Self-Censorship

Day 9 of press tour for Dragon Commander. Typing this up from a small hotel room somewhere in Hamburg. Getting increasingly tired but not managing to sleep as there is too much noise from the cars driving by.

We released the trailer yesterday as well as the revamped website. The reactions so far seem to be positive though it’s clear that a lot of people need to try to the game before they’ll fully understand exactly what it is that we’v made.  Hope the output of the tour is going to help with that.

Didn’t see any articles pop up yet, but I guess they’ll appear shortly. Nervous about those, as they are all based on hand-on play. It looks like most people playing it are having a blast and we even had several guys actually rearranging their schedule to be able to play the game more. Never had that happen to one of our games before.

Still, it wouldn’t be the first time that an apparently good reception at a press event somehow transforms itself in a smiting once you see the article. There’s still a bucketload of bugs and missing UI elements and missing effects and missing etceteras, and I’m not sure if they can all see past that. We’ll see.

One thing that worries me a bit in particular is the discussion I’ve had with several journalists about the the political and satirical topics in the game. They were all pretty interested in that part of the game and since they are journalists after all, I can see how that’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with.

Admittedly, some of  the topics are a bit controversial, even if we did base them on real-life issues that dominate political agendas around the world. But the wording used by our writer is pretty much in synch with Larian’s culture i.e. it’s very satiricial, and since the internet is the internet and some of the satire will be lost in translation, it’s probably inevitable that flak is going to head our way.

It also doesn’t help that our lead animator decided that on this particular game he was going to show the world what he thinks of censorship. He made the most obvious sexist camera shot ever for the introduction of the dwarven princess to the dragon knight, and then queried me whether I thought it was over the top, and whether or not such an expression of artistic freedom belonged in a game. As I was debating the issue openly I somehow managed to get half Larian around me, who vigorously let me know that censorship is a thing of the devil  and what they thought about their right to aim a camera at a dwarven princess’ breasts.

I let them cook a bit by playing the devil’s advocate, but let it in because a) I’m no big fan of censorship, b) I’m no fan of enforced politically correctness because it gives media too much power to shape opinion and c) I thought there was something symbolical about this particular shot being such a discussion generator just because it was visual.  I think there is much more controversial stuff than this in the way the councillors formulate their opnions , but apparently the fact that that’s just words doesn’t provoke the same emotions.

Some of the guys who saw our presentations got it though and understood that there was gameplay value in putting in things a large majority wouldn’t agree with (at least, I hope), but which a player would still contemplate because it might let him reach his goals, pretty much the same thing a politician has to do all the time.

I guess that if we would’ve tracked what some well known journalists decided on as a policy and posted it to their facebooks and twitters as their opnions, they’d be in a lot of trouble. It’s an evil game in that.

Anyway, flak heading this way, I’m sure, so now I need to figure out if we’re going to be nice and adapt so it doesn’t provoke, or just let it in because it’s good writing and it does make you think.

The note to self that I need to remember from the discussions I’ve had is that in any case I need to be more careful with what I say on a press tour. For instance, I spent quite some time talking to a journalist who was recording our conversation and while his recorder was  visible, the tone of the conversation had changed such that I thought the interview was over and we were just exchanging opinions. I’m usually rather explicit when I discuss things so I’m already grateful he removed the swearing, but I’m not sure I did the best possible job communicating there. You can read said interview here but mind you, it’s a mish-mash of a lot of thoughts and the required nuance isn’t necessarily present because I really didn’t think I was talking publicly.

Yes, even after all this talk about censorship,  I do in general indulge in a bit of self-censorship when talking to press if only it’s because I have to promote my company and my own personal thoughts are sometimes not necessarily conductive to that ;)

I need to go – presentations start in a couple of hours . Do let me know what you think of our Dragon Commander trailer and what your thoughts are on representing real-life political opinions in game using occassionaly foul and shocking language .

 

  • http://twitter.com/SeanRidgeley Sean Ridgeley

    “it’s clear that a lot of people need to try to the game before they’ll fully understand exactly what it is that we’v made.”

    Yep. I’m intensely interested, but need another trailer and/or hands-on time to see if it’s for me.

    “now I need to figure out if we’re going to be nice and adapt so it
    doesn’t provoke, or just let it in because it’s good writing and it does
    make you think.”

    If you’re not pissing some people off, it’s probably not worth doing. Safe is boring and unmemorable. Also, controversy often helps more than it hurts. I know I’m much more interested in the game because of this supposed controversy (though maybe that’s just me being me).

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Again, we’re really not looking for controversy – we genuinely think this is fun

  • JackDandy

    Please, please, PLEASE-

    Do NOT put any sort of self-censorship. Be different. Be RUDE. Stand for what you and your artists think should go into the game.

