All posts by Twyst

spider-woman (and marvel comics) fangirl, videogame producer

News Roundup: Black Friday Weekend

Today in BEST NEWS: Rumor has it Mirror’s Edge 2 is in production at DICE, the EA subsidiary that developed the first game. ngMoco‘s Ben Cousins tweeted as much this week, and he is a former executive producer at DICE, so fingers crossed! (GameInformer) … Hide your wallets, friends, because ’tis the season for ridiculous Steam sales… Mass Effect fans, would you rather have a prequel or a sequel next? Casey Hudson wants to know! But if they haven’t decided this yet then I guess it’s going to be a while before any such game comes out. So in the meanwhile, have some FemShep…. Valve‘s Gabe Newell was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. He is the 17th to do so, joining folks like Shigeru Miyamoto and John Carmack (Joystiq) …An influential credit rating agency has dropped Sony‘s ranking to “junk” (Eurogamer)… This week a British critic critiqued videogame critiques, and videogame critics were critical of her critiques (The New Statesman) … And apparently some dude played CoD: Blops for 135 hours straight. Dude. (GameInformer) … The Guild Wars 2 team dropped some hints about what’s coming in their next update (VG24/7) … You can play a prototype of Brazen, a new game from Double Fine that was inspired by stop-motion movies, by participating in a game jam hosted by  Humble Bundle! (Eurogamer) … And the Mary Sue has called it: from graphic artist Jemma Salume, here is the best response to the “Fake Geek Girl” controversy (The Mary-Sue)

Editor’s Picks

  • David Gaider, lead writer of Dragon Age and known cool person, wrote on his Tumblr about the importance of having a diverse writing team. (Tumblr) Here’s a clip:

As it happened, most of the guys went first. Typical stuff— some stuff was good, some stuff needed work, etc. etc. Then one of the female writers went, and she brought up an issue. A big issue. It had to do with a sexual situation in the plot, which she explained could easily be interpreted as a form of rape.

  • Game designer Eddy Léja-Six talks about creative game-playing, and how designers can foster creativity among their players (Gamasutra).
  • Fans of Peter Molyneux will want to check out this interview, in which he talks about his app Curiosity and his new Kickstarter project, called GODUS (RockPaperShotgun).
  • Meet Jane in this awesome PSA from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media!
  • Here, Eurogamer takes a look at Steam Greenlight 3  months after the project, intended to help indie games get support and attention on Steam, first launched on Valve’s popular distribution platform (Eurogamer).
  • Did you play the recent game War of the Roses? BBC has just announced plans to launch a new drama based on this actual occurrence in British History, and The Mary Sue has a few reasons why we should be excited about it (The Mary Sue).

News Roundup: Thanksgiving Eve

Big release this week was Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. All right then…Oh, and a certain CIA Director turned real-life soap opera star has a rather prominent cameo (WSJ) …And struggling MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic went free-to-play up to level 50. Is this the end of subscription MMOs? … EA announced Mass Effect 4 will use the Frostbite 2 engine instead of the Unreal 3, though devs promise it’ll be “respectful” of previous games (VG24) … And here’s a blurry photo of Dragon Age 3. Spoiler warning: there are no discernable spoilers (Kotaku) … And the second trailer for Grand Theft Auto 5 has graced the world with its presence … Despite rumors that the WiiU, which releases next week, would use XBox-like achievements, Nintendo’s new game system’s accomplishments won’t be system-wide (TechnologyTell) … Time Magazine released a list of the 100 best videogames of all time, including titles from Zork to Braid to Shadow of the Colossus (TimeTech) … Spike TV announced the nominees for its annual Video Game Awards, so go vote! … And finally, there were two more instances of internet-based dude-nerd-rage at all the “so-called geek girls” who are clearly just ugly sluts trying to take advantage of poor defenseless dude geeks by pretending to like dude geek stuff. Links here and here, but I can’t be held responsible for any injuries resulting from emphatic facepalming, loss of brain cells, or depression. Here’s a good riposte to one, and another good riposte to the other.

Editor’s Picks

  • Here’s a cool article about how videogames are getting one writer through a long hospital stay (BitCreature).
  • Far Cry 3 developers talked to Gamasutra about the intersection of videogames and performance art, and how they want their players to consider themselves method actors (Gamasutra).
  • And for your weekly dose of theory, ponder the definition of the word ‘game’ with Gamasutra’s Brandon Boyer (Gamasutra).
  • This video is awesome. But don’t read the comments.Never read YouTube comments.
  • Videogame critique website Nightmare Mode recently ended its hiatus, and there are quite a few interesting articles there this week, including pieces by Border House’s own Mattie Brice and Jill Scharr (full disclosure: that’s me).

