Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Chest and Batgirl

Babs Tarr's new Batgirl costume design includes this key note
Earlier on, while I was going through the new character changes in game, I got stuck considering changes to Merinna's character model that I just hadn't expected. Particularly, the size and shape of her bust.

I went to some of the forums, both the WoW forums and places like WoW Insider and found a few others struggling to put into words, politely, what they felt about what they saw and whether it was something to like, or not.

Finally, I went back in game and using the magical "use new models" switch, I took pictures of the old model and new model Merinna so this can be described better.

Merinna's breasts are flat-out bigger than they were before-- and draenei never lacked for size there in the first place.  They have a big more of a sag and are slightly allowed to splay. I think it is arguable that they are more "natural seeming" like this but I stand by an earlier statement I made on a forum somewhere. It looks like somebody's taken her bra away.

And really, what woman would prefer no bra at all? Don't answer that, sexist freaks. The truth is that support is needed for this anatomy most of the time and I'd imagine would be fairly important in the midst of a battle.

On the forums, there was some agreement with my perception. Some people thought they looked more natural and that was still better. I was somewhat surprised that there were no nasty cheap shots taken. There was one string of thought that if women were really wearing armor you wouldn't know they were women under there because the anatomy would just be hidden.

In respect to that last idea. I'd tend to agree that would be true in any real-life context. The medieval fantasy we are living out in Azeroth would hearken back much more to tin cans and wraps of metal rings that nobody in the 11th Century would have ever considered modifying for a woman to wear)

(Although, this makes me think of an article I read several years ago about how the first sets of female-fit combat armor were being deployed in Afghanistan and what a huge relief it was to the women in the American armed forces because the male armor fit so poorly as to provide less protection because it couldn't be strapped on very well.)

But in our fantasy, unisex armor doesn't have to exist. And it doesn't. Of course there's the plate-kinis of yore that we all remember, but the fact is that good design doesn't have to be unflattering.

And that brings us to Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart and Batgirl.

The creative team behind Batgirl decided to take a new spin at the character that makes her a bit more of a millennial, and less involved with the usual madness of Gotham City (as a comics reader, it's actually refreshing to get a non-gritty reboot). And that included a new costume design.

I lack a lot of vocabulary for fashion so bear with my while I stumble through this. This armor actually looks like it would provide some protection (It also looks kinda warm). Even without Barbara Gordon's hair sticking out the back of her cowl, you know that this is a female form. And yet her breasts aren't sculpted and isolated for the whole world to see.

This is, rightly, being praised as something of a revolution in superhero costume design and comes from the same time frame that Spider-woman's editors were being slammed for putting her in a costume that contoured her butt so tightly that her costume may as well have been sprayed on.

It's not fair to hold Blizzard's work right next to new Batgirl's costume and say, "Why didn't they do this?" because, I'm not kidding... putting a superhero in a leather coat rather than spandex is really kinda a revolutionary idea.

But... it pains me a little that it looks like Blizzard took a step in the wrong direction on this. Blizzard, is a company that has no women in key positions in its company and who let Chris Metzen put his foot in his mouth by saying the Draenor expedition was really sort of a boys' trip and that's why Aggra wasn't going with Thrall. They don't make the armorkini so overt any more but Blizzard really needs to try better.

Now, all this said, we have to look at more than just Merinna for comparison. And this is where the new Draenei model gets better and makes us reconsider if we really have a polygon problem.

Here's Eridar:

I had a hard time keeping the before and after pictures straight in Eri's case since I left her goggles on. But sure enough, her chest is larger... Just not so "in your face." 

Here is Ephanea. One can barely see the difference in her torso. And this is Phoebe:

Yeah... The difference is striking in Phoebe's case, but low-cut priestly cloth gear would allow nothing less.

In all of these examples, (even with Phoebe) the polygons aren't bouncing out at you in appropriately. What's going on here? Here's Merinna once more:

The polygons are the same in each case, the only difference is the textures. Basically the one Merinna's wearing isn't very flattering. Most of the rest of my Draenei's chest pieces are a bit more elaborate with a lot more straight lines. Merinna's armor is a fairly plain matte with curly-cues that are warped and distended sitting atop her newly-enlarged polygons. 

This is something that could be fixed with a little transmogrification. It's just the first glaring example I have seen of where the texture really warps the perception of the polygons in a video game like this.

On one last note, the tragic solution to the problem of the new models is that basically my computer is choking on them. I expected this was going to happen, but the Patch 6.0 run speccs have outdistanced my computer-- a 6-year-old iMac-- fairly badly. My graphic settings have been reduced to the bare minimum, the new models turned off but there's become a delay on many items in an environment filling in and a raid fight can easily lead to a 40-second freeze frame during which I fall victim to every batch of AoE the boss produces.

As in some past patch cycles, a scan of the Mac Support forums indicates that there's "an issue" with Mac graphics that they are working on. With no ETA, etc. And the fact that Apple just rolled out OSX Yosemite probably complicates things. But, we shall see...

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