Fans Mad At Ubisoft For Nixing Female Characters In 2 Games; Ubisoft Mumbles Something About Cost

from the women-are-expensive dept

So, let's get this out of the way: I don't for a moment believe that Ubisoft, as a company, is sexist, prejudiced, or hates women. I really don't. It may well be a tone-deaf, unwieldly company without much concern for a huge percentage of its customer base, but I don't think the fact that it is suddenly excluding female characters from its games was something the company did out of any ill-feelings towards women. After all, Ubisoft has included female characters in many previous games, even games in the very franchises in question, which makes it all the more baffling why it would open itself up to all the backlash by opting out of the fairer sex this go around.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, there were two separate stories in the past week or so about flagship Ubisoft games nixing the planned inclusion of playable female characters in gameplay. The first concerns Assassin Creed: Unity, the next iteration in the franchise, which had planned to include the same female assassins for multiplayer from previous iterations, but then cut them out completely. Strangely, and likely adding to the fervor of the backlash, a second story came out revealing that plans to include female playable characters in multiplayer for Far Cry 4 have also been dropped, and for similar reasons. Regarding the Assassin's Creed story:

Speaking in an interview with Polygon, Unity creative director Alex Amancio said that while they originally planned to include female assassins, the "reality of production" made adding the additional characters too costly. 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."
And Far Cry 4:
Speaking in an interview with Polygon, Alex Hutchinson, the game's director, said that the developers were "inches away" from allowing players to choose between a man or woman as a co-op buddy in the upcoming shooter's multiplayer. What stopped them? Hutchinson said it was "purely a workload issue." The team didn't have a "female reader for the character" at its disposal, nor did it have "all the animations in place."
The reaction from gamers in general has been decidedly negative. What's worse, there is obviously no positive support for this either. If you're reacting to this news at all, you're almost certainly either very angry or you don't care one way or the other. Now, let's reiterate this to be very clear again: I'm not accusing Ubisoft of hating women, or of refusing to include female characters on any kind of ideological grounds. But that doesn't make the decision and the reasons provided any less stupid. Even other members of the game-developing industry are calling bullshit.
In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. - Jonathan Cooper, Naughty Dog and former Ubisoft animator

"We don't really care to put the effort in to make a woman assassin" #realrealityofgamedevelopment - Manveer Heir, Bioware
Is this some kind of major industry crisis? No, probably not, but as gaming develops as a major entertainment medium for a diversifying demographic base, companies that refuse to listen to the backlash on this kind of thing are going to find themselves in trouble. Something like this in particular really should have been thought through more carefully, even though it's not clear much thought was put into this at all. This isn't the 90's any longer and the average gamer looks far different than the stereotype. We're talking about a 31 year old, likely educated to some degree, person who is every bit as likely to be female as male. Seriously, 48% of gamers are women. The boys club's door has been beaten down by women and game developers had better start recognizing that or risk the consequences, because this was just refusing to put in the time to include some female multiplayer characters and the backlash got this big. Imagine what an even deeper slight to the woman gamer will cause.


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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    'The walking wallets are getting uppity again.'
    'As long as they continue to buy, who cares?'

    The real, and I'd say only important question then is, how many of those (rightly) objecting will refuse to buy the game(s) because of it?

    To a company like that, and to most companies I'd say, customer complaints mean nothing as long as sales aren't affected, so if people really want to make their voice over something like this heard, they need to vote with their wallets, most companies are deaf to anything else.

    Refuse to buy, send an email in saying why you're refusing to buy, and then the companies might care, until then it's all noise and empty threats.

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:57pm

      Re:

      in words many, but as was shown with other games that for example removed dedicated server support....they will pretty much all buy it anyway.....

       

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 16th, 2014 @ 4:20am

      Re:

      The real, and I'd say only important question then is, how many of those (rightly) objecting will refuse to buy the game(s) because of it?
      Meh.. haven't bought an Ubisoft title (shelf full of previous ones) since they started the "always on internet" crap. Don't really care whether they've stopped that now, they've already lost me as a customer. Stuff like this just confirms it.

       

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    Paul Renault (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Of course they have to watch their pennies.

    All that DRM software they have to use costs money!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:25pm

      Re: Of course they have to watch their pennies.

      UPlay is seriously just the worst. Nothing annoys me more than sitting at the title screen for a minute while the game connects to the UPlay servers, all so I can tell it that I don't actually want to sign in.