Additional reporting and blog-scouring by Twyst. Don’t forget to add your own news and links in the comments!

Briefly: The News

A bunch of interesting things have happened today, so I thought I would throw together a brief post.

The Good:
New Dreamfall from Ragnar Tornquist’s new studio - more info at Kotaku and an interview at Rock Paper Shotgun.

Halo 4 Creators Introduce Lifetime Ban For Sexism - An awesome initiative, and we can all agree that Kiki Wolfkill is an awesome name.

The Bad:
Chivalry Dev said adding women to their game would be “degrading”, with bonus “missing the point”.

The Headdesk:
The Vita is like a lady with 4 boobs.

Anything else going on that we’re missing out on? Comment away!

Overstruck

To say that I have pinned all my hopes and dreams on OVERSTRIKE from Insomniac Games is probably an understatement.

A 4-person strike team, featuring Naya Devereaux, possibly WOC and stealthy thief, Dalton Brooks, team leader, a large white man who seems to perform a tank/defensive role, Isabelle Sinlair, a red-headed white woman, science-inspired heavy-hitter and Jacob Kimball, a black man who appears to perform a ranged DPS role.

Overall, I wasn’t really WOW’d by anything new at this year’s E3. I am excited for Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3, of course, but these two games weren’t new. Skyrim, I am also looking forward to, but again, not a new IP, really (dazzlingly beautiful though, and dragons, mirite?). I watched each of the pressers except Ubisoft, as I was in transit at the time, and was pretty bored with the whole thing until a small clip grabbed my attention.

The characters:  meant to work together as a team, each character has unique abilities, they are:

Dalton Brooks, a reformed merc and team leader.
Izzy Sinclair, a gifted young scientist.
Naya Devereaux, a mischievous thief.
Jacob Kimble, an ex-detective.

Insomniac with new IP? A 4-player co-op game, that has TWO women, one of whom may be WOC? Only one white guy? Unique weapons? 3rd-person action game? The kind of humour Insomniac delivers in its other series (minus Resistance)? Comparisons to the series Leverage (that I already enjoy very much)? Multi-platform?!

Do want.

 

Additional links:
Interivew with Eurogamer
GameTrailers Interview with Tim

 

Beyond Good & Evil HD!

The fantastic news that Beyond Good and Evil will be released in HD (in 2011) hit the internets today.  Kirk Hamilton of Gamer Melodico got a bit of a hands-on at the Ubisoft’s Digital Day press event.  Being the excitable woman I am, I tweeted about my excitement, and my intention to buy.

Jade, the main character of Beyond Good & Evil, confronts a monster that towers above her.

My guess is that Ubi is trying to get the IP out there, and in the public’s mind, before they proceed to throw more resources at Beyond Good & Evil 2 (if you have followed the news on this title, there have been many rumors that it has been cancelled, but Ubi states that it is currently in development by a small team).

The original game had an ill-timed release and was a commercial failure, however it was adored by critics, and this is it’s second chance people!

 

Up until last year, Beyond Good & Evil was one of those games that I had always meant to play.  It has an awesome leading lady who always makes the “Top Ten Awesome Videogame Women” lists, who is a POC, who has a story that isn’t all about a dude, I had just never taken the time.  Eventually, through IRIS it was decided a bunch of us would play — and I could not believe I had spent so much of my life not having played that game.  It is really wonderful, and,  to be mushy, it is special.

Ubi must be tired of having people ask them about Beyond Good & Evil, and having people tell them that a sequel will make money.  Let’s show them that they have a hit on their hands!

 


Miranda: Femme Fatale?

As a space adventurer, and saviour of the galaxy with a new game spinning in the drive, I was happy. More Mass Effect! Getting back to being Ophelia Shepard! I HAVE WAITED SO LONG!!

A few hours into the game, I had familiarized myself with my new companions. Although I didn’t really dig them right off the bat, the joy of returning to this world had me riding high.

Then something happened. Like a solar eclipse, the camera pointed right at it, and I couldn’t look away.

Miranda’s butt.

Miranda, crewmember of the Normandy in ME2 leans over her desk, the camera focusing on her butt.

This was the first moment in the game, where I sat back, realized I was playing a game that wasn’t really meant for me and said “wtf?”

Of course, I still love the game, but that moment stuck with me.

