Warface's Revealing Skins for Women are Due to "Cultural Differences"

Crytek producer says the female character models could've been much worse if they had listened to Russian fans

News by Mike Williams, .

Crytek's Warface is the company's first dip into the world of free-to-play gaming. The military shooter depicts a near-future conflict, but the character models don't skew too far from the realistic military gear featured in upcoming games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4. Well, unless you decide that you want your avatar to be a woman. If that's the case, you have to be willing to allow a bit of artistic license.

"Artistic license" means taking a 9mm round to the sternum.

They were very comfortable with the fact we have these very realistic-looking men but they wanted the women to be not what we would think of as realistic at all

Warface launched first in China and Russia, so those communities have had time to provide feedback on the addition of female skins. Their first results don't stray too far from the gaming norm: cleavage-showing v-neck shirts, boob windows, and bare midriffs. In an interview with Wired UK, Warface executive producer Josh Howard admits that it could've been much worse.

"The female skins [are] a good example of how we see how culturally the different regions approach the same game in different ways," Howard said. "The skins we're showing right now are the skins that basically came out of our Russian region. They're not what our players at first requested in the Russian region. They tended to be considerably more extreme that what we ended up shipping with."

Those "extreme" requests included unrealistic physical proportions, more revealing clothing, and even high heels in combat. Howard said Crytek didn't go all the way with fan requests because Warface "has an authenticity to it that makes sense for us," but the company did want to listen to its fanbase.

Why the midriff?

"They were very comfortable with the fact we have these very realistic-looking men but they wanted the women to be not what we would think of as realistic at all," he explained. "Up to and including running round in high heels which is just silly, right?"

"We leaned a little Russian in these characters but we're doing another set of characters for our Chinese market, for example, and those are leaning in a different direction," he added. "It's interesting to see they are also somewhat unrealistic as compared to the males but differently than the Russians. [...] You look at the Chinese models and they're also disproportionate but in a way that's more... Chinese? I don't even know what language to use for that but they're different."

"You get these little differences you have to adjust for. The idea we were going to come up with one set of female skins across the world was clearly blown out of the water as we started to talk to more of our players and partners from different regions."

We're just getting to the point where modern first-person shooters are regularly adding the option for women as player characters. That's a good thing, but the problem is that's affected by how we handle women characters in games period. 'Woman' generally equals revealing skin and unrealistic body types in some fashion, even if it makes absolutely no sense for the setting. Which is ultimately boring. Yeah, not morally wrong, just very boring.

Call of Duty - which just added women to its online multiplayer with this year's Ghosts - stands out for the fact that clothing options for men and women are exactly the same, but for most games across the entire industry, that's not the case. When there's parity in clothing items between genders, as it is with Final Fantasy XIV most of the time, I actually find that rather refreshing. I didn't like my FFXIV gladiator's subligar, but I acknowledge that it's rather close to what female avatars work with in most MMOs. Or there's the other free-to-play 'War', Warframe, which has models for women that tend to mirror the ones for men.

I'm just tired and bored of that status quo. There's no outrage, no surprise in me anymore. "Of course your women characters look like that," I remark quietly to myself in certain demos. At this point, making few changes between the genders - which you would think is the easy way out - is different. I tire of certain prevailing ideas. The idea that women in games have a default state, and that default state is 'more skin than men' is frankly exasperating. The idea that it's so odd for women in combat to look like this:

The idea that these themes are so entrenched in popular culture that we should all just throw our hands in the air and give up. The idea that anyone asking, 'hey, maybe less of that, please' is trying to censor artists. So many ideas making me so tired.

Developers, you have the entirety of human history and imagination to pull ideas from. You don't have to do elves and orcs, faceless corporations, gritty bald marines, and boob windows until the end of time. You can do that stuff, but play around a bit. Switch it up. Trust me, it'll be a good thing.

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Comments 21

  • Avatar for GustinHardy #1 GustinHardy 4 years ago
    "It could have been worse" is quite possibly one of the most offensive arguments for sexist/degrading/misogynistic behavior. It'd be like saying "Yeah, the women in our game are objects to titillate our male fans and the only way we know how to use them for emotional impact is to have them raped and/or killed. But, you know, it could be worse"
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #2 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    I'm gonna take what will probably be the unpopular view and say I think what they did is perfectly fine. If that's what fans of this game wanted, then I think there's nothing wrong with giving them what they want.

    There's nothing wrong with boob windows or midriffs or whatever. Whenever people are offended by the showing of skin, I can't help but wonder if they are just offended by the human body. Granted, it's not equal... you don't see men showing skin like that. But I think that's only because the fans aren't calling for it. Either the women who play this game don't care about seeing scantily clad men, or there just aren't many women playing this game.

