Stolen Pixels #148: Dragon Aged

By Shamus
on Dec 4, 2009
Filed under:
Column

I guess we should be grateful that BioWare didn’t do the same thing with Shale and Dog.

Comic Spoiler:

Yes, Wynne is built like all the other women. (Hot.) She obviously just re-uses the same body used by every other woman in the game, who are all also hot. Fine, fine. Budget limits and all that. They couldn’t take the time to make a proper old person body.

So… what about Sten? They took the time to make this special barrel-chested male model. (Although he looks wide in armor, but ripped if you take his shirt off. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

It’s just… odd. All of it. And confusing.

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From the Archives:

  1. Nyaz says:

    So… if you ignore her face (or her entire head, actually) she’s a twenty-something hot woman with very well-shaped… yeah. You know.

    Weird.

  2. Henebry says:

    It would have been much more fun if the game designed her like that and then played her as a Cougar.

  3. Mechman says:

    Sten actually doesn’t have a unique body model. All of the Qunari look like that, you just probably didn’t notice he’s not a human character.

  4. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Silly Shamus.

    You just don’t understand. It’s not a matter of “saving budget” (as you can see, they have the time to make dedicated models), nor is it a matter of “programmer likes to model in hot women”. You got it all wrong.

    It’s just that in Marketingland, old women don’t exist. It’s their reality: You have young men, old (and powerful) men, and young women. People living in Marketingland just cannot comprehend what you aren’t obligated to throw any woman becoming slightly less hot for another one. It’s not a matter of choice, they have been nurtured like that.

    So, they probably forced the programmers to take out any non-hot woman model, since they wanted the more “realism” as possible in their game.

    It makes sense, in context.

    Another topic: Shamus, do you think that better graphics might break immersion? If you think of games like Eschalon, Morrowind, etc.. with somewhat primitive graphics, and you compare them to Dragon Age an Oblivion, wouldn’t you agree that better graphics also make more obvious the programmers’ shortcoming in creating the game, and thu creating reality-break?

    While when you play a low-graphic game, you are not expecting anything visual out of it, and you go your way using your imagination filling the gap. Would you think that games that would rely more on your imagination would also break immersion less often? Also, they have better potential of amazing gameplay-feat, since they are not restricted by spending 3 hours on that 5 seconds of gameplay…

    A good example would be Dwarf Fortress. Probably the most violent videogame I’ve ever seen. In the entrance of my fortress is a complex of 20 traps armed with obsidian swords. Goblins got it, and at first, I see the little “g” turning red.. but the walls also turn red. The floor too. And I even see red “z” flying a few tiles away. On closer examination, those red “z” are revealed to be some of the goblin’s arms, legs, head.

    In short, the goblins got hacked into pieces, the blood splattering over the walls. My dwarves have to spend the next 5 dways cleaning the bits and washing the wall.

    I’ve rarely seen such violence as well depicted in any video games. The body parts don’t even disapear like in [put every freaking game]. You have to deal with them (and use them as ressources. I plan to use bone elf bolts when the pointy ear fellas will come back)

    Ergo, do you think that better graphics might be a restraint to gameplay options implimentation on the short and/or long term for the programmers?

  5. Michael says:

    It gets weirder, wasn’t Dragon Age a setting where magic decayed the user over time?

    Kudos to NWN2 though, at least there, when they had older characters, like the Gith Cleric, she had a full body custom appearance (which also meant you couldn’t see her armor).

    The place this one really drove me up the wall was Oblivion oddly, especially with vampires. Your face looks like it’s 150, but the rest of your body is as fit and toned as ever.

  6. Danel says:

    Yeah, I’d guess that Sten has a standard “Male Qunari” body type, there just aren’t that many qunari in the game and they’re not a player race. I’m guessing they’re going to have a lot more of a role in a sequel, since they have this whole culture and religion and invading hordes thing and then they barely appear.

    @5: As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing about magic decaying the user in Dragon Age’s setting. It’s potentially morally corrupting, but you can live to an old age as a mage, provided you don’t get murderized by a paranoid templar at some point.

  7. acronix says:

    I´d also say that what doesn´t exist in Marketingland (TM) are old female NPC companions. And if they are, they will never look as old as they are suppoused to be. Wynne is the personification of this.

  8. Factoid says:

    Is it really that hard to create a body morphing system like they have facial morphing ones?

    I mean ever RPG just uses the same 2 bodies (male and female, hot) for every character. You can “age” the face by adding lines, changing colors, etc… Couldn’t they theoretically do the same thing with all the rest of the body parts? Women’s hips get a bit wider, breasts droop a bit, Men’s bellies protrude a bit more, noses get a little larger, etc…

    This shouldn’t really be that much harder than the morphing done on faces, should it?

