Archive for July, 2012


The Appearance Problem

EDIT: Riot, you know how to set my heart aflutter. Just today had Diana announced. I’m not going to pretend to be less angry about Zyra because the next female champion is well armed and armored (but Zyra != Diana, and I will be ecstatic for her), however…  if this is a new initiative to bring out a broader range of characters, then I can accept where Zyra went (somewhat, still not entirely cohesive). I’m eagerly watching. I have high expectations because, in the end, you guys don’t let down. I know Riot can put out phenomenal quality work.

 

Let me preface this with the dual warnings of vehemence and yes, once again, we’re talking about Zyra. Specifically, how flat and boring the character is because Riot opted for the ‘eye-candy’ approach instead of fleshing out the character in a meaningful way on top of her mechanics and back-story. And as a further warning, there will probably be harsh language in this post for the first time ever. Why? This is why. This is a fucking problem and you should care. But we’re not going to talk about that first. First it’s the obvious problem of Zyra’s graphical design in-game.

Now I know this first part is probably going to ruffle some feathers, but it needs to be said so pay attention. Zyra is a boring and uninteresting character. Whats even worse than that is Zyra is thematically in-game a worse plant character than a damned skin for another character. Who? Blackthorn Morgana. Yes, you read that right, and it is completely sad. A recent skin for a very old champion is a better plant mage than the plant mage Riot was trying to make.

Now, that is a pretty bold statement, so let’s break it down a little. We’re going to mostly compare the two characters in thematic sense, both with spell details and character details. No one bring up the spells themselves, it’s very obvious Zyra wins out here, however it’s the subtle addition effects where she loses to Morgana. First we’re going to the more obvious visual effects on each character. Keep in mind from here on out, I’m only referring to in-game models, not the lore, design, or mechanics of the characters just yet.

Blackthorn Morgana, Riot Inc.

Blackthorn Morgana is an obvious elemental of Nature, specifically Fall or early Winter. This is evident all through the character as the eye rests on her most prominent features, her “dress” of roots and thorns, and the wings on her back. Depending on what team you spawn on, the wings can play an even greater visual component, but for now we’ll just assume you’re looking at her from the front. Her dress of roots is constantly shifting as Morgana moves around, especially on a subtle level as the roots that comprise it slither and shift slowly drives home the feeling of a living creature. Her ‘clothing’ isn’t merely there as a covering, it becomes part of the character and brings a holistic and living aspect to what once was mere cloth and metal. This is further exemplified by her idle animation, as the tips of the roots will constantly push under the soil, as if they were searching for a place to take root and draw sustenance from.
Continue reading

Really Riot? This crap again?

Okay, I know I promised Planetside 2 today, but Riot officially released Zyra. And holy crap, “disappointment” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this. Zyra looked fantastic in the teaser Morello posted, but her main artwork looks utterly ridiculous and lazy. How bad is it? Well… we need to have a little talk, Riot. Just for a few minutes, and I promise it won’t hurt. Much. I bite sometimes. Sometimes. So sit down and flip a coin while I get started.

Zyra went from being a must-buy to an extreme disappointment in the span of about 12 seconds to me, but not just because she’s naked. Because I know Riot can do better than this. I know you can draw an attractive female character without having to rely on cheap booty-call images to get the point across. How do I know? Simple! Zyra’s own artwork!

Sex Appeal vs. Sexiness/Seduction:

Okay, so what’s the problem? First, the teaser photo Morello uploaded was far and away better than the whole thing. Here’s why- In the photo her entire body is unseen and Zyra’s face is obscured by her hair. This creates an alluring sense of mystery, of speculation that draws a viewer in. I wanted to know more about Zyra. I wanted to see what she looked like. Her “clothing” such as it was gave even more of a sense of appeal, in that it clearly wasn’t fabric or manmade. What kind of clothing style is it? Elegant? Detached? Sultry? The possibilities are endless and serve to increase the mystery about her.

See for yourself. This is as good as it’ll get.

Taking it a step further, her hand coupled with the flowering ‘clothing’ creates a distinct sense of ‘not-human’, a character that has a humanoid form without being ‘human in a funky dress’ because of the mysterious air about her that we just covered. THAT is sexy, that is seducing the viewer through teasing hints and subtle displays.

And all of it is ruined by Zyra’s “full” artwork. All of that mysteriousness is removed because, why should we care to speculate? We know exactly what she looks like now. You’ve removed the allure of the strange and unseen. Yes, her face is still obscured, but now it doesn’t matter. The mystic appearance to her “clothing” is stripped away, because she isn’t even wearing any now. So it’s a naked human female with some off views.