    But if women DID want to see men a lot of sexually provocative outfits, why would I be offended? I'm all for giving people what they want, both men and women, and there's nothing unhealthy about appealing to sexual desires.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 Who said there was something wrong with it? I just called it boring. Boring and expected.Edited 2 times. Last edited October 2013 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #4 renatocosta90 4 years ago
    @MHWilliams And also very dissonant to the theme of the game. So they are going to say: "Hey, our game is a war simulation that strives to be realistic/futuristic, the physics are realistic, the weapons are realistic, the sounds are realistic, but hey, you can't expect realism on the portrail of actual women in our game".
    It is something that speaks a lot about individual tastes, as the discussion on Dragon's Crown here on USGamer once proved, but, in the end, it breaks the immersion and becomes more jarring as it goes, as pointed out in the pictures by Mike. It is the same backwards, pandering thinking that made the designers of, say, FFXIV design chars like Minfilia clearly trying to point at her boobs. Really. They color-coded the bosom area in pink.
    TL;DR: it is a question of taste, but I feel like it is a juvenile, tasteless fan-base pandering that doesn't lend credibility to the rest of the artistic vision of the game.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #5 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @renatocosta90 Is it really all that dissonant? We're basically talking about a Call of Duty type multi-player shooter. Yeah, the graphics and settings look realistic, but I highly doubt the point of the game is to provide a realistic, immersive experience. More likely it's meant to just be some simple dumb multi-player fun. In any case, the fans who specifically asked for these kinds of costumes obviously don't care about "immersion" being compromised.

    I do find it a little odd that whenever female costumes in videogames are being discussed, suddenly a lot of people become huge advocates of realism. Since when is realism the overriding concern? Yes, realism can be important, but we're all so willing to sacrifice it in the name of fun. Except in the case of female costumes, I guess.
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  • Avatar for docexe #6 docexe 4 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 Mmmm… As I see it, the issue here is not that this particular game heavily sexualizes female characters while presenting male characters with realistic getup and less skin showing, but that almost 90% of all action games in the market does that.

    Putting aside that, as Renato Costa mentions, it’s silly and doesn’t make much sense in the context of many of those games, or that as Mike says, this has become a tired cliché, this issue is problematic because: a) It inevitably alienates women from playing games (that’s the reason why you don’t see the female player base demanding sexualized outfits for the male characters, there is not enough female players for the developers to bother with that option); b) in very large quantities, all this sexualization can be at best distracting, and at worse just disgusting.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t advocate for the elimination of all forms of female sexualization and fanservice in gaming or any other form of media. I won’t deny that I have enjoyed looking at images of scantly female characters (or that I have even used “create a character” options in a few games to dress a female avatar in a ridiculously stripperific outfit). But I perfectly understand why some people get troubled by this kind of things, and I also think we need a more balanced landscape in terms of gender representation in gaming.

    Specifically for developers: If you are going for realistic combat get-up for your male characters, then you also have to give your female characters realistic combat get-up (i.e. no unnecessary skin showing or anything like that), otherwise... well, why are you aiming for realism in the first place? And if you are dead-set on having eye-candy in the game regardless of context... well, I suppose you then should have the common courtesy of extending the heavily sexualized outfits not only to the female characters but to the male characters as well.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #7 Ohoni 4 years ago
    Meh. They should include boring old "just like the guys, only not" skins too, at least a couple of those, but there's no reason they can't include more fun skins as well. If the female models end up looking just like the male ones then what's the point in adding them? Just let people use the male models and call themselves "Susan."
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #8 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    @Ohoni Hey, options are good! Currently, there are no options other than "suck it up"
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  • Avatar for Silveresque-Bullet #9 Silveresque-Bullet 4 years ago
    Its a shame that devs are listening to fans a bit too much at times. How far until your vision of a game is compromised and it doesn't feel like yours anymore?

    I feel kind of sad that characters have to be adjusted like this, for the vocal misogynist minority. It would be better to leave females in game characters how Crytek wants them in the game, but offer an in game character editor so gamers can get their fix. Everyone wins. But when we bend too far, gaming as a whole suffers as a medium. Games turn into Maxim.