       

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    amoshias (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    I think people are being a little too quick to dismiss Ubi's defense...

    There was an article on the defunct PA News site about how much money it costs to add new characters into games. The game in question was an indie fighting game, so I assume the costs were lower than they are in a AAA powerhouse like Assassin's Creed. If I remember correctly, they were pretty significant - something like $150k to add one character.

    I'm not trying to defend Ubi here, but I am try to defend their defense :-) I think people are blowing off their "costs too much" rationale a bit too easily.

    Of course, "Costs too much" really means "We don't think having female models in the game will make us as much money as the art and voice assets will cost us," which isn't the world's best defense but, hey, capitalism.

    People from Naughty Dog and Bioware have weighed in and they know way more about this stuff than me, of course... but if they're right, I have to admit I don't get it. I'm straining my mind for an explanation other than "costs too much" or "we hate women in our games," and without one I'm likely to settle on "costs too much."

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

      Re: I think people are being a little too quick to dismiss Ubi's defense...

      Jonathan Cooper, quoted above, is also a former Ubisoft animator so I'd trust him to know what's involved in adding a female character. Reading other comments from people in the industry, you might be surprised how many female characters are built to include most of the male/default animations, just with different targeting relative to the characters size/shape/etc.

      The general consensus is that it really isn't what Ubisoft is claiming it is....

       

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        AzureSky (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

        Re: Re: I think people are being a little too quick to dismiss Ubi's defense...

        I have been beta testing for decades now, and have had this conversation with dev's more then once, female models/characters are not that costly to add if they dont have a huge role in single player, or if they are player models, if they have high interactivity is the same as adding another male character, and cost game to game varies widely, if they start out with the plan to have female characters the only real "extra cost" is voice acting and lets me honest in most games they could pay an inturn to do the voices and if she didnt work out try another.....they dont have to hire pro voice actors....some of teh best games i ever played had voice acting by people who worked in the company and where conscripted to voice a role :)

         

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        AzureSky (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

        Re: Re: I think people are being a little too quick to dismiss Ubi's defense...

        I have been beta testing for decades now, and have had this conversation with dev's more then once, female models/characters are not that costly to add if they dont have a huge role in single player, or if they are player models, if they have high interactivity is the same as adding another male character, and cost game to game varies widely, if they start out with the plan to have female characters the only real "extra cost" is voice acting and lets me honest in most games they could pay an inturn to do the voices and if she didnt work out try another.....they dont have to hire pro voice actors....some of teh best games i ever played had voice acting by people who worked in the company and where conscripted to voice a role :)

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Yeah, it only takes a day or two to find female voice actors, have them record all their dialogue, create entirely new sets of high-resolution textures, and update animations. What on earth was that professional game publisher thinking? /sarcasm

    Even if the Naughty Dog guy WAS just talking about animations, that's still a pretty significant amount of work. Believe it or not, women and men DO actually move differently, and it can certainly look wonky if the animations are swapped over without any changes. Simple stuff like walking and the trademark "Assassin's Creed hay dive" is probably fine, but any kind of fluid athletic movement really needs to take into account the different center of gravity or else it can look really "off".

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:07pm

      Re:

      ubi im sure has models and animations used in other ubi titles they could recycle, as most game devs/publishers on that level tend to do(infact in some beta test circles its been a decade long running joke when we spot what game they copied the animations and models from..in some cases without even making minor changes to the models and just skinning the clothing parts....(kid you not, sometimes its quite noticeable) )

      the cost isnt really high enough to justify not doing it from the start, if the games got heavy single player/campaign and they left out females till the end though.....major cost and pain...and major fuckup, i mean shit its 2014....and they are acting like its the late 90's/early 2k's.....but even then alot of games had female major characters.....or heros!!!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Are you really fighting for gender equality with a fucking panty shot as your avatar? Swing and a miss there, buddy. Swing and a miss.

         

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          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Are you really dismissing a valid point based on a straw-man argument? AzureSky only argued the technical side of game development. Gender equality doesn't apply.

           

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      David, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 6:17pm

      Re:

      Yeah, it only takes a day or two to find female voice actors, have them record all their dialogue, create entirely new sets of high-resolution textures, and update animations. What on earth was that professional game publisher thinking? /sarcasm

      You are missing the point. Creating female characters is expensive. So is creating male characters. An all-male character set that is not horribly stereotypic is not cheaper to create than a mixed character set.

      Of course, if female characters are created as an afterthought, they are an additional cost.

