WoW and TSW: Buffoonery Behind the Scenes

Mankinigate:

Before I get into the incident known as Mankinigate, I should provide some context.

Mama Abena in The Secret WorldThe Secret World, like most games, has a somewhat spotty record when it comes to gender equality, mainly in the clothing department.

TSW is not any worse than your average MMO in this regard. I’d even say it might be a little better. Since clothes have nothing to do with your stats, you can always look however you want, and there are numerous options to dress your female avatar in modest, practical, and realistic clothing.

But still, there are some glaring flaws. There are some truly ridiculous outfits for female characters. There are some instances where the male version of an outfit is realistic battle armor, and the female version is a thong an and a halter top. There are still some clothing pieces that are male-only that really should be available for both genders — like lab coats and biker jackets.

There is also a notable lack of slut-tastic clothes for men, which has also received some complaints.

However, TSW’s developers have shown an admiral level of sensitivity to gender issues. Since they stopped outsourcing their clothing, female clothing has trended more towards the realistic and away from, “Look, I have breasts!”

When people complained about the numerous female NPCs who flirt with the player compared to the zero male NPCs who do the same, the developers promised at least one flirtatious male in the upcoming Tokyo expansion, a task the lead writer took up with an almost disturbing level of gusto.

My Templar in her "Angel of Death" Halloween costume in The Secret WorldIt’s also worth noting that the female NPCs in the game are generally treated very well. Two out of the three main faction contacts are female. Two out of the three iconic faction heroes are female. We’ve got all kinds of awesome and/or badass female characters in every zone, from Carter to Zaha to Carmen Preda to Hemitneter to Dame Julia.

The point is they’re sensitive to these things. I’ve seen a lot of the conversations with the devs on these issues, and they do seem genuinely interested in being improving the way they treat the issue of gender equality. They’re a pretty awesome bunch of people.

That brings us to this year’s April Fools’ gag. As an obvious parody of the “female armor” issue that plagues MMOs, including TSW, they released an outfit called “Gender Equality.” The female version is a practical, realistic scuba suit. The male version is a Borat-inspired one-piece mankini that leaves almost nothing to the imagination.

I found it a brilliant piece of satire, a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of past errors.

But then a few days latter, the Filth hit the fan. The mankini was removed — not just from the store, which is to be expected for seasonal outfits, but from the game entirely. Everyone who had bought it had it removed from the character, and had to contact customer service for a refund.

Suffice it to say, the forums went apeshit.

Art of the "Gender Equality" outfit in The Secret WorldMore importantly, the forums had good reason to go apeshit. People were led to believe they’d been pranked with a real money purchase. They had to go through the rigamarole of contacting customer service to get a refund, and the refund came in the form of cash shop points that can only be spent in TSW. Many lost money to banking fees and the like.

Others were bothered by the fact that developer resources were apparently wasted on something that was only planned to exist in the game for a few days. In a game operating on such a shoestring budget, that’s just not acceptable.

But perhaps the most unpleasant thing about this was its implications on the issue of gender equality. It now seemed as though the joke was the idea that men could possibly get the same treatment as women. It’s fine to objectify women, but God forbid the same happen to men!

After a few days, things were finally clarified by game director Joel Bylos. His statement is quite long, and I’d recommend reading it in its entirety, but here’s the short version:

The dev team never intended for the mankini to be removed entirely. Someone in Funcom’s upper management freaked out over the ridiculousness of the mankini, feeling it didn’t fit with The Secret World’s horror setting.

My Templar in the Besieged Farmlands in The Secret WorldWhich, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. I agree with the idea that the mankini is immersion-breaking, but so are plenty of other clothing items that are still in the game. There’s an outfit for women that amounts to nothing but a tiny bra and a strap-on dildo shaped like a cobra. There’s the eye-boob-strocity. There are the horse-head masks.

So in a way, this confirms the worst. Removing the mankini was nothing but an act of blatant, shameless sexism. Management couldn’t handle a neon banana hammock.