    There’s a big backlash brewing against the entire forced political correctness that has been plaguing gaming “journalism” lately.

    No publicity is bad publicity- If this game will be good, a little controversy could only help it, I say. And it’s not like you’ll be like some developers who do it just go gain attention. if you do it because YOU think it’s right, believe me, it will work out.

    Just make sure the game is good as possible, because a (relatively) small-studio game like yours can’t sell on publicity alone- it needs to have substance people will talk about, and recommend to their friends.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      The thing is, we really didn’t do this for publicity even if we now realise that’s what people will think – we honestly thought it was going to be good gameplay

      • JackDandy

        Then rest assured it will turn out for the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kainethosvinosec Kain Ethos Vinosec

    I’m a big fan of the Divinity stuff and after grabbing the Divinity Anthology and checking out the journals/videos I became a big fan of Larian in general so I’m probably very biased in my opinion here.

    You’ve got a great group of people working on great games that they all believe in and it’s an amazing thing to see. I also have a job that lets me work in the video game business and I know how the whole censorship thing plays. It’s important in dealings, it’s important in presenting yourself, but it’s completely unnecessary in art, which is exactly what your group makes every time they release a new game. It’s art, and it should never be censored.

    I’ve seen the trailer for Dragon Commander and I’m sold on it. I can’t wait to play it. What might be more helpful to you though, is that my girlfriend saw the trailer and she is just as sold and just as eager. She’s not a Divinity fan (though she did enjoy Divinity II DKS for a little while), and you managed to win her over with two minutes of video.

    Thanks for reading my opinions! If you ever need a second composer on anything let me know. It’d be a dream come true to work with you.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Thank you Kain – I’m glad we seduced your girlfriend ;)

  • AlexF

    I understand what you’re saying about the interview, however it made for an interesting read. The problem as I understand it is that when you think you speak casually you tend to say things that reflect your feelings but you don’t necessarilly believe to be true. When I talk with friends I exagerate about my opinion of games all the time but if I write something about it on the internet I tend to be more balanced and careful so as to communicate my thoughts on the subject and not my emotional reaction to it. For example the quote “there hasn’t been a good rpg for the past 6 years”. I understand the sentiment behind it, there certainly haven’t been many in the more traditional isometric, dialogue based, turn based category that Original Sin fits in, a category that for many oldschool RPG players is their favorite. However in the past 6 years we have had some amazing RPGs like Mask of the Betrayer, Fallout New Vegas, Dragon Age: Origins did a lot of things right, Alpha Protocol may have botched the execution a bit but it brought inovation and I at least whould categorize Divinity 2 as a great RPG as well.

    Also a note on free to play games. I know it’s a trend now and developers and publishers are gravitating towards it but the comparison with soap operas and movies is a bit unfair. There have been a few free to play games that give the others a bad name however there have been a lot of successful ones that really respect the consumer. A few examples: League of Legends let’s you unlock everything in the game by playing and in a pace that doesn’t make you feel you should invest money in it, the only money only items are different costumes and such that don’t have an impact on gameplay. Dota 2 will do the same, selling only costume items. Path of the Exile launched a few weeks ago and they have commited to giving a full fledged action RPG (quite a good one I might add) while selling only vanity items. Guild Wars 2 you have to buy the main game and you can buy items with real money that can affect gameplay but you really don’t need them. It’s an MMO without monthly subscriptions that offers new content almost every month. Of course there is a craze with free to play lately and it’s certainly not a model that can apply everywhere. Another model that works for some games is episodic gaming with Walking Dead as a recent success. I couldn’t imagine Larian’s games or any other major single player RPG using those models in a way that wouldn’t hurt the consumer. However like I said it’s not all bad. Like most things you have to use it right and to apply it where it makes sense.

    On the subject of controversial issues. I read all the times how people want and developers want to make more mature games. It has been pointed by a few people that mature doesn’t mean more sex and violence (although these can be part of a mature game if not done for the sake of it). It means difficult decisions and problems that have an analogue to the real world. Gray areas. Deciding the best among bad choices. Racism is an issue that has come up a lot lately, in Dragon Age, Skyrim and other games. That, however, is an ‘easy’ issue. The political correct thought is that racism is wrong so it’s easy to incorporate that in a game. Dragon Age took a more interesting approach with the Mages/Templars conflict. Mages are in the danger of being possesed by demons in their dreams and turning into powerful and extremely dangerous abominations. So they are rallied and guarded by the templars to protect the population and themselves. Is that the right thing to do though? Can you really essensially imprison a whole social group because of the potential of violence, no matter how distractive they could be? That is a good dillema. It correlates for example in some way to how people of different skin colour and religion are treated after the recent terror scare, in countries like the USA. Is it right to single out, humiliate, discriminate against such people or worse just for the possibility of another disaster?

