Game talkNot again…

 Posted by (Visited 10866 times)  Game talk
May 042006
 

CNet reports that Oblivion get re-rated, because underneath all the clothes, the avatars are naked and a mod can reveal that.

You pretty much have to include a nude or near-nude model in order to have a good clothing system, because anything drawn onto the base model will show through when you do certain clothing types. You could, of course,go to the extra lengths to have alternate underwear sets drawn onto alternate base models, so that there’s always a base model to choose from that works with a given piece of clothing, but what an asset nightmare.

The real question in this case is different: why is Barbie-level nudity mature? Is the art on the base nude models not Barbie-level? If not, why not? If so, then what’s the problem? We give Barbies to very young kids with no qualms…

  29 Responses to “Not again…”

  1. From my reading of it, the nudity was obtained by actually changing that base model art, not just removing the clothes off the models. I only skimmed through Game Politics’ coverage of it, though.
    How long before all PC games are rated M because a modder can add nudity to them?

  2. […] Comments […]

  3. I’m pretty sure that if you try real hard, you can find someone somewhere that is “still” offended by the fact that you can remove the clothes from Barbies.

    In time, people will come to not bother with Barbie nudity in games. It’s just the new (already old for some) flavor of the week.

  4. All of us are familiar with the “Game Experience May Change During Online Play” notice that MMOs have along with their ESRB ratings, why not include a similar caveat for games that are mod-friendly like Oblivion?

  5. Morgan Ramsay did a fairly good job of outlining the situation on page 2 of this thread:

    http://www.grimwell.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2433&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=20

    It’s not as bad as Hot Coffee (hence only hitting M I guess), but because it was there at all and the ESRB missed it, I guess they had to knee-jerk react to it.

    This is a slippery slope though. At what point does the mechanical layer of a game become under such scrutiny that it can no longer fulfill it’s intended function? Are models going to need to be created with surface-modelled clothing and will texture maps need to be embedded within other code such that it can’t be replaced with a nefarious alternative?

    Seems to me this reaction to yet another high profile game is moving us ever closer to extreme headaches for developers that in the end don’t provide any clear benefit to anyone.

  6. I think the problem was that Oblivion shipped both a topless mesh (not used by default) and the Construction Set that made it trivial to expose the topless mesh. However, even though they’re going to “fix” that, I’m not convinced that will mean they’ll get their “T” rating back. The article also mentioned the blood and gore in the game, and I was honestly a bit surprised that all of those body parts, impaled heads, hanging corpses, etc managed to land on the “T” side of the fence to begin with.

  7. Gore doesn’t count if you’re killing orcs. Duh.

    Kid’s can’t imitate killing an orc because orcs are not real. Kid’s only know how to imitate killing cops. Logic wins again!

  8. I think that this story emphasizes an important fact: our medium is still fairly young and misunderstood. People were angry when the Invisible Man was naked. More recently, people were angry when Chewbacca was naked.

    I thought that Take-Two had issued a patch removing the nipples a month ago, but I might be wrong. After seeing the skins, however, this seemed to me like John Ashcroft covering the bare breasts of Justice.

    The game artists are, er…umm, for lack of a better word: ARTISTS! Artists put nipples on breasts because there are nipples on breasts. I know, I’m married to an oil painter. Ashcroft is, thankfully, an anomaly when it comes to art appreciation and hopefully, sometime soon, our medium of expression will be more accepted in its depiction of reality.

    I guess though, we must make our way through the current political landscape and understand that (some) people will turn our art into titillation.

  9. Artists put nipples on breasts because there are nipples on breasts.

    Yet they don’t place genitalia on male and female models even though most men and women have genitalia?

    The Oblivion artists used cloth to "cover" male genitalia whereas they use uncovered bare skin for female lower body models. If this is "expression", the artists are expressing gender bias and thus gender inequality. Nice message.

  10. I’d be really curious to know what kind of pressure publishers exert to achieve a desirable rating. I know this is a pretty serious problem in the film industry.

