to make a nude skin than it would be on a DVD, given that you can just apply it once it's made and you don't have to do anything from then on if you've done it right. But you still have to paint it on as a skin, rather than just editing out the costume.

Now, if the game DOES allow you to choose a costume, then the programmers put nude textures on the models. However, usually, we don't add privates, which means that the characters lack defined genetilia. The space between their legs is just blank, a flat skin tone (unless it's an adult game where you're SUPPOSED to see nudity, but that doesn't involve modding). And that also means that we don't put nipples on female characters. If, on a given game, the nipples are visibly poking through the clothing, don't be fooled, that's not a texture on the breasts, that's a normal-map thrown on the clothing it's poking through. That's why a mod needs to do more than just remove the clothing, it needs to apply a new skin

What's more, some programmers now are anticipating mods, so they're tossing in a little trick where, when all the clothes are removed, a bra of some kind covers the model, and that bra is actually part of the skin texture instead of being separate, so when it's removed by hacking, the skin disappears and the breasts are invisible. That bra disappears when other costume choices conflict with it, but there are still no nipples visible, if the other costume is removed via modding, there are no textures. Just like The Sims.

The reason I'm yammering on about all of this is that the ESRB has literally no reason to use this as a reason to re-rate the game. If someone made a ROM hack of the original Sonic the Hedgehog game that featured pornographic images in the closing credits (thank you, Tyler Durden), would that be a reason for the ESRB to re-rate that game? I don't think so. It's exactly the same thing, since you don't just have to remove something from the code to get the good stuff, you have to add something too.

Anyway, if this is tl;dr for you, just read Sorcerer Arcane's comment. :-) I realize it's a little late to be talking about this, but I just joined recently and only found this article in the archives. My apologies if this is just stirring up old shit, but I just wanted to offer my $0.02.

The problem is that the government does nothing about it, and takes people like Jack Thompson serious, while there's no proof that it influences children in any way. It's like taking people serious who say the world will end in seven days.

If I understand well what you said, ESRB changed the rating from Teen to Mature because a modder created topless textures for the game, using different assets presents in the game ?
So, in the end, Bethesta is blamed for what a user did using the devellopement tools at its disposal ?
What's next ? General Motors is going to have to stop selling 4X4 because people got killed in car accidents involoving these vehicules ? I wish it could happen...

The problem is that the video game industry is victim of original policies. Devellopers and publishers are being held responsible for what people do with their games, whereas this happends in no other commercial branch.

And what was the issue ? People could see topless women in the game ! That's very dangerous ! Oh, yes, a lot of people or children get sick, mad or are getting killed around the world because they see topless women on beaches ! Wait, no... What happends to children that see every summer topless women on beaches... ? nothing.
What happends to teenagers who see people getting killed in a violent way in front of their eyes ? They have to consult a psychiatrist for the rest of their lives.

But of course seeing someone getting killed in a video game is less shocking, because it's a video game, and to they get Teen ratings. And that's the same for everything.
So, why seeing something that is by no means shocking, even for children, in a video game should earn it a M rating ? There's absolutely no logic in that.

There's no logic because that's a religious and cultural problem. Sex has been for centuries something regarded by religion as "dirty","evil","bad". Why ? Because it procures fun freely. And someone who is happy will not need faith. Faith is something that is a lot more easy to get when people are miserable, because through faith, they can expect more, and through priers, they forgot their situation. That was the whole point of religion during the middle-age in Europe.
And this idea that fun is bad, continues to exist, sometimes subconsciously today. Why are nude persons and representations of them in public considered not only innapropriate (that's what they are) but also shocking and bad ? Because watching them procures pleasure, and because a seing a nude body of the opposite sex is generally what happends before having sex.
This cultural fear of nudity continues to exist today, some people know why, for other, it's just subconscious.
Why ESRB didn't like the fact that teenagers could see topless women in the game ? Because they think that teenagers shouldn't see topless women... Why ?... They would have hard time explaining that with real arguments based on facts. They don't like it because there's a fear that lies in their minds. They fear that teenagers could be masturbating in front of these images... And my god, they might experience pleasure doing it !
We need to put a M rating on it ! quickly !

And I think that's why the most recent form of entertainments (today video games) are so much bashed. Because they are fun !

Personnaly, if I had 13-year old children, I wouldn't mind that they being able to see nude content in video games, when they would become teenagers. Because having them excited about women seems to me a lot better than seeing them enjoying the view of dead ennemies and exploded torsoes.

What i still dont get is how they were all going on about the sex scene in Mass effect... this i mentioned on another thread, have you seen the Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit sex scene
http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/41890.html as a warning thats the sex scene on the link. But people are right ESRB do complain about these things after they were released.

Relgaro:
What i still dont get is how they were all going on about the sex scene in Mass effect... this i mentioned on another thread, have you seen the Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit sex scene...

I have, and I distinctly remember thinking: "What the hell? Isn't this porn? How did I unlock this"? :D
What's Fahrenheit's rating, T? I guess the reason it slipped under the radar is because it takes place in the last part of the game and as such is easily missed by someone playing the game just to get a feel of its general level of inapropriateness or whatever it is those ESRB people do when they rate things.

I've seen boobies & blood in movies since I was a tiny tiny girl, so I'm left wondering what crawled up the ESRBs butts. Breasts are a natural & beautiful thing, ask any suckling baby when a naked breast last traumitised him.

i Loled so hard at this Article !

likalaruku:
I've seen boobies & blood in movies since I was a tiny tiny girl, so I'm left wondering what crawled up the ESRBs butts. Breasts are a natural & beautiful thing, ask any suckling baby when a naked breast last traumitised him.

That's a hell of a Necro man. You do realise we're looking at the past here?

So anything that get's rule34'd even mildly by a single person will be re-rated?

So if I dress up with my girl-friend and make some less child-friendly teletubbies episode, the retard-brigade known as the ESRB has to make the show M rated?

Stupidity matched with legalpower like that of teh ESRB will eventually be the bane of good gaming.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here