Guild Wars 2 Beta: Barely covered

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This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series GW2 Beta Weekend

I love playing strong female characters. No matter what game I try, I tend to veer away from the overly-feminine character types and pick tough ladies that get the work done. My WoW main used to be an orc warrior, and I think their character model is fantastic. Sure, no pretty faces anywhere, but they are toned, strong, awesome, but also look good in a robe/dress. I also like the chiss and miralians in SWTOR, or the bahmi in Rift.

Obviously I had been looking forward to playing around with character generation in Guild Wars 2. Unfortunately I came out of this experience sorely disappointed. Of the three races that were available in the beta, both humans and norns left me disappointed. Guild Wars 2 has eight so-called professions, and three different armor types. There are warriors and guardians wearing heavy armor, engineers, rangers and thieves wearing medium armor and finally mesmers, elementalists and necromancers wearing light armor. In the case of female charrs, this is pretty much perfect. No matter which profession, they’re always covered and unlike, say, WoW tauren, there is no unnecessary addition of breasts or anything. They look like mean kitties with horns, and are pretty bad-ass. If you like running around on all fours. Takes some getting used to.

Problems begin when you start clicking through character generation for female humans. The heavy armor involves chainmail bikini, but nothing dramatic. The medium armor looks very good. Leather coats, pants, I thought it was all very cool. And then I stumbled across the light armor. Let me introduce you to the default look during character generation, for all three light armor professions:

Human elementalist

The female human elementalist. Straight from an Asian MMO, eh?

Human necromancer

Hello goth girl. Uh, I mean, human necromancer.

Human Mesmer

Live at the Moulin Rouge, the mistress of illusions, the mesmer!

Before someone accuses me of being a prude and that it’s the year 2012, bugger off. I am by no means a prude, and as gay lady, I enjoy a little eye-candy myself. It’s another matter entirely though if females are represented like that in an MMO that is supposed to appeal to the masses, not just hormone-driven teenage boys. Of the three light armor professions in their default armor (mind you, it’s not their starting gear), I can deal with the necromancer best. At least she has a certain goth style and is mostly covered. The elementalist looks like a belly dancer, not like the mistress of fire, earth, air and water. The mesmer? I cannot deal with. At all. Is this necessary? Garters, a middle part that is barely covering the assets, and a poofy skirt? Really? Ah, but maybe it’s just humans, and it’s better for norn women.

Norn Mesmer

Gah, my eyes. Norn, so tall. So overwhelming.

Guess not. Norn in general have the problem that they’re basically a giant version of humans which on the women translates into big breasts. Not the race diversity I was looking for. Of course, I had to check out the male counterparts as well. Let me show you the male human mesmer.

Male Mesmer

I wonder if he would borrow me his clothes, this human mesmer.

He’s got all the poofy, flamboyant style that the female mesmers have, without flashing any skin. As mesmers have melee abilities, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? The two other light armor classes are similar. Long robes, pants, full coverage. All equally colorful, but the color of the gear is the least issue, as you can freely dye any gear in the game without any extra costs. Basically, Guild Wars 2 is all about the cheesecake and none of the beefcake. Ideally, for me you would at least have a toggle. I would want to be able to wear the male gear or robes in that style. But you can’t. In fact, you are locked into your mini-skirts. Even if you find a loot drop that says pants, it magically translates into a mini-skirt as female light armor. That just pisses me off.

Face customization
But let’s move on. I was determined to torture myself and picked a female human mesmer for the beta event. The concept of the class is rather intriguing after all. In the next step of character generation, you actually get a first look at the starter outfit. It’s not as terrible as the default look, but not my favorite either. When you dig into further customizing your character, you will soon notice one thing: all Guild Wars 2 human ladies are teenagers. Fresh-faced, pouty, freckled. Two pages of faces of women I have no interest in playing. Barbies, one and all.

At the recent EU Fan Day in Brighton, someone asked questions about the human face being so young and pretty, and if there was no way to create a less attractive face. The disappointing response was that they want the human face to be one of idealized beauty. Pewter blogged about this a while back, and I am in full agreement with her. It’s just disappointing. Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs recently posted her beta impressions post, and was very excited that ArenaNet apparently listened to the concerns. They added ONE older face. I am sorry, I can’t get excited about this, because it means we still have over a dozen young, ‘idealized’ faces, and just one that has some lines and doesn’t look like she’s 16. What a cop-out.

