Publishers Wanted Life is Strange Devs to Make Leads Male

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Publishers Wanted Life is Strange Devs to Make Leads Male

According to Dontnod's co-founder Jean-Maxime Moris, Square Enix was the only publisher that didn't question Life is Strange's female characters.

Life is Strange, Dontnod's follow-up to Remember Me, puts the player in control of high school senior Maxine Caulfield, who is reunited with her former best friend Chloe upon returning to her hometown. The graphic adventure utilizes a time-rewinding mechanic that allows Maxine--and the player--to go back and act differently with the knowledge of their previous choices. According to the developers, having a female lead felt very natural, but most of the publishers they approached didn't agree; eventual publisher Square Enix was the only one that didn't want Dontnod to make the protagonist male.

"Square was basically the only publisher that didn't want us to change a single thing about the game," Dontnod co-founder Jean-Maxime Moris says in a new developer diary. "We had other publishers telling us, 'Make it a male lead character' and Square didn't even question that."

"It felt natural to have Max as a female character," producer Luc Baghadoust added. The developers delve a bit deeper into the game's young women, highlighting the differences in the ways Max and Chloe act, dress, and move.

This should go without saying, but obviously not every game needs to have female leads in order for the industry to be more inclusive. It's incredibly disheartening, though, when a developer's vision incorporates a female character and publishers are openly opposed to it. Kudos to Square Enix for allowing Dontnod to develop Life is Strange according to the developer's original plans. Hopefully it pays off when the first episode is released on January 30.

Source: Joystiq

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Well, of course they didn't. If there's one thing you can say about Japan, it's that they don't shy away from female leads. Of course, they frequently have the female leads in skimpy outfits and do frequent panty shots, but they still have female leads.

Wasn't it exactly the same with Remember Me? Which was kinda ironic since I always thought the protagonist from Remember Me looked pretty similar in many ways to Faith from Mirror's Edge, which is getting a big budget sequel. If EA are OK with a female protagonist then it really puts other publishers to shame.

Wait, didn't this happen with the first game too? Or was that about the lead character having a relationship... shit, I can't remember, either way both alterations are unnecessary.

I'll pork a dude if the game calls for it.

Looking at you Garrus.

Alexander Kirby:
Wasn't it exactly the same with Remember Me? Which was kinda ironic since I always thought the protagonist from Remember Me looked pretty similar in many ways to Faith from Mirror's Edge, which is getting a big budget sequel. If EA are OK with a female protagonist then it really puts other publishers to shame.

It makes me seriously question the legitimacy of their claim that all other publishers demanded the leads be changed to male. Or, in the very least, it makes me question just how many (or rather, how few) publishers they approached.

I know we're all quick to negatively judge publishers for anything, especially in light of the supposed "overt sexism" that "permeates all aspects of the industry", but with the recent shift towards inclusiveness in the industry I'm finding it hard to believe that no other publisher but SqueEnix was okay with the female leads.

I'm sure some insisted on the change, but ALL but SqueEnix insisted? Don't buy it.

This reeks more of PR finagling than it does of artistic differences between developer and publisher.

Can we just get rid of focus tests and "market research?" Because analysts will tell you whatever you pay them to tell you. It shouldn't be the publisher's job to dictate the vision of the game. It's the same problem I have with editors and higher ups in comics dictating how stories and characters develop or regress.

RJ Dalton:
Well, of course they didn't. If there's one thing you can say about Japan, it's that they don't shy away from female leads. Of course, they frequently have the female leads in skimpy outfits and do frequent panty shots, but they still have female leads.

That is stereotyping that's right up there with saying "all blondes are dumb". Not all Japanese have pantie-shot/short skirt fetishes. There's also a cultural difference in that things that are 'shame' in one aren't necessarily the same in another.

It's that Square Enix (which has both Western -Europe- and Eastern studios) knows when a developer has designed a good product without trying to tamper with it. Publisher =/= developer. At times they need to just be quiet and publish while the developers put art to code. It's a simple as that.

RJ Dalton:
Well, of course they didn't. If there's one thing you can say about Japan, it's that they don't shy away from female leads. Of course, they frequently have the female leads in skimpy outfits and do frequent panty shots, but they still have female leads.

