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Bioware: Shepherd "is heterosexual by choice"

Bioware: Shepherd "is heterosexual by choice"

Bioware co-founder Dr Ray Muzyka has explained why gay relationships are allowed in Dragon Age, but not Mass Effect.

11.02.10 UPDATE: This article has been updated since it was originally published. The quotes taken from Bioware's forum towards the end of the article were originally attributed to Dr. Ray Muzyka, but actually come from Bioware's Stanley Woo. The article has been amended to reflect this fact. Expansions have also been made to Muzyka's quotes at the start of the article, though the original comments are still present and the remainder of the article remains unchanged.

Responding to confusion over why gay relationships can be initiated by players in Dragon Age: Origins but not in Mass Effect 2, Bioware co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka has explained that Mass Effect's Commander Shepherd is heterosexual "through choice".

The fact that Shepherd is always heterosexual whereas the player character in Dragon Age is not was a story-telling decision that Bioware made very early on in the development of both games.

"Here's how the games are different: Dragon Age is a first person narrative, where you're taking on an origin and a role, and you are that character at a fundamental level. It's fundamentally about defining your character, including those kinds of concepts," Dr. Ray told IGN. "In Mass Effect it's more a third-person narrative, where you have a pre-defined character who is who he is, or she is. But it's not a wide-open choice matrix. It's more choice on a tactical level with a pre-defined character. So they're different types of narratives, and that's intentional."

"We're not saying that one approach is better than the other. In our previous games, as we did in Jade Empire, as we did in KOTOR, as we did in Baldur's Gate, and many games before and in the future, we enable those kinds of choices, whereas in Mass Effect it's more about Shepard as a defined character with certain approaches and worldviews, and that's just who he or she is. So we constrain the choice set somewhat, but enable more tactical choices and enable a deeper, richer personality, because it's more focused around defining one character, it's not as wide open. But that's by choice."

"It's first person versus third person narrative, and the types of choices you get to make within that are related to that, whether you've got a pre-defined character or a wide-open character. Some of our games have been wide open, and some have been more constrained, and we'll probably continue both kinds of character development in the future."

Bioware's Stanley Woo also addressed forum arguments over the level of sex in Mass Effect 2, where a number of fans are accusing of Bioware of self-censoring purely to avoid controversy. Woo claims though that the company has creative freedom to limit sex and violence, in the same way that Rebellion's Jason Kingsley argued for sex and violence when we interviewed him last week about Aliens vs Predator.

"Let me tell you, folks, that as a developer full of mature individuals, we are also free to not have explicit sex and/or nudity in our games, no matter what you, Fox News, the government, or Bunky the Wonder Clown has to say about it," Woo wrote on the forums.

"We have never considered it a 'problem', it is simply a choice we have made and we have every right to make that choice," continued Woo, who says he gets frustrated that "people who claim to be old enough and mature enough to handle sex and nudity in a game seem to believe that any lack of sex and nudity in the game is a sign of self-censorship."

You can read our Dragon Age: Origins review and our Mass Effect 2 review for more information on either game, or just let us know your thoughts in the forums.

26 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
liratheal 8th February 2010, 12:24 Quote
..People are complaining that there's not as much sex?

Really?

REALLY?

You get a bitches button!
bowman 8th February 2010, 12:26 Quote
But it's totally heterosexual for the chick Shepard to get it on with the blue alien who just *happens* to look like a human female with curly tentacles instead of hair. I'd mention something else in ME2 as well but that game is fairly new so I'll lay off the spoilers. Oh well, who cares, whatever.

At least my chick Shepard is only into other chicks. They let that happen. :p
CardJoe 8th February 2010, 12:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowman
But it's totally heterosexual for the chick Shepard to get it on with the blue alien who just *happens* to look like a human female with curly tentacles instead of hair. I'd mention something else in ME2 as well but that game is fairly new so I'll lay off the spoilers. Oh well, who cares, whatever.