The lone older faceNevertheless, that’s also what I went with. Picked a shorter haircut, and the older face, tweaked the face settings a bit, and voilà, an older mesmer in a frilly outfit. Not that it really mattered much which face I took, because mesmers hide their faces behind masks. Purple harlequin faces, wahoo. By level 8, I finally got a story quest reward to replace her pants. Uh, miniskirt. It replaced it with a miniskirt plus hose. I dyed the whole ensemble red and cream and was as satisfied as I can ever get when I play a character that is wearing a miniskirt.

The Lady in Red

My final beta look, after dying all of the gear in a different shade.

My biggest hope right now is that they’ll make asura and sylvari characters compelling without repeating the mistakes that I feel they made for the norn and humans. My biggest fear is that I am all by my lonesome self with my strong dislike for the overly sexualized character presentation in Guild Wars 2. In the beta, I mostly ran into female characters, at least for the light armor classes, so they’re probably a hit with the guys.

And that’s it for now for the beta coverage of Guild Wars 2, until the next beta event. Overall, I am likely going to be playing this game, if only to level to 80 and explore the vast world of Tyria. I find it compelling enough that the disappointing portrayal of female characters won’t drive me away. There will always be charr to play, I suppose! Also, they did things very right with the medium armor, after all. It’s not a total loss for me like TERA where I watched one video full of panty shots which was enough to drive me away forever.

Yet I am hoping that feminists will have a look at this game during the beta, and will raise their concerns, much like Milady from Hypercriticism already did. I think we need this discussion. I think ArenaNet needs to see it. While chances are fairly minimal that fundamental things will be modified, there is still room for change.

Update: I just found more great posts regarding the same topic, Dee from sixdee.net and Sunnier at Sunnier’s Art of War.

Series Navigation<< Guild Wars 2 Beta: a look at the design manifesto

44 Comments

  1. There’s something very teenagery about those clothes, the necromancer is actually wearing the sort of thing I remember from school discos. The mesmer just looks awful (both male and female — she’d do much better with a full Zatanna style fishnets and frock coat if she wants to look more cabaret). And the elementalist forgot to put her top on.

    It’s not very inspiring, given that Arenanet were talking about their clothes design quite warmly.

    You sound as though you liked the heavy and medium armours better, which was your favourite?

  2. I am loving your posts on this Kadomi – my thoughts echo yours almost exactly. Arenanet seems to be positioning itself as very progressive, both in terms of story (charr ladies are the BOSS) and community, and yet be playing it so safe in terms of character design.

    It’s possible to fulfil the ‘attractive’ quota and be bigger or more robust. It’s extremely jarring for my character to feel so flimsy and vacuous. For once they’ve made some reasonable male avatars, but the female avatars are about eye candy and nowt else. There’s nothing about this being my story with a character I can feel connected to.

    • I picked the most ‘rotund’ body type that humans offer, if you can even call it rotund. They want their female humans to be pretty, and make them have no personality whatsoever. I know many girls like to play pretty characters. I come from a WoW background where female blood elfs were the norm in an all-female guild. If Guild Wars 2 is really supposed to be about more choice than ever, then they really failed in that department already.

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, I was hoping you’d read. :-)

      • Yeah. It’s not that pretty=no personality, but a lot of the models are just so…vacuous unless you do some heavy customisation. I also took issue with the whiteness of the default faces. There were a couple of almost asian faces, but for the most part everything was heavily Caucasian.

  3. Let’s see how smart it is to comment on my tiny phone’s screen. ;)

    anyway. They added one older preset face which can be further customized after they said they wouldn’t give us anything! This is promising because it shows they listen. It’s by far not perfect but if I have the choice of nothing or one, I’ll take the latter. ;) and hope for more, of course! Me being happy doesn’t mean I don’t want anything else. ;)

    I fully agree with you on the armor. Oh, the rage I’ve already had about it and the rants etc. I did, however, see light armor on a female human in her low levels (10, I think) which had her fully covered. And when I say “fully”, I mean it. No cleavage, no bare legs, etc.