The silver lining here, if you can all it that, is that the devs had nothing to do with it. Joel seems as pissed as the players are. Some might suspect him of trying to pass the buck, but I know him to be a very honest and straight-forward man, and I take his word for it.

Some people have refused to continue supporting the game over this. I’m not one of them, because I don’t believe the developers deserve to be punished for the actions of their bone-headed boss, but I can sympathize with those who feel differently. It’s very discouraging to find such idiocy behind the scenes of such a good time.

Warlords of Draenor: What? Alpha? Seriously?

I wonder what’s going on at Blizzard.

For ages now, they’ve been going on about how they want to get content for World of Warcraft out quicker. Quicker patches, quicker expansions. No more year-long raid tiers at the end of an expansion.

A screenshot of Telador in World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorAnd for a while, it seemed like they would actually accomplish this. Mists of Pandaria’s patches came out like clockwork, with roughly three months between each. At the announcement of Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard proudly talked about how quickly it would be in our hands.

I recall Ghostcrawler saying before he left that WoD was farther along than Mists of Pandaria was at its announcement. They talked about how beta would come “sooner than we thought.”

Nearly half a year passed, and now they’ve finally announced the start of alpha.

*Double take.*

Seriously? Alpha? Not even beta — just alpha?

Alpha usually takes a month or two, and then beta is around six months. It’s also worth noting that every WoW expansion’s beta has been longer than the previous one. So we’re looking at seven months at the very least before WoD is released.

To be clear, I’m not complaining. I’m so thoroughly unimpressed with everything about WoD so far that they could take another five years for all I care.

A player garrison in World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorBut I do wonder what happened. They were so sure this expansion would be out quickly, but it looks like it’s going to take significantly longer than Pandaria did. We might have our first year-long raid tier since Icecrown Citadel, and without a filler raid this time.

And this is with a much smaller expansion than Pandaria was. It has one new feature — just one. Compared to MoP’s new race, new class, scenarios, pet battles…

Maybe it was converting to the fancy new file format they’re using. Maybe it’s all the effort going into the new player models. But it’s hard to imagine either of those things holding up the entire expansion to this extent, and you’d think they would have factored such things into their plans.

Even if it was as simple as poor time estimates, it seems someone must have dropped the ball behind the scenes at Blizzard. Something clearly went wrong somewhere along the line.

Nerd rage:

While we’re at it, I do have one thing to complain about. According to datamined spoilers, Ner’zhul is a dungeon boss in Warlords of Draenor.

As a lore fan, this is all I have to say (not even remotely safe for work):

Of all the big name Orcs of that era, Ner’zhul is one of the least boss-worthy. Sure, he ultimately destroyed the planet and became the Lich King, but that was only after years of watching the slow death of his people drove him mad. In the early days, he was a good guy.

Yes, he launched the war on the Draenei, but he was deceived by the greatest liar in the entire Warcraft universe, and once he learned the truth, he was horrified and refused to continue cooperating. Gul’dan took over, and most of worst atrocities committed by the Horde occurred under Gul’dan’s leadership, not Ner’zhul’s.

Ner’zhul was (in my opinion) the greatest villain in all Warcraft lore, but it was precisely because he didn’t start out as a ruthless lunatic, unlike Gul’dan.

Ner’zhul was not a monster. He was a tortured soul that eventually got pushed too far, but at the stage of the story WoD takes place at, he should still be a decent guy. If anything, he should be on our side.

Blizzard has a terrible habit of taking their most complex characters and then making them into one-dimensional loot pinatas. I really thought we were past that point now, but apparently, I was wrong. And now Ner’zhul joins the ranks of Illidan, Kael’thas, and Malygos — all brilliant characters who were utterly ruined just for the sake of giving players a recognizable name to beat on.

Ner'zhul in World of Warcraft: Burning CrusadeStop it, Blizzard.

Stop.

It.

Now.

Ugh. I’m trying so hard to give WoD the benefit of the doubt, but everything I’ve heard so far leads me to believe this is going to go into the same “I wish I could burn it from my memory” pile as Burning Crusade, and it’s just getting worse.

