Hyborian Adventures" caused quite a stir last week when the game's community manager said the US version wouldn't feature nipples, due to legal reasons. The studio later flip-flopped, however, and declared the announcement a miscommunication; the US version would, indeed, have nipples. More specifically, players could choose to remove everything above the waist on their female avatars, thereby exposing their breasts complete with nipples, obviously to the other human players in "Age of Conan.
After "Mass Effect," is Funcom risking a mainstream backlash? Did everyone read "nipple" in the headlines and overreact? For more, we contacted Funcom Product Manager Jorgen Tharaldsen, who also works as a freelance journalist. He just returned from a vacation to Iran covering extreme sports.
We wanted to be about bringing the true Conan experience to the gamers out there, and we have always been clear on that," said Tharaldsen in an e-mail exchange with Multiplayer. He has a point. Howard's mythical universe is filled with scantily clad women -- case in point, the vast majority of "Conan the Barbarian" comic covers feature barely clothed damsels in distress.
Conan's not wearing very much, either. Freud would have field day with this. Graphic violence, deviant sex, sadomasochism; all are here in full display. Nonetheless, he readily admits Funcom practiced restraint when implementing nudity into "Age of Conan," and expresses some frustration over the United States' response to what Funcom internally refers to as "nipplegate.
Read on to find out. From the start, Funcom planned nudity for "Age of Conan. Regardless of your sex you will always wear underwear, minus the top of course, which means that we will, for instance, avoid a lot of, eh, interesting Youtube videos seeing we have hundreds of emotes in the game.
If we would have allowed full nudity it would just have created a lot of unnecessary havoc around the game. Such exploits might have been part of Howard's literary works, but there's no place for them in the world of games -- not yet, anyway. We're doing it because we're trying to create a relatively realistic world based on the original literary works of Conan, and that includes having a certain amount of nudity.
We could have gone all out on this, but we want to remain within the boundaries of what is, well, relatively tasteful, and there is therefore no need to add unnecessary nudity in any way. Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl a few years back , an issue not usually found abroad. As more European studios start producing games for our shores, one can imagine many scenarios where either the US is receiving sexually modified versions which happened to Quantic Dreams' "Indigo Prophecy" or studios simply self-censoring from day one.
Though Tharaldsen doesn't cop to self-censorship, he admits surprise at the reaction. I will rather say that in Age of Conan 'nudity' is but one very small aspect of the game. Gamers don't graduate to the MMO portions until they've reached Level 20, and none of the game's nudity is plot-centric. I would think that most all of those 'chicks' were actually guys though. Readers, what has caused this large divide in approaching sexuality in video games? Is the gap becoming wider?
As gamers, can we do anything about it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments and keep watching Multiplayer, as we'll be posing these very questions to some developers with plenty of experience in this arena in the coming weeks.