Yeah, we in the west are the same, what with Lara Croft for example. The embarrassing thing is, for all their skimpy outfits, Japan kinda puts us to shame in the department of gender equality. It's easy to look at something like Kill la Kill and judge it for its ridiculously revealing outfits and panty-shots etc. but when it comes down to it, the 5 most important characters in it are all female, they're all strong, brave and independent and they don't even mention relationships; there's no giggling about guys or anything. Plus all the men in that anime get naked too, which is fair.

If we're just going from that quote there, it doesn't at all imply that every publisher except Square Enix wanted a male lead character. At least to me it reads as "every other publisher wanted to make changes, with an extreme example of such being wanting to swap the gender of the protagonists" - it's possible only a minority, possibly even a minority of one, of the publishers they talked to actually wanted to change the gender, and the rest had other, more minor and less politically fraught changes in mind.

Eh I don't blame the publishers, their market analysts are probably telling them that male leads sell slightly more copies than female leads (which isn't too hard to believe). They're profit-driven more than anything else.

Many publishers believe that since they are helping with funding + advertising, they should have a say in what the game is about. Often we're talking countless millions of dollars and anxious stockholders, so that's not exactly unreasonable.

But I still personally believe developers should have full creative freedom.

Vigormortis:
-[snip]-
I'm sure some insisted on the change, but ALL but SqueEnix insisted? Don't buy it. This reeks more of PR finagling than it does of artistic differences between developer and publisher.

I'll have to agree with you on that one, games with only female leads (i.e. not just where the player can choose) are more rare than males, but they're certainly not impossible to find. This wouldn't be the first time when truths are somewhat embellished in order to make news or publicise something.

Somehow it's everytime the same company? What?

If it is true, it's obviously completely stupid, but I can't deny suspicions about PR-Stunts, if nobody else is complaining, but the same company twice.

€: That's not to say I wouldn't believe such shortsightedness from 90% of publishers.

I wonder where all the people crowing about "artistic integrity" and "allowing the creators to make the characters they want to make" people are on this...

Vigormortis:

Alexander Kirby:
Wasn't it exactly the same with Remember Me? Which was kinda ironic since I always thought the protagonist from Remember Me looked pretty similar in many ways to Faith from Mirror's Edge, which is getting a big budget sequel. If EA are OK with a female protagonist then it really puts other publishers to shame.

It makes me seriously question the legitimacy of their claim that all other publishers demanded the leads be changed to male. Or, in the very least, it makes me question just how many (or rather, how few) publishers they approached.

I know we're all quick to negatively judge publishers for anything, especially in light of the supposed "overt sexism" that "permeates all aspects of the industry", but with the recent shift towards inclusiveness in the industry I'm finding it hard to believe that no other publisher but SqueEnix was okay with the female leads.

I'm sure some insisted on the change, but ALL but SqueEnix insisted? Don't buy it.

This reeks more of PR finagling than it does of artistic differences between developer and publisher.

They probably didn't ask every publisher on the planet, no. Obviously they can't start naming names without a certain amount of liability and back-and-forth in the media, but is it really so hard to believe? I think part of the difference might be that this one involved relationships, having a female lead is one thing if she's just kicking ass, but it's different when you're asking the player to identify as a woman in a relationship with a man. It shouldn't be too hard to believe that most publishers would balk at that unless the developer had a long and successful track record.

I think the immediate suspicion of a PR stunt with no evidence for anything that doesn't fit your pre-defined and set-in-stone worldview is also somewhat telling. You're free to take it with a grain of salt, but immediately jumping to "PR Stunt no publisher would ever do something like that!" when they have already proven that they have with other devs and titles is a little telling.

Y'know, you'd think it'd be more about how Remember Me sucked pretty bad for reasons not related to gender, and maybe the only people biting on the bad games with pretty people hook was Square Enix, but at that point it makes me sad to think about that.

Alexander Kirby:

Vigormortis:
-[snip]-
I'm sure some insisted on the change, but ALL but SqueEnix insisted? Don't buy it. This reeks more of PR finagling than it does of artistic differences between developer and publisher.

I'll have to agree with you on that one, games with only female leads (i.e. not just where the player can choose) are more rare than males, but they're certainly not impossible to find. This wouldn't be the first time when truths are somewhat embellished in order to make news or publicise something.

Precisely. And I'll be the first to harp on a publisher for insisting a developer make such a drastic change. Hell, I wasn't that big a fan of The Last of Us but I was really frustrated with the publishers insistence that the male lead be placed front and center on the box art, with Ellie possibly being removed entirely.

