Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Serious Case Study of an Insidious Illness

I'm on a bit of a roll here so I want to take a moment to talk to you about what I call...

The Lazy Bethesda Syndrome.

Now, we have played and loved a lot of RPG games over the years, from Neverwinter Nights to Oblivion to Fallout 3 and more. But these games all have a remarkable flaw which you'd think would rob them of some of their acclaim. This flaw is so outstanding, so ridiculous, so incredible, that it's amazing so many people overlook it.

They look like shit.

I'm not even comparing them to modern games, I'm comparing them to the mods that were available for them within three months of release.

The hair models were atrocious - Oblivion had the particularly egregious problem of the hair being literally separated from the scalp, visibly, and most of them had little to no animation of hair, and awful clipping problems with longer ears being cut in half by the hair model or longer hair disappearing into the tops of the shoulders when characters looked around. This looked AWFUL and was a constant irritation.

The clothing models were often just as problematic - I've been playing Oblivion a lot recently so it's gonna receive a lot of the flak. Quivers. You know what I'm talking about. They hover behind your character at a distance of about six inches. Apparently, all quivers are by their nature enchanted to hover near you when equipped.This is so awful and could have been handled by tossing in a couple of if arguments in the code (I think. Correct me if I'm wrong.).
Like, if light armor then quiver closer to body if heavy armory quiver further away. This is incredibly simple logic.

But the huge number of flaws and glaring errors and hideous screw-ups in armor, hair, and clothing models aren't even the worst problem. The worst problem was...textures.

The hay bales often had a finer, smoother, more vibrant appearance than hair textures did. The skin! Oh god, the skin! Either some sort of awful matte mask, or a super-shiny ultra-reflective surface that really seemed like it should have blinded the NPCs.

Oblivion, again, gets a special mention for the lady beards. Way to be lazy, developers. It was impossible to make a Redguard woman whose lower face did not appear to be solid blue or orange. Garish.

The reason I call this the Lazy Bethesda Syndrome is that I primarily associate this kind of horseshit with their game studio. Vastly superior low-resolution textures and low-poly models were often released within literally weeks of the release of a new Bethesda game, which looked way better AND improved game performance.

Who are you hiring, game studios? You should be hiring from modding sites.

Until next time,

K.H. Gray

Rear View Mirror

I wanted to take a moment to talk about body measurements, which I didn't go into in much detail in my previous post.

I am of the opinion that there should be as many sliders as possible and gravity should behave naturally during character creation. If I want to give my female character breasts the size of her head, or larger, that should be absolutely possible - as long as they don't continue pointing straight out like rockets. And on the opposite end of the slider, if I want her breasts to be absolutely flat and her hips and rear very curvaceous? I should be able to do that too.

I especially want games like The Sims to hear me on this one - body shape is more than just fat/thin. More options! And this shouldn't need saying but more body options for men than "weedy" and "beefy" would be great, too.

I might want to give my male character a curvaceous behind, you know what I'm sayin'?

Women And Games on Women In Games

There has been, for some years now, a bit of a fight about the way that women are portrayed in games. I think that I have finally come to the crux of the matter.

Some developers believe that developing new game styles is the key; that a different mechanic or gimmick will bring female consumers to them in droves. This is false; a game style that women love already exists. It's called "video games".

That's right - women love video games. At least, the women who love video games do. And the women who love video games are going to play them, even though they may not agree with the narrative.

And that's the most important game element; narrative.

Many games, mostly RPG-genre games, have tried to address the issue of women and games.

They started by making it so you could play female characters. This was great! Women could play their own gender in a videogame. This was a great step.

But then the pitfalls started. Let's try listing them by category.

The Swap :

You're playing a female character! But if the game's status screen didn't tell you so, you'd never know it. Your character handles the same, looks the same, has the same skills, the same dialogue options, etc, etc. You might as well play a male character, it's one less button to click at the start (since most games default to male). (MMOs are particularly bad for this. Example offender : Anarchy Online.)

