Female avatars are “A lot of extra production work.”

By now I would imagine that many of you, if not all of you, have heard about the remarks made by Assassin’s Creed Unity’s creative director Alex Amancio in a recent interview with Polygon. He explained that at an earlier stage in the games’ development that female avatars were included, but due to “the reality of production” they were cut completely. He went on to say “It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amancio said. “Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

Now usually I don’t pick up on any of these subjects, but being a female I thought I would put my two cents forward along with almost every other mainstream and game enthusiast website out there. With Ubisoft being one of the world’s largest game developers and publishers, creating great games such as Assassin’s Creed – and more recently Watch Dogs – you have to ask why they would pull the plug on something which has been included in past iterations of the AC series. As a female, I really do enjoy having the option to play as a female character, it gives me as the consumer more options and doesn’t limit me. I understand of course that some games require access to only male avatars, but surely if you can, you should allow both genders to be usable if you can.

Ubisoft did a fantastic job with their Assassin’s Creed Liberation game, a title that had a female protagonist, but a release that was initially only available on the PlayStation Vita. The game was so popular amongst the fans of the series that the game was re-released in HD format for consoles and PC in digital format. Why belittle one of your titles which, strangely enough, has a female lead? The multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed Revelations and other titles in the series had female avatars, so why the sudden change in direction? The game’s cooperative play works the same as Watch Dogs, with you seeing yourself playing the main role, in this case, Arno, and those playing with you will be assigned a random assassin. Why then, can we not have a female avatar present as one of the randomly assigned assassins?

After the beating that the Unity team received on the internet after their little slip of the tongue, the Far Cry 4 team was also quizzed about the inclusion of female avatars in their game series by the same staff members at Polygon. Game director Alex Hutchinson said they were “inches away” from allowing gamers to pick between a female or male co-op avatar but the idea didn’t take hold. Why exactly? 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.” Fair enough I say, but with some many people working on the game, why not make it part of your end goal, it’s such a small thing to include.

What makes it worse for Ubisoft is that Jonathan Cooper, a former animation director who worked on Assassin’s Creed 3 and also the first two games in the Mass Effect series, replied on Twitter saying that the job of adding female avatars into the game would only take a matter of two days at the most to code. You’ve heard it from someone who knows what he’s talking about, the job really isn’t that difficult despite what anyone else says.

FemShep

This isn’t just Ubisoft’s problem, the gaming industry in general fails to include any memorable female protagonists in their games, the majority of the time they are just part of the background noise. Recent titles such as the reboot of Tomb Raider are starting to buck the trend by creating truly inspiring female leads, which not only have strong personalities but also interesting to control in a game world. The Mass Effect series also gave the option for its players to use a female lead in the form of FemShep, though it took the series three titles to produce the goods and Gears of War the same with the inclusion of Anya as a playable character when playing cooperatively. There haven’t been many releases that have popped out at me from the get-go over recent years, but maybe I’m just searching for the wrong type of games or haven’t been looking hard enough.

Maybe we’re asking for too much, or maybe the industry just doesn’t want to change what it’s doing and doesn’t want to move forwards. Personally, I’d like to see something come from this, even if it’s only a little step forward. This isn’t the reality of game development, including females in the gaming industry shouldn’t have to be questioned.

Although I have shared my thoughts on the remarks made by Amancio and Hutchinson, I’m not that interested in seeing female avatars added to their titles at this stage Instead, in future I would hope they will learn on their past mistakes. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you care, or could you frankly not give a damn? Leave a comment below and discuss.

Amber

I play games. A lot of them. You can catch me streaming my favourite games on Twitch: twitch.tv/amberplaygames. Can't wait to meet you!

  • Guest

    Actually Liberation was a failure when it came to sales. But i love how you spun that.

    • AmberPlaysGames

      Did I mention sales? No! I mentioned how popular it was amongst fans of the series and how it was released on more formats. I didn’t specifically mention ‘sales’ at any point.

      I was trying to say that this was their only title that they didn’t release on all platforms from the get-go, and why?

  • Guest

    OK

  • Necro

    Actually Liberation sold horribly. But i do like how you spun that. They put in on consoles BECAUSE it sold so bad, they were hoping that larger fan base would help, it didnt……

    • AmberPlaysGames

      I’m just continuing on from their PR told me in an email, considering it was only originally released on the Vita the sales weren’t all that bad. Hardly any has a Vita…

    • EssentiaX

      It does not make sense to redo a game that sells poorly, especially in HD where it’s even more expensive, so that argument does not hold.

      • AmberPlaysGames

        You’lll need to speak to Ubisoft about that then.

  • megamorf.

    “it’s such a small thing to include.”

    No, it’s not. Their argument is absolutely valid – the modelling work required to have modular character assets for a completely different body is immense. The coding and initial implementation of the character in the game is relatively easy but what are you gonna do with a generic female character? People would complain if the female character doesn’t have the same customizations as the male character.

    In short:
    – 3d asset modelling, voice work and animations need to be done again for a female character = workload doubles for various teams in the development process
    – coding the additional character is fairly easy = not much work

    • AmberPlaysGames

      Considering there are 9 different studios working on the game, it really isn’t too much to ask at the end of the day, especially when previous titles had customizable female avatars in the multiplayer.

  • Stranger On The Road

    Since the interview with Polygon; Amancio had another interview with Eurogamer in which he said that he slipped up in the response to the question.

    The way I understand it, during the multiplayer session, the player is still playing the same protagonist instead of being assigned a random assassin. As you play your single player game you customise your assassin and can use that assassin to play with other gamers (so yah, it is the same dude 4 times!).

    The real problem with adding a female character wasn’t in adding the female character, but rather in adding a new protagonist that is female. This could lead to a massive development effort, which why they avoided it… or that is how I understand it.

    The approach ME had was a good one, make the game so that none of the dialogue has a ‘she’ or ‘he’ while referring to the player. This should be achievable unless the gender of the protagonist has to be fixed (ex. Heavy Rain, Ethan had to be the ‘father’).