Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

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Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't like it? Don't buy it.

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

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

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

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

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

Sgt. Sykes:

Don't like it? Don't buy it.

You have no idea how much money I save on games following this.

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

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

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

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

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

Don't like it? Don't buy it.

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

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

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

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

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

Sort of, but not really. The biggest difference is how much attention is paid to the side characters. If one of your minions happens to clip through things a little bit while climbing you may not even notice. If your main character is constantly clipping through things the player will notice and the game will feel rushed as a result. You can get away with a lot more minor graphical errors with a character that is normally only for brief periods of time and isn't in the center of the screen.

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

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

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

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

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

Don't like it? Don't buy it.

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

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

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

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

True. But, 2 things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trishbot:
If they had said, "we're sorry, and we'll look into adding them in DLC and future installments. This was a creative choice centered around how we framed the mechanics of the game. We'll endeavor to be more inclusive moving forward", it wouldn't have gone down nearly as bad.

I really hate when someone suggests what someone else should have said. All this is doing is encouraging more spoon-fed lines carefuly made up by lawyers and marketing.

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

Was it really necessary for almost every single person on this site to do an article about this?

Falterfire:

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

Sort of, but not really. The biggest difference is how much attention is paid to the side characters. If one of your minions happens to clip through things a little bit while climbing you may not even notice. If your main character is constantly clipping through things the player will notice and the game will feel rushed as a result. You can get away with a lot more minor graphical errors with a character that is normally only for brief periods of time and isn't in the center of the screen.

Fair enough. But the work is at least started, right? It's less of a "takes double the time" and more "takes a bit more time to polish"? I played Black Flag and there was quite a few graphical glitches that made it through the process as it is, a few more in the name of some diversity wouldn't hurt, in my opinion.

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

Nimzabaat:
Fair enough. But the work is at least started, right? It's less of a "takes double the time" and more "takes a bit more time to polish"? I played Black Flag and there was quite a few graphical glitches that made it through the process as it is, a few more in the name of some diversity wouldn't hurt, in my opinion.

I don't disagree with you - Even if it cost the full amount, it's not like Ubisoft is making budget games - I was just answering your specific question about whether a simple import of existing assets was possible.

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

Clive Howlitzer:
Was it really necessary for almost every single person on this site to do an article about this?

We have to be really sure that we understand the issue

I'm not opposed

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

This is kind of what I've been saying elsewhere, though of course more eloquent and fleshed-out, so thank you.

I think Aiden Pearce gets a little too much flak, though. The writers put some work into his character to make him a little more fleshed out and his interactions a little more dynamic and believable than a lot of stoic grizzled white ciphers; the scene in the cemetery where he blames himself for his niece's death was unexpected (how many scripts would have had his sister blaming him, instead?) and a scene where someone basically calls him out on using a Batman voice as "the Vigilante" suggested to me that someone had at least given these things some thought.

It's getting a little too popular to snipe at Watch Dogs right now, in my opinion.

From what I had read, this makes perfect sense to me. Just putting women in a game is far easier said than done, but Ubi are morons. Total, colossal, morons.

If I got to choose whether to play as a female or male assassin, I'd choose female every time.

I've gotta say i'm bugged by the addition of co-op in farcry 4 AND unity. Those games should only focus on a single player experience.

Sgt. Sykes:

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

True. But, 2 things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with most of what you are saying, a budget is a budget and not every game will cater to everyone. Ubisoft does not deserve all of its criticism. They decided to go with the Halo-style of co-op - essentially four of the main character in differently coloured outfits, which is all right if a bit outdated for 2014. The thing that annoys me is that when they did not defend this choice, they made an otherwise decent design decision appear like an unfortunate side effect of some lack of funding. Stick to your guns or apologize wholeheartedly, darnit; everything else seems like trying to weasel away. (And again I am putting Words of 20/20 Hindsight +3 into their mouths. It is really hard not to, even though you pointed out some good reasons to avoid doing that.)

Yet I also think of these recent controversies as something more than the PC-cries of misguided social justice warriors out for the blood of gaming as we know it*, as it might seem from the posts of the most sceptic of forum users. We have reached a point where the demographics of gamers are changing, and the old method of AAA-pandering to the lowest common (white, male) denominator is slowly becoming anacronistic. The new gaming masses are realizing how unrepresentative the gaming industry as a whole is, and as we humans usually do they are descending on a few symbolic cases - Ubisoft is a clear and present target, the entirety of gaming is a formless blob, even though it is the latter that has to change. Eventually all of this will even out, games will be made for those who desire to play them, but in the meantime there are going to be some ugly battles along the way.