The Double Standard :

This is the most common crime. Want to be a melee fighter? Sorry, that's a male-only occupation. There are a lot of examples of this, but one of the ones that springs to mind is Diablo II, where your class was actually locked to your gender - the two female classes were pretty much exclusively non-contact. The Necromancer, while technically a spellcaster, was actually a summoner - of brutal melee attackers who supported him in his own melee assaults. The Diablo II : LoD expansion did rectify some of this with a female melee class (The Assassin) and a more passive male spellcaster class (The Druid), but they still maintained the no-contact female (most of the assassin's spells were about setting traps and hiding and being sneaky) and the contact male (the Druid could shapeshift into a more powerful animal form to fight... BEAR-HANDED. Sorry.)

The Deuteronomy 22:5 :

"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, and neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." You can play a female character and even customize her to a certain degree, including her outfit! You find the perfect pants to finish your outfit on a male bandit, put them on, becomes a skirt. You take it off. Pants. Put it on. Skirt. God damn it! You spend the next four hours searching for something that calls itself pants and actually IS pants, to no avail. Your female character has a curse that turns all pants into skirts. (Notable offender : Oblivion)

The Eye Candy :

You can play a female character, and customize her pretty long as she has enormous breasts and a tiny waist. A bit more extreme than the Deuteronomy 22:5, the Eye Candy turns all armor placed onto a female character into a chainmail (or equivalent) bikini. Your armor offers the same protection as a male character's, but covers less than half the real estate. I guess your opponents were taught not to hit girls. (Notable offender : Oblivion again. How odd, milady, that half the armor disappears when breasts are in it. A strange enchantment indeed. Neverwinter Nights did this, too.)

The Role Play :

Ah, I see you're playing a female character! To get you into the spirit of things, take an instant hit to your strength, increase your charisma/beauty, rely on your female wiles to get you out of dangerous situations, and service these men for payment. In this example, being female simply means you use your gender to get what you want instead of working for it like a MAN would. (Notable offender : Arcanum.)

"Wait!" I hear you cry. "You don't like it if male and female characters are the same, AND you don't like it if they're different? What the hell WOULD you like?!"

I admit that I don't like male and female characters to be exactly the same - that's a bit pointless.And yeah, sometimes the "differences" games choose to portray basically consist of "This one's got tits and this one doesn't." - which doesn't make a lot of sense, either. So what would I like to see? Let's talk about some good portrayals.

The Equal But Different :

"You are the Prince/Princess of a dying kingdom and must save your people! What will you do, brave warrior?!" Options! Options galore! You can play a female character, she's got unique dialogue options, you can really customize her appearance - fat, thin, muscular, scrawny, the works. Her quests, abilities, and skills are all the same, and you get to pick them according to the way you like to play. Melee Wizard who enchants her own weapons? Go for it! Sneaky archer? Yep! Skilled hand-to-hand fighter? You got it! (Star Example : The Fable Series)

The Reveal :

You thought you were playing a male character all along because of the big bulky armor, and are shocked to find out that the ass-kicking machine you've been powering through with has been a girl all along, and it just makes you feel better about the whole thing. (Star Example : Metroid) (This is different from The Swap because it sets you up with a pre-made character that the developers chose to make female specifically because they though it would be way cooler, instead of letting you make your own but being too lazy to make her any different.)

The Specialist :

You're a female character, you're highly skilled at what you do, and the pre-formed notions of your society have made you rebel and use their horseshit against them. This is usually a pre-made character that the developers chose to build a story around. (Star Example : Mirror's Edge, honorable mention because they DIDN'T MAKE IT BUT SHOULD HAVE : Starcraft : Ghost)

The Matriarchy :

You're a female character in a society where women are considered better than men. There are two ways to play this; the Female Superiority "Haha, stupid men, who likes 'em." and watching your male friends squirm when you play because they don't like having their paradigm turned on its head, or The Apologist - "I'm sorry guys, it's just how society is, but I think you're just as good as we are." This will make your male friends kind of mad because THEY DON'T NEED TO BE TOLD THAT DAMMIT AND THAT IS SO PATRO-...oh. (Star Example : Any game where you can play as a Drow.)