    I just wish they wouldn’t start with the hideous porn-star armor. They’re marketing their game in the usual sex-sells way and it did utterly disappoint me. They promised that we’d have choices and apparently (no screenshots, sadly) we will have them. But not at the beginning.

    I loved my female orc rogue, by the way. And my female dwarves. Fully clothed whenever possible. :)

    • My horde main was an orc warrior, my alliance main a dwarf paladin. Fully clothed, the both of them!

      I did notice that some of the random drops you get have no cleavage or no open back, and once you get hose to wear under the skirt, I guess I can deal with a miniskirt. At the same time, you want to advertise a character on the character generation screen, and if they look ridiculous like the listed examples, then that’s a strike against them. Pamela Stroud mentioned on G+ that the mesmer look made her decide not to create one, regardless of how interesting the profession sounds.

  4. I am very sensitive towards Beauty, in the Romantic sense of the object that stands out, which is unique and ideal, which is why I like playing characters which fit into this pattern. But for those to be beautiful they need a soul, something that commands feeling, which these girls in GW2 lack. A personality, if you prefer. One’s physiognomy indicates many things, and these girls (notice “girls” and not “women”, because they are not mature enough, neither physically nor emotionally), they do not express anything with their faces. Indeed, I am one of these women who like having pretty characters, but my Night Elf lady had a very expressive face who bespoke of who she was. One of those naughty and innocent faces which do not opt for one single emotion.

    What I did not like that much were the Blood Elf females. Tiny, slim, with posh gestures. In contrast, my Nelf commanded respect with her size. Not in the way the Norn women do, though. It must be their faces, eternally beaming with fake contentedness. Smiling to that male audience who would not “stare at a guy’s ass for hours.”

    • That’s it exactly. It’s the lack of personality that bothers me so much. Empty expressions, characters that simply do not speak to me. I have played around with sliders for a long time, and even the older face is just a step too pretty, too bland.

    • I know what you mean, but have to admit that I never saw that in night elves. Actually the first time I saw one bounce on the spot, I decided never to play a night elf female because it would drive me nuts ;) But it does go to show there is room for interpretation.

  5. There’s not much range in customization particularly to ethnicities–facial features and hair styles. Though I rolled a Norn Guardian (apparently choosing a bulky physique meant getting a noticeable larger breasts), but I did have a chance to roll a female Charr mesmer. The start gear reminded me greatly stylistically of aristocratic french menswear’s fashion during the 18th century. I just wished I had taken to the game play style.

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  8. I think your fear is unfounded; many bloggers have commented and blogged on disliking the female norn and human design in GW2 by now, you are not alone. what I found especially gratifying was the big number of very mixed and also male players deploring this in biobreak’s recent post-bwe posting. After 30 commenters or so, one was weirded out that so many ppl disliked the females looks and suggested most commenters must therefore be women….but no, it bugs many male MMO players too.
    I found one norn I liked for myself this beta, but I am also holding on for the female Asura now.
    Syl recently posted..GW2 Beta Weekend – Overflow, Exploration, Combat and a second Look at CustomizationMy Profile

  9. “The heavy armor involves chainmail bikini, but nothing dramatic.” Wuh? :P

    • What I mean with that is that the heavy armor top of a human warrior is a chainmail bikini, but the rest of her is covered. Chainmail bikinis are such a standard fantasy trope that it doesn’t make me bat an eye anymore. It’s nothing like the TERA version of heavy armor, e.g. It didn’t make me boggle like the light armor professions did. Do I make more sense now? :-)

  10. I am a male gamer, but gay so I’m not sure that counts for the male perspective. I agree with your assessment of light armor humans. I rolled a female human (as humans are my least likely to play class in release) and played a guardian. The armor for the guardian remained sensible for the most part. I have seen shots of more revealing heavy armor, but there was also some revealing ones for the male characters (yum, abs*). I played a Norn ranger female as well and their outfits were very good.