    I don’t think controversial issues, gray areas and difficult questions are something to shy away from. I think people want trully more mature games. Mass Effect tackled the issue of the elimination of an entire spieces and noone complained about it. Having harder, real life issues, appear in a game by no way diminishes it.

    Another question that some times comes up in RPGs is can the end justify the means? Is the player willing to make a hard choice, a sacrifice, to achive a perhaps noble end goal? The problem with how this is handled is that even if the player makes the “good” choice, that doesn’t create a problem for him. He doesn’t lose anything. There is always a way to do the right thing and win in the end. A much better implementation would be for the decision of the player to actually matter. If it’s about winning the game, ok let him win but make it a partial victory, make it bittersweet, make that one point where he decided to be noble than practical come back to bite him in the ass.

    Now I know that Larian games are known for their humour and satire and a concern may be what would be the impression of tackling difficult issues in a light hearted manner. Well comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin. It has been said that comedy is tragedy seen by a different angle. Combining comedy and drama can lead to much more dramatic moments than a mere drama can. Japanese anime used to do that great in the 90s. The first seasons of Scrubs are a good example. Recently I was playing Borderlands 2. The game is great and the writing is top notch. Almost every line in the game is comedy and some are hillarius. The reason I bring it up is that what’s mostly funny are the messed up characters you encounter who are crazy caricatures. The things they say may be serious but are said in a way that are always funny, incest jokes for example. The thing is there have been 2-3 times in the whole game where for an instant just half a phrase said in a different tone of voice for example reveals the intense drama underneath all that, reveals more about the characters than their whole dialogue in the game does. So yes it is possible to tackle serious issues using humour and satire.

    One last things. It’s acceptable, even good for the game, to have characters that are sexists, biggots, racists, etc. Real world is that way, why shouldn’t a game world be. What the developers have to be careful about is not to be those things themselves. The most used example for sexism is females in chain bikinis. That is obvious and of course there are many deeper issues with sexism in the video game industry. Another easy one is the camera shifting to show the female protagonist’s ass when she climbs a stair. A good idea would be to get a female perspective on the material you are doing. People have blind spots and men often have blind spots to sexism so that could help. It’s also important not to go to the other end of the spectrum of political correctness. The thing with the dwarf princess from what I gather of the article is satire of the sexism in video games. That is perfectly acceptable even if people don’t get it. I don’t know if you’ve watched the Oscar ceremony but Seth Macfarlane did a number where he sang about the actresses who have shown their breasts on film. Some people thought it was increadible sexist. I found it hillarious and actually a satire on the obssesion of our society and the internet with nudity on films.

    Anyway, those are my 2 cents. Bottom line, don’t self censore, for me it’s the worst form of cesorship, but make sure that what you present adhere to the standarts you set for yourselves.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      You should start a blog. You write better than I do.

      Yes to the speaking casually – I didn’t have my filter on. If I had, I would’ve said it’s been since Fallout 2 that I’ve played a RPG that really chained me to the screen – definitely more than six years ;)

      As far as F2P is concerned – yes, I was generalising but I was also reacting to a certain pidiot (a pidiot being a type of person who cares more about publishing models than games) who told me that if I didn’t do F2P I was a dinosaur and doomed to die – I really strongly disagree with his statements, even if I realize that there’s a solid business model in F2P – it’s just that I don’t like the business model because of what it means for game creation. But I also have to admit I’m not an expert in the latest F2P trends because I simply have never played a F2P game i.e. I might be completely wrong in my thinking (and your reply makes me think that if anything, I’ll definitely need to nuance my ideas). Still, it’s definitely not going to be the only model.

      On the subject of controversy – third time in my reply session – we did not do it on purpose. We were looking for what would make good gameplay, and it happens that exaggerating things a bit works pretty well. On top of that – I’ll like “I found it hillarious and actually a satire on the obssesion of our society and the internet with nudity on films.”

  • arne

    It was a very interesting article after all. “I don’t think there’s been a good RPG in the last 6 years…” ?

    That’s a really interesting quote. Altough I do not agree with that for now, I’ll just keep it in mind. I take it Original Sin will prove a true rpg? I’ll play buy it, I’ll play it, I’ll tell you what I think of it. Either I’m just too young and inexperienced with this kind of games, or (I’m sorry) you’re just becoming old. Do all people at Larian really agree on this topic?

    About the censorship: I’ll shout the same thing as the others do : just go for it. It will divert us all. As long as it’s no Fable III, which was truly pathetic. And since you’re doing this, don’t hide it but shout it for yourself: This is a modern game!