    That said, I’ve felt Oblivion was not particularly correctly rated since I started playing the game and it’s very unclear to me how the ESRB could have seen much of anything relating to the whole Oblivion part of the game and thought a T rating was a good idea. This all smells to me like the ESRB looked at the amount of work required to sift through the material on the game and just gave it a pass without paying any attention.

    However, my opinion of censor and ratings boards is pretty low and I could easily simply be projecting my prejudice.

  11. Is the ESRB being paranoid and overly strict with the nipples thing? Yes. But note well that that is a good thing for the industry. If we don’t police ourselves, pundits like Jack Thompson will have that much more ammunition to demand that laws be in place to police us. If the ESRB is percieved as lax, then those who want to pass laws regulating game sales will have more plausible reason to do so.

    So I’m glad that the ESRB is being anal, I only wish they would be anal up front instead of changing their minds later. But it’s still better that they change their minds sooner rather than later – in other words, doing this is better than waiting for Hillary, Lieberman, or Jack Thompson to come against the games with pitchforks.

    In answer to your questions, Raph: no, the nudity is not Barbie-level. (And no, people don’t care about Barbie nudity… which is why Jack Thompson’s manufactured outrage against The Sims 2 fizzled.) As for the next question, “why isn’t it Barbie level?”… it’s a good question and I have no answer. Why put in nipples if you’re never going to show them, and you know that it might get your game pulled off the shelves at Wal-Mart?

    I’m mystified; I see no reason why Bethesda wouldn’t have just gone with Barbie nudity, and they haven’t tried to explain it. Why put nipples in? The argument “because real women have nipples” was debunked above, rightly: real men have penii, so why didn’t they put those in the game? I’m honestly baffled. The only explanation is that, even after Janet Jackson, they were dumb enough to believe that nipples and toplessness wouldn’t be a powderkeg.

  12. Penises.

    Men have nipples and they are (I believe) shown on the male models in the game. What I’m curious about is the mention somewhere above that the pubic area of the female models IS represented. Is that accurate? If so, that’s yet another “why?” to consider.

    Granted, I haven’t played very far into Oblivion, but all my characters are wearing underwear.

  13. […] I was reading some about this on Raph Koster’s site. He mentioned the fact that it is quite common for any game that uses variable clothing to have their base models be nude so that base colors don’t interfere. Changing this would require a lot of extra base models created with various underwear to work with all of the available clothing. Here’s a link. http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/05/04/not-again/ […]

  14. There is not a nude bottom texture for anyone in the game. I really have no idea where Morgan got the idea that there was. It’s simply wrong. While a ‘bare bottom’ mod has been made, it simply adds a flesh-colored texture over a mesh that depicts underwear.

    As for why nipples at all, some sort of marker is required on the anatomy when making clothes. The body textures seem to have been built from standard photo-reference.

  15. I really have no idea where Morgan got the idea that there was.

    Yeah, sorry. I was looking at “legfemale.dds” without realizing that the female models have an “underwear.dds” too. I found on one of the major Oblivion modding forums that if you delete “underwear.dds” then “tail.dds” is used, and the female model then looks completely naked. I’m not sure if that’s true, but that experiment is clearly falsifiable.

  16. So far, this is looking quite different from the Hot Coffee incident. In fact, I’m really not sure that Bethesda did anything wrong. I don’t know what materials they submitted to the ESRB, with respect to the gore issue, but it’s not clear to me whether A.) They didn’t provide sufficient information to the ESRB, or B.) The ESRB just plain gave them the wrong rating. It’s turning into one party’s word against someone else’s, and it’s really hard for the public to know which is the case, without seeing the actual materials submitted.

    As for the nudity, well, you can make pornographic mods to Microsoft Word, for heaven’s sake. We must put Microsoft Word under lock and key, immediately! WOULD SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

  17. Actually, I should add, I think Robert Bell’s comment was right on. I agree that the ESRB should probably have a special warning for moddable content, equivalent to the “experience may change” one they use for MMOs. That would cover everyone’s bum when the bums are uncovered.

