New WoW models: Men get character, women get vapid beauty [MANY IMAGES]

A brief note before I start:

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, and I apologize for not even putting up a freebie. However, despite my best efforts to stay the hell out of a recent blowup in the TRPG blogosphere, a certain person decided that he wanted to try to incite his followers to harass me. Again[1].

Thankfully, his followers don’t seem to dislike me as much as he wants them to. Either that or he just doesn’t have as many true followers as some other folks, because the referral traffic I got from his blog was pretty minimal. Still, it made for a very stressful and emotional week since I had to deal at first with the anxiety of seeing that he’d made a post about me, then with getting dragged into the whole shitstorm surrounding his post, not to mention the fun of having people calling me a liar on a social network that I frequent. (Mostly people that I’d already blocked, at least. Yay?)

Anyway, tl;dr. I spent much of the last week and a half working on not-blog things because it was easier to manage the fallout of a bunch of internet bullshit not of my making if I kept myself busy with other projects. So thanks for your forbearance, and thanks also to those of you who sent me messages of support.

 


On to business…

I’d been hearing people in my gaming circles talk about new character models in WoW for the last little while. And it’s about damn time, considering that I quit WoW more than four years ago and the graphics looked dated even then. But it wasn’t until last week that I happened to come across a detailed look at one of the new models – the new human male:

All in all, it looks like a decent improvement. And actual facial animations? Looks pretty cool. Curious, I went looking for the human female.

…and promptly wished I hadn’t:

Ugh. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Leaving aside the fact that all of the human preview models I’ve seen have been white (because white is the “default” setting for humans, of course), let’s just talk about the bullshit sexism here. Notice how the male human gets to have actual facial expressions that convey emotions? While the female character renders all have the same vapid expression but with different hairstyles. Because men get to DO THINGS and EXPRESS THEMSELVES but women get to BE PRETTY.

/headdesk.

But of course, it’s not like I should be surprised. It was this kind of bullshit that led me to quit WoW in the first place. The interesting/pretty binary pervades pretty much every facet of WoW. From my Ret Paladin’s inability to find high level pants that were actually fucking pants, to necro-tits, to the absolutely abysmal representation of women in the lore.

Oh yes, the lore. Where the few women who show up are completely useless (Jaina) or important only for their connection to a man (Tyrande). And all of the big important events that shape the world are set into motion by the BIG MANLY MANZ.

Because I hate myself, I decided to go looking for more of the new models. I’m not going to go through every race, because that would be tedious. I’ll just cover the examples that stuck out the most to me.

MOAR STUPID

When I located a preview of the female orc model, I was disappointed to see that her renders also suffer from vapid-sameface-with-different-hairstyles, although not to quite the same extent:

Now I’ll at least give Blizzard some credit in that the female orc’s physique isn’t grossly distorted. She’s rocking some serious superhero muscles there, not to mention that her breasts are actually affected by gravity and her torso has space for all of her internal organs. Hooray!

But this comment by senior Blizzard art director Chris Robinson bugged me:

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft female orc redesign will help highlight the gender’s “‘warrior’ side a little more,” senior art director Chris Robinson wrote on Battle.net.

“That means moving away from the more doe-eyed version we know now toward a character you would expect to see fighting on the front lines alongside any of her Horde brothers and sisters,” Robinson wrote.

According to lead animator Steve Aguilar, the team wants to fix the female orc’s “blank stare,” which does little to convey her personality.

“We wanted to give her more of an edge so she would project a confident ‘Don’t mess with me!’ attitude,” Aguilar said. “… She now looks and feels more like you’d expect an Orc to.

(Emphasis Mine)

Uh-huh. Her “fierce” expression is much more supermodel than warrior as far as I’m concerned. Certainly not as fierce as…

…this guy here. Which brings me to my other complaint.

When it comes to Warcraft’s monstrous races, men get to be monstrous and women get to be pretty. Look at our male orc friend here. He’s got a bit of a hunch and frigging tusks. But lady orc? Lady orc has impeccably straight posture and her “tusks” are just a texture. Dude Orc’s tusks gets freaking polygons, Lady Orc’s tusks just gets some pixels. Weak sauce.

This is even more exaggerated when you look at the trolls:

This time the difference is even more exaggerated. While the male orc has a slight hunch, the male troll has a full-on stoop. Screw having 4-inch tusks, the male trolls have 12+ inch tusks. The new male troll renders also have mottled skin and what looks to be scarification on their biceps. These are some seriously monstrous-looking characters.

All of which makes the female troll model ridiculous by contrast. Her skin is smooth, with little visible texture, and her posture perfectly erect, with no difference in stance from her orc and human counterparts. Like the female orc, her tusks are only textures without any actual polygons. In fact, it wouldn’t take much to turn this female troll into a female orc. Shorten the ears, turn her green, and give her four fingers instead of two, and voila! Instant orc.