    About releasing your toolset: you’re either a genius or a morron.

    Oh yes, about the trailer: I thought this was just a ‘early’ trailer, with another one, a better one, coming up, and to be hones, that’s what I’m still hoping for. This is a very very tiny touch on DC’s contents. The allknowing recruitment monologue was not that funny (“parasites”, “demons goo, or whatever it was”). That might just be my opinion, but personally I judge it too weak to be the final one. It’s better than the Divinity II unboxing video, but still… And that’s a shame cause the video for Divinity Anthology instantly convinced me, and that one was obiously produced at much lesser costs.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t buy DC. I know by now you’re games are really enjoyable. Had to clear my mind though. I whish you good luck on that tour of yours.

    • arne

      That reminds me, I’ve got to check my spelling before submitting :)

      You’re credibility depends on that.

      • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

        I conccccurrrr ;)

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Well AlexF’s response really does put the dots on the i – it was just a chat and I didn’t nuance because I didn’t realsze it was going to be amplified like that.

      Regarding DC – does this help to shape your opinion ? http://pcgmedia.com/divinity-dragon-commander-preview/

      I can guarantee you that Michael is no idiot nor somebody you can impress that easily – he seemed quite an intelligent gamer actually.

      • arne

        I never insinuated DC is a bad game, but thanks for the link anyway. This article does indeed mean more to me than the trailer. And what’s this about a demo?

  • Kein Zantezuken

    Words cannot express how much I hate censorship.

    • arne

      Because those’d be censored

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Imagine that Kein – we concur :)

  • GhanBuriGhan

    Love the trailer!

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Thank you – we were really quite nervous about releasing it.

  • nobody72

    I’m kind of mixed on censorship. On the one hand I think important differences in cultures need to be discussed or should be open to discussion on the other hand I see no need to go out of the way to intentionally insult a culture. That is you should not necessarily avoid what is acceptable to your culture but when visiting another culture you should respect that they might find certain activity offensive. Anyways I think games are an excellent medium to present diverse views and open debate on those views and that is one of the + to larian games.

  • WotanAnubis

    Pfeh. I won’t be wading into the whole censorship argument. The only thing I’ll say about it is that, in my experience, a lot of people wailing about ‘political correctness gone mad’ are just upset they can’t be racist/sexist/homophobic assholes anymore without people calling them out on it.

    I will say, though, that the gratuitous boob shot probably would have been a lot funnier with the undead princess. Because she doesn’t have any boobs, you see, and the camera would be slobbering all over some no doubt very sexy ribs.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      I’ll let our lead animator make his case here – I’m sure he’ll object to it being called gratuitous

    • Larian_LeadAnim

      As I’m being called on the spot here I guess I’ll have a say or two.

      First of all, Badmojo7 pretty much said what I feel about the whole sexism matter. I could write an essay on this but I won’t do that here and now.

      Secondly, the gratuitous boob shot. That was perhaps a dumb joke, and a joke that came into the game coincidentally as this was a default camera programmed on the male dwarf. It gave lots of giggles at the office so it was left in.
      A good thing with working for Larian is that we all get a lot of freedom in what kinda input we make. Be it a sophisticated or dumb joke and be it from an artist or a designer.

      I would also like to hear how bad people rate this “boob shot” on a scale compared to lets say dozens of games out there where you point-of-view stab your enemy in the face, slice their throats, machine gun them point blanc shot, rip guts out, pull eyes and brains out; and all this carefully documented inches away from the player camera?

      How I see it, I think the world is sending pretty mixed up messages around.

      • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

        Thing is, I noted Divinity 2 had some… sexist design. I mean the female armours were overly shapely (dangerously so), often had skirts, etc. And it did bug me, but then I approached it from a Larian view.

        You guys send up tropes, conventions, stereotypes and so on. Whilst I don’t think that aspect worked as a send up, I became ‘okay’ with it because I know as Larian, you’re not sexist/racist/homophobic. You’re creating a parody and that needed to come across in the visuals.

        That said, I think you guys should check out the script (at least) for inXile’s Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. The banter between Caddoc and E’lara is some of the best humorous writing I’ve ever come across in a video game, and it’s quite often poking fun at genre tropes.

    • Carlos Roberto

      From my experience, a lot of people wailing about “racism/sexism/homophobia” lacks any self-awareness and think that everyone that don’t agree with them are bad persons that need to be marginalized and punished.

  • martin k.

    Down with censorship. Make the game as politically incorrect as possible, insult each and every side, make fun of everything and everyone, be racist, homophobic, chauvinist, feminist and many more -ist. If big Hollywood movies and series can be all that I see no reason for a game to not be like that. The more publicity you gain – the better the game will sell.