    * – http://www.arena.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/MF_Lineup_Heavy-600×402.jpg

  11. In before you get a deluge of people saying to either gtfo, roll a guy, ‘it’s fantasy’, or get over it.

    I agree that GW2 could use some variation and options. More older faces, more clothing like pants, more in general. I feel Guild Wars 2 has already accomplished a lot more on certain areas than other MMOs and thus shouldn’t hold themselves back on other areas. Just because they have a working better ‘quest’ system doesn’t mean they still need to cling to the cliche of ‘only sex sells’.

    There’s been a thread in the GW2 forums where someone has suggested a system where you can choose what starter gear you begin with. I thought this was brilliant, not only does this give everyone their preference in what to wear, it will attract more people who would normally stay away because they think GW2 a is generic MMO with their skimpy outfits. We get properly clothed women, others keep their skimpy clothed women and Arenanet gets more customers. Sounds very win/win/win to me.

    If Arenanet wants to show they aren’t afraid of change, then this is an area they should tackle as well. It’s worth looking at and will create an even larger fanbase.

  12. The outfits frustrate me greatly. I was all set to go ahead and pre-purchase, put it off for a bit and then a friend sent me screenies of those light armor outfits. My enthusiasm for the game plummeted. I’m still not sure if I’m going to get it or not, I feel sort of driven away by design choices like these. As though I’m not welcome. “This is a place for horny teenage males, all others need not apply.”

    • I am not giving up hope yet that posts like these will make the folks at ArenaNet see that the MMO baseline is not male teenage boys but adults from all walks of life. Maybe the next beta weekends will show some change. I am hopeful, and I will keep reporting about this. So far, ArenaNet has always been fairly responsive to criticism.

  13. If given the choice, I usually choose female character models when playing a RPG to see a strong woman in the storyline, and to see how the developers handle the gender choice (examples would be the Legion in New Vegas, or the PC in Morrowind). With that in mind, I try my hardest to get sensible, or at the very least, covered with a tabard, armor. While it doesn’t directly decrease my enjoyment of a game, I tend to view things on a practical basis; why would you don a pair of high heels and go stomping off into a muddy battlefield hunting demons? It just irks me to see the disregarding of common sense when it comes to severely beautiful, scantily clad models. Sure, you could say there needs to be suspension of disbelief in a fantasy game, but you’re trying to impose on me your particular brand of disbelief. One game I think that did this correctly was the more realistic handling in Mount and Blade; donning heavy chain or plate armor as male or female essentially made you look nearly the same.

    That said, I did enjoy the look of the medium armor for engineer. http://i.imgur.com/6UX62.png My character just prior to server shutdown the BWE1 with the level 10 or 15 crafted armor. Unfortunately, it’s likely be the only human female I make due to me not having a good impression with armor examples with other classes. Given the few civilians shown during the BWE, I think the asurans will be handled fine, however I’ll believe it when I see it when it comes to the sylvari armor.

  14. As a guy, I’d have to agree with the OP on the light armour side of this game – especially for the mesmer’s “extravagant” clothing decision.

    While playing WoW I was a female troll priest (long concealing robes, big bulky spalders). Sure I did choose the “pretty face” but, as a troll that really isn’t saying much when compared to a human or blood elf. From time to time I would slip my toon into a party dress to show off some cleavage, but really that was only for hanging out with my guildmates (one of whom was a 20-30 something woman playing a blood elf) – and then it was just for the fun of it.

    My first toon I created was a norn mesmer and I was happy with her starter clothes, sure they showed a bit too much skin, but I looked past that as I planned to make her character more rough and touble with a greatsword and a “devious/flirtatious attitude up front before having her clones stab the enemy to death” attitude. I was never in it for the skin, sure it was a “bonus” but really as a 20 something myself I’m more for character development for a toon rather than how big her boobs are.

    Finally, I also must gree with the OP in regards to the medium armour in GW2. After my mesmer I went ahead and created a human engineer. Honestly I have a thing for feisty redheads, so that’s what I made. Short red hair, deep green eyes, freckles and a smile that’s clearly holding back a harsh quip. Starting off I noticed that my starter gear was much more “skinless” than my mesmer’s which was fine – it wasn’t until I got leather pants, gloves, boots and a big trenchcoat that I fully enjoyed my character. That huge coat (with fully buttoned-up shirt underneath) sealed the deal and I played the toon the rest of the weekend. (Side note the guns and explosives of the class were also fun.)

