There’s been a furor in the gaming community recently upon the revelation that despite Assassins’ Creed Unity featuring an extensive multiplayer co-op experience with customisable avatars, there will still not be a playable female assassin character. Things were said, feelings were hurt, and I think Yves Guillemot ended up sleeping on the sofa.
It is neither trivial nor impossible to include a female playable character in a game. We’ve been doing it for decades <insert historical evidence here, I’m pretty sure Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man count>. I think we can all agree it’d be a good thing to liven up the brotherhood with a bit of gender diversity, and my excellent and curious friend Kiri has demonstrated the historical precedent. So now I want to open my fat and opinionated mouth and chime in on the matter.
It sure as hell isn’t easy to include a female playable character. The protagonist of a third person game is always in view, and takes a proportionally larger amount of development than anything else in the game. The character model must be the most detailed in both modeling and texturing. The animations must be fantastic, featuring motion capture of talented actors, finished and perfected by skilled animators. An appropriate voice actor must be found, and hours of dialogue recorded and edited. Creating all this content for one lead character is hard enough, conveying the right visual style and storytelling.
If a female avatar is to be created, you don’t want simple retargeting of the male animation set or reuse of texture content, you want all new content worthy of the character. Love must be bestowed upon the character to bring her to life. All this consumes a large amount of disk space and RAM (we haven’t found a good way to compress love yet). It’s going to require extensive QA time, and I guarantee there’ll be at least some gender-specific coding needed at some point.
And yet, they should have done all of this. Ubisoft should have written this into the original production schedule, hired the appropriate extra developers, and proven they deserve the loyalty of their fans and the gaming public. Even if they’d come out soon after the gender disparity was revealed and said something other than “it really was a lot of extra production work” it’d be a start.
Of course, then Ubisoft came and answered our calls, and announced a new female character! Who is neither an assassin nor playable. And who you rescue. And then have some sort of possibly sexual relationship with. It’s cool though, she gets her own book and sexy figurine. I really feel like they’re just rubbing salt in the wounds here.
On a completely unrelated note, if you want a game with strong female characters with excellent modeling, texturing, vocalisations, animation and especially AI, The Last of Us Remastered was recently released for PS4. And if you buy it from that link then you’ll be contributing significantly to Cami’s retirement fund or something.