E3: 2014: Far Cry from gaming equality

Last updated 13:35 13/06/2014

A female gamer checks out Far Cry 4 at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Executive Producer at Ubisoft Montreal Dan Hay introduces Far Cry 4 at the Ubisoft Media Briefing at E3 2014.

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Shortly after Ubisoft upset many Assassin’s Creed fans by saying that it had abandoned its plan to have female characters in its new game’s co-op multiplayer mode, the company returned with another controversial explanation about the absence of women in its games - this one focused on Far Cry 4.

Speaking in an interview with Polygon, Alex Hutchinson, the game’s director, said that the developers were “inches away” from allowing players to choose between a man or woman as a co-op buddy in the upcoming shooter’s multiplayer.

What stopped them? Hutchinson said it was “purely a workload issue”. The team didn’t have a “female reader for the character” at its disposal, nor did it have “all the animations in place.”

He went on to say that “in the future, moving forward, this sort of stuff will go away” once developers settle into the new and improved technology.

“We did our best,” Hutchinson concluded. “It’s frustrating for us as it is for everybody else, so it’s not a big switch that you can just pull and get it done.”

Ubisoft’s best wasn’t good enough for some fans, however. Before Hutchinson’s comments were first published, many gamers disappointed with the company’s earlier statements about Assassin’s Creed: Unity had already taken to Twitter with the hashtag #womenaretoohardtoanimate in a widespread effort to call bullshit on the reasoning behind leaving female characters out of that game.

Other game developers called out Ubisoft for what they saw as flimsy logic too. Naughty Dog animator and former Assassin’s Creed III animation director Jonathan Cooper, for instance, took to Twitter to express his doubt about how hard it really is to model female characters on top of male ones, drawing from his own experience at Ubisoft.

"In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. polygon.com/e3-2014/2014/6/10/5798592/" Cooper tweeted.

Other developers with experience working on similarly-sized games chimed in as well.

"Another thing- go out and watch people. You'll find that many women and men move EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Hips, arms, wrists and all," said Tim Borrelli, lead animator at independent game developer 5th Cell.

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BioWare Montréal gameplay designer Manveer Heir offering his own scathing intrepretation of Ubisoft's reasing.

"We don't really care to put the effort in to make a woman assassin" #realrealityofgamedevelopment" he tweeted.

What’s fanning the flames here is the close timing of the two explanations, coupled with the fact that two entirely separate development teams working on unrelated games offered nearly identical reasons for not bringing female avatars into the fold - even though Ubisoft had them in earlier Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry games.

That’s a big part of why people are confused and upset by both of Ubisoft’s statements this week.

The company has already made games with compelling female protagonists and characters including Beyond Good & Evil, Child of Light, and many previous Assassin’s Creed titles.

Far Cry 3 also had a playable female character in its co-op multiplayer mode. Since all those games were made for older and less sophisticated pieces of gaming hardware than the PS4 and Xbox One, justifying the sudden absence of women by pointing to technical constraints didn’t seem to follow.


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