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.
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.
OMG. DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A NORN TO YOU?
The body defaults weren’t any better.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*