Tag Archives: Valve

Why TF2 Doesn’t Have Female Characters [And Overwatch Does]

I’ve played 31 hours of Overwatch to date. Now that pales in comparison to the 322 I’ve clocked on Team Fortress 2 [often shortened to TF2], but the former has only been out since late May and I’ve had the latter for several years now. There’s time to even the scales, is all I’m saying.

31hoursNow those 31 hours may not communicate this this very well, but I am all about this game. As a self-proclaimed Blizzard [the studio behind the game] fanboy who has spent actual cash money on every one of their recent releases save for World of Warcraft I’ll admit that I was already primed for it, but where Diablo III: Reaper of Souls languishes half-finished I don’t see any excitement drop-off in sight for Overwatch.

Counting herself as a fellow member of the game’s 10 million or so players, Polygon contributor Susana Polo’s interest stemmed from a different place. To wit, the presence of so many playable female characters was a huge draw for her in spite of not being “a big shooter fan”. While as a whole the its roster is startlingly diverse [it ostensibly only has four Harveys; see here for an explanation of the terminology] it’s Polo’s perspective, primarily her comparison between Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, that I want to focus on.

Comparing Apples Blues and Oranges

Her article has its foundations in a conversation she had with a former co-worker, namely regarding the fact that “It’s shitty that Team Fortress doesn’t allow you to play as a woman”. As another class-based shooter with a focus on objectives over kills juxtaposing the two only makes sense.

Team Fortress 2 was released by Valve in 2007. The game offers a total of nine different classes to choose from, most of them White, all of them male [as far as we know]. While there has been much speculation about the Pyro [who is fully masked] being a woman there has been no confirmation from developers at this point.

tf2cast

Overwatch has 21 heroes, with Blizzard already teasing another on the way. Of these characters eight of them are female. While not as close to 50% as the actual number of women in the world, it should be noted that of other 13 two are Omnics [robots] and another is a hyperintelligent gorilla.

owcast

Now what we could do is chalk up the creative decisions made by the studios as simply matching the current climate surrounding consumer expectations. While female gamers have always existed it’s within recent years that they’ve become more vocal and made their presence more known, something which the industry appears to have tuned in to.

Given that TF2 was created nearly a decade ago maybe we can cut Valve a little bit of slack for merely keeping up with the times, such as they were. Having made that decision let’s instead change gears and ask a different question: “Why hasn’t Valve added female skins to TF2 in the nine years since it was released?” Continue reading

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My Personal Fears About Dota 2‘s Art Plagiarism Made Real

My first contact with anything Blizzard Entertainment-related was when a kid much older than I found a copy of WarCraft II: Tides of War on our aging PC in the Philippines. I found the fantasy story gripping, but as a child who drew far more than he wrote [a ratio clearly flipped on its head nowadays] it was the visuals that really grabbed me.

A few years later, on my family’s return to Canada, seeing WarCraft III in Best Buy fliers made my eyes widen in awe. These were many of the same races and units I was familiar with, but updated graphically. I spent many of my precious minutes on the internet perusing the game’s website just gawking at the units and buildings before I finally grabbed a copy of my own.

When World of WarCraft was announced I made plans to play it with my friends, though those were ultimately stymied by the subscription fee as well as my family’s move to Thailand. That didn’t stop me from absorbing as much about the game as I could, though. This was a world I was deeply familiar with but expanded to a greater scope than I could ever imagine. Continue reading

Fame Day: GentleBot Hell

Today is a little different because I’m not pointing to a specific show or YouTube series, but a single video featuring a ridiculous amount of talent. Below is a diagram I created that demonstrates the audience who would most appreciate it:

2CircleVennDiagramPlain (1)

Now allow me to do what I do and provide a little context. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Indie Games [And Minecraft]

EVAN: Two weeks ago our good friend Stew said:

You should write about indie game development and how it’s changing the industry.

And so, after avoiding the topic for a little while, here we are.

GORDON: For the sake of any readers who might not be familiar with what an “indie game” is, while definitions vary, the general consensus is that an “indie game” is any video game developed outside of the major/mainstream video game industry (sometimes called “Triple A”).

