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Jun 26, 2008



The delay is not an intentional "feature," and as such I don't think it deserves an entire post in such a derogatory tone. What would have been slightly more justified would be the fact that Funcom has actively acknowledged an error in avatars where increased breast size did not transfer to many armor sets, leaving only "normal" breasts sizes (and, presumably, unhappy customers). And yet the attack animation bug is pushed under the carpet.

I don't know anything about game design, but if this delay problem requires new motion captures etc., it could be very costly to fix, a much more likely explanation for the issue than sexism. The fact that they're not owning up to it, though, is definitely sketchy.

As for the rest of the game, considering what it could have been, it's not so bad, sexism-wise. Women are objectified (it is fantasy and Conan), but there are plenty of strong female characters, who are quite sexual, like men, but not looked down upon for it (to spare you more depth than you'd want, there are obvious shortcomings, but at least from an artistic perspective, I think the team did their best to avoid misogyny while sticking with the source material).

From AoC's senior writer on characterizing women (interview linked below):

"Yeah. A lot of Hyboria as written by Howard was sexist and racist up to 11. A lot of people who've dealt with Conan in the past use the excuse that Howard was from a different era – a product of a different age. It's something even people on the project have said.
There's an obvious truth to that, but I don't really accept that as an entirely valid justification. I'm of the mind that the year you were born doesn't really excuse you for being a bastard."

And, from playing the game, I think that shines through. There's the marketing and then there's nuanced (but not always successful) attempts at equality and engaging narrative that show up despite the boobs and blood.

I don't want to flame or anything, but I think the game deserves more than the above post gives it.

(link for breast reduction apology)

(link for interview)


From what I've read about AoC, the armor for male characters is just as skimpy and sparse as the armor for female characters (something that is not so prevalent in other games). And, like DM already pointed out, the attack speed animation is just a bug--it was not intended to be that way. Imo, people that are looking at games and pointing out gender bias or racial bias (http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1358628.1358706) are delving too deep into things and are looking for things that are just not there.


The animation lenght ARE significantly different and the franchise was described as sexist before and Funcom actually exploited the "Boob Factor" very well for their marketing, so how can you claim that people just "looking for things that are just not there."?


Actually, I find it more disappointing that they do not differentiate between genders. So, they are creating a game and note a role-playing environment.

Can someone please tell me what is wrong with creating a sexist fictional world? You aren't forced to take on a particular gender based on your real gender.



I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with stats tailored towards specific sexes... it makes more sense that a heavily armoured brute solider would be stronger as a male, whereas an agile young ranger would be better suited to a female. However, that's something that is very hard to justify in an MMO setting where customization is key. Particularly if the player isn't made aware when they make that choice.

The problem is it's obviously not something that Funcom signposted at the beginning, and it's bugged the wrong way round... most would think the female would be faster. When combined with the Conan universe's generally sexist approach (in the base text), and Funcom's exploitation of that, it all looks like Funcom simply didn't care.

I mean, surely this is the sort of bug you find during the thousands of hours of testing?



I am with you on that, especially when it comes to commercial products, but I am becoming somewhat weary of the tendency on Terranova to hold up the moral of our society as the moral that is to be followed in fictional artworks. If I were to make a Norse game it certainly would have to be sexist in order to stay true to the real culture (in which there was a death penalty for wearing the cloths of the opposite gender). Men would be warriors and women would be healers/magic users, male magic users would be stamped as homosexuals and banned. Virtual worlds aren't about creating Nirvana. I don't see the value of creating a better world than the physical world we live in. Virutal worlds could (in theory) be used for exposing issues we have in the physical world, that would have both artistic and political merits.

Granted, Conan is more kitsch than camp, so the artistic merits are questionable... But in principle I think not having differentiation between genders in a sexist world detracts from the artwork. Sexist light, maybe something for the Coca Cola Company? Currently we get a lot of EQ remade with new cloths draped over it. Living in a truly sexist world could be interesting and teenagers might learn something from the experience.

I mean, surely this is the sort of bug you find during the thousands of hours of testing?

Dunno. I assume developers in general primarily focus on bigger issues such as stability and game mechanics then assume that the can patch in minor balancing issues after launch. Funcom had major stability problems at launch with Anarchy Online, which cost them a lot of money, so I wouldn't be suprised if that was their main focus this time. So, yes they ought to have seen it, but they probably had more pressing issues to fix.



Virutal worlds could (in theory) be used for exposing issues we have in the physical world, that would have both artistic and political merits.

I think you and I both know that with Age of Conan's teenage male demographic, that it is not the place to be exploring negative society views. There's plenty of that in the General Chat for any popular MMO; it shouldn't be validated or tolerated by the game mechanics as well.

That's not to say I don't think there's value in it, there's just not value here.