    • WotanAnubis

      Like Duke Nukem Forever. A game that received years of publicity and was then widely reviled for pandering to misogynists. And everything went just swimmingly.

      Wait, no, that didn’t happen. Bad publicity doesn’t actually help sell games. Unless it’s from people who don’t what they’re talking about.

      • JackDandy

        It didn’t work for DNF because it was simply a shit title, with terrible gameplay..

        Publicity can’t help sell a BAD game. But for this kind of game, I think it will work wonders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.lash.50 Jeremy Lash

    I think there’s a fine line between censorship here and being sexist and objectifying. Now, if there was the option of being female and having the same shot focus on the crotch and the “Princes” you can marry in the game, then it’d be balanced.

    Are you trying to make a point, striking a blow for equality / freedom of speech / your right to do what you want or are you throwing a bit of tabloid-esque page 3 titliation? Is it in keeping with the overarching theme of the game? Is the message an obvious one? As one commenter said, focusing on the breasts, then pulling back to reveal the UNDEAD princess would be a scathing comment. But if it’s focusing on someone who, in graphical terms, is just a short human woman, then it’s a trickier call.
    Remember, some of your audience is female and you should factor in how they feel about it. If the tone is very much “carry on” levels of comedic slapstick, then maybe. But if it’s Duke Nukem levels of 80′s pr0n “men good, women sluts!” attitude, then I’d advise against it.
    Ultimately, what is it this scene is supposed to say? Does it have a point? Does it tick the boxes? Being tasteful is not really self censorship. Would you display a child being viciously beaten? Well, some people like that and it’s your right to not be censored! Would you find it comparable if there was an option to oggle some males? How would your dev team feel about it? And is it there to appeal to your fans? In which case, do you see your fans as fans of comedy, middling teens who “get off” on titliation?
    Either way, it’s an interesting discussion, but must always come back to: what is the purpose of this: does it tie with the overall theme of the game? If it does, then crack on. But if it looks crass, sounds crass and feels crass… then it probably is.

    • CromWelp

      The problem with this is that you’re looking at a dumb joke with an amount of depth that is far outside the implied context. Dumb jokes are okay. They might contribute to an over-all sense of global sexism, but so long as there is no intention to directly do that, it isn’t supposed to be offensive.

      You can be offended at anything, but what matters is whether or not the person who offended you *tried* to do so. Clearly, Larian are showing stiff upper lip. It’s a sort of “I will do my dumb joke and not let anyone ruin it” stance.

      So, what’s the purpose of “dumb jokes”… well… to have a laugh. It’s as simple as that.

      • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

        I know our writer pretty well – he’s really not trying to make any dumb jokes. On the contrary – he’s quite sophisticated in his humour. If he offends, he does it on purpose, but with a message.

        • Michael

          But I’m literally just referring to “focusing on the breasts” in this case.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Well we think it fits to the theme of the game, but we’re sure not everybody agrees. E.G. when we asked Kotaku to preview the game, we got a flat no and we have a slight suspicion that past presentations and statements about the things we were putting in might have something to do with it. Obviously, we don’t know if that’s really true.

      • JackDandy

        Fucking Kotaku… Man, I’m not surprised one bit.

        They’re a sensationalist shit site.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.lash.50 Jeremy Lash

          There we’d agree. They are pretty linktastic!

          Swen – having played all your former games, I personally get the theme, so i hope you didn’t feel any rancour on my part!

          The problem, as CromWelp so eloquently put it, is that anyone can be offended, even if the joke is merely a dumb, two-dimensional bit of humour – slapstick even. However, in this case i reckon couching it in context helps sell it AND improves the humour AND gets the message across: I.E a lizard’s breasts, or the undead princesses breasts etc.

          In answer to CromWelp… well, we have to ask: IS it funny? Or is it a little bit overdone now: hell, carry on were doing these jokes forty years ago – there’s a reason they’ve become a little stale and associated with a rather tired traditionalist bit of humour!

  • melianos

    If you change stuff, please don’t water down the game :)

  • Rod Lightning

    Be yourself and do not divert from the Larian route just for the sake of trying to avoid heat.