  9. Kyte says:

    Given how Aion Online has that very system in their character creation, I suspect it’s more of a “developers never thought of it/cared enough” than “it’s not technologically feasible”

  10. Ugh. This is an issue that absolutely drives me crazy! And I think it’s indicative of the overall attitude towards women in our culture.

    A woman’s value in our culture is directly proportional to her physical attractiveness and ability to procreate.

    We don’t value our elderly in this society. And we certainly do not value elderly women. We’d rather pretend that they don’t exist.

    Leslee
    [/soapbox]

  11. Drew says:

    The problem with having a legitimate older woman model is that they would then be more or less prevented from making sexy girl armor. And every gamer loves sexy girl armor, or at least the key demographic does. Picture the same getup you’ve got her wearing in the comic, but attached to 75 year old woman’s body. It either looks disgusting or hysterical, but certainly doesn’t look reasonable, and is miles from sexy. Either they’d need to keep the armor out of the game entirely, prevent her from wearing it (which would likely make her a less useful character, I imagine), or make armor look different depending on who was wearing it, which while amusing, would I guess be immersion-breaking.

    Of course, simply not displaying worn armor on the character models is also a solution.

  12. noneofcon says:

    Drew: They already have the same armor/looks different thing with the male and females. The females all have the cut out on top. I would think they need the same amount of protection as the guys, since my characters of both genders seem to die about the same amount.

  13. LintMan says:

    Wynne’s hotness was a bit disconcerting for me as well, but to be fair, I don’t think that the male human model has any more variation, either, does it? If you could take off Arl Eamon’s clothes or Loghain’s clothes, I bet they’d be just as ripped and studly as Alistair or the player character. So I don’t really think it’s a sexism thing, necessarily. They certainly don’t write/act the character as “hot”.

    I think if they were to make even a very slightly “wrinkled/saggy” model for Wynne, I bet the forums would be full of idiots complaining they wouldn’t use her because she was “hideous”.

  14. Old_Geek says:

    Hey, they gave her grey hair! What more do you want?

  15. krellen says:

    To be fair, if you travel with her enough, the banter dialogue reveals that Wynne was “quite the looker in her day”, and she definitely supports “having fun” while young.

    That said, she probably should look a little more worn out.

  16. Monkeyboy says:

    Obligatory Discworld reference:

    In “The Last Hero” here’s a picture of “Vena, the Raven Haired” (now a Grandmother) in her original armor.

    Quite good actually, and she’s a killer.

  17. Mr_Wizard says:

    Do they at least have granny models for NPC’s? It would kind of sad if it didn’t, even “The Witcher” had granny models walking around.

  18. Robyrt says:

    This isn’t a design choice, it’s a problem with Bioware’s code. My guess is that they have custom face generation code on top of the Unreal Engine, and it doesn’t extend to the character skeleton, and they didn’t want to change if it worked.

    Note that in Mass Effect, texture pop-in is everywhere, but the characters’ faces are usually loaded earlier than the regular textures. That suggests it’s on a different, less clogged thread, or a different loading pass entirely.

  19. Yeah, the Witcher had granny NPC models. Or, rather, one single caricature of an old woman, complete with a single tooth and ridiculously long hook-nose. Did she have a wart? I’m not sure.

    Frankly, it was one of my main peeves with the Witcher that the population consisted entirely of old, ugly women; ugly men; young, sexy women; and Geralt.

    As for Wynne, I’ll admit, despite having her in my part for most of the game, I never noticed her unrealistic body. She’s actually my favorite companion, due to her personality.

  20. Doug O. says:

    Possible story cover: She’s a *healing* mage if you let her auto-level. If we assume that aging == damage…well, it looks like she found a “hidden spell combo” involving Rejuvenate and the Hayflick limit…

  21. Ellery says:

    Agree with the prevailing mood of comments here for the most part. However, I seem to remember Wynn saying something right after she joined the party along the lines of “I was much more up for this type of thing fifteen years ago.” I took a lot of her whining about being old as the type of thing many people start doing when they turn 40. I just convinced myself she wasn’t as old as she let on and the “body model” stopped bothering me as much.

    The “body model” _does_ bother me because all the women in the world are equally proportioned, though.

  22. Steve B says:

    Yeah, I find this very disconcerting, but it’s not just the women. I find it very odd when that my mage character, who spent the last twenty years in a tower reading books, is totally ripped, with the complete six-pack.

    It definitely kills the suspension of disbelief when all the characters have model bodies.

  23. Picador says:

    Is it really that hard to create a body morphing system like they have facial morphing ones?