    Us gamers are not always right. And there's a time and a place to be 'sexy' with characters and games like this are not the place.Edited October 2013 by Silveresque-Bullet
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #10 renatocosta90 4 years ago
    @docexe@brionfoulke91 I think that doc articulated my thoughts better than I could actually do it.
    I think it is a matter of balancing the thematic of the actual game with the overall artistic vision or choosing to simply servicing the players that welcome the pandering while alienating those who don't.
    Point in case, a mechanic that showed up a few years ago that concerned a lot of people was the clothing damage. 3rd birthday was exceptionally guilty of overusing it, layering Aya Brea, a well estabilished and loved character, with a different, more meek personality and a mechanic that made obligatory to finish every single stage barely clothed. Did it add anything at all on the gameplay? No it didn't, because if you take damage as a soldier and leave his body, the military outfit will not be damage. It is fan-service for the sake of itself.
    On a different note, we have a series like Dragon Age approach the subject on a different light with two characters. While DA:O Morrigan is more of a seductress-type of char, a witch of the wild that prefers to wear little and manipulate people and men (I guess, it's a while since I last played), on DA2, problems aside, you have Aveline, that is a warrior through and through, and wears beffiting armor. Each kind of characterization respects the world and its lore.
    To clarify that bit about realism, it was specifically about the conundrum this game put itself. Maybe I could phrase that differently: If the game advertises itself as a modern combat/war simulator, but the characters do not wear armor, but rather don Shining belts and shoot laser tag weapons, no one is going to buy the premise. It is dissonant as on Bioware's own Mass Effect 2, where every character on your disposal wears heavy armor to withstand the vaccum of space.... Except Jack, because reasons allow her to brave space with naught but leather nipple covers. We might end up swallowing it on the name of disbelief but it sure as hell doesn't stop it from being stupid.

    On a related note, I adore the community of this site. I raged and rambled and received only well-thought and well-written commentary. Thanks!
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #11 Ohoni 4 years ago
    @silveresque bullet

    That cuts both ways though. In this case, the developers claim to want to be super mature and include only positive female depictions, but are being "forced into" having mildly attractive models by their mean customers, but there are plenty of cases where the developers' vision was to have sexy female characters, and there's no end to the people complaining that they should compromise their vision.To defend these guys on the grounds of "developer vision" would mean defending Kojima's sniper too.

    If you'd just prefer that all depictions of female characters be 100% practical then that's fair enough, but there's no need to couch it behind irrelevant side-arguments like developer intent.

    And as to whether this is "the place" for such costumes, leave that up to the players. Give them both options, let them choose which they want to wear. The developers are crafting a product, and it only suits their interests to provide the players with the tools that are requested of them.Edited October 2013 by Ohoni
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #12 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @renatocosta90 I liked that mechanic in The 3rd Birthday. If there is indeed a time and a place for fan service, Parasite Eve is a good place. It's always been a schlocky horror game with a somewhat silly plot. Clothes ripping off fits the tone of the game just fine. I was honestly baffled and disheartened by the outcry against it.

    There seems to be a growing amount of conservatism about the human body in gaming culture, and it frankly bothers me. I don't think that fan service is necessarily misogynistic, and labeling it that was is basically just damning our sexual impulses. I don't think fan service needs a reason other than that people like it. There's nothing wrong with it.

    I agree that there's a ton of it for men and not very much for women, but to me that just means there needs to be more for women. It's better to level the playing field by giving everyone what they want rather than no one.
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  • Avatar for docexe #13 docexe 4 years ago
    @Ohoni Actually, you could probably argue that Quiet makes sense in the context of the MGS series. Her getup is tasteless (particularly considering the character is mute), but in a world where you have characters like Liquid Snake, The Boss, Vamp, Sniper Wolf, Vulcan Raven, EVA, Fortune, etc. ….well, it actually fits.

    Also, regardless of the fact that it’s supposed to be military/spy fiction, Kojima has gone for stylization and over the top “coolness for the sake of coolness” so many times in the Metal Gear franchise that any claims on his part that the games are serious or “realistic” quickly goes out of the window. They could probably (probably!) work as allegories or metaphors of real world military conflict, but as realistic representations of that, not so much.
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  • Avatar for docexe #14 docexe 4 years ago

    Mmmm… I have some troubles with some parts of your argument. And it’s not because of prudishness or conservatism.

    Putting aside the issues about sexism and misogyny (which DO have merit, because of what I mentioned before about gender imbalance), as I see it, fanservice is supposed to be an innocuous extra, an inoffensive “wink and smile for the audience, then carry on”.

    If you include it in very excessive ways and on a constant and continuous basis, you run the risk of having it become distracting, overshadow the rest of the work and cause tonal inconsistencies. You might even tire or alienate your audience, especially if you start to include or allude to certain fetishes “just because” or if your depictions of fanservice start to border on blatant pornography.

    I suppose, as a creative, you might get away with excessive fanservice if you are deliberately aiming for something comedic, silly, parodic or over the top. But if you are aiming for seriousness, then keeping fanservice to the minimum is really the best option.Edited 2 times. Last edited October 2013 by docexe
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #15 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @docexe It almost seems like you're making my point for me. Sure, if a game is trying to make a serious artistic statement, then a large amount of fan-service can be distracting. But that's not really the case with this game, is it? This is a multiplayer shooter, I don't think it's trying to be serious art. So what's the point of this article? Isn't the fan service in this game a non issue?

    I would argue that most games don't have this problem, as the majority of fan-service games are *not* trying to make serious artistic statements. Most of the time they are just trying to please their fanbase and be fun. And in that case, there's no tonal inconsistencies.