At least my chick Shepard is only into other chicks. They let that happen. :p

Well, that's strictly inter-species, not same sex. The Asari are an all-female race and, in fact, there's repeated allusions to the fact that they don't look like human females at all and may be tricking different races into thinking they resemble them. Turians think Asari look like them, so do Salarians and Krogan, etc.
l3v1ck 8th February 2010, 12:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Well, that's strictly inter-species, not same sex.
Wouldn't technically be beastiality then? [/joke]
rimscar 8th February 2010, 12:46 Quote
is it really that important......
Bindibadgi 8th February 2010, 12:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Well, that's strictly inter-species, not same sex. The Asari are an all-female race and, in fact, there's repeated allusions to the fact that they don't look like human females at all and may be tricking different races into thinking they resemble them. Turians think Asari look like them, so do Salarians and Krogan, etc.

Asari are a-sexual, they just look female.

If they looked like Krogan females, I'd also imagine they would go "Tiger Woods" sex crazed given the genophage.

I'm still trying to get it on with Kelly
Pete J 8th February 2010, 12:54 Quote
I've always hated full-on sex scenes in games - it's just weird. I like the more subtle approach Bioware have taken with the Mass Effect games.
Flibblebot 8th February 2010, 13:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by l3v1ck
Wouldn't technically be beastiality then? [/joke]
Strictly speaking, xenophilia :p
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I'm still trying to get it on with Kelly
Bad news: Nothing more than dinner and a cuddle, I'm afraid

Frankly, I don't see what the fuss is about. It's Bioware's story, it's Bioware's franchise. What right do others have to say what decisions Bioware can or can't make regarding their own product?

ME2 is an awesome game - what more do you need?
D B 8th February 2010, 13:57 Quote
I too like Bioware's subtle approach
Zero_UK 8th February 2010, 14:19 Quote
Ffs, if people are wanting to see more sex then open up your browser and search for porn... want to see a load of romance? head down to block busters or watcha soap whilst you game. Problem solved, quit crying and knit picking at action games. The story is amazing as it is, it's their story after all.
sear 8th February 2010, 14:33 Quote
I think this is a ****ing load of ****, pardon my language. If BioWare were truly interested in presenting Shepard as exclusively heterosexual, then why in hell did they create a race of blue all-female hyper-sex goddesses and let your female Shepard romance them? Playing the "they're technically not female!" card is a huge cop-out. The fact is that we get female-on-female action but we do not get male-on-male action; it is a clear double standard, and in my eyes one designed to grab more attention from the mainstream, shooter-oriented, thirteen-year-old male audience they are trying to cater to increasingly with their games; not including any sort of gay options could well be taken as a way to avoid offending anyone. Hell, even the female romantic options aren't very good, but the men get a genetically perfect woman based on a supermodel - yeah, really, don't see anything wrong here?. I really enjoy Mass Effect 2, but I can't help being offended by what is, at best, an extremely obvious oversight.

As for the other complaints about "not enough sex", I'm pretty happy at the fact that they have toned things down. I do think one of the sex scenes in the game is fairly tasteless, but for the most part they handled everything well enough. If people want to complain about not having enough graphic sex in their space opera role-playing game, let them, but these are the same sorts of people who want to see Janeway get it on with Picard on-screen. Good on BioWare for at least having some class by not pandering too much in this case. As soon as we start reducing sex scenes in games to peep-shows, we cheapen our medium even more.
PureSilver 8th February 2010, 14:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete J
I've always hated full-on sex scenes in games - it's just weird.

+1, except I don't really like sex scenes in games at all. Some sweating, overworked dude in a cubicle somewhere spent probably five months getting approval on and coding a simulated sex act. Does no-one else find this worrying? The development team probably devoted more meetings and discussion to whether nip-slips would be acceptable than to whether anyone actually wanted to watch their character get it on. Worse, it distracts the media from the good bits of the game (I was going to reference Hot Coffee here, but I hated San Andreas and considered it to have no good bits). I prefer the 'cutscene shows two people walking into a bedroom and shutting the door' approach to 'you need to know your characters are sleeping together' rather than 'cutscene shows two walking into a basement dungeon, and then one attacking the other with a cat-o-nine-tails whilst pouring olive oil all over them.'