WHICH. IS. STUPID.

Blizzard has gone to the effort of designing these fantasy races (human, orc, and troll) with three very different physiologies that only apply to men. Because all of those differences go out the window once boobz[2] get tossed into the equation. So if you play a male character, you get the chance to play as several different flavors of monstrous, but if you play a female character you get generic pretty where the only difference between races is skin color and other largely cosmetic details. Great.

But at least none of that is as dumb as necro-tits.

/sigh. Where do I even start?

How about with the fact that the preview of male undead faces is to show off the different types of facial rot while the preview of female undead faces is to show off… hair styles. Coming back, once again, to the interesting/pretty dynamic. At least you can say that Blizzard is always consistent.

In some ways, the new models are actually worse than the old ones. Sure the old female undead models all wore lipstick, but at least they had the creepy black eyes. Now they have… closed eyes? With eyeshadow? (I desperately hope that this is just one model.) And while the hair on the old models looked appropriately scraggly, the new hair looks sleek and styled, even the crazy Bride-of-Frankenstein hair. And of course we can’t forget the necro-tits.

The artists did make one concession to gross deadness by desiccating the skin of her upper chest and highlighting her sternum and collarbone as well as the connective tissue. But despite rot that has caused this desiccation, as well as caused her shoulder blades to penetrate the skin, her tits are still plump and perky, not to mention weirdly devoid of nipples or areolae. Because when you die, that shit just falls right off. TRUEFAX.

Here is the bright spot (you only get one)

This is the only female model preview I was able to find that sported actual facial expressions. I’m… not at all sure what the hell is going on with her underwear. (How is it constructed? And why?) But, you know, facial expressions!

It’s small, but at least it’s something.


[1] Not naming names so don’t even ask.

[2] Note that I’m not saying that breasts = woman. Just that breasts seem to be the body part WoW devs are most fixated on.

 

18 thoughts on “New WoW models: Men get character, women get vapid beauty [MANY IMAGES]

  1. Ugh. I have never played WoW, but I’ve played lots of other games, and it’s annoyingly frustrating to create a female character that accurately portrays how I want to be seen. If we’re going to go fantasy, let’s go all the way. I honestly want a tough, grizzled fighter who will kick your ass if you even so much as look at her boobs. I work hard on the character design screen to get as “ugly” a character as possible, and she’s still almost always far too conventionally attractive for my liking,regardless of race.

    • I’ll cop to the fact that when I play fantasy games, I tend to play the “pretty” races. I can’t help myself, elves are just so goddamn pretty. But sometimes I want to be able to just beat shit up and not have to worry about being pretty. Yes I want to play a pretty character most of the time, but sometimes it’d be nice to just take a break and be a rotten-as-hell undead lady with half her face missing, only a few wisps of hair left, and covered from neck to ankle because everything else is fucking rotten.

  2. I played a female Tauren in WoW, so I am both curious and afraid of how they’ll look redesigned… they have to be the bottom of the pile in terms of Blizzard’s priorities because they’re not ‘sexy’ at all (and are often viewed as a joke). When the buffalo people were created for Northrend, they didn’t even bother to give them females at all, Blizz just reused Tauren female models because that’s how little they care if the women of a race aren’t going to be sexyfun for men to look at.

    • (That is, if the bother making females for them at all — many background races never get any at female models, like the Tuskar for example. Because walrus-ladies wouldn’t be hawt so who cares!)

  3. The female troll wouldn’t require much alteration to pass as a female human, or even a female elf, let’s be honest (actually, a bit of plastic surgery on the hands, a hairdo and a quick makeup job and she’s practically indistinguishable from a night elf female skin). Which leads to some questions about the world-building involved here – how do you get four such races where there’s so much difference between the masculine models, and yet so little difference between the feminine ones? I mean, the Trolls and Orcs are supposed to have come from a completely different planet and totally different biosphere. I’ve heard of convergent evolution, but that’s ridiculous.

    Incidentally – the reason the female gnome gets to pull faces is because gnomes are the comic relief race.

    • Its also because small races like the gnomes are seen as children, and children are generally viewed as genderless (in that we dont go to great lengths in their portrayals to make them as stark and adult bodies).

    • @megpie71, you are a bit incorrect there. Trolls, in Warcraft Lore, don’t come from another planet – as Orcs came from Draenor.Trolls lived in Kalimdor since “the dawn of the times”, thus their long quarrel with Elves (when those settled home near the Troll Empire). That is said in lorebooks along World of Warcraft and firstly appear in Warcraft II, when they (the trolls) form an alliance with the Orcs, because that would drive the elves (allies of the human race) off their land.