      Treating females as an afterthought implies sexism in the workflows.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    More like "we're too cheap to pay the artists more and spend an extra week or two on GUI design for female characters".

    I know from working on software that it can be frustrating getting GUI drawings to show up just right. I've been told "fix this graph, it's several pixels off from the marks on the X axis". It's not fun doing that, but it only adds a few days programming time to get it right. It's not like Ubisoft is going to lay off all it's programmers once the game is done, they'll just put them onto another project.

     

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      AzureSky (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:14pm

      Re:

      been there, beta testing and helping fix UI bugs, was even sent a copy of scaleform years ago(dont have it anymore) to help try and fix some resolution based issues...eventually it turned out to be easier to scrap the whole UI they had made and start over using a different method(still using scale form but dif method that didnt require resolution specific tweaks)

      and yeah it can be a pain, but as you said, take a couple days, week as a side project.

      most developers recycle models, animations, textures with minor changes so, really their excuse seems more like lazyness to everybody i have talked to.

       

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        Keroberos (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Since Assassin's Creed: Unity is using the same engine as the previous game in the series (and I'm certain that Far Cry 4 is the same), the great majority of the assets probably already exist, or can be easily converted.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:56pm

    The real reason for this is because not enough of you bought a Vita to play AC3:Liberation. CLEARLY female characters don't sell well.

     

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    Miko, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:05pm

    I have to disagree with the assertion that this isn't evidence of an ideological bias on Ubisoft's part, even if it's an implicit rather than explicit bias. If creating each character model is really that expensive, they could have freed up the cash for female character models by having fewer male character models. The fact that they decided to devote all of their customization options to male characters is a pretty clear demonstration of what type of customization options they think are important.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:10pm

      Re:

      What? The implication is that there's one male model and a set of animations that are reusable for the male model.

      If it was an "idealogical bias on Ubisoft's part" I'm pretty damn sure that they wouldn't have released an Assassin's Creed game starring a woman of color - and THEN allowed you to play as that character in other games via DLC. But hey, look, they did and you're completely off-base.

       

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    Jeffry Houser, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    What weird numbers

    How do you rationalize that the average age of a gamer is 31, but 91% of parents are present when games are purchased or rented?

    Doesn't that make the whole data set suspect?

     

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      JoeCool (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 4:57pm

      Re: What weird numbers

      It helps to RTFA. From the report:

      91% of parents whose children play games are present when games are purchased or rented

       

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    amoshias (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:40pm

    So again, I ask...

    For the people who think that it is trivial for Ubi to add female models, and that cost was not an issue... What do you think their reason actually was?

    Ugh, I hate feeling like I'm defending people I don't like for doing things I think are silly...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 2:46pm

    Insider's Informative View/Opinion

    Here's an incredibly informative reddit post from a "Producer/Project Manager with more than a dozen shipped titles across every major platform chiming in, including more than a couple with 8-digit budgets" regarding this "controversy" and the actual hard work/costs to put in a new character:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/comments/27ut97/distinct_lack_of_female_characters_ due_to/ci5z8i7

     

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      JoeCool (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:12pm

      Re: Insider's Informative View/Opinion

      If you read the linked post, here's the key points:

      Because it's a console title that has a firm ship date (release date for AC5 is October 28th), you want to be submitted at least 8 weeks in advance to first party approvals


      They wanted to get back to the female character, but after costing her out, discovered it would take between 25-50 days of work to get her added in properly


      The game date was likely set a year or more in advance by people setting up the contracts I mentioned above, so you may as well consider that date damn near sacred.


      Unless you're a God of the gaming world, games are expected to ship when the bean-counters say, not when they're actually ready. This schedule was set long before being handed to the devs, and damned if you miss the schedule. Big distributors are scared of another Duke Nukem Forever. So while Nintendo might give the next Zelda a bit of flexibility on the schedule, you'll never see that on AC or FC - ESPECIALLY not from UbiSoft. And that's why you see issues like this, or even worse, games that are damn near unplayable due to bugs.

       

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        David, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 4:16pm

        Re: Re: Insider's Informative View/Opinion

        That rationale makes sense only when you stipulate that a female character can only be designed once its male counterpart has been designed.

        If you have ten different races to pick from, there is no compelling reason that the first designed specimen of each is male, is there?

        Of course, when you stipulate "we only add any female characters when we find we have time to spare", deadlines will leave only male characters.

        If doing a female character is "extra work", then the character design team has probably not well diversified skills.