There's plenty of other ways to watch people screw, people screwing other species, other species screwing other species, etc etc ad infinitum on a computer without it intruding into my games. If you think that more people will buy the game because of the sex, you need to question the kind of people you're selling it to. (Fourteen year olds, basically.)
CardJoe 8th February 2010, 14:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PureSilver
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete J
I've always hated full-on sex scenes in games - it's just weird.

+1, except I don't really like sex scenes in games at all. Some sweating, overworked dude in a cubicle somewhere spent probably five months getting approval on and coding a simulated sex act. Does no-one else find this worrying? The development team probably devoted more meetings and discussion to whether nip-slips would be acceptable than to whether anyone actually wanted to watch their character get it on. Worse, it distracts the media from the good bits of the game (I was going to reference Hot Coffee here, but I hated San Andreas and considered it to have no good bits). I prefer the 'cutscene shows two people walking into a bedroom and shutting the door' approach to 'you need to know your characters are sleeping together' rather than 'cutscene shows two walking into a basement dungeon, and then one attacking the other with a cat-o-nine-tails whilst pouring olive oil all over them.'

There's plenty of other ways to watch people screw, people screwing other species, other species screwing other species, etc etc ad infinitum on a computer without it intruding into my games. If you think that more people will buy the game because of the sex, you need to question the kind of people you're selling it to. (Fourteen year olds, basically.)

This is where creative freedom needs to merge with creative ability. I've nothing against sex in games at all, but it needs to be done well - just like anything else. The door shutting bit is the best approach for most developers, but if you've got room to provide more and in a good way, why not? The problem is simply that a lot of developers can't do it well, but do it anyway.

As for the number of male/female romances in Mass Effect 2, it's always been that way. In Baldur's Gate 2 the men could have Viconia, Aerie or Jaheria but the women only got Anomen - I'd be willing to bet it stems from the fact that most people play as men, so Bioware put more content there. Likewise, as they say, Shepherd is a specific character they have created - and he's a man - so they put most content supporting that character. Dragon Age on the other hand has no established character, so has a fairly even spread.

End of the day; it's a game and it's full of stereotypes that help make the characters easily understood and memorable. Yes, Miranda is a superwoman (though she isn't the only romance option for men), but so what? Equally, Garrus is a bit of a bad boy stereotype and Thane has the whole monk thing going on. Everyone is a super muscled, stubbly super man or a busty woman in an impossible V-neck.

Well, except for Tali.
Flibblebot 8th February 2010, 15:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Well, except for Tali.
True. Tali is a busty female in a mask :p

The main thing, though, is that "romancing" a member of your team is not obligatory, nor is it a required part of the plot. It's a side-mission, if you will. Nobody's forcing you to chat up any of the characters - if you don't want sex in ME2, don't choose those dialogue options.
praxis22 8th February 2010, 16:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
True. Tali is a busty female in a mask :p

[waves hand]

"These are not the Quarians you're looking for" :)

I always thought Quarians were of a much slimmer build, even the male commandos & marines seem slight by comparison.

Though I must say that I was a little disappointed at the choices on offer for female shepherds, Thane, Jacob & Garrus? Though Mordin doing Gilbert & Sulivan was a hoot! As such having met up with Liara I'm guessing I'll be faithful until ME3, or roll a new male Shepherd and do it all over again. Given how miffed Laiara seemed at the shadow broker i'm not sure i like the idea of being up close and personal with "an Asari scorned" I suspect you may not live to tell the tale :P
Jasio 8th February 2010, 18:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by praxis22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
True. Tali is a busty female in a mask :p

Bah you pervert! If you played ME1 you'd know she is essentially a teenager "passing into adulthood" ... take that as you will >.> Space Jail-bait! C-Sec will come for you and lock you away!
CardJoe 8th February 2010, 18:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasio
Quote:
Originally Posted by praxis22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
True. Tali is a busty female in a mask :p

Bah you pervert! If you played ME1 you'd know she is essentially a teenager "passing into adulthood" ... take that as you will >.> Space Jail-bait! C-Sec will come for you and lock you away!

