Tag Archives: vote

Under the Covers

I’ve been playing the remaster of Saints Row 4 on XBox One and thoroughly enjoying it. Besides engaging gameplay, zany antics, and ridiculously juvenile yet hilarious jokes, Saints Row boasts one of the best character creators I’ve seen in a game. When you create The Boss you have a ton of options. Aside from choosing your sex, you can choose your race and your skin colour. You can choose from multiple different voice actors with different accents to voice your character, and further customize the pitch of your voice. You can make your character appear young or old, and choose a body build that you like. Then there are a thousand different clothing options. And if you ever want to change things up, you can do so at any point in the game.

My character is what I’d like to look like in a video game. She has purple hair, some meat on her bones, and some major eyeliner and brow game. She’s voiced by the wonderful Laura Bailey who I wish I sounded like. But every time I load up the game, I’m greeted with this guy.

Saints Row 4 cover and loading screen art

Who the fuck is this guy?

He’s certainly not me. He’s not in my crew. I’ve never seen him in my game.

I love playing the game but every time I’m met with this image, which is also the art on the game box, there’s a moment of cognitive dissonance. The canon protagonist (at least in marketing materials) has nothing to do with my experience of playing the game. It seems so incongruous to offer up this great character creator that lets people create the kind of protagonist they want to play, but then show us a design that’s likely completely different anytime there’s a chance.

Saints Row is obviously not the only game that has done this.

Covers for Dragon Age 2, Fable 3, Sunset Overdrive all showing a white male main character

Dragon Age 2, Fable 3, and Sunset Overdrive also all portray the protagonist as a white male despite offering other options to the player.

The Mass Effect series boasts a decent character creator (though it’s not as robust as Saints Row’s), but all of the artwork around the first 2 games still features a default white male Shepard. Incidentally, he kind of looks like the guy from the Saints Row cover with a buzz cut.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 cover art

For Mass Effect 3 Bioware’s marketing department realized some people had recognized the superiority of Jennifer Hale’s Shepard (I refuse to use the term femShep, because she. is. Shepard.) In a puzzling move (or not so puzzling if you want to absolve yourself of all responsibility), Bioware put the decision on how she would look to a fan vote. Blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Caucasian Shepard won the popular vote in what could be boiled down to a beauty contest. Then there was a second vote to decide her hair colour. Yep, hard-ass, space Commander, first human Spectre Shepard had her skin colour, features, and hair style voted on by the public. Now that there was a canon design for both the male and female Shepard, Mass Effect 3 had a reversible box cover (of which maleShep was still the default).

Mass Effect 3 covers

I’m afraid that marketing departments just can’t win with me. Though I can (and have) flipped the cover of my Mass Effect 3 box for 360 to show the version of Shepard that’s closer to my own, it’s still not my Shepard. My Shepard is an N7 Marine and she sure as hell would never have a haircut that allowed bangs to obstruct her eyes. That’s really not safe for combat. While having an option for female box art is something, it still doesn’t take into account how people have created their own version of Shepard. Why does she have to be white? Why does she need to have delicate, conventionally attractive features? Why does she have a design that you can’t really even replicate in-game while box art maleShep and in-game maleShep can look pretty much identical? These are the great mysteries of the Mass Effect world.

I think the best way to market games that allow you to customize your character is to not show the protagonist in the artwork. It’s the only way to avoid that sense of dissonance and the feeling that if you’re not playing as scruffy white male #42, you’re not playing the character as it was designed. A number of games have done this, and I don’t think any have suffered from not putting a face on the box art.

Dragon Age Inquisition box art

The box art for Dragon Age: Inquisition has an enticing design that shows something of the story, without committing to a specific character design. This should work for most characters. Unless you play a dwarf, then you’re out of luck.

Dragon Age Origins box cover

Dragon Age: Origins has artwork that doesn’t give any indication of a canon Warden, while still being quite effective.

Fallout 3 and New Vegas box art

The newer Fallout games both feature heavily armored figures which don’t give away sex, race, or appearance, but tell you a lot about the game world. Though I’m sad to admit I always assumed the figure on the cover of New Vegas was male just because of lack of sculpted boob plate. But when I force that stereotype out of my head, it could really be a man or a woman.

Why spend so much time and effort giving players robust character customization only to default to the standard scruffy white male protagonist in all the marketing materials?


Druid Fashion

This week I read  a fanastic post by Xeo at Rez the Weak that took a look at the evolution of priest tier gear over the years. I really enjoyed reading it and decided I would do the same for druid gear sets. Let’s take a look back at druid fashion, from the first dungeon set to what’s in store in Cataclysm.

Dungeon Sets 1&2: Wildheart and FeralHeart

Druid dungeons sets - Wildheart and Feralheart
If you wanted to collect the Wildheart Raiment in original WoW, you had your work cut out for you. The 8 pieces dropped in three different dungeons and the drop rates were less than stellar. When you managed to collect them all you were rewarded with a set with wildly random stats and set bonuses (oh vanilla WoW itemization, how silly you were). The set is decent looking, I’m a big fan of purple and I like the textures. My biggest problem with this set is the shoulders, they were neat looking but had a lot of clipping issues. Any arm movement and you usually ended up with a wing through your head. The bird helmet also looks a bit like it’s eating your brains.