And such obvious character balancing is a huge part of pre-launch work. I don't believe they can't have noticed it, only thinking that it wasn't worth working on. In the politically-charged Internet echo-chamber, skipping over a "sexist" bug was only going to end badly...


I'd just like to second what DM said about this speed difference being a bug not a feature...at least until proven otherwise. If that's not disproven, then this is an interesting blip on the radar, but not much more.


I believe the last patch (or one before that) has addressed the female issue, both breast sizes and the strength inequity. FunCom is doing (IMHO) a good job in being responsive to necessary corrections and is adding more content. I don't really care about the sexism angle (having grown up on Conan comic books and the Howard books), but my female HoX looks *hot* in a g-string and she lays down the whoop-a$$ with a fiery two-handled sword... Game on.


@Chris: Well, I don't think AoC et co are providing the best tools, but I think teenagers are the right target for experimenting with various issues ranging from sexuality and gender to religion and power. For many teen males daring to play a sexy female character is a major step forward. Many think that is tacky, but why? Because they see straight and conform behaviour as the only proper way of acting. Virtual worlds are relatively safe playgrounds for "dangerous" experiments.


I'd really suggest playing the game if you haven't. As much as there is theory behind games, there is also a certain visceral element that I think you just can't really understand until you get in and play them.


@Chris: Pardon me, if I am mistaken, but how is Age of Conan aimed at male -teenage- demographics? The game's 18+. Whether teenage boys actually play it or not is another issue, but it's definitely not tailored for them.

I agree with Ola here. If you want a brute world, there's no need to hide sexism in it. Then again, it's everywhere around Age of Conan. Men and women are quite different there; neither one is inferior to another, but certainly different.


@ Nicholas
Pardon me, if I am mistaken, but how is Age of Conan aimed at male -teenage- demographics? The game's 18+. Whether teenage boys actually play it or not is another issue, but it's definitely not tailored for them.

Come now, are we really going to say that a violent, bloody game is not counting teenage males in their demographic, simply because of what's on the box?

The point I am trying to make (perhaps poorly) is that a vocal proportion of online gamers ruin it for everyone else; homophobic slurs, sexist slurs, etc etc. We can't have games that can be construed as encouraging that behaviour.

If the game was single-player and offline, then yes, I would fully support the exploration of gender and such. It's up to the player's own mind how they choose to explore that. They don't have someone in general chat typing "DIE WHORE BITCHES LOLOL!1" In an online world, the immaturity that runs rampant does not allow any sort of game system that endorses that. It is regardless of what the intended audience is, and a reflection of who really is playing.


>>> a number of my colleagues in VW research have disappeared from WoW in favor of the shiny-new Age of Conan game, and I'd heard a lot of rave reviews from them. <<<

The job duties make me smile.

Are there conversations in these researchers homes like "Sorry dear but you'll need to soldier through the child care and housework without much help this month, I'm going to have put in grueling 100 hour weeks doing the leveling grind on this new release"

I guess there is hope for the non-coding game enthusiast to get an even better "Rock star" job in the game industry, while ensconcing wife and kids in a college town setting.

They just need to reach the exalted level in writing, be obsessed with a different sort of theory-craft and prevail in the cut-throat pvp world of academic tenure fighting !


Couple of things stand out to me: The discussion of demographics is entirely flawed, because its been proven several times that there are just as many if not more women over 18 who play games as boys under 18. That would also suggest that there are a lot of men over 18, and a few girls under 18. Secondly in this vein, the game IS rated 18+ and if we can't include material for an 18+ crowd in a game so-rated because the younger kids are going to get it anyway, somehow, what's the point of a rating system at all?

In regards to the sexism in games: We are oddly comfortable with racism in MMOs, even in Warcraft you have the 'racial' abilities which differentiate between races. In both games 'race' distinguishes what classes a character can be. Suggesting that a 'northern barbarian' doesn't have the mental agility to be a skilled wizard is screaming racism. Yet we're ok with that, perhaps because the races involved are more or less fantastic. (Though in Conan that veil is awfully thin.) Why is sexism any different?

Finally: MMOs must always be thought of as a work-in-progress. They are not a finished product until the developer ceases to support it, stops producing patches, and maybe shuts down the server. MMOs have a history like real world, and need to be handled as such in criticism. AoC may be suffering a fundamental sexist problem right -now- but that does not mean that it will be true in six months (perhaps after academic writing has been done?).


"It's an interesting MMO with some different things from the standard WoW."

Did I miss a meeting? Who decided WoW is the standard?


Well, to be perfectly pragmatic, the 10 million+ people who've played it.

Its awfully big...



Believe it or not (I know it's hard), but at this moment the community in AoC seems to contain quite a few "DIE WHORE BITCHES LOLOL!1"s less than your everyman's MMO.

Then again, making a game with a large amount of racism/sexism in it doesn't necessary promote such activities. After all, films about 1942 don't really promote fascism either.