    Again, I'm strongly against sexism. I'm interested in the female point of view, so if a game was worked on by a female developer that would be a big plus for me. And I think female gamers deserve our respect. But at the same time, there's nothing wrong with games that appeal to the "male gaze," because there's nothing wrong with our innate desires. Putting natural sexual desires in a negative light by calling it "misogynist" seems really unhealthy to me. Enjoying looking at women is not inherently disrespectful. And I have no problem with women enjoying looking at men, and I would defend thier right to do it.

    I'm all for equality, so let's achieve that in a positive way by giving women what they want too, rather than a negative way by lobbying against what men enjoy.Edited October 2013 by brionfoulke91
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  • Avatar for alexb #16 alexb 4 years ago
    @renatocosta90 Artistic vision and F2P rarely drink at the same bars. This is about getting Russian teenagers to shell out money for skins. It's crass as hell, but it flows naturally from the business model rather than from stunted artistic sensibilities. Art never entered into it.
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #17 renatocosta90 4 years ago
    @alexb I'm thinking "artistic vision" in a broader sense, I guess, not in the sense of being an "Art Game" as Shadow of the Colossus and Bastion are argued to be, but as the overall artistic direction that ties the game's settings down to its gameplay.

    It is the same old adage of high level armor in MMOs for female characters being skimpy shining bathsuits. Mechanically, it might provide the most protection an armor can provide, but it doesn't translate to the gameplay. It is clearly aimed at a male gaze that caters to an especific demographic of players, that I feel like it is overdone, and worse, I feel that sometimes that objectification is done for the sake of itself, but not for an overall design direction.

    After my previous posts I felt like this was a parallel discussion that has been going on and off for a few years about the depiction of women in other media, such as Comic books or even book covers. Sure, that depiction is very pleasing to a male eye, but I feel like that objectification can be harmful to the evolution and reach of the media to broader markets.

    An example -

    But it all boils down to, well, if people like it or not. If there wasn't a demand, the characters wouldn't be modelled that way. I don't think I have a problem with sexuality being explored in a game, and, done well, wields marvelous results. Catherine is an example of a game that dealt with sexuality and did not skimp or held back on the depiction of their characters, but the game explored the ideas on a way that made sense. But when it is done on a more pandering, nonsensical way, I feel like it does a disservice to the game
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #18 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @renatocosta90 Well, it is a matter of taste. You're right that fan service is often done simply for it's own sake, and I think that's fine. I doubt it's holding back the medium, because this sort of thing is common in all mediums. Sex sells. I don't like calling it "crass" because that just seems anti-sex to me. I'm all for embracing it.
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  • Avatar for docexe #19 docexe 4 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 Err… I didn’t mean “seriousness” in terms of making or conveying an artistic statement, I mean it in terms of setting and tone. Many works of fiction and media are very serious, dramatic and grounded in reality, yet don’t really have any other aspiration than function as mere escapism and entertainment (many police thrillers and spy movies follow that pattern for example).

    As I see it, even multiplayer games can be considered serious if the setting and “lore” that surrounds them is serious and tries to ground itself in reality as much as possible. Battlefield, Rainbow Six and many other military shooters strive to present their setting as serious and realistic as possible, even if the ultimate goal is still to have fun in deathmatch.

    Overall, what I think irks me in the particular case of this game is that the developers expressed a desire for authenticity and realism in the military aspects of the game… yet, still presented the female characters in impractical outfits for the sake of fanservice. It’s a tonal inconsistency that they are aware of, yet still went with it for the sake of profiting from a segment of their fanbase that demanded this kind of fanservice. I just think it betrays the original intent and looks very “mercenary” on their part.

    And well, I’m not trying to condemn sexual desires or impulses, it’s true, they are perfectly natural and men and women have them equally. But I think they have a place and a time, and in certain contexts they can be inappropriate. I also think there are limits, a point where authors, developers and creatives just go too far with the fanservice and their work can become… well, outright disturbing. I’m also not particularly fond of games and other pieces of media that use fanservice as a hook, yet don’t have any other notable or quality aspect about them, or that try to use the fanservice to masquerade mediocrity.

    This is not related to games, but as an anime fan, I’m getting incredibly sick of the amount of harem series with bland useless protagonists, stereotypical characters and uninteresting clichéd plots that yet go on because of the fanservice.Edited October 2013 by docexe
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  • Avatar for merylmornels08 #20 merylmornels08 4 years ago
    With hacks game a lot better .. Play Game Hacker created a working hack for the game.
    FIlm with the program can be seen here:
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  • Avatar for merylmornels08 #21 merylmornels08 4 years ago
    With hacks game a lot better .. Play Game Hacker created a working hack for the game.
    FIlm with the program can be seen here:
    Sign in to Reply