GW2: Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?

aka The Dilemma of Playing Realistic Female Characters in an MMO

I made my female Norn warrior last night, having decided to use some of that gold for a character slot after all.

Immediately, I was of mixed minds whether I should be keeping her.

This isn’t just the standard complaint of boobs and skin peeping out of convenient holes in armor that would be delicious for an attacker to stick a sword into, though.

Yes, we know GW2 suffers from a “first impressions” presentation problem.

defaultfemwarrior

The default appearance for several kinds of female professions delights in showing off skin and boob plates. This one’s not too bad though, it harkens back to the old Jora look (though she herself seemed designed to be one of those pinup girl faces of GW1) and you should see the female human light armor problems.

I’ve always been cool with that because as a well-educated GW2 fan, I am aware that this game has options beyond the barbie doll sex appeal look that is immediately attractive to the most populous youthful male demographic.

What I didn’t quite realize was how tricky reaching those options would be, while still looking like a character I’d want to play.

The default face and hair settings started making me a little depressed because a majority of them seemed tilted toward “female human” cute and perky.

amianornorhuman

OMG. DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A NORN TO YOU?

The body defaults weren’t any better.

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The choice seemed to be between various shades of anorexic or downright plump.

(I’ll at least give Anet kudos for including the last option, though it wasn’t at all appealing to imagine myself running a giant fat lady character through the world and wondering what kinds of whispers I was going to get from other players. While it may be an amusing side goal to get them all 72 hour banned for harassment, I would actually just want to play the game here with a character that doesn’t attract abnormal amounts of attention.)

dorkyhelmet

Let’s not even talk about how dorky the helmets look, shall we? (Where the fuck did my hair go?)

Maybe my take on the lore isn’t as strong as I’d like, but I always envisioned most Norns to be big, trending toward the muscular, possibly Amazonian in stature.

Anyhow, because that is the type of character I am trying to make on a -roleplaying- server that values a lore-appropriate look, LET ME make the mannish, not immediately pretty and possibly somewhat homely, stern lady warrior concept in my head already.

I persisted. GW2 supports options. GW2’s character creation has sliders. There must be a way.

A great deal of slider pulling later, creating some of the awful-looking faces possible in the manner of most unskilled players operating sliders in character creation (ok, at least GW2 has that option for scarily ugly if you want it – click the link only if you’re prepared to see what greets people zoning into the Heart of the Mists on Tarnished Coast, they’re pretty famous), trying to get the closest I could to the character concept in my head, I eventually settled on a vaguely piratical, square-faced, stern-jawed appearance, complete with scars and bandana.

yarrillmakeyouwalktheplank

I still wasn’t sure whether I’d achieved believably realistic, or just plain fucking ugly.

(Something about the distance of the eyes still nags at me slightly, but I’ll be damned if I go through all that slider pulling in character creation again.)

You might ask, why was I so obsessed with how “I” looked.

Good question, I kept asking myself that too.

I think I just knew that walking around as a tall giant character draws eyes, and every last detail on the model is a lot easier to see on a Norn than say… a human or sylvari, let alone an asura. If something looks “off,” it’s just going to be a lot more obvious than say, some lil guy’s three toes sticking out of shoes that don’t fit.

Then I landed in the world and hit the Norn problem. An outsized avatar runs slowly. It also runs like a human female, complete with little dainty dance of the hands, that on a giant character make it look like a waddle.

I was already having second and third thoughts about going through with this.

I ended up taking her into the Heart of the Mists to check both the PvP locker to see if future skins held any hopes of looking good (minus about half of the options for ridiculous skin and boob designs, minus another quarter or third of the options for being plain butt ugly, there were a -few- left that seemed to hold some promise) and test out the combat animations for various weapons (which I have to say, I rather liked. Or found quite passable indeed.)

One of the reasons for why I wanted a Norn Female character is because they’re voiced by Claudia Christian (she of Babylon 5 fame.) I wanted to hear that voice acting through my personal story.

But I was really not sure if I was okay running around with an oddly proportioned giant lady towering over everyone in towns like a bad B movie.

Since the character was already made, I eventually decided that I’d take her at least up to level 10, where the personal story would drop a black lion key I could hoard and see if things got better or if she grew on me, or if I was going to continue feeling awkward and generally “not feeling it” for the character.

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It wasn’t so bad among other Norns in Hoelbrak or Wayfarer Foothills, though I developed a habit of running up to every NPC to measure my height and check if I looked out of the ordinary against other Norn females. (What the hell was happening to me? Why this sudden obsession about my self-image?)

I even met a Jotun giant who was taller than all the Norn who told some interesting stories about the Age of the Giants, of which Norn and Jotun shared a certain common heritage apparently. Thinking about it that way made me feel better, that I was part of a race of giants, rather than an awkward over-sized female human that vaguely resembled Xena and could look fat at certain unflattering camera angles.