EVAN: A pretty good example of this would be Braid. A more well-known example that you’ve probably at least heard about [and that both Gordon and I have played a decent amount of] is Minecraft.

Continue reading

Why I Disagree With Dota 2

Gamers everywhere were rejoicing yesterday as Valve released the first official footage of their newest game, DotA 2, made more special by the fact that the footage was from a livestream of the first DotA 2 tournament ever.

To back up a little, DotA, or Defence of the Ancients, is a custom game mode for the Blizzard-made RTS WarCraft III. Although many mods of the game exist, there are none that can compare to the popularity that DotA has with the gaming community. Influential to the point that it has spawned its own genre of video game,and been the inspiration for the similar titles League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, DotA has actually become a  feature at worldwide tournaments, including the Asian World Cyber Games. To say that this is just another mod is an immense understatement.

For a bit of background on Valve, they have been the brilliant minds that havebrought us titles such as Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal. For the most part these are all games that are saturated with narrative and feature inventive, innovative gameplay. Valve has long been seen as a company that deeply cares for its fans, their constant release of new content for the [now free to play] shooter Team Fortress 2 being a prime example.

On October 13th of last year, Valve announced that they were creating DotA 2. IceFrog, a modder who maintained and developed the original game was hired by the company in 2009 and has since been working on the sequel.

That last word is one of my first issues with the game. The very usage of the name “DotA” with the addition of the “2” seems to state that this is yet another sequel to another already-owned property, such as Half-Life 2. This could not be further from the truth. While IceFrog did help a great deal in furthering the game, as a mod it belongs to the community that helped create it, the hundreds of men and women who suggested heroes or contributed icons or penned lore for the heroes they loved playing as. The name, of course, was chosen simply for familiarity, which brings me to my next point.

In order to ease players into the transition from the WarCraft III mod to the new and improved DotA 2 Valve needed more than just a title. According to Game Informer:3

DotA-Allstars‘ roster of 100+ heroes is being brought over in its entirety. The single map games take place on is functionally identical to the one that you can download for free today in the Warcraft III mod. Items, skills, and upgrade paths are unchanged. Some hero skills work slightly better due to being freed from the now-ancient Warcraft III engine, but Dota 2 will be instantly familiar to any DotA player.

Along with the heroes being brought over were their models. Since the world editor in Warcraft III only allowed for so much customization, unit models from the game itself were used in DotA. Instantly recognizable after years of playing the mod, Valve chose to make their heroes look as close to their blockier counterparts as possible.

To the left is an example of the icons used for the heroes, the ones on the left from DotA and the ones on the right from DotA 2.

The first, Prophet [known as Nature’s Prophet in Dota 2], features the same beard and horns, as well as facial tattoos. What was even more disconcerting, however, was the name of the image file for the latter, “furion_lg.png.” Furion is the name of the original hero, and is actually taken from a character in WarCraft III itself.

The second is known by Dazzle in both games, and clearly depicts a troll-ish kind of creature with a skull face tattoo. The colouration is extremely similar.

The third, called Storm Spirit by both, gets only slightly more original. Instead of portraying a humanoid panda DotA 2 instead changes the character to a human, albeit wearing extremely similar garb.

Valve has always been a company that pumped out solid, original content, and watching the tournament replays of this game made me deeply upset. The Anti-Mage attacks just as he always did with long, curved blades on each hand, Leshrac gallops swiftly forward on all fours, torso rocking back rhythmically as usual.

I could point out countless similarities, especially to character design that has always been distinctly Blizzard’s, but I won’t. The fact of the matter is that the easiest way to familiarize a gamer with something new is to show them exactly what they’ve seen before. A muscular red orc with a topknot hefting an immense axe remains exactly that, even with sleeker graphics.

DotA 2 is a game that has a very large number of players waiting to get their hands on it. The genre is only growing more and more popular, and Valve has found a way to successfully cash in on that market. It’s just a shame that this was the way that they chose to do it.

1. See? There’s even a Wikipedia page on it! <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dota_genre>

2. Seriously, no strings attached. <http://www.tf2.com/freetoplay/>

3.  Source to this and much of the other facts in this post: <http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2010/10/13/dota-2-announced-details.aspx>