Seeds of All Creeds!
The other day, I was perusing the forums for a prominent, AAA game developer that will remain unnamed. A thread appeared on the topic of why many of the female characters in the game had revealing, "sexy" armor, while their male counterparts did not. The thread was closed and locked after a few pages, with the moderator's explanation being that there were "no political threads allowed, sorry."
This issue is certainly not unique to that particular company or their games, which is precisely why such a response infuriated me. The industry is slowly but surely changing, the kinds of people who play games are changing, and developers today MUST to be open to having and encouraging these kind of discussions.
Part of the freedom that comes with independently funding a game is not being beholden to anyone who would try to tell us that our target demographic will only buy games with a white male muscle-bound lunkhead or a scantily clad woman on the box. And we at Nerd Kingdom are committed to representing diversity in TUG… after all, what kind of social scientists would we be if we weren't interested in pushing that envelope as well?
So, what are some things we'll do our best to make sure you won't see in TUG?
- Armors that have a drastically different appearance on different genders
- Overly sexualized "feminine" animations for female characters
- Damsels in distress (which isn't to say you won't find some NPCs in sticky situations… we just won't discriminate!)
- Stylized stereotypical representations of different races and cultures
- White males being portrayed as "default" or "generic"
What you CAN expect to see:
- Seeds of different genders and colors, both among player characters and NPCs
- A variety of hairstyles and hair types for Seeds
- Different and realistic body type progressions for male and female Seeds
Additionally, on some of our official servers, we hope to try a new and slightly different approach to character customization. On these servers, players will be able to choose their Seed's gender and possibly skin color, but will then be assigned a randomly generated face.
Now, I love customizing characters as much as the next person (let's be real, I'm one of those people who agonizes for hours over exactly how widely spaced my characters' eyebrows should be), but we truly feel that this will create some unique opportunities to explore how we perceive beauty in a quantifiable sense. How will players commodify their Seed's appearance? How will this affect social interactions within the game? How far will players go to alter their character's looks? Will this system help or hinder player self-representation, and will it foster or discourage a strong connection to your avatar? We think a system like this may give us an awesome opportunity to really further our understanding of self-perception and social interactions in virtual worlds... as well as in our daily lives.
To prevent players from simply hitting "reset" over and over during creation until they get a face they like, all child Seeds may look very similar at first -- distinct facial traits, as well as things like height, may not become apparent until the Seed is a teenager or adult. By that point, you'll hopefully be invested enough in your character that you won't restart just because he/she suddenly has a bigger nose than you expected!
There will be ways to alter your Seed's appearance later on in the game -- things like changing your hairstyle, adding tattoos, or options regarding facial hair. And without spoiling too much... there may be further customizations and physical alterations available through magic, technology, or other mysterious forces that you'll discover! And keep in mind, your Seed's body mass will affect their facial appearance as well.
That being said, we want the Seed you create to truly feel like your own. Speaking from experience, I know how powerful and empowering an experience it can be to be able to play a game as a female character, and not be treated differently by NPCs or other players as a result. TUG will not be a game where you're forced to play a certain way or pigeon-holed based on whether you prefer combat, exploration, or crafting…. similarly, you won't be forced into a mold based on gender or race, either. Your destiny in TUG is yours to create.
For us to truly break new ground on these issues, we need your help. We want to foster a community where discussions about these topics are actively encouraged, and where the discourse is not dominated by those who are content to sit back and maintain the status quo. TUG is for everyone: men and women of all ages, orientations, and ethnicities, and we aim to reflect this from the ground up in our game design, research, and community structure. We promise to pay close attention to player feedback in this regard, and constantly strive to keep improving.
p.s. Keep in mind too that things like this are a huge part of the reason we decided to turn to Kickstarter! In addition to ensuring our independence to tackle these issues as we see fit, more independent funding = more full-time artists = more art assets = more variety of hairstyles, faces, clothing/armor, and other customizable features!