*exaggerated for effect

Clive Howlitzer:
Was it really necessary for almost every single person on this site to do an article about this?

It was a big issue and if you've read enough of what they've previously written it should come as no surprise that Jim, Yatzee, Critical Miss, and Shamus care about stuff like that and would want to share their opinion. Like anyone else in the press.

Clive Howlitzer:
Was it really necessary for almost every single person on this site to do an article about this?

Last I checked, pretty much only Jim and Shamus have talked about this (Critical Miss doesn't really count since it's just a comic, so of course it's going to be about whatever's topical). I don't really see how two people are "almost every single person". And even still, if they have different things to say about the matter, then yeah, I'm perfectly fine with everyone on The Escapist doing their own piece about the matter.

Case in point: Jim is largely calling-out Ubisoft for having the kind of money to be able to throw at the problem to solve it, and that their excuses are basically just that; excuses. Over-all taking a more direct media pundit approach to calling Ubisoft out. Meanwhile Shamus is looking at this from his own experience and trying to meet Ubisoft halfway by saying that it's lame that they aren't including female characters, but saying that he can understand how Assassin's Creed requires a bit more complex animations with the way that characters interact directly, or how you can climb on various ledges. Either the women would have to be built like men (basically just the male model with boobs slapped on), or they would have to do a lot of extra testing to make sure that every animation works.

At the end of the day, you can never have too many viewpoints when forming your own opinion on a matter. So as long as each article on the matter brings something new to the table, I'm all for them all talking about the same thing.

While i agree on the exclusion of female chars being BS...

Whats this "white" argument all about? Ofcourse the dudes are white.. its france during the initial french revolution.

Having a colored assasin makes absolutely no sense there since a) why should they be involved in the countries affairs? Wheres the personal investment, at that time people of color where migrants at best and not exactly that deeply involved with the political ongoings, theres no drama to be had here. Dude comes over from the philipines and directly joins the french revolution in killing off a king he has no business of hating (yet)?

b) this is about a very important point in french history, making it not about a frenchman(or preferably a women because female assasins are more interesting from a story writing standpoint in my opinion) as a protagonist would be pretty insulting towards the french. That was THE event that everyone remembers from history class about french history... yet for political correctness sake it should atleast be a colored dude if we cant get a woman?

c) Impractical... having a black dude in a country that was whiter then cheesecake is like putting a black dude in a game thats about feudal japan being a successfull assasin there. You stick out like a sore thumb and they would simply hunt down your minority.. put a price on any information about colored people and mr super assasin would have no place left to hide or even to move around. I mean if the US of A could put all citizens with asian background into concentration camps during WW2 imagine what a monarch could do who could even care less about the rights of a minority?

The only reason i can even think of thought for not including a woman is that a woman not wearing womans clothing during that period of time would be highly suspicious. Werent there actually laws that forbade women to wear trousers? Also they would have to completly change the gameplay mechanics, dont know about you guys but i wouldnt count on a female assasin doing parcur and jumping from rooftops in a dress. The game would have needed to be much slower paced, it would be alot more cloak and dagger then what assasins creed stands for. In short it would be a completly different game requiring alot more brains and patience.

I think ubisoft is just scared that such a game would scare away the current audience and thats the reason why they dont consider a female protagonist. Then again that would mean that they actually thought longer about this issues then the two seconds that spokesperson needed to come up with that BS excuse...

Karadalis:
While i agree on the exclusion of female chars being BS...

Whats this "white" argument all about? Ofcourse the dudes are white.. its france during the initial french revolution.

The more coherent arguments I've seen on the subject aren't directed towards AC:Unity in particular but rather the lack of a colored protagonist among any of their big titles. Okays, so Unity can't have one because setting, but if we're using the justification that the protagonist should be a native, why is Far Cry 4's protagonist a random white kid instead of a native of the region? Why did Watch_Dogs' guy have to be a random white guy? and so on.

It's not that any one game on its own is indicative of anything bad, it's that all of Ubisoft's AAA games when taken as a group indicate a lack of diversity. And maybe each and every one of them was built around their specific protagonist, but could Ubisoft not really find a single title to greenlight for a major studio that had a protagonist that wasn't a white guy?

Callate:
I think Aiden Pearce gets a little too much flak, though. The writers put some work into his character to make him a little more fleshed out and his interactions a little more dynamic and believable than a lot of stoic grizzled white ciphers; the scene in the cemetery where he blames himself for his niece's death was unexpected (how many scripts would have had his sister blaming him, instead?)