      I’ll not enter in the debate of wheter they resemble or not other races, but their tusks are correct along the Warcraft lore. I always thought of both the troll and orc female to be more like their male counterparts in the sense of being “curved” and more feral – but for both races (Orc and Troll) they are said in the lore that they have smaller tusks (although they do vary – and I would love to see this kind of customization available in game – as noted in a few NPCs and images from previous games) than the male counterpart.

      I would say that they took this “inspiration” off the way how our animals usually look – males having longer tusks (in general) and looking “more ferocious” than females (while females have other distinctive traces). If that is or not their true inspiration, and if is or not sexist I would rather not argue about. Just arguing as for why they do not “use more polygons” in those models.

      I haven’t seen the press-release screenshots other than the Gnome and saddens me that Blizz made such a stupid move to generalize and say in the underlines that “women care more for hair models” with their screenshots. In-game you do get to see that female models undertook the same treatmant as the male ones in the “emotion” side (brief example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODO8SPvv4Uk) and they are quite well done – just like the male counterparts.

      I must be honest and say that the models don’t bother me as much as the armor department in the female side – always bothered me how people like to play with a semi-naked blood elf; and I can feel a huge increase in the number of the already popular “sexy female characters” with those new models just to see a pretty bunch of pixels semi-naked due a poor and sexist armor design.

      • Actually, reading again his comment I do believe I missed the fact that he point out that Trolls and Orcs (nothing related to Elves/Humans) are from different worlds – which is very much the same that I said “correcting” him. My apologizes in that!

      • So wrt “it’s the lore” – I don’t buy that as a defense. The lore didn’t spring from a magical thought vacuum, fully-formed and free of all imperfection. It was created over time by a team of (mostly male) writers who brought their biases and stereotypes to what they created. This isn’t history we’re talking about – this is a work of fiction that is HELLA SEXIST.

        Also, regarding tusks, there are animal species where females also have sizable tusks – notably African elephants and walruses. And in general there are plenty of species in nature where the female is considerably more badass than the male. See hyenas, or a good many falcons. So saying “welp nature” is another example of selective stereotyping as a weak justification for sexism.

        It is nice, at least, to hear that female characters do get to have actual facial expressions. Sadly, that’s not always a given.

  4. I did see your handle mentioned at the blog of one of the guys at the center of the late unpleasantness, but I didn’t see any call to harass you there. There was just a link to a discussion that I stopped reading out of lack of interest in internet drama.

    • The problem is that most of the time, people (men) looking to incite harassment campaigns against people (usually women) they don’t like on the internet don’t need to make an active call for their followers to go harass someone. If their following is significantly larger, all they need to do is post a link to the thing they don’t like and talk about why they don’t like it and the “problem” will resolve itself.

      You can read more about this sort of thing and how it works in a longer post I wrote here: https://gomakemeasandwich.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/dangerous-hatred-men-who-foment-misogyny-in-geekdom-twlong/

      • Hmm. As, I believe, Noam Chomsky once said: “We are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our actions.” Not having as large or as rabid a following as someone we are not naming, I don’t even think about how-a-misguided-someone-might-respond-to-a-post-on-my-behalf…but with large followings come large responsibilities or however that goes. I’d be curious about how he reacts if someone were to say: “Hey, that thing you said here is causing trolls to harass me.” But come to think of it you just did…and I hear crickets…so fair enough, carry on!

  5. I wouldn’t normally defend Blizzard here, but they’ve not finished the models yet. The most important bit being they’re creating new, more expressive facial animations for all the redone races (both male and female) so if they’ve got only a default expressionless face in the models right now, it just means they haven’t finished the animations yet. They have to remove all expression from the skin to make the animations look right.

    I agree with you on your other points, but I’m reserving judgement overall until they’re done.

  6. Re the expredsionless female faces an lack of detail:
    The artists are still working on these models, and many of the preview images of BOTH sexes are in neutral, inanimate stance hence a lack of expression. Images of the female orc facial expressions, and human female for that matter, are available so why did you not include them?
    Further more, modelling to differentiate different facial feature sets is still being done, including for the female forsaken.
    Thirdly, the final troll models have NOT been released yet, what you linked are older NPC models from a previous expansion.
    Finally, yes WoW has had massive sexual dimorphism from the start. So far, the new models go a very long way to chamge female characters from eye candy to badass. Not perfect, no, but better.

    • I didn’t include them because I didn’t see them. I do my best when searching, but this blog is NOT a full time gig and I’ve been very upfront with that.

      It’s nice to hear that they are letting female characters have actual facial expression (with Blizzard I can never be sure), but none of the rest of what you are saying actually addresses any of the rest of what I said about the ridiculousness of prioritizing SEXAY over character design or about the pretty/interesting dynamic that Blizzard adheres to.

      So I’m going to hold Blizzard’s feet to the fire on this one. This shit isn’t rocket science. They just don’t care.

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