I see that Liz posted my rant. The rant occurred not because of the sexism in Conan's world (which is honestly expected, especially in the art), but because Funcom allowed a known bug to significantly alter the game mechanics of female *characters* within its world. This in turn has effected RL people who play the game.

They didn't admit to it until people started complaining on the forums (their real crime) and it's been going on for more than a month. And yes, it's still broken. It's on their bug list of things to fix now and it is taking them a long time since they didn't do the animations correctly in the first place. They did finally post a real update yesterday:


For those who have not played, it is broken to the extent where the affected female characters have significantly more problems leveling than male characters. It is broken to the extent where people thought one of the new people joining my guild *was an incompetent player* because she couldn't kill stuff like one of the male assassin's could ("why is the female always complaining?"). This was before people figured out what was going on. Imagine how something like that makes a person feel if they don't know about the bug?

And yes, most of our RL females do play female toons, so in our particular clan it has had an impact.

I honestly can't believe that a bug like that got through QA. And yes, that kind of incompetence makes me want to rant, because making animation sequences the same length between male and female characters is not rocket science.


"And yes, that kind of incompetence makes me want to rant, because making animation sequences the same length between male and female characters is not rocket science."

Personally, I don't think this is a sexual issue at all. Everyone agrees that this was not the intent and is just an embarassing bug.

For me however, the bigger issue was what dumbass designer tied ANIMATION in with COMBAT!?

If you want your combat to be balanced, then uncouple it from the other systems so that a change in one System doesn't inadvertently unbalance the other, as was the case here.

So for me, the issue here is not Bad Sex, but Bad Design (which as I play, I find is all too common in AoC).


It's a bug, but it could (should?) be a feature:

My Take


>For me however, the bigger issue was what dumbass designer tied ANIMATION in with COMBAT!?

>If you want your combat to be balanced, then uncouple it from the other systems so that a change in one System doesn't inadvertently unbalance the other, as was the case here.

You see, that's precisely what you cannot do in Age of Conan. According to their press releases the combat is vastly based on collision detection. That is: I swing a sword, whatever the sword touches gets a certain amount of health deducted (exceptions allies). While the animations are a purely cosmetic element in WoW, Everquest, etc., they play a key role in AoC.


"According to their press releases the combat is vastly based on collision detection."

Ahh, yes I see now. That does make sense. And it goes a long way to explain why this is such an insidious bug to squash.

I still can't shake the feeling that they could have uncoupled these two systems on the server and then re-coupled them on the client. This would preserve game fidelity on the server and visual fidelity on the client. Perhaps it is impossible to uncouple animation with a collision combat system but never having designed a system like this, I can't tell for sure

But thanks all the same for the clarification. I will downgrade my assessment from one of DUMBASS to merely one of "unforeseen circumstances of deploying innovative game systems" (Gods, dumbass was so much easier to say)


Just had to comment, as I've been playing AoC since January (beta and live).

1. As stated above, animations in this game are not trivial to fix. They are mostly (all?) mocaped, so a shortening or speeding up would probably lead to choppy or weird movement. Funcom has pushed a lot of technological envelopes with this game, so some never before seen problems are bound to arise.
2. This is a bug, and yes it could be prioritized higher, but there are a multitude of bugs, imbalances and inconsistencies reported (some from early beta) that are still unfixed. So this is a matter of priorities. And I guess developers and players will always have differing views on that (I for one have several higher on the list - and lets not forget a lot of features and important mechanics that are still to be released). BTW: the July 2. patch fixed at least one female/male animation speed difference, so more are probably on the way.
3. Just restating the whole collision/position based damage system, you hit only what your weapon arc hits while the animation is running. Complicating things a bit I guess. And there is no auto attack or generic "180 degrees, 5 feet" hit zone. It all differs with weapon type, class, combo etc. And most of your attacks should be combos targeting unshielded zones anyways if you want to be effective.
4. Seeing that the combat mechanics are so dependent on animation speeds and other details, it is strange that this wasn't addressed earlier (the issue has been known for a while). On the other hand I played a female assassin through Tortage (lvl 1-20) in beta and I was occupied with far more game breaking bugs (my male bear shaman was way harder to get through Tortage for a number of other reasons at the time). So I think the term isn't "got through QA" but rather "let slide by QA".
5. Generally I'm impressed with lots of the features of the game, but there seems to be a lack of overall design vision and leadership, something that is potentially way more gamebreaking than a damage imbalance (read any WoW class forums the last 5 years?). And also I'm skeptical of the tendency for quick fix solutions without proper impact analysis in these hectic post-launch days. I fear we may have to live with some bug issues for a while.

Not exactly a raving review I guess, but I love the game for several reasons (no, not boobies...) even though I see some looming clouds. And as others have stated, this bug should not be the reason for a discussion on gender biasing in MMOs, however interesting that might be in its own right.

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