    I throughly enjoyed running around in Tyria with my long coat flapping in the wind and I even mentioned to another guy I was playing with (who made a male engineer) that I was happy when I was able to cover up the little cleavage that showed on my toon. I guess it’s just how I envision the character/class – a gun toting, turret dropping middle of the field kind of character does not and should not be showing much skin, especially cleavage. They need the full length shirt, pants and preferably oversized coat – because it looks awesome.

    Sorry for the long post, but wanted to share my experience of this game with people.

    Sidenote – if you toggle on the “town clothes” which seem to be the same for all classes the males (human) wear long-sleeve shirts and pants while women (including my trench coat wearing engineer) wear a halter top/skirt combo with knee high boots. : ( (I have screen shots of all my examples, but not sure how to post here – let me know.)

  15. Someone posted this set on GWGuru (it’s low-to-mid level 20s armor) and it’s already such a huge improvement over the ‘high level example’ light armor and starter sets that it give me hope for the rest of the game: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v485/Pietoro/webjunk/15-25lightarmourset-1.jpg

    More of -that-, and less of the frilly tutu/miniskirt look please!

    • I agree with you. That armor is not so bad at all. Thanks for sharing that screenshot. :-)

    • That is some intense-looking armor. I hope I can find armor at all levels of the game that look like that. If not, I’ll use a transmutation stone or something.

  16. Everyone that’s complaining about GW2 and comparing it WoW should just stay playing WoW, we dont want you anyway :)

    • That’s a nice way to demonstrate the uncooler side of GW2 community. I am pretty sure ArenaNet does not agree with your view because they sure want to tap some of the WoW market. I know for a fact that they invited a couple WoW guilds to one of the early press events.

      So keep on wearing those rose-colored GW2 glasses, or engage in real discourse. Your choice.

    • As a former WoW player and avid GW 2 fan, I would actually like to welcome WoW players to a more inclusive community. One that isn’t just catered to straight male gamers. As such, I support adding clothing options at character creation and more variation in female form.

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  18. One thing Guild Wars is known for is a plethora of different armors. We are looking at beta here, expect each class to have it’s own unique armor, regardless of being heavy, medium, or light. The stock armor as of right now is basically picked from a single profession and placed on all of the classes that share that armor type, Faces will likely get the same treatment, as I know that the original Guild wars had plenty of not so beautiful, even marred, faces for men and women that were class dependant (Rotting flesh and blind eyes for necros, etc.) Yes, it is an MMORPG, and while it’s trying to make progress, it also cannot afford to alienate itself from the majority of players, I’m sure it will start filling more niches once it gains a financial foothold. I trust that ArenaNet is listening, but as of right now they are probably more focused on bug fixes than appealing to minor facial issues, besides, if you want a character who looks less than barbie doll, you have the ability to tweak your facial features and body type to a pretty impressive degree compared to many MMO’s.
    But hey, this is just the opinion of someone who has played the original Guild Wars for over four years.

  19. I’m about throwing up on myself because of the female character design in Diablo III. Really, high heels for the demon hunter?
    I am so sick of female characters being wankfests for teenage boys. I want to play a strong human character once in awhile and not be forced to be Sith or Orc or another race because they are the only female characters that look strong – and most are really ugly.
    SWTOR seems to be an improvement over many Blizzard games, but I am still sick to death of these repetitive images.

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  21. In complete agreement on this. I hope Arenanet will heed posts like these from the community. These changes are literally superficial, so wouldn’t actually require a great deal of work. I know that’s not the point, but the reward for these changes (creating a game that breaks the MMO mould and manages to treat women as human beings and not objects, thus not insulting the gaming community by assuming they are all teenage boys) far outweighs any extra time required for design.

  22. I totally agree. This has turned me off from the game almost completely. What turns me off even more is that the community at large seems unwilling to stand back and look at this issue critically. Female gamers are being given the complete shaft on this issue, and trying to discuss a feminist perspective with an anonymous person who disagrees with you over the internet and has the majority at their backs is like bashing your head on a brick wall.