Yeah, but she's an Alien.

Asari like Liara live for a thousand years, so by the time you meet her in the first game she's already a few hundred years old - but that doesn't make it granny-love when you get her in the sack.
UrbanMarine 8th February 2010, 19:10 Quote
Maybe everyone who complained will get lucky in ME3. Shepard can blow Krogans or maybe Joker. 30+ hours of gameplay and people bring up the sex scenes lol. I vote for a gang bang ....bring in the Council.
deftonesmx17 8th February 2010, 19:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sear
I think this is a ****ing load of ****, pardon my language. If BioWare were truly interested in presenting Shepard as exclusively heterosexual, then why in hell did they create a race of blue all-female hyper-sex goddesses and let your female Shepard romance them? Playing the "they're technically not female!" card is a huge cop-out. The fact is that we get female-on-female action but we do not get male-on-male action; it is a clear double standard

Maybe you didnt pay enough attention to what T'Soni said in ME1 because Asari don't "get it on". When aliens mate with Asari they are mind-melding, they are not getting it on. So even if you are a female in the game, you are not having lesbian sex...
praxis22 8th February 2010, 19:54 Quote
I for one, welcome our oversexed alien overlords :)

It's funny, I spent most of ME1 with Ash & Tali, I even gave Ash the better armour and weaponry, she was a real tank.

Now I spend most time with Mordin & Grunt, since the women seem to wimp out in combat.
Jasio 8th February 2010, 20:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by praxis22
I for one, welcome our oversexed alien overlords :)

It's funny, I spent most of ME1 with Ash & Tali, I even gave Ash the better armour and weaponry, she was a real tank.

Now I spend most time with Mordin & Grunt, since the women seem to wimp out in combat.

Grunt + Samara combo is deadly. Absolutely dominated the game on the hardest setting with these two.
praxis22 8th February 2010, 20:50 Quote
Beyond setting them up for crossfire on occasion I don't actually use them, hence my crew need to be able to fend for themselves. That said I have heard good things about reave.
thehippoz 8th February 2010, 21:35 Quote
lol me and my gf were just talking about this the other night.. I was like wtf my elf is bisexual in dragon age and at least I don't have to put up with having shepard swing both ways in mass effect

I think zaaed swings both ways myself
bowman 8th February 2010, 22:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Well, that's strictly inter-species, not same sex. The Asari are an all-female race and, in fact, there's repeated allusions to the fact that they don't look like human females at all and may be tricking different races into thinking they resemble them. Turians think Asari look like them, so do Salarians and Krogan, etc.

I heard that interchange.

The night after that I had a weird dream where asaris actually looked like large bipedal snails.

But my female Shepard still snuggles and gets lap dances from Kelly so whatever. She's a total carpet muncher.
cutmeister 9th February 2010, 03:14 Quote
May we please get a quote source verification on the following?

"Let me tell you, folks, that as a developer full of mature individuals, we are also free to not have explicit sex and/or nudity in our games, no matter what you, Fox News, the government, or Bunky the Wonder Clown has to say about it," Muzyka wrote on the forums.

"We have never considered it a 'problem', it is simply a choice we have made and we have every right to make that choice," continued Muzyka, who says he gets frustrated that "people who claim to be old enough and mature enough to handle sex and nudity in a game seem to believe that any lack of sex and nudity in the game is a sign of self-censorship."

From what I can see it was Stanley Woo of BioWare QA that posted this on BioWare's forums, not Dr. Muzyka. Unless Joe Martin knows that Stanley Woo is an alter ego for Dr. Muzyka then I think this quote needs to be attributed to the correct source.
CardJoe 11th February 2010, 18:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cutmeister
Whoops

Indeed, you are correct sir. In fact, EA just contacted me to say they'd noticed the slip up too. They also pointed out some problems with the way that Muzyka's quotes had been chopped up. Muzyka's quote, which still contains the same remarks, has therefore been expanded and quoted in full too.

If anyone wants any more detail on how the article has been updated then I'd be happy to provide it.

+rep to you for pointing this out.
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