        That's not even dependent on the character designers' actual gender: I can well imagine smart guys specializing on creating non-stereotypical female characters and vice versa.

         

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          Aaron (profile), Jun 15th, 2014 @ 4:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Insider's Informative View/Opinion

          Per the release date theory, the models could always be released for free as DLC. Apparently DLC is hot shit nowadays so I see no problem with them getting that done.

           

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    ohaminothiveminding?, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 3:42pm

    There might be a million reasons to hate Ubisoft but "their game doesn't have enough women" is not one of them.

     

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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    I don't for a moment believe that Ubisoft, as a company, is sexist, prejudiced, or hates women. I really don't.


    Be that as it may, the problem is not exclusive of general endemic cultural sexism. When it comes time to make a decision about cutting, who gets cut? Who gets looked over and passed by most often?

    That tone deafness? That's the cultural sexism (and other factors) that make White Heterosexual Male the Default Mode. No one has to actively promote it to be a problem, but the inevitable endless denial (with mostly bad arguments) every time it is mentioned is a damned good indicator of what the problem really is.

    Sure, the Invisible Hand of the Market™ will eventually market games (hopefully in good faith) directly aimed at women, and inclusive of women, (especially those who don't fit the average "feminine" gender expectations of culture) just like it figured out that marketing directly to children was a way to get parents to buy crap. But it is going to continue to be stupid and ugly until they figure it out. Which is kind of sad, since the gaming industry has a lot going for it in terms of creativity and entertainment value.

     

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      Jay (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      When it comes time to make a decision about cutting, who gets cut?

      Possibly the entire team or the game is pushed out prematurely compared to how Valve only releases a game when it's done. Stop insinuating some bizarre discrimination that only works in your head.

      That's the cultural sexism (and other factors) that make White Heterosexual Male the Default Mode.

      Congratulations on your Anti-white rhetoric.

      No one has to actively promote it to be a problem, but the inevitable endless denial (with mostly bad arguments) every time it is mentioned is a damned good indicator of what the problem really is.

      You make these inane arguments with troll logic then can't even defend them while accusing others of being sexist. How the hell does that even sound like an argument for the betterment of game development?

      Sure, the Invisible Hand of the Market™ will eventually market games (hopefully in good faith) directly aimed at women--

      Bullshit. The market doesn't care if a man or a woman buys a game. How about showing evidence of what women play and prefer? Something like Iunno... The Sims, Civilization series? Games like Counterstrike?

      Maybe if someone did some facts about females... Oh wait...

      But it is going to continue to be stupid and ugly until they figure it out.

      What kind of crap are you talking about? Ubisoft has been around for decades and games have been around for over 50 years give or take. Obviously, people play games they prefer. That's some serious BS... You don't know what you're talking about and trying to blame an industry for making games you don't like. Maybe you should keep that to yourself.

      Which is kind of sad, since the gaming industry has a lot going for it in terms of creativity and entertainment value.

      And it continues to do so without some crazy moral guardians trying to censor games they don't like for a subjective standard akin to Jack Thompson hoping games to eliminate violence. Ridiculous...

       

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    Jay (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 3:47pm

    *)&^*&^%^&

    ... *sigh*

    Okay, I'm seriously hating the rhetoric hitting here and this is some of the worst from a very small minority aiming for much ado about nothing.

    First, the game is on a new system so the engine is new. Maybe there's actual time constraints, but it's seriously something to consider.

    The fact that other companies are jumping on them is not helping the situation and muddying the waters.

    Further, some of the devs are looking at it through their own view.

    Now there is seriously some context missing here. First, Watch Dogs was already delayed and gamers went nuts. That was not an option for this yearly game.

    So the budget comes up and things get cut. The female models, which are not up to snuff, are cut. Hilarity ensues as people complain about that when it's not the major issue.

    And no, Far Cry has nothing to do with this. That's way too sensational and the last I checked, people were angry at the main villain of FC4 for being evil and (allegedly) white.

    Let that sink in.

    Now to the numbers.

    The ESA is misleading and has NO methodology to the most recent numbers. I've tried to check up on those. Do I believe that women are a part of the gaming industry? Yes. But I don't trust the 48% number. The Australian Government's numbers are far better. Focusing on families and transparency work far better than a gender divide.

    Imagine what an even deeper slight to the woman gamer will cause.

    There's been plenty of games for women but they are games like otome, construction, and even the occasional Counter Strike games. Obviously, 48% being utilized at all means that women already play games. The question is what they play.