Tier 1 – Cenarion Raiment

Oh my. After slogging through Molten Core with 40 people for months, you got to look like this. The Cenarion Raiment is a low point in druid gear design, or any gear design for that matter. It looks like my poor druid got lost in the forest and had to resort to sticking shrubs, twigs and tree bark on herself for camouflage to avoid being eaten by bears. The shoulders and helm look really flimsy and the colours are bland. Druid gear has come a long way since this, thank Elune.

Tier 2 – Stormrage Raiment

If you were to ask me what animal I wanted my gear to look like, a moose would probably not be my first choice. However, the Stormrage Raiment kinda works. It certainly improves on the colours and style of the tier 1 set and the moon designs are very fitting for a druid. This set also has a much more impressive rack. 🙂

Tier 3 – Dreamwalker Raiment

The Dreamwalker Raiment was the first really fanastic looking druid set. The greens and gold are lovely. I also really like the snake deatils on the shoulders. This was the first time we got a piece of gear with glow-effects, which unfortunately you can’t see in the picture. Seeing druids running around in this set was always impressive, not only because it’s gorgeous but guilds that were making their way through the original Naxx were quite rare.

Dungeon Set 3 – Moonglade Raiment

Dungeon Set 3 - Moonglade-Raiment
The Moonglade Raiment was the first, and only, dungeon set of Burning Crusade. It’s clearly modelled after T3 but is less intricate and has been toned down to more neutral colours. I like this set a lot. It’s certainly not flashy but I think that’s fitting for entry-level, non-epic gear.

Tier 4 – Malorne Raiment

I’m not a fan of the Malorne Raiment, it makes me feel naked. None of the colours really go together and the antlers on the side of the helmet make Jasyla’s head look gigantic. The blue orbs on the shoulders seem misplaced.

Tier 5 – Nordrassil Raiment

The Nordrassil Raiment is a bit of a mixed bag. The robes and gloves aren’t terribly impressive, but the helmet is unique and the shoulders are amazing. No piece of gear has every screamed ‘resto druid!’ so much as these lovely, bark-covered, purple flower-sprouting, moon-accented pauldrons. Having to shift into tree form and hide them always made mad.

Tier 6 – Thunderheart Raiment

I love the Thunderheart Raiment. It was different from the previous druid sets, with an aboriginal feel and a refreshingly different colour scheme. The red and turquoise accents really made the gear pop. I particularly like the eagle motif and the cutouts on the chestpiece. This set is also from my favourite tier of raid content and I managed to collect all 8 pieces, so I have a soft spot for it.

Tier 7 – Dreamwalker Regalia

Normally, I wouldn’t be a fan of recycled gear, but since the T3 set was so amazing and I never got to wear a single piece of it, I didn’t mind when the Dreamwalker Regalia was brought back as the first gear set of WotLK. The updated gear set was even more ornate than it’s predesessor and gave druids a much needed bit of flashiness. Tier 7 was the first time that different colours were used to represent different levels of gear. I prefer the green, but the purple is nice too.

Tier 8 – Nightsong Regalia

The thing that strikes me about the Nightsong Regalia is the detail. Graphically this set was a real step up – the textures are amazingly sharp compared to the previous gear sets. Though the moon helmet has its detractors, I like it. I think this is a really solid tier set.

Tier 9 – Malfurion’s Garb and Runetotem’s Garb

Ahh, tier 9. It brings back memories of running TotC on 4 seperate lockouts, memories I’d rather forget. Malfurion’s Garb is not a favorite. The robes are alright, but I’m not a fan of the bird beak and the shoulders don’t look like they belong on a druid. The worst part for the tier 9 set…we had to share the design with rogues! Having to be shared by two classes made T9 look like it was having a bit of an identity crisis. Runetotem’s Garb I wastn’t overly familiar with since I don’t have a Horde druid. It sticks to the typical brown and green druid colours and I actually prefer it to the Alliance set.

Tier 10 – Lasherweave Garb

When the Lasherweave Garb was introduced, I was not pleased. The helmet and shoulders looked demonic, not like something druid would wear. However, I’ve grown more fond of it, I’ve been wearing it for over a year and it has wormed its way into my heart. I like my spiky horns and hungry-looking shoulders.

Tier 11 – Stormrider’s Vestments

And finally, here we have our first tier set for Cataclsym (images from MMO-Champion). I’ve seen worse, but I’ve also seen a whole lot better. First of all, the electric blue of the normal set is really not a good druid colour. This set strikes me as more fitting for a shaman than a druid. The helmet looks awkward and the shoulders aren’t great. I admit though, I’m very critical of most new gear when I first see it, but tend to warm up to it after a while, so ask me how I feel about it once I get a piece or two.

That’s it – the history of druid gear. Which is your favorite? Which would you not want to be caught dead in? Take the poll or answer in the comments.