And FINALLY, someone asked the question that I had wondered since that incident. WHY?

That someone, is the always awesome Tracey John. In an interview with Casey Hudson, ME2 project lead:

Me: Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, or I’m a female Shepard, but my other friends — both male and female — also noticed that shot and found it be to be gratuitous. I did notice that Jacob’s uniform is pretty tight too, but you can only tell when you stand behind him, and these shots of Miranda just could not be missed. So why…

Hudson: That’s part of her character design, she’s the femme fatale. It’s part of her character and the fact that she’s beautiful and this beauty is part of what helps her. As you get to know her, you realize there’s more to her.

First of all, the idea that she is a femme fatale. Let’s look at what a femme fatale is, to wikipedia! (Batman theme music plays) (brackets are comments by me):

A femme fatale is an alluring and seductive woman whose (check) charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire (hmm…), often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations (no….).

The phrase is French for “deadly woman”. A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose (no?) by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure (huh…). Typically, she is exceptionally well-endowed with these qualities. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm (um…) . She may also be (or imply to be) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; … (sort of).

Really, none of this is true of Miranda. She doesn’t ensnare any lovers, or manipulate male Shepard. From what we know, she doesn’t have a hidden purpose. Seems like a weak response. I get that she is supposed to be “the (traditionally) hot one” on the crew, but really?  I would almost prefer the admission that yes, this is eye candy, rather than the implication that this is part of her character.  In the game she laments her modifications, and from what I remember, never uses her beauty as an angle.  The camera shot always seemed odd to me, especially when playing female Shepard—who can’t get with Miranda anyway.

Go read Tracey’s article!

A Matter of Resources

Twyst, Gunthera1, elenielstorm, and Brinstar look at playable men in games:

The latest fad seems to be asking why there are no playable male characters in video games. We reached out to a few developers to get their thoughts on this matter:

“These boys are just not understanding what it actually takes to make a game,” one developer wrote. She went on to say, “As a game developer, I am often asked about resource management and priorities. Creating boys in games isn’t a simple thing, listen, we aren’t a sexist company, we are just realistic. It is a matter of resources and expense vs. return. Creating a character that is fundamentally different from the other characters in the game takes up memory, time, and requires unique writing, voice acting, textures, skeleton rigging and animations.”

This sentiment was mirrored in many of the other responses that were returned to us:

“We just didn’t have the resources to put Mario in New Princess Peach Wii. I mean, he doesn’t wear a skirt, he has two legs and pants. Both legs have to act independently and that is thousands of lines of code!” (even though we note that AGAIN we have to save Mario in this latest release). But even after his rescue he is not a playable character. We see this as a missed opportunity. Especially as Mario was present in other Princess Peach releases, like Unicorn Race (he even had a snazzy kilt!).

“Our game is has a lot of dialogue and text, to have a male character involves checking every line of dialogue and text to ensure correct pronoun usage, for a small number of people who are not our target market. It just doesn’t make sense for us.”

A unicorn striding majestically across a stream. A brilliant sunset lights up the landscape, and a rainbow rises above the sunset.

“Due to our commitment to a rich, detailed experience, creating a male character was just not feasible for this release. We would have to recreate every cut scene, which, may I add, are cinema quality. This would involve another voice actor, motion capture, skeletons and rigging–effectively double the size of the entire game! We already motion captured all female characters. Think of the time necessary to redo the work for males. Their gait and center of gravity are completely different. We would have to start over from scratch! Were we to do that, we wouldn’t have the realistic castle drawbridges and customizable unicorn mounts that Queen’s Quest is known for!”

“We wanted to have men in the game, we really did. But as the release date drew nearer and nearer we had to make some tough decisions. Don’t get me wrong, i love men. Who doesn’t, mirite? I love to stare at them all day long. But there just are not enough hours in the day. We would have had to design form fitting clothing, and the penis physics alone would have taken days. And of course, we would have to redesign the costume choices to show off a little skin. The flowing dresses in our games simply do not show much skin. That takes time and effort.”

“Men see enough violence in the real world that we didn’t want to have such triggering scenes. Originally there was a plan for a male character, but early builds of the game shows that it just made us uncomfortable to have bad things happen to him. No one wanted to play him or do any harm to him. We felt protective of him.”

“In the end we felt that adding a heterosexual male would be pandering to ‘political correctness.’ Just look at population statistics and you will see that the majority of people in the world are not heterosexual, white, males. But hey, we should get points for the m/m relationships, because that is just hot, mirite, ladies? We just couldn’t show that as a real relationship. It would simply take too many resources.”