I haven't played Watch_Dogs specifically, but this particular example isn't a great one for proving depth of story - Having the main character blame themselves for things that went wrong in the plot is a pretty common trope. Tropes aren't bad, (and all good stories are built at least in part out of them) but if you're trying to indicate a character is deep, you should probably use something that isn't so universal.

Karadalis:
While i agree on the exclusion of female chars being BS...

Whats this "white" argument all about? Ofcourse the dudes are white.. its france during the initial french revolution.

c) Impractical... having a black dude in a country that was whiter then cheesecake is like putting a black dude in a game thats about feudal japan being a successfull assasin there. You stick out like a sore thumb

Stick out more or less then a dude wearing a uniform that says "I am an assassin" everywhere you go?

The only reason i can even think of thought for not including a woman is that a woman not wearing womans clothing during that period of time would be highly suspicious. Werent there actually laws that forbade women to wear trousers? Also they would have to completly change the gameplay mechanics, dont know about you guys but i wouldnt count on a female assasin doing parcur and jumping from rooftops in a dress. The game would have needed to be much slower paced, it would be alot more cloak and dagger then what assasins creed stands for. In short it would be a completly different game requiring alot more brains and patience.

Women assassins have a been a thing in AC lore (also in real life) since AC2. You specifically recruit them in ACBro, where they wear regular assassin unifroms. There's been a PC female assassin that didn't wear the uniform and sometimes wore a dress even incorporating how the different clothes made people treat you. In AC4 one of the main characters was a female assassin pretending to be a male pirate for most of the game. It's doable and has been done. There is zero excuse why they couldn't include one even if it "doesn't make sense".

On Ubisoft's catalog being a "sausagefest":

Really? This is the studio that published what is often said to be one of the best female characters in gaming (Jade, Beyond: Good and Evil) and had an Assasin's Creed game with a black female protagonist (AC Liberation).

And even after these games failed to get sales in the range of the rest of their franchise(Liberation) or bombed outright (B:GaE), they still released a game with a little girl as the main character (Child of Light).

But, I did like your article. It was far more level headed than the other stuff on this site about the subject.

I want Beyond Good & Evil 2, goddamit! >.<'

But yeah, Ubi is a company run by tools who steamroll their good games, in favor of more shovelware, more Tom Clancy bullshit (poor guy can't take a break even in his grave) and a new yearly Ass Creed.

For every Valiant Hearts, Rayman Origins/Legends, Beyond Good & Evil and Child of Light, we get more Rabbids, more shitty dancing games, more Ass Creed sequels and DLCs and more Tom Clancy.

Jasper van Heycop:
On Ubisoft's catalog being a "sausagefest":

Really? This is the studio that published what is often said to be one of the best female characters in gaming (Jade, Beyond: Good and Evil) and had an Assasin's Creed game with a black female protagonist (AC Liberation).

And even after these games failed to get sales in the range of the rest of their franchise(Liberation) or bombed outright (B:GaE), they still released a game with a little girl as the main character (Child of Light).

But, I did like your article. It was far more level headed than the other stuff on this site about the subject.

So... three characters? Out of how many grizzled white guys? Yeah, whole lotta diversity there.

And your second point makes me wonder if you even read the article. Ubisoft basically set those games up to fail.

This is probably the most balanced and fair analysis I've read on this issue. Good work.

And you're right, this co-op system sounds pretty half-arsed. I can imagine a situation where Arno has been tasked with assassinating some person, but Barno, Carno and Darno have run off ahead and smashed his face in without you even getting a chance to fight.

I will agree that dealing with making female character models is a hassle, but these days it's starting to seem like it's well worth it. I'd only be a little bit annoyed if my gender wasn't represented in something I liked (Mirror's Edge and MLP being two great examples, and I was absolutely fine with the former), but that's probably only because I get to play as a white guy all the other times.

At this point in time, seeing a woman in a game is like seeing your own shadow, or your reflection in a mirror; it's awesome, it's unexpected, and it makes you stop and investigate. I still remember one time playing Halo:Reach, I got out of my Warthog to examine the first female Marine I'd ever seen in the game. I know how that sounds, but I was just so surprised to see a woman, out there with all the other boys, defending humanity and doesn't afraid of anything. I can also remember that part in Mass Effect 3 when I realized they'd not only done away with most of the nonhuman enemies, but they had no female models except for some special units. People say variety is the spice of life, and in games having both men and women makes the world feel more alive, more real, and more immersive.

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