    Continue doing what your fans fell in love with regarding dialogue. I can’t stress that enough. Larian is very unique in this aspect and you should be proud of that.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Thx Rod

  • http://twitter.com/Badmojo7A Badmojo7

    Keep it in! I am sick to death of this idiots who scream racism/sexism/whateverism at people because they do not LIKE what they see and rather than be mature and accept people have different tastes, they throw shock words like rape supporter, pig, or the new buzzword misogynist. Just to change things to THEIR point of view. Here is the thing, these people. Yea, they do not even care about the game, probably will not even buy it, these trolls just hunt around the net looking to point an accusing finger at someone and scare them to do their will. The moment you censor your game because it might offend someone, then you might as well stop making games at all because someone will always have something to bitch about.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      True

  • The Guilty Party

    Analogously, you have every right to go around insulting other people and calling them fat and ugly and stupid. To prevent you from doing so would absolutely be censorship.

    But you’d still be a dick.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      I don’t think we’re doing anything like that. We really did think about every single situation in the game and tried to represent the major views on certain topics around the world – it’s just that the world happens to be quite radical, more so than we are.

      • The Guilty Party

        I don’t see how that addresses my point. You’re claiming that you’re either standing up to censorship, or ‘it’s just breasts, no one else in the world is so hung about them, get over it America’.

        Both of which are laudable, and neither of which have anything to do with what was described.

        I live in the Land of the Prude, and sumptuous cleavage is not censored, disapproved of, or seen as bad in any way, in media or in life.

        Your claim of ‘no censorship!’ seems to be a misunderstanding of the complaint people are lodging against games. It’s not that breasts and/or sexuality has no place. It’s that ever since we could render more than 2 polygons at once, 99% of all games blatantly pander to the teenage male demographic by hypersexualizing any and all women represented in the game.

        Imagine if every movie included a pie fight and some scantily clad woman. Das Boot, now with a sexy lady lieutenant! Big improvement, right? Or maybe, do you think, people might say ‘would you all give it a rest once in a while?’

        You are well within your rights as artists and as a company to make a sexy dwarf princess and ogle her with the camera all day long. I am sure it will help sales. But don’t pretend it’s done from some moral high-ground.

        • exant

          “But don’t pretend it’s done from some moral high-ground.”

          I assume the moral high-ground here is supposed to be showing cleavage in order to agitate against political-correctness and censorship? If so, that’s fine, but cleavage is the norm. It’s delusional to suggest that the message from the animator is provocative.

  • Martin K.

    Two more things: why is censoring stuff even a norm? Why isn’t banning censorship norm? Don’t like what you see/hear? – move along and leave rest of us enjoy in not being so stuck-up. It’s like banning milk because some people are lactose intolerant. You won’t ban it for everyone because you can’t resist your urge to drink a glass of it or avoid it.

    And why is censoring so selective? Old paintings with naked dudes and manly women are considered art, sculptures of even more naked dudes is also art, but when it comes to showing a boob then it’s breaking of ‘rules’ and considered indecent. Same thing goes for ideas, if you don’t like it don’t censor it, but rather use your head and reject it because you have a reason to do so.

    Censoring is like pushing stuff under the carpet. Eventually it’ll come out and you’ll have to deal with it.

  • Cmelda

    Hi, I think that the whole Divinity saga (world, persons,events,..) has it’s own style (i would call it ‘strange’ or ‘mystic’). For me, the scene described by You is fine, because i know you don’t want to sell more copies of DC by showing players ‘some virtual boobs’. That’s because I know your style, I know that it is only a ‘dirty joke’, nothing else.
    The DC trailer was really great, i was basically a vertical slice, which is exactly what the trailer should have in the first place. The player needs to understand what the game is all about. So good job on this part.
    I am not really into RTS games, but DC reminds me of a game called Sacrifice (Shiny Ent.) and I enjoyed it back then (and of course it’s a new Divinity game from Larian :-) ). So it will be a day-one buy for me.

  • Illusive Man

    A glimpse of the future by Swen Vincke could be a French gamer playing Indie games on his Steam box, who can be morally challenged by tough choices right after some sexy breasts shot in his favorite RPG… Interesting how the first step to more diversity seems to be the unification of technology.

    I totally agree with Michael Cromwell comment : “there will be some people who just look at the breasts of the Dwarf, and that’s about as far as they go”.
    With those people who don’t even scratch the surface and start to rampage about everything not politically correct that’s not surprising to see controversy like Irrational having to face so much concerns about BioShock Infinite’s Elizabeth breasts size.
    Or Crystal Dynamics accused to use near-rape material in a trailer.

    So DDC will be controversial. You knew that from the beginning, didn’t you ? I hope this subject is back in the light for those who didn’t had a look at your “Politics and games” post, and not because you think of changing DDC orientation from “Indie freedom” to “No more death treat please”.
    Not that change is bad. Changing orientation from “aerial units only” to “Air/Ground/Sea units” was certainly a damn good choice, but, you know, change is only good when the result is better.

    And by the way I liked the new trailer and I can’t wait for a demo.

