on Aug 10, 2009
Fair warning: This post is going to be talking about nudity and linking to NSFW pages at the Fallout 3 nexus. The vast majority of the 6,424 mods in the database are perfectly safe and are related to changes in gameplay or additional content. I’m going to be talking about the small number which are risqué. Technically the mod database shouldn’t show you anything R-rated unless you create an account there first, but you know how the internet can be sometimes. Be careful what you click if you’re in a place where seeing naked polygonal men and women might cause you employment, relationship, or self-esteem problems.
As part of writing Experienced Points article about the breakdown of males and females in games, I found myself trolling through the Fallout mod database, looking to see what sorts of things the community had added to the game and what sorts of mods were popular. Specifically, I wanted to compare how many people downloaded the mods that remove the underwear from the game, thus making it possible to see women naked when their armor is removed. I wanted to compare those downloads to the same mods for male characters. I thought it might be interesting to see: “Nude female mod is downloaded N times more often than the nude male mod”, and so on. It was supposed to be a humorous little factoid to amuse the reader. But after quite a bit of head-scratching I concluded the task was impossible:
- It turns out that there are many variants of both male and female nude mods with many different versions, some of which are forked versions or unions of other efforts. This skews the download numbers, since one mod that is updated many times will have a lot more downloads than one that isn’t, but that doesn’t mean more people are using the mod.
- Some mods supersede others, which means if A is a mod and B replaces it, some unknown percentage of people that downloaded A will also download B, but some will stick with A and some will forgo A and download B alone. You’ll have two sets of download numbers without any way of knowing how much overlap they have.
- Some mods require other mods in ways that are difficult to map out, which means some people may have downloaded (say) the nude female mod just so they could have access to new armor pieces or new characters. (I’m not sure why. One guess would be that modder B makes a mod which borrows a texture from modder A. Rather than add that texture to his own mod, he just tells everyone to download mod A first so you’ll have the required texture. Some mods even require several other mods in order to work, or the requirements form a chain of dependencies. Ugh.)
- A lot of the extra clothing and hair packs are also nude mods, which means even female gamers might go after them even though they have no interest in seeing their character bare-assed. They just want the new haircuts and outfits. This is actually very likely, since the default haircuts are very limited, and the user-made ones are far more numerous and far more interesting.
- There were a couple of mods that removed only the male undershirt from the game, and I couldn’t figure out if that should count as a “nude mod” or not, since the default undershirt is a bit screwy. It’s really strange to kill a bare-chested male raider and find that when you remove his rancid leather pants not only is he wearing freshly laundered boxer shorts, but he’s also abruptly wearing a white undershirt as well. A lot of downloaders of this “nude” mod were probably people who just wanted the clothing to make sense. (I did.)
- A lot of the male-nude downloaders will be gay men, not women, which further confuses my original question about the mix of men and women playing the game.
- I only point this out because if I don’t someone will chide me for not taking it into account: Men trend towards oogling a lot more than women, which means even if the player base and mod availability were perfectly 50/50 and they were all straight, the downloads still wouldn’t be even. Yeah, yeah. We’ve been down that rabbit hole more than once around here.
Top:Ah, I have killed a filthy evil raider. He’s wearing some bits of pointy metal on his otherwise bare chest. Now to strip that off and sell it in town. (Although I can’t imagine why they want it.)
Middle: What the…? Where did that shirt come from? Man, that’s a nice shirt that just appeared out of hammerspace. Still white, with a crease in it. Not bad for 200 year old cotton. In a sensible post-apocalyptic world, that shirt would be worth more than bloodstained scrap metal.
Bottom: Now, with the partial nude mod installed. I’ll bet this guy is wishing he’d listened to his mother’s advice about making sure to wear a clean loincloth before leaving the house this morning.