Wait, but didn’t I say she wasn’t human before, just given a humanoid form? Well yes! I did. But that illusion is shattered by showing her full (and almost completely naked) body. Shes lost almost all of the mysterious appeal, and that has removed the sense of other. I’ve seen the image throughout writing this and only just now discovered she has 2 sets of ‘ears.’ And that’s still not enough, the illusion of difference has been scattered. Zyra has turned into a naked human with odd bits of her, not something other that happens to look human.

Now, this is where the old, tired, and pointless phrase “but it’s not flesh! she’s not human!” comes into play. And I’m dismissing it now, because it doesn’t make any sense. You can say whatever you want, if the character doesn’t have the visuals to back it up, no one will care nor will they believe you. After seeing that Riot could tell me Zyra was made entirely of sentient cats that fused together like Voltron to form Zyra and it wouldn’t make any difference. The appearance of non-human has been removed and replaced by “human with weird bits.”

Look me in the eye and tell me she’s anything more than a naked woman.

So what am I getting at?

I’m not going to lie, at this point I feel like I’ve been insulted. Riot has the talent to make and display truly sensational characters across tons of dama… err… appeals. They have the capacity to do so much amazing work, it really does hurt to see a character fall back to the tired and borderline lazy approach of “let’s make a sexy champion. Draw her almost naked!”

Sexiness is not a problem. You can have sexy, sultry champions. Hell, look at Ahri, she’s a great example of allure and charm that’s presented perfectly. She doesn’t have to have two square inches of cloth covering her breasts and crotch like Janna to pull it off, she does that in appearance, speech, and subtle positions in artwork and animations. Drawing a character like that isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work to get everything to work, to display a truly seductive champion, and I think Riot nailed that with Ahri. I think Riot nailed with Zyra too, but went overboard and wound up dispelling most of the magic that was there.

So this is the point of it all, and pretty much a plea to Riot. Please, don’t fall back on cheap and easy “sex appeal” by just having a character (male or female!!) be mostly naked. Give them personality, have them be alive and grow. Plant the idea of a vibrant and living character in out minds and let them expand from that. If seduction and sexiness is supposed to be a part of Zyra, then make it work better than this. Have the character plant a seed of desire in the player.

I’m not going to say “Scrap it and start again!” or “make her wear X style/cothing!” to get my point across. But I am going to ask you keep this in mind in the future. Scantily clad women just for the sake of it are everywhere in the industry. Stand apart from that, rise up to the next level. If you want to make sexy, make it good and make it grow on us. Let those vines of desire dig deep into us as players, not shallow appeal by having more flesh than clothing. That’s all I’m asking. I know it sounds like a lot, but I know you can do it. You’re Riot, one of the best game design companies I’ve seen. Your product is one I’ve spent tons of time and effort in, and enjoy every single game. Go to the next level, make it better. Make it the best you can.

I really want to like Zyra. I really, really do. But I don’t think I can take another “sex appeal for the sake of it” character. Best of luck Riot, I’ll be waiting for the ability details and spotlight. Not to see if you’ve changed anything, but because Zyra intrigues me. She just does so far less than she had before.

Where the hell have you been?

Title says it all. To recap… about a month ago, I had to leave on “vacation” with my family for two and a half weeks, barely having internet access (or in some places, not having it at all). Over that vacation, my laptop broke which means as soon as we got home, I had to ship it off for repairs for another week or so. Only got it back in the past couple days, and I’ve been trying to set everything back up in the meantime.

Downside is, I haven’t had much time to write up a post, and might not for the rest of the week. If I don’t have something up this weekend, I will have a new Planetside 2 post up on Tuesday. This one will be taking in everything we’ve seen so far, and will be explaining why you, yes, you- in the back, with the funky shirt (pay attention!), will want to be playing the game, along with some of the more complex mechanics at work. If you like, consider it to be part two of a series.

On the upside, while I was without internet, I finally found a Games Workshop. Sucks it’s now several thousand miles away, but I managed to snag a few Warhammer 40000 models. So in the downtime I’ve been painting up a basic Tyranid starter army, and it’s actually done quite a bit for my stress. Hopefully that’ll continue, because it really is fun to paint these models.

Rawr!

And so, that’s that. I’m back, and still working on getting life back in order after having everything thrown out of whack for a month. Sorry to have kept you guys waiting and have such a dead period on the site. Now we’re back and ready to inflict on madness on you lot all over again!