  18. But like you said, everything is moddable. I suppose that would be more of a public service announcement, to those who aren’t aware. But it would have to go on everything from GTA6 to Barbie’s Horse Adventure 2.

    “Warning: People from the Internet might unclothe Barbie. Take preventive measures to stop your son from downloading these, and “corrupting” himself with his little sister’s game.”

  19. My translation of “Obliviongate” into layman’s terms:

    http://www.rampantgames.com/blog/2006/05/oblivion-re-rating-translated-into.html

    It wasn’t Barbie-level nudity, unfortunately. Bethesda screwed up – but I think it was an accident. The ESRB is not really to blame, either, but it is caving to extreme pressure from the politicians.

    The politicians – well, after seeing how drastically my local congressmen LIED and feigned ignorance even when public record shows they knew they were lying and not simply ignorant of the facts – I’m pretty much of the opinion that almost every single one of them is rotten to the core. All their “family values” posturing is serving nothing more or less than furthering their careers. Either they will go on record as having forced a multibillion-dollar industry to bow to their will under threat of legislation, or they will go on record as having legislated the crap out of it. Either way, they get a feather in the cap, and the games industry gets shafted.

    For decades we dreamed about one day becoming a mainstream, entertainment medium. Welcome to the dream come true.

  20. The politicians — well, after seeing how drastically my local congressmen LIED and feigned ignorance even when public record shows they knew they were lying and not simply ignorant of the facts — I’m pretty much of the opinion that almost every single one of them is rotten to the core.

    Bethesda Softworks did not disclose all pertinent content as required by the ESRB submission requirements; issued a press release in which they falsely claim several "facts" in an attempt to spin the issue in their favor; and misinformed many people regarding the ESRB’s actual conclusions. These behaviors demonstrated negligence, dishonesty, and deceit. By the logic you presented, you should also consider Bethesda Softworks "rotten to the core".

    I don’t think Bethesda Softworks is "rotten to the core". I think a) Bethesda Softworks should require that employees attend ethics training and provide tuition for optional enrollment in a business law course; b) Bethesda Softworks should work more closely with the ESRB to clarify title submission requirements (e.g., learn what "all pertinent content" means); and c) discard any public relations strategy provided by Take-Two and employ a more professional public relations approach. A more professional approach would have included working more closely with the ESRB to ensure that the press releases issued by both organizations were consistent and researched.

    There’s a nice discussion in the Grimwell forums concerning this issue.

  21. I made a topless mod for it on the day I got Oblivion. I was pleased to discover that Bethesda had thoughtfully included textures with nipples on them (even if the texture coordinates were slightly off..whatever).

    Imagine my surprise when I installed the 1.1.425 patch and Bethesda discovered that removed the nipples from female body textures in the textures archive. Sigh. So if I want the nipples back, I have to reinstall the damn game and extract the model and texture files by hand before applying the patch. Thanks for nothing, Bethesda.

    Isn’t it great that to try and appease the ESRB, Bethesda has deliberately deformed the once-anatomically-correct torsos to try and protect some 14-year-old kid who can surely figure out how to download (or just make) a topless patch anyway. I think the voluntary rating system is a great thing, but from time to time the ESRB really drops the ball, and I think this was one of those times. I mean, do they think teenage kids have never seen a nipple before?

  22. I have trouble believing that anyone reviewing a game that shows heads on spikes in the install screens was horrifically misled about the nature of this game. You can find scenes of pretty nasty torture and mutilation as early as the first Oblivion gate — which does not require huge hours of gameplay to reach. If the ESRB thought this was teen-appropriate material, I’d seriously hate to see what they thought wasn’t.