    I’m considering cancelling my pre-order, which makes me sad as I really like almost everything else about this game. Not only are the character models an issue of sexualization and objectification, but they are immersion breaking. Arena-net wanted to build an immersive world, yet when you go to save the old apothecary from bandits and her voice is that of an “old woman” but she looks to be in her 20′s… uhm… slightly jarring. Immersion broken. Famers with milky white skin and some blush on their cheeks? Please.

    I really feel like the females in this game were tailored for teenage boys. I generally can get over this stuff, and being young myself I might be desensitized to it more than someone who is a bit older, but it’s just so in my face in Guild Wars 2. It just about made me sick. It’s too late in development for them to make any sort of massive change about this, and their silence on the issue speaks volumes. People HAVE been making noise about it, both males and females.

    Damn shame that SWTOR is the only game to really get it right… that game was a snoozefest.

    • I’d point out that both male and female human and norn characters are physically idealized. Even extremely minor male NPC’s have rippling abs and flawless boyish faces. I agree that it’s immersion breaking, though.

  23. I’m a little late finding this article, but I agree wholeheartedly with the this.

    I think GW2 deserves a lot of credit for making female characters on two races (Charr and Asura) that don’t conform to the half-naked hourglass figure that almost all other RPGs default to.

    However, it’s still disappointing that:
    A) Despite how big and burlesque the male norns are, female norns all look very skinny. Why can’t I make a female character that looks like a real brawler?

    B) I get that some players like the half-naked look, but does all the armor have to look that way? Aside from the starting armor, everything I’ve seen for female humans and norn seems to conform to this. If I want to roll a bad-ass ranger with a big leather trench coat, why can’t I find this for a female character?

    Part of me wants to say “well, at least it’s not as bad as Tera,” but that’s not good enough.

    • Always glad to have a guy leave some feedback here. :-)

      I am going to post later, but of course I had to check out the light armor of the two ‘new’ races that we got to see this last beta weekend, asura and sylvari. The asura are fine and fully covered, the sylvari are a mixed bag. They are definitely lightyears ahead of how the norns and humans are presented.

      Female norn are all top-heavy, with body shapes that don’t really support all that top-weight. Meh. I have given up hope that humans and norns will be fixed. It’s just not on ArenaNet’s priority list at all. Which means that there will definitely be some people who won’t pick up the game because of some of the starter armor, I am sure.

  24. It’s unfortunate that the light-armored human female classes don’t have a better variety of armor to choose from, and especially that starting female characters are given frivolous miniskirts. However, at least it’s possible to create a stronger look for a female character. For example, I think the “Ascalonian Clergy” light armor from the first dungeon is reasonable from head-to-toe (http://dulfy.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/as1.jpg). I also find it interesting that much of the higher level and higher prestige female armor is actually *less* revealing.
    Most importantly, stock up on some transmutation stones, so that once you find a suitable look, you can hold onto it as long as you like, instead of having to sacrifice appearance for armor stats.

  25. I was wondering, at the creator creation screen, is the armor the female mesmer wearing in the game? I can’t seem to find it anywhere… D:..

  26. I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 for about 2 weeks now, and while I absolutely love the game, the female armor really bothers me. I’m currently playing a sylvari necromancer so it’s not as terrible as the human/norn elementalist and mesmer, but half of the leg armor pieces are skirts that barely cover anything with no pants underneath and I run by barely dressed characters all the time.Thankfully there’s the option of transmutation, but still. They can make females appealing to their male gamebase without showing every inch of skin possible. I definitely enjoy armor with feminine touches, like the floral patterns on some of the tops, and a little chest or stomach showing is fine, just not everything out.

    This set (http://static.guildhead.com/guildhead/uploads/images/2056.jpg) for example is amazing, and personally I find it way more attractive than the lingerie clad women. It’s what I was wearing for a while until I got tired of using up all of my transmutation stones.

    On the other hand though, I would like to commend ArenaNet on their female charrs. I love how I was able to make mine as big as any male charr and look fierce and tough, instead of just being smaller with huge boobs.

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