Just… ugh.

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6 thoughts on “WoW and TSW: Buffoonery Behind the Scenes

  1. What a truckload of cow droppings! I read that TSW statement and all I can say is…”Bikini Top,” “Strapless Blouse and Corset” and “Tube Bra”….yeah, Urban Contemporary my ass…
    On the bright side, it’s the perfect way to guarantee I’ll never spend any money in their cash shop 😀

    WoD won’t be out until their in-game Shop is loaded up with stuff – that’s the delay, nothing to do with the content 😛

    I probably won’t be spending any real money there either since I’m really getting sick of the F2P cash grabs. I’d rather find a new hobby to spend my entertainment budget on….maybe some new books? 😉

    • This is what saddens me about this most, I think. It turns people away from supporting the game. And for all that I think this particular blunder is utterly inexcusable, there’s still so much good in the game that is worthy of support. The devs are the ones who suffer from this, even though it wasn’t their fault.

      I mean, they were genuinely trying to make things better prior to this. Recent updates to the shop have been full of lots of awesome, setting-appropriate stuff that was about the same for both genders.

      And now all that of that effort is effectively erased because of one of their bosses made a dumbass decision.

      I don’t know if this helps or not, but they did just announce they’re removing the eye-boob-strocity from the shop. Those who already bought it will be able to keep it, but it will no longer be available to buy. It’s possible cobra-dildo and other trainwreck outfits may follow.

      I feel like a better solution would be to just give everyone back their mankinis and renew their commitment to make better clothing going forward, but I guess some consistency of policy is nice? I don’t know; mixed feelings.

      I am curious how you plan to play WoW without spending real money, as it still has a mandatory subscription…

      • Finding new hobby includes WoW…
        I’ve been reading TSW forums about this, and it’s not the Mankini that’s the real problem – it’s the way the business handled it and the lame explanation given about their IP.

        It was very revealing as to management’s complete lack of knowledge regarding the genre AND current gaming industry AND target audience.

        If I were to actually believe that statement, I would expect *all* clothing items – regardless of gender – would be removed if they fit the purported criteria of the Mankini removal.

        But they did not.

        So…it’s the job of a business to convince me to spend my money with them because I am getting goods and services I consider a reasonable value.

        Insulting my intelligence with an obviously inconsistent IP argument convinces me to run away.

      • Oh, yeah, I can totally sympathize with that. What saddens me is that the ones at fault are the suits in upper management, but yet it’s the developers who have to deal with the (justified) rage and the loss of revenue.

        (If you’re reading the forums, Nzoth is me, so that can provide you a more detailed view of my opinions, if you feel so inclined.)

        This is one of those times where, for the sake of my own sanity, I have to remind myself that companies are not homogenous entities, but groups of individuals. Clearly, at least one person at Funcom is a misogynistic douchebag. However, I choose not to let that fact sully my opinion of the developers who work sixteen hour days to give us an awesome game, and I’ll continue to support the game despite my distaste for their management. Maybe if I were a more principled person I’d feel differently, but that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

        I require a similar mental partition to still play WoW. I think it’s despicable that they’ll punish raid exploiters who try for a 1% advantage through questionable means, but see nothing wrong with people telling children to kill themselves. But I remind myself the spineless mouth-breathers who moderate the game (or fail to) have nothing to do with the story writers, the dungeon designers, and the environment artists, whom I remain fans of.

  2. I like the game just fine. I actually wasted a few hours getting it to run on my laptop (other computer HD is hitting max :P) so now I can hook it up to the TV play it on the Big Screen 😀

    I can only run it on “Medium” settings but that seems to be working at the moment.

    As for the whole debacle, I entirely blame the “Suits.” They need to fire the manager(s) who made the decision to pull it *without* also pulling the rest. Now they just look like idiotic hypocrites.

    At the basic level, the goal of a business is to make money/profit. The Mankini sold and made money. Pulling it (and losing money in refunds) was not only a stupid and ridiculously transparent IP decision, it was an unforgivably bad business decision.

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