  23. Morgan –
    I’m not privy to the documents & the disclosure that Bethesda made with the ESRB to receive the game’s rating. Right now it’s the ESRB’s word against Bethesda. I guess in theory someone could come forward with the 60-page document they filed explaining the magnitude of the content, and the matter could be put to rest.

    However, it could be that both parties are wrong, and they’d both be kinda embarassed by what the document would reveal if disclosed to the public.

    I just hate that this incident is going to be turned into another painted bullseye on our hobby and industry by fear-mongers looking to further their careers.

  24. I just hate that this incident is going to be turned into another painted bullseye on our hobby and industry by fear-mongers looking to further their careers.

    From the IGDA forum thread concerning the same topic: The message that the ESRB sends with each rerating to the interactive entertainment industry’s critics is that this industry can competently and capably regulate itself in terms of ethical product distribution.

    The "fear-mongers", namely Hillary Clinton and Leland Yee, are woefully misinformed and are desperately attempting to spin the issue any which way they can. They’re failing miserably. The fact that the ESRB caught the nondisclosure of nude content and acted immediately to rerate the product is indicative of successful regulation, not a lack thereof "warranting" governmental intervention.

  25. Morgan said: “The fact that the ESRB caught the nondisclosure of nude content and acted immediately to rerate the product is indicative of successful regulation…

    Amen. I’m not into heavy-handed regulation (particularly of my beloved games), but this is one where I agree that the ESRB got it right.

  26. […] With regard to violence, Bethesda advised the ESRB during the ratings process that violence and blood effects were “frequent” in the game – checking the box on the form that is the maximum warning. We further advised that the game contained occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore. We gave accurate answers and descriptions about the type and frequency of violence that appears in the game. We submitted a 60-page document listing the explicit language, acts, and scenes in the game. Oblivion packaging already contains warnings for “Violence” and “Blood and Gore. To be fair, Bethesda may not have ever intended such “skins” to be used for the purposes of titillation. Indeed, they may have been the dreamchild of some 14 year old hacker who wrangled access to base model skins from the game’s code. Explains Raph Koster, design guru:You pretty much have to include a nude or near-nude model in order to have a good clothing system, because anything drawn onto the base model will show through when you do certain clothing types. You could, of course,go to the extra lengths to have alternate underwear sets drawn onto alternate base models, so that there’s always a base model to choose from that works with a given piece of clothing, but what an asset nightmare. Indeed, but do skin mods regularly include fully-realised nipples? Bethesda may not be as innocent as they make themselves out to be, as evidenced in the ESRB’s response:When we brought the topless female images to Bethesda Softworks’ attention, they confirmed that the art file existed in a fully rendered form in the code on the game disc. The ESRB’s investigation found that the mod allowed users to change the filename for the female character mesh in order to access the art file that was created by Bethesda. While true that a modification was required to access this file, the changes we implemented last year – expanding our disclosure rules to include locked-out content – were made to prevent these kinds of situations Modding a game is not something most people would have the first clue about, so we’re talking about a very small minority of PC users who would be able to access these so-called dirty pictures (I’d love to see how the conservative right in America would respond to Page 3). The Xbox 360 version of the game is (supposedly) unalterable). So should we blame the modders for once again dragging the reputation of the games industry into the gutter in the minds of US politicians? John Romero, the man who has famously released code to most of his titles to the modding community, suggested that modders had better watch out:That modders are now screwing up the industry they’re supposed to be helping. In 1993 we opened up all our data to the industrious and ambitious folks out there who want to see what it’s like to be able to make their favorite game a little more like what they’d want…..and get a taste of being a semi-game designer in the process. The most awesome example of what this philosophy has brought is CounterStrike. […]

  27. […] Explains Raph Koster: "You pretty much have to include a nude or near-nude model in order to have a good clothing system, because anything drawn onto the base model will show through when you do certain clothing types. You could, of course,go to the extra lengths to have alternate underwear sets drawn onto alternate base models, so that there’s always a base model to choose from that works with a given piece of clothing, but what an asset nightmare." […]

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