“It was regretful that we weren’t able to fit a playable male into the game. But the love interest, Keith, is pretty hot! We even got a few close up chest and butt shots in there for the ladies.”

“I don’t think men were ever in the plan for our game, hardly any men buy games anyway. We would have to change the artwork to include camouflage and black just to market the game and we didn’t want to do that. We felt there were already enough ‘boy games’ out there as it is.”

“Our entire art department is filled with women. They know how to animate female hair as they see it every day… but when asked to animate men’s hair styles they were stuck. And how does one possible animate a bald head? This was simply too much of a challenge for our art department.”

“When hitting the streets we made note of the people walking past us. After extensive polling we realized that straight, white males are clearly in the minority. As such it would be nothing more than a ‘politically correct’ move to include them in our games.”

“The majority of our developers are women, so of course, they’re more familiar with women. It’s about what’s relatable, you know? Women can relate to and identify with women more easily than with men. So what comes naturally to game developers is filling a world with female NPCs. This is why, about 75% of all of the NPCs in our RPG game are female, and 25% are male. Female NPCs also have more than twice the number of lines of dialogue than male NPCs. It’s just easier to write dialogue when you’re writing dialogue for female characters. And since the majority of the population, and therefore the majority of gamers are women, we don’t see why we need to pander to niche audiences like straight, white male gamers. Just think about it. The majority of our target market are women. We’re just making characters that the majority of market can better identify with and relate to.”

Really, a lot of the replies were the same old excuses that we hear over and over.

Ada Lovelace Day: Jane Pinckard

After I graduated from York University with an Honours double major in Psychology and Communications, I didn’t have a job lined up. I ended up working at IBM in their IBM4YOU department, which meant that i took the calls that people who didn’t have a direct number dialed. This included people from prisons, the insane, the angry, the uninformed, and employee’s parents who don’t remember their extension. It wasn’t a good job. From there i worked in other departments, that were less bad, but not that great. It just wasn’t what i wanted to be doing.

I have always loved games and had been keeping up with gaming news and regularly read gaming blogs. My favourite of which was gamegirladvance.com. Jane is awesome. I loved reading her anecdotes and game discussion. She made me realize that making games is what i wanted to do. I didn’t know if i was qualified, if my skills from IBM and school transfered, that kind of thing. She gave me great encouragement and advice. Speaking with her in comments, and eventually over email, she was the push i needed to actually start looking for a job in games. She was out there, working in the industry, speaking at universities, and doing things i wanted to be doing.

I got a job testing after that, and now, work as a producer/designer/whatever is needed at Electron Jump Games.

I got to meet Jane too, a few years ago when she was in town. She is fantastic.

Funnily enough, today, my boyfriend Elliott and i have been together 3 years. I met him at my first game job — the job Jane inspired me to go for.

Rock on Jane!! <3

This post is part of Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science. You can read more about Ada Lovelace Day at the website.

What a Twyst.

EJ Robyn

Electrons are Jumping, baby.

I have been very neglectful of writing an intro.  Mostly because I am not a huge blogger and because I am very overwhelmed by the awesome that fills this site. So many wonderful people, all in the same place!

I am honoured and humbled to be included here.  I mostly go for the ranty comedy, which is probably what you will see from me here.
To the point, about me.  I am a Canadian, straight, white, TAB woman.  I’m a game producer for Electron Jump Games. I started gaming when I was very small.  My grandmother was an elementary school teacher, who loved card games, puzzles, crafts and board games.  From there, I played games on the family’s Tandy 1000 until the triumph that was my 7th birthday, when I was given a seemingly difficult choice — a party and many presents, or one big present — the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Of course, the choice was easy, the NES won, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I went to school in hopes of becoming a lawyer, but by second year university, i had decided that that life wasn’t for me.  I completed an interdisciplinary degree – an honours double major in Psychology and Communication and decided I wanted to work in games.

Robyn and Spider-Woman

I have always been a fan of comic characters, but my first love (games) introduced me to my second love (comics).  Playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance (1), I was reminded of Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) who had been a favourite of mine as a child.  Right around that time, Brian Michael Bendis was bringing her back, and I ate it up.  Thus, I am also a fan of comics.  Mostly the heroines and foremost amongst them is Spider-Woman, as per my avatar.  I have gone to a few conventions with Marvel, and done their liveblogs for/with them. I collect heroclix. I’m trying to take up sewing.  I’m a feminist.  I go by Twyst on the internets (like Twitter). That’s me.