Our struggle to model a female character
I know we’ve all gotten a lot of mileage out of making fun of Ubisoft lately, due to the fact that their reason for a lack of women in the new Assassin’s Creed game comes down to a simple difficulty in modeling ladies. It seems like a mockable standpoint, like a bunch of people trying to defend their complete unwillingness to do something with a poorly conceived cop-out that mostly shows a profound lack of care for the gender that makes up half of the gaming market.
Alas, while I’ve gotten my own jokes in, I suppose now is as good a time as any to reveal that I was on the team which tried to crack the modeling problem. Oh, certainly, it might seem silly to you, but as it turns out, women are a lot harder to put into games than you think. What follows, thus, is a completely accurate picture of the process wherein we tried and failed to add a single woman to the game as a playable character. Perhaps now we can finally put these matters to rest once and for all.
The boys and I were greeted by a message in our email inbox requesting the inclusion of a single playable female character in some format of the game. We already knew we were looking at a massively increased workload, especially when we had just spent four weeks working on a new technology designed to capture every fold of fabric as it lovingly caressed the stubble and defined pectoral muscles of our existing protagonists, but we were determined to do this right.
We cleared our schedule for the day and sat down to make a list of all the things that we knew about women. After three hours, we had assembled a definitive list.
- Possibly not insects?
- Your mom
- Menstruaction (sp?)
- May also be called ladies
- I have a boner.
It was clear that further research would be necessary. Fortunately, we had access to the internet, so a quick search of “what do girls look like” provided us with the seeds of valuable data that we could use for overall improvements. We were confident that with the help of our online resources, we could crack what we were calling the “woman problem.”
A new message in our inbox informed us that we were now restricted to only email and company websites as a result of our research. We were also no longer permitted access to the previously complimentary company hand lotion, despite our insistence that the sites we had visited regarding women kissing other women were quite educational. Somewhat disheartened, we sat down and renewed our list.
- G-spot (DOES NOT EXIST, STOP MAKING THINGS UP TOM)
- Long hair
Thus armed, we could begin the careful process of modeling.
The first step was assembling a basic skeleton which we would later “develop” into a woman. We started with the skeleton of a non-muscular man which we had been previously developing mostly as a joke, but as we had learned that women had less muscle mass than men, it made sense for our female character to have none despite her strenuous physical activities. Our project was taking shape before our eyes! From this skeleton, we could start with the basic dimensions of her body.
After careful examination of women’s clothing, we had finally found a point at which our model did not in any way look fat or ugly, which we were informed was the most vital part of a woman’s lifestyle. Much as men derive their sense of power from physical virility, women feel better about themselves with D-cup breasts and a size zero frame with nothing but silky-smooth skin. Technically, modeling this base would have only taken a day, but the entire department needed to take frequent discreet bathroom breaks, slowing our work to a crawl. Despite this fact, we were confident.
Our next step was to begin working on the physics for breast movement.
Although it took further bathroom breaks and the entire floor of the building now smelled like… er… well, you know what it smelled like, we had finished modeling breast movement. Her every move was now accompanied by a visible sway of her pert, luscious melons, bobbing hither and yon as she seductively beckoned, stirring the appropriate feelings in 100% of our playtesters. Someone from another department checked on our progress and asked why we didn’t have any women playtesting, but I just pointed him to the list, at which point he made a noise and left.
Clothing was next, and while it had taken us seven weeks to get this far, we were undeterred. We had carefully assembled a perfect outfit for our lady. While our research was inconclusive on this fact, it appeared that women might in fact be insects, meaning that their silky-smooth exoskeletons protect them from injury. Thus, it would only be necessary for her to wear a minimum of clothing to cover her genitals and those magnificently swaying sweater kittens.
Not that she would wear sweaters.
We still hadn’t fully finished the clothing at this point, but our bathroom was officially condemned by a health inspector and we were legally required to seek counseling regarding what was called a “bizarre sexual compulsion” by investigators. However, with Bubbleknockers (working name) almost fully dressed, animations could be started. We felt that thigh-high stiletto heels, a metal halter top, and a thong really sent the “assassin” message quite well. The men assigned to her outfit said that they were certain they could find a way to make it believable that she was still holding two swords, seven dozen knives, vials of poison, and possibly an entire ladder on her person.
Bubbleknockers (name approved by Creative) proved more problematic with every passing day. Her clothing provided several modeling problems until one of our texture artists suggested shortening her top at both the top and bottom, allowing us to see both cleavage and what he called “underboob” without a problem. Unfortunately, this has caused problems with her existing animations wherein her breasts flow out of the flimsy covering. After a department-wide break to “use the bathroom” of the White Castle four miles down the road, we suggest possibly modeling nipples for that animation but were vetoed for concerns of the ESRB.
Meanwhile, the animations are also proving problematic. A “taunt” animation for the male characters was quite simple, with a beckoning motion of his arm and a powerful, wide-footed stance. However, Bubbleknockers leans forward, blinks five times, then slowly stretches out one hand to beckon her opponent forward. It seems entirely appropriate given her gender, but the full animation takes two minutes to complete. Trimming that animation and compromising our artistic vision is inconceivable.
Project Bubbleknockers has been cancelled. Despite our best efforts and a spectacular treatment from creative which explained how strong she was (because she killed a guy once), the animation issues were insurmountable. It was estimated that it would take another four months to get her into a workable state, and ultimately that sort of free time just isn’t available. Now we can get back to what’s really important, modeling the wind flow of every gust across the square, decisive jaw of our protagonist.
Perhaps if we’d had a woman working on the project, things would have been different. But where would we find one? Seriously, where would we, none of our research turned up that information.