    I see far more sensationalism from Polygon on this issue than actual looks into what women prefer to play versus men.

     

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      Luna (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:39pm

      Re: *)&^*&^%^&

      I won't touch on how utterly hurt you seem to be by a group of people with a differing opinion. Instead I'll just laugh at how hard you're working to shut down a minority's conversation. It's funny that you claim that the 48% number is unreliable, yet you link directly to a study that you say is more reliable that is literally one percent less than the one you claim isn't trustworthy. 47% of gamers in Australia are female, 48% in the US. You are maddeningly inconsistent.

       

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        Jay (profile), Jun 14th, 2014 @ 1:51am

        Re: Re: *)&^*&^%^&

        I won't touch on how utterly hurt you seem to be by a group of people with a differing opinion.

        I'm not but thanks for your vilification of my arguments.

        Instead I'll just laugh at how hard you're working to shut down a minority's conversation.

        How very privileged of you.

        It's funny that you claim that the 48% number is unreliable, yet you link directly to a study that you say is more reliable that is literally one percent less than the one you claim isn't trustworthy.

        The ESA has methodology issues that have been around since 1993. The private market research is not available for scrutiny and people are using it for misleading purposes. I've already read the information for a number of years and came to my own conclusions. What have you done besides try to censor someone else's opinion?

        You are maddeningly inconsistent.

        No, I'm just pointing out that the research for ESA is maddeningly inconsistent and look at more than the final numbers such as how they got them and what games people played. For 2014, that was not even up for discussion from the NPD, who gave the ESA their numbers. Maybe doing actual study into this stuff from Joe Karaganis and/or Mike Masnick would help, but I would rather enjoy that than constantly have to hear about the ESA's numbers which don't say much about what games people play or even notice a disparity in genres that people split up into.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 8:07pm

    Have you any idea just how much work goes into building a woman. There's the hairdo, hair extensions, hair clips and other adornments, the make-up (eyeliner, foundation, rouge, mascara, flash eyelashes, lipstick), nail polish, bangles, earrings, necklaces ... the shoes, oh my god, the shoes ... the outfit, the lingerie choices, tummy tuckers, the butt shapers, the nipple fixers, the bewb enhancers (do i go with the push-up, the balconette ... ) ... which handbag should I use .. and don't get me started on the accessories

     

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    Drizzt, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 1:12am

    Just don't play Ubisoft games

    TL;DR: just don't buy any Ubisoft products, until they get their act together.

    The "excuse" is so lame... but hey, what to expect from a company that forces UPlay on its customers (+ a heavy dose of additional DRM systems, just in case)? A company that fails at every major release to provide the necessary bandwidth and computing power to handle all the downloads, logins and active sessions while insisting, that you have to be logged in all the time while playing to get the full game (and if you just bought your game, you need to login at least once anyway, so "helpful" suggestions to "go offline" won't work either). I mean, at this point even EA's Origin works better.

    Luckily there are quite a few, even big games coming to the market in the near future, which do things right: Jagged Alliance: Flashback, Wasteland 2, The Mandate, Star Citizen/Squadron 42 (the dogfighting module "Arena Commander" is just epic), Torment: Tides of Numenera and more. The thing they have in common? They are all crowd-funded and the developers get to make the game they – and the players – want. Without DRM. Releasing on all major platforms (Linux, Windows and Mac OS X).
    Of course, there are also some games, that do things right, coming from a more traditional model (The Witcher series, 2 and 3 are/will be on all platforms as well, Civilization 5, just released on Linux, or Shadowrun Returns, all of which come with minimal or no DRM, available on all platforms).

    Ah well, go, play your yearly iteration of Assassins Creed or Call of Duty or whatever else. But then you might want to not complain too loudly if it turns out, that these series are produced like a car in a factory and not with individual love and care for every aspect.

     

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    David, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 1:42am

    "Seriously, 48% of gamers are women."

    That's not even the point. 0% of gamers are dwarves, elves, giants, wizards or warriors.

    You don't even need different character designs for creating a female dwarf.

    The basic problem is that as opposed to other mythical creatures, females are orthogonal to the choice of race.

    But if you only design one member of a prototypical race, your character design is one-dimensional and stereotypical anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    karalan, Jun 14th, 2014 @ 4:09am

    WTF?

    Let Ubisoft do what it wants and let the market decide, for god's sake.
    All this moralizing - piss off! You're just promoting fem/gov/big sister bullshit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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