The Appropriate Differences :

Similar to the Equal But Different, but with the added caveat that when you play male and female characters from different backgrounds, they have skillsets according to the way they were raised. Your female noble character is a better diplomat than her male counterpart, while he is a better fencer. Your peasant girl has incredible stamina and walk for miles and miles carrying heavy loads, while your peasant boy can walk three quarters the distance with half again the load. I haven't seen any notable examples of this, though Arcanum tried to imply it but ended up screwing it up with offensive questlines.

The Excellent Narrative :

You can play a female character, and you're dropped into a fully fleshed world with a quest in front of you and an important set of goals; NPCs address you specifically as a woman, you can wear women's clothing, armor at least hints at a female form, but that female form isn't exaggerated. You are a piece of lady clay, waiting to be molded. (Star Examples : Oblivion, Portal)

You'll notice that Oblivion, among others, falls into a number of both good and bad categories. This is another part of the problem with the portrayal of women in games; every time they do something right, they do another thing wrong, almost all the time.

There are a lot of incredible female characters with strong personalities that have come out of the world of gaming, and I think it's an extremely good place to put empowered women. If you can think of games that fit into these categories, or categories I should add, or changes that should be made, let me know and I'll credit you!

Until next rant,

K.H. Gray

P.S. If anybody wants me to I'll also talk about how female NPCs are portrayed; this is only about female PCs.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Bible of Halisar

I figured I should probably put this online somewhere, since it's a helpful tool.
The Waking World

The great Goddess, Halisar, came upon a world in the cosmos where no sleep existed; the creatures of that world were full of fear, darting to and fro, in frantic circles, the same cycle, day and night; never would they allow the rest to come upon them.

This sight was painful to Halisar, who, in her wisdom and generosity, took pity upon the restless creatures, and came unto one of the wretched ones, late in the night; O wretched one, said Halisar, I give unto you the gift of rest;

And thus the wretched one took Halisar's gift which enclosed it warmly, a soothing blanket of love and peace, and unto rest they were taken.

Halisar murmured into the ear of this new devotee, to remove from themselves the clothing of the waking world; to be clothed only in the skin of their birth, and sacrifice those things of the waking world to her, only to be returned on the return unto that world; in Halisar's realm, such things are not welcome.

And the devotee sacrificed their clothing, their worries, their fears, their lusts, unto Halisar; and she took the devotee in her arms, and held them for their rest; and the dreams came unto them like never before.

Halisar appeared in the dreams, and she laid down the things that her devotees must do to gain the peaceful rest that is her gift;

Thou shalt wash thyself and thy bedding, and be clean; for the dirt of the waking world cannot be carried with thee into my realm.

Thou shalt leave thy worries and thy anger in the waking world when thou dost enter my realm, for they are not welcome here.

Thou shalt disrobe and leave the trappings of shame in the waking world, for they do not belong in my realm.

Thou shalt consume the whole foods of the earth, the succulent and ripe fruits, and the flesh of beasts; thou shalt honor these things and pray for their spirits, for their spirits will come to thee in my realm, full of joy, if thou layest them to rest.

Thou shalt drink the blood of the earth, the pure water that flows in her myriad veins; its chill shall soothe thee when thou dost enter my realm.

Thou shalt love thyself first, thy family second, and thy friends third; for thou art the person thou can least afford to be angry with, for that will disrupt thy sleep in all instances.

Thus are the six commandments of Halisar; thou shalt followest them, or be deprived of her loving gift of rest.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Why, What, Who, When, Where?

The creation of Polymathic Diversity pays homage to the idea that there are a huge number of things in this universe that can be learned, and if your curiousity drives you to them, you ought to learn them. No matter what your life stage is, there is no reason you cannot learn a new thing. The posts here will cover a range of topics, but will typically revolve around diet, nutrition, cooking, lifestyle, health, literature, language, gardening, economics, politics, philosophy, traditional medicine, alternative medicine, animal husbandry, architecture, practicality, love, parenting, religion, history, and whatever else happens to catch my fancy at the time. This is also a personal journal, so be warned; intimate details of another person's life will be here. I hope someone reads some of these things and learns something they didn't even know they wanted to know. I am a woman who knows she doesn't know all the things she wants to know, and is working on fixing that. I live on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. I was born in 1988, so my personal experience of the world is limited to the past twenty-odd years. I hope that I have learned some things of value in that time, and that I can adequately share them.

Until next time,