  • medwards

    Read that this was a good blog post on Rock Paper Shotgun and was really interested to see your post. I know I’m repeating myself but words cannot express how monumentally disappointed I am to come here and see you talk about how a deliberately gratuitous boob shot was included as if it was a volley in some battle against censorship.

    I fear you have misunderstood what the real issues around sexual objectification in video games are (because its not about censorship, it is about maturity) and it makes me question whether Divinity is actually developed and written with the kind of mature perspectives that the issues contained therein deserver, or if it will be a series of Fox News-esque caricatures.

    I am even more deeply disappointed that you let badmojo7 speak for you as his kneejerk conservatism is part of a problem, not any solution. I had hoped to write here that I could be wrong and perhaps it was humorous and clear in context that it was a better joke than you implied in your post but it doesn’t sound any better than a fart joke, and in manifestly bad taste considering the shifting opinions in your audience.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      My comment referred to the fact that surprisingly an over-the-top-boob shot shot generates more reaction than deciding to genocide an entire race (at least role playing the latter). The game’s vocabulary consists of caricatures and stereotypes – by definition that will hurt some sensibilities. We did on purpose try not to take any stance and include different viewpoints, be it in a satirical manner. So, even as you are selecting which princess will become yours, you are already encountering resistance aboard the ship from characters commenting that they object to these princesses being traded as if they’d be objects. Whether the player decides to reflect on that or not is up to the player.

      • medwards

        Thats a pretty flaky line you are playing with, theres lots of instances over many genres of the creators telling an explicit (and often fourth-wall breaking) joke about some condition, and then including that condition. Most examples fall flat.

        I do appreciate the point and your post would read MUCH better if you mentioned the fact that the gratuitous shot occurs in a context in which these critiques are being raised. Emphasizing the censorship aspect is really bad optics for talking about this scene. Also you avoid sounding like the FC3 writer who claimed that the entire thing was a critique of the Magical Indian and normal FPS stereotypes, but with it all coming after the critiques of FC3 it was difficult for it not to sound hollow.

        I’d also like to thank you for taking the time to respond to these posts. After the article and a few comments I expected less, and I’d like to apologize for that.

    • Raze

      Actually, it was an accidentally gratuitous boob shot (using the camera settings from the male dwarf when initially setting up the female dwarf intro). Then came the debate on whether to leave it in or not.

  • http://twitter.com/CorneliusFinger Luke Stephenson

    I’m really looking forward to seeing your take on various controversial issues. It’s always nice when a team has the stones to take on these topics, either in a serious or satirical way.

    Now, shots of princess boobs? Again, context is the important thing. I in no way endorse being overly P.C for the sake of it, but it’s the sort of content that does demand careful attention. The risk you take when making a statement on censorship is it can be pretty difficult for the end user to deduce that that is what you are showing – depending on how you present it. Look at how women are depicted in Soul Caliber or Dead or Alive; games where the female characters pole dancing are unlockable bonuses. This demonstrates that there are very real issues with the way a lot of games depict women, and these issues really should be taken seriously. I think the only question you need to ask yourself is: does what we’ve done in our game do what we want? Do you successfully make a statement on censorship, or do you simply reinforce stereotypes?

    I hate self-censorship for the sake of it. Imagine if Ken Levine was too afraid of offending people to depict a period-accurate style of racism – we wouldn’t be getting Bioshock Infinite. But what if he wanted to turn every black character into a sterotypical characature, speaking only in racial slurs and continually eating bananas? In that situation it wouldn’t matter if he was making a ‘statement against censorship,’ the end result would still be a depiction of something grossly dehumanising. In this regard, self-censorship is vital as it is important to make sure irresponsible content isn’t thrown into the game ‘for the sake of it’. Seth MacFarlane may have got a lot of flak for his Oscars performance, but at the end of the day it was his self-censorship that allowed him to make a successful statement about political correctness and attitudes to nudity in films. He put in a lot of thought into the material he used and the manner in which he presented it to get that message across. Without careful consideration as to where to draw the line, he could have easilly become a hateful man degrading actresses. All I’m saying is be careful not to fall into that trap.

    On a lighter note – really looking forward to your game. Everything I have seen and read so far has got me very interested, and I am genuinely excited to see how you’ve tackled these so called ‘controversial’ issues. Also the whole ‘Dragons with jetpacks’ things, I’m looking forward to that as well!

  • Ablestron

    I think the views of your artist are valid, but I would caution against shoving it in peoples faces is such a way.

    As others have stated, the majority of games that have come out have portrayed women as nothing more than eye candy, or as something that needs to be protected or saved; all to pander to what much of the gaming industry believes is still a male dominated space.