None of which was probably going to help me the moment I hit a human proportioned town or have nosy asura looking up my skirt though.

Still dancing with the idea of deletion, I decided to hit the Hall of Monuments to see if a good (armor) skin and dye job could help.

tookyoulongenoughtogethere

It did.

Oh my fucking lord, how it did.

I suppose some of the problem was that the lowbie heavy armor was plain ugly, no matter what character you put it on.

I put on heritage armplates, leggings and boots, which gave me plate armor on all the extremities you’d expect a tall giant lady to have in contact with shorter beings in combat (also functions great to boot a nosy asura with), and left the top in chainmail for better flexibility (the better to reach over and thwap you with a gigantic sword.)

I was also surprised how good the default Ebony dye came out on this particular armor for Norns. It’s almost a true black. (On all my other characters, it’s always been a more dark grey.)

As everyone knows, black is slimming.

Add on Stone and Matte for shiny metal highlights, some Tarnished Steel for variation, and the end result is something I could probably live with.

surprisinglymuchbetter

At least for another 10-20 levels, where I might re-evaluate again once I get to non-Norn proportioned settlements.

Still can’t do anything about the dorky helmets though.

*Hides them all*

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GW2: Norn Thief Alt

I am Norn.

The chill of the Northern Shiverpeaks does not faze me.

A wade through one of its many streams is bracing, and puts me in the mood for a good hunt, and ale at a warm hearth when my work is done.

I am Norn.

There is game here aplenty, wood and ore and forage for those who know where to find it.

Survival is bred in our bones. Like others, I call these snowy mountains my home.

I am Norn.

I revere the Spirits of the Wild.

I respect all the lessons they have to teach me. Bear gives me strength and self-reliance. Snow Leopard teaches the value of strategy and stealth. Just like me, Raven is not above a bag of good tricks and there is wisdom and knowledge in its caw. Wolf guides my road, and advises the best time for loyalty and friendships and running with the pack, and when to leave and wander alone once again.

But I am not your average Norn.

They used to laugh and call me a runt. Perhaps it was meant as good-natured jest. Perhaps it was merely a way for their tales and legends to outshine all others.

Trust me, when even a Norn called “the Short” has a couple of inches over you…

You know you are anything but average.

It matters not.

Like other Norn, I live for the hunt. I will not back down from a challenge.

I have learned to use my size and speed to my advantage, to attack weak points and be where the prey is not looking.

I’ve heard the humans have a saying. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Looks like playstyle preferences win out in the end.

I tried. I still like the necromancer and the elementalist, and they are nasty in close combat with double daggers and have the advantage of long range spells, but there is just something magical about how thieves just rip stuff up or die trying.

That, and the eventual hope that I can use him in WvW someday, I want to play around with stealth, lone wolfing and hit-and-run tactics – it seems a complement to how my guardian is more of a group force multiplier, which gets occasionally frustrating when there is no group around to speak of. I need something to rambo with when I get tired of moronic brainless calls, and lord knows there’s been quite a number of those in my timezone lately.

No doubt by the time I get the thief up to a level that won’t just melt and die in WvW, I will find out that organization and morale has improved and there is a need for more group-oriented builds once again, but oh well, having the option for another gameplay style will be nice.

The thiefly weapon options are really hard to choose from. Double daggers is sick, of course, and even in just its five skills, there seem to be quite a few options for fighting. There is the death blossom (3) spin to win, which applies bleed condition damage while evading. There is the standard dagger autoattack chain (1) that applies poison and does very decent out-of-the-box damage. There is heartseeker (2) spam that can do a nasty amount of burst as the target has less and less hp. It’s amazing how the initiative mechanic gives thieves more choice in how to apply quick burst fast at the cost of some downtime, or maintain a sustained dps chain. And there is the stab-stealth (5) which can be followed up by a very nice backstab (1) if you can maneuver behind an enemy while in stealth. And I’m just getting comfortable with the thrown cripple dagger (4) as an opener, which also chains to more than one enemy and softens up a foe before closing the distance.

Sword/pistol is another combination I’m liking. The blinding powder field can be quite effective for keeping the thief alive in close combat, and the sword gives a decent cone attack that hits a couple of enemies at once and is reminiscent of my guardian’s sword.

I found the pistol mainhand to be a decent ranged option too, though I haven’t settled on which offhand is the best complement for it yet. I’ve not played with the shortbow much, but it seems like it has its own bag of tricks too.

Then there’s steal, which also takes some getting used to, but I suspect can be rather powerful, if one knows what to steal from and when to use the stuff you get best.

And there’s the whole mobility aspect to a thief, which I -really- need practice in, but seems potentially powerful in the right hands. Shadowstepping in and out of range, evading here and there, stealthing in and out, blinding to and fro.

Some day I’d really like to learn more about all the different professions, because they seem to play so differently, but we need to start somewhere, I guess…

…I can hear altoholism calling again. Won’t be surprised if I end up playing yet another character for the next week.