Yesterday, PC Gamer posted a positively scathing article about Mordhau, the online knights-and-castles action ARPG. While the overall article is about the game’s (and studio’s) apparently high tolerance for the worst kind of gaming toxicity, the part that struck me as an MMOer was the game’s future plans for characters. The devs are working on female characters as well as characters with multiple ethnicities for the future, to a high degree of quality and care – with “dedicate[d] artist time to new scalps, new texturing,” that sort of thing. Great!
However, apparently the studio is also contemplating “giving players the option to disable characters that aren’t white and male.” In context, it’s not entirely clear whether the studio means on custom servers or on the official servers, though Kotaku’s piece followup piece seems to indicate it’s the latter.
“They’re planning (though not guaranteeing the ultimate inclusion) on adding a toggle for players to filter out those choices, so that every character in the game is displayed as a white male, regardless of their rival’s actual selection.”
(Update: In a weird twist, after this interview went live, the devs also apparently denied saying they were considering this toggle, in spite of their direct quotes. This is why we keep our recordings, folks. Updating again on July 3rd: Apparently now the studio has blamed a pair of artists for miscommunicating developer plans to PC Gamer, and it will not be carrying out these toggles. Mhm.)
Anyway. Maybe in a hack-and-slash game like this – especially one where toxicity is allowed to flourish – nobody still remaining is going to care about this. But can you imagine it in an MMORPG, a game where people’s individuality and character customizations are kinda the whole point?
Well, actually, I can, because I’ve seen MMO players argue for this sort of thing for years. Some folks don’t want to see your weirdly animated expansion lizard character, your little girl toon, your neon weapons, your nonsensical samurai armor, your hawtpants, or your horrifying skittering bug mount, and they’d gladly replace your visage – in their client, mind you – with a picture of a blinking yellow smiley face just to make you go away. (Granted, blocking your anime hairstyle seems many leagues apart from masking everyone who isn’t a white dude.)
And of course, they could also replace you with something much worse. I’m sure a lot of you are aware of model-swapping nude mods in various MMOs – and it’s pretty damn creepy to think that goofy Pally who’s tanking for your group is running a mod that’s undressed your toon unbeknownst to you. Ew.
What do you think – should MMO players feel entitled to alter other characters’ appearance? Is this something that you want to see online game studios implement?