    Yes, it’s much harder. Body-morphing would mean somehow extrapolating how different clothing styles would draps over different body types. This is a practically insurmountable problem.

    even “The Witcher” had granny models walking around.

    I don’t understand why people say things like “even the Witcher”. I thought it was an excellent game.

    However, it used a handful of character models over and over, and each model had the same clothes on (differently textured, perhaps, but the same meshes).

    This is pretty much an either/or: either produce a wide range of evocative character models (old/young, fat/skinny, male/female, and so on) and give each a set outfit, or produce a very small set (e.g. only one male and one female) of models and let them change their clothes. The math is quite simple: you get an exponential increase in the number of meshes you have to make as you increase the number of models as well as the number of outfits per model, so you have to keep one variable or the other at a very small value.

  24. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Yeah, no, sorry, but nobody in Dragon Age is what I would define as “hot.”

    Sure, they look okay in screenshots, but get them moving and they have that “yes, I’m a video game character” way of moving that makes everyone look like oversized dolls.

  25. Kristin says:

    I use Wynne a fair bit (nearly all the time) and take Zevran along once in a while because he cracks me up. Zevran kept offering to hook Wynne up with one of his buddies who liked mature women. Wynne didn’t find it amusing.

    I find Sten the hottest of the guys, for some reason.

    The main thing that creeped me out so far was when my male Elf character went to tent with Zevran, I could not tell the difference between the two except when my character happened to be facing the camera – I put a tattoo on him. (The other thing is in the Dwarven commoner origin story, my character could admit to thinking about sleeping with his sister.)

  26. Blackbird71 says:

    @Steve B (22)

    This is precisely the reason why in most CRPGs, if I play a caster, I play a female. Playing a mage in NWN with 6 STR who looks every bit as buff and powerful as an 18 STR warrior is just ridiculous. Of course, the women all use the same body models as well, but they just don’t look as obviously wrong as casters.

  27. Jeff says:

    The bigger problem is in the animation. All the women are slightly off, because they all use the male animation model. ’cause there’s just the one. Also, huge hands. Bejezus.

  28. ehlijen says:

    I thought they actually did a good job of making Flemeth look (and sound) old. At least older than Wynne.

    I also recall everyone in KOTOR having a different body from each other (the NPCs that is, the rest of the galaxy was 90% identical Twilek twins). Not sure why they didn’t do it here.

    If you really want to see how a woman doesn’t move, try running a female character carrying a bow around in combat mode. (I don’t know if the bow truly changes a thing, but that arm position seems the most bizzare while running out of them all).

  29. Draconbits says:

    Well COME ON.

    Zevran can CLEARLY see she has a measure of attractiveness about her. Maybe she just has an old ‘I should be dead’ complex about her.

    Mind you, perhaps I shouldn’t use the Zevran standard, that crazy elf stabber would bang anything with a pulse and a pair of Antivan Leather Boots to give him. And usually the boots are optional.

    Besides, everyone knows that an NPC woman’s value in this RPG is based not on her looks but on

    A) Does she open locks
    B) If not, does she cast spells?

  30. Hawkehunt says:

    @Drew (#11)


    Picture the same getup you’ve got her wearing in the comic, but attached to 75 year old woman’s body. It either looks disgusting or hysterical, but certainly doesn’t look reasonable, and is miles from sexy.

    True – but to be fair, the female armour in most games is unreasonable to begin with.

  31. Sleeping Dragon says:

    While I accept the argument that creating an “elderly body” may be more difficult than just glueing an “elderly face” I think that the fact that they have the resources to create a model for a single NPC who is of an exotic race sort of breaks this argument.

    Also, I think as the number of maturing gamers increases someone will finally realise that, while we probably appreciate some cheese/beefcake (depending on gender and preference) in our games, the memorable NPCs for us are those that are interesting and not those that have ridiculous armour.

    On a note related to the discworld reference earlier, wouldn’t it be just the coolest thing to be able to play a game with the Silver Horde? XD

  32. krellen says:

    There are other Qunari in the game, Sleeping Dragon. They’re adversaries, but they’re there (and they all look a lot like Sten.)

  33. […] this over on RPGWatch. Basically, Shamus Young is complaining that the body model for Wynne in Dragon Age is that of a young, attractive woman, even though she […]

  34. BlackBloc says:

    To be fair: this is a medieval society where people seem to routinely stab each other. Maybe by ‘old’ Wynne means she’s pushing her late 30s.

  35. BlackBloc says:

    Though now that I’m thinking about it, medieval Europe didn’t have Spirit Healers for an health care system…

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  1. […] this over on RPGWatch. Basically, Shamus Young is complaining that the body model for Wynne in Dragon Age is that of a young, attractive woman, even though she […]

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