    Statistics show though a remarkably even split between male and females who play video games these days. Also at the same time, you have a lot of people (male and female) who are growing tired of the sexy eye candy women, all white male straight protagonists, etc, and are starting to want more than your average low brow eye winks such as the obvious boob shot or butt shot that most games deliver to us. While there are people who want stuff like this gone completely and moan every time it crops up, in reality most people would be happy if we just had more games that try to do things differently.

    We’re in a transitioning stage where people want more diversified gaming experiences, and while your game does touch on some political stuff that I am thankful for, your not going to impress anyone by having boob shots. If anything it just seems like an immature response to people who are hungry for more diversity.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    I think there’s a difference between self-censorship and being sensible about your work. What you need to ask yourself is “what does this add to the game?” or, if it’s born out of an accident, “how can we spin this to change the meaning?”.

    With the example of the Dwarf Princess above, you could easily spin it so that it’s clear that you’re making a joke out of it. “My eyes are up here” as a line, for example. Or maybe you could make a breasts = mountains joke (the BBC radio comedy ElvenQuest did this in one episode with a shapely breastplate, which I found funny). Those of us who read this blog post will have context for that shot, but those who haven’t won’t, and what you need to think is “what will the player take from this?”. Will they see it as an accident, as sexism, or what?

    I’m reminded a little of Dragon Age: Origins, which was grossly insensitive to a minority group, as an example of a game that handled this sort of situation badly. In the game you can visit a brothel, and you can sleep with men or women if you choose. And then BioWare thought it would be funny to include – and I quote – a Dwarven “Female”. Yeah. They went there. Now, I’m sure some people found this funny. But I didn’t, I know someone else who was grossly offended by that too. Why? It’s not because we can’t take a joke. It’s because that “joke” contributed to the dehumanisation and objectification of transpeople. Those transwomen who go into the adult industries are categorised with slurs (the only other minority this happens to are little people), and it’s always a case of making it clear to the ‘viewer’ that they’re “not women” (when they are). That “joke” wasn’t funny, and instead was almost an attack, and it was made further painful by BioWare’s loudly spoken support of the LGBT community, though it seems to me they think the T is silent. Hermaphroditus in Divinity 2 caused a little teeth-grinding for me too, but I don’t think that was your intention.

    I mean a degree of self-censorship will apply regardless. But I don’t think mentioning “political correctness” or going down that route as a discussion is helpful. I mean… what is it? If it’s not insulting minorities based on characteristics they share or stereotypes you find, isn’t that actually a good thing? You can still find inoffensive things within those groups, and turn them into jokes. Sir Terry Pratchett did this with Dwarven culture in his Discworld novels, particularly with Cheery Littlebottom (the first openly female dwarf), but it was never offensive (in my opinion, anyway) because he didn’t try to do anything but find humour in social constructs.

    I guess what I’m saying is that not censoring yourself is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t step back from something and try to tweak it to make it a little more… tasteful?

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Finding humour in social constructs is pretty much what we’re trying to do – and the phrase “let’s try doing it like T. Pratchett” has been part of the briefing when we started doing this. Obviously, mr Pratchett is very very good at what he does, so that’s a tall order.

      Tbh, even if I expected some commentary, I’m really surprised that our animator’s one camera shot creates so much discussion. If we manage to generate as much discussion about the other issues in the game which deal with how we organise our society, then I don’t consider that a bad thing.

      • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

        Well, why wouldn’t it cause discussion? Sexism and objectifications are two big issues in gaming right now. The lack of women in the industry, the lack of female characters, reduction of female characters to some sort of ‘sexy’ level (even Homefront did this, which really annoyed me), etc., so I think it’s good that you’re trying to keep those wheels turning.

        But what’s also good is you’re giving context to these decisions or situations. You’re not just plonking a screenshot of some (huge?) dwarf boob in front of us. In fact, you’ve not shown it. What you’ve done is say “we had this happen, this wasn’t intentional, and this is what we thought about that”. It shows you’re not just thinking about the game, but you’re thinking about what it reflects about you as a person, as a studio, and what it says about DC as a product. And you’re then taking those experiences and opening them up to discussion.

        In a way, I wonder what would happen if I now brought up the Original Sin artwork that’s been used to promote the game, the one with the rather revealing artwork for the female character. A misstep, perhaps?

  • arrihar

    It somehow makes me sad that you even consider self censoring your game.. i really hope most dev’s do not do that because a lot of diversity will be lost in the process.

    And yes i am offend able too (even if its hard) but that does not make me cry censor this and that every 5 seconds. As long as people do not lie in their messages, i am fully against censorship. Not the least because i think most people are able to think for them self.

  • Carlos Roberto

    Seems like, today, everything that men likes is sexism.