I have a sort of professional interest in community-made bodies. I used to make male and female models and I like seeing how the discipline has evolved. I did my work in the 1998-2002 area, when polygon budgets were around 1,000 or so. I think they’re about ten times that today. (With only 1,000 polygons, fingers will be fused into a “mitten” for the hand, toes will be fused to the foot, and ears will either be plastered to the head or stick out very little. The posterior will be greatly simplified (no crack) and most facial features will be done with textures instead of polygons. So, eyes and mouth will be “drawn on”. For really low polygon budgets, breasts will be merged into a “shelf”, which works well enough as long as your females are always depicted as wearing loose shirts. And obviously I never had to model detailed genitalia, which is what modders have done for Fallout 3.)
|Top: If I could nitpick the male mod a bit here – something is not right in the shoulder area, and the back texture is a little smooth given the perfect muscle definition we see in front. Still, the worst thing is that the model is using the default standing animation, which is too much ‘orangutan’ and not enough ‘homo sapien’. There are other mods out that attempt to address this problem.
Bottom: Pretty, but those underfrillies are straying pretty far from the established 50’s art style. I guess the naked version of the same model won’t have that problem. Note also that the most attractive thing about her is the pose, which isn’t a pose used by any character in the game. She’ll look a lot less exciting once you see her doing the orangutan pose and staring in to space.
While I don’t think it’s possible to get useful numbers on the breakdown of males and females, I will share a few big-picture observations: In the mods labeled as “models and textures”, the ten most popular mods are:
- A nude female mod – 332,476 downloads
- A different nude female mod – 200,367 downloads
- A massive collection of 120 weapons and new gear – 197,981 downloads
- A nude female mod which is a variant (I don’t know what the difference is) of the #1 mod – 142,269 downloads
- A collection of high-resolution terrain textures – 107,331 downloads
- Another nude female mod – 85,981 downloads
- A mod to overhaul and re-texture the female faces in the game – 65,089 downloads
- I can’t make sense of this one. It makes some changes to the races (Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, African) but I can’t tell what or why. Seems to be based on mod #1 – 59,268 downloads
- A high-resolution re-texture of the city of Megaton – 54,705 downloads
- Another nude female body replacement – 48,615 downloads
For comparison, the first male nude appears at #31 in the list with 28,294 downloads. Still, I want to stress that while the female downloads are more than an order of magnitude ahead of the male, the numbers on the female mods are going to be artificially inflated because they’re so often prerequisite downloads for non-salacious mods.
In any case, both types of mods offer an incredible level of variety. While the downloads might not be even, I don’t think anyone could feel cheated about lack of variety or choice no matter what gender they are or what gender they play as. (Quick question for the ladies: Do you ever deliberately play as the opposite sex so you can oogle your avatar the way men often do?) With males, you can choose from burly biker bodies to marathon runners to body builders. The females have choices centered around bust size and the “curvyness” of the hips and butt. And both genders offer all of those choices with various levels of nudity. Sadly, these changes can only be applied globally, to everyone in the world. This is a shortcoming in Bethesda’s original design, that everyone in the world – from grandma Agatha to 19-year old Vault Dweller Girl – must have the exact same physique and be wearing the exact same underwear. It would probably be possible to fix this with a mod, but that mod would involve manually setting different models for all of the hundreds of characters, which would cause all sorts of horrifying conflicts with other mods.
Speaking of which, Fallout 3 mods suffer from many of the same problems that plague Oblivion mods, in that they don’t always play well together and can make an ugly mess of the game if you’re not careful. (I had big black blotches over areas of the male bodies for a long time and it took a while to sort that out.) I had a devil of a time getting rid of the male and female body mods once I installed them. I don’t mind the nudity in general, but often raiders (one of the most common foes in the game) will land in various splayed poses that become quite shocking once you loot their armor, leaving them naked. It’s actually pretty realistic, but I really don’t need an eyeful of that every time I want to salvage a set of badlands armor from a headless corpse. (Ew.)
Incidentally, while compiling this list I stumbled on one mod that really changed the game for me. It was tiny (only 4k) but completely altered both the look and the tone of the game. It was so compelling it actually prompted me to take another trip through the game. I’ll talk about it in a later post.