But this? Maybe I need a glass of water, because it's just too hard to swallow. Especially with some publishers actively seeking out game projects with female leads nowadays.

I absolutely acknowledge[1] the fact that many publishers would want the change, but the claim of SquaEnix being the only one that didn't rings hollow.

[1] And am sickened by.

They made a similar claim about "Remember me", again, reasonable close to release, and that game turned out to be... Actually pretty bad.

So, yeah...

Publishers know more about the game than the consumers do, and have experience selling games.

Giving advice that helps sell a game to a company with a history of bad games that don't sell well?

That's supposed to be a bad thing?

You don't go to publishers to make your game good, you go to publishers to make your game sell. There's a difference.

hentropy:

They probably didn't ask every publisher on the planet, no. Obviously they can't start naming names without a certain amount of liability and back-and-forth in the media, but is it really so hard to believe?

When they make their claim in such a manner as to paint a negative image of most other publishers while raising up SquaEnix as some beacon of light, yes. It is hard to believe.

Also, do note my secondary remark: "Or, in the very least, it makes me question just how many (or rather, how few) publishers they approached."

I think part of the difference might be that this one involved relationships, having a female lead is one thing if she's just kicking ass, but it's different when you're asking the player to identify as a woman in a relationship with a man. It shouldn't be too hard to believe that most publishers would balk at that unless the developer had a long and successful track record.

I never said no publisher would demand the leads be changed. On the contrary. I'll be one of the first to tell you that many would.

My point of contention was the claim that only SquaEnix was okay with the game's leads as they were.

And again, I also questioned how few publishers they approached with the project.

I think the immediate suspicion of a PR stunt with no evidence for anything that doesn't fit your pre-defined and set-in-stone worldview is also somewhat telling.

Shame you have to resort to insults. How very uncivil.

Still, it's nice to know that you think I'm small minded and stubborn, just because I dared to question the legitimacy of a company's claim.

I'll be sure to accept any and every assertion from a major corporation as true, with nary a shred of doubt, from now on.

Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.

You're free to take it with a grain of salt, but immediately jumping to "PR Stunt no publisher would ever do something like that!" when they have already proven that they have with other devs and titles is a little telling.

Again, I never said as much.

If you're going to insult me, at least show me the courtesy of insulting me on things I actually stated, instead of attacking me on things you've made up in your head.

Thank you.

Didn't Remember Me have the same problem with publisher's? And most everyone that played the game came to the agreement that the idea was good, but the only thing the game itself had going for it was that there was a female protag and it rode the free marketing from that claim? And people say history doesn't repeat itself...

Rowan93:
If we're just going from that quote there, it doesn't at all imply that every publisher except Square Enix wanted a male lead character. At least to me it reads as "every other publisher wanted to make changes, with an extreme example of such being wanting to swap the gender of the protagonists" - it's possible only a minority, possibly even a minority of one, of the publishers they talked to actually wanted to change the gender, and the rest had other, more minor and less politically fraught changes in mind.

I agree with this post. "Make the lead male" sounds like an example of the changes they were being asked for, not the one thing that everyone wanted.

Regarding this particular developer having made this particular complaint before with Remember Me - on the one hand, maybe it is a cynical PR stunt as a few people have already suggested. It struck me as slightly suspicious on first reading too. But on the other hand, the industry hasn't really changed that much since Remember Me. So maybe the problem is just still there, and Dontnod is still willing to call it out.

(By problem, I mean overbearing publisher control of developer's vision.)

***

Regarding the game itself, I tracked down the trailer since that's a Dev-Diary. It's here:

Looks... interesting, to say the least, and time-travel mechanics are always fun. I'll keep an eye on this.

"This should go without saying, but obviously..."

Yeah, it "Should", but they needed to say it anyway to preempt the usual complaints.

I already had a hunch that this might come up when I watched the video when it was posted on gamersyde.
Personally I couldn't care less. I found it more interesting that Chloe might either be gay or bi.

The Lunatic:
They made a similar claim about "Remember me", again, reasonable close to release, and that game turned out to be... Actually pretty bad.

It was actually decent. But no worries people constantly mix bad and decent up since most people don't really know bad games.

The lead character could be a tri-gendered snuffalufagus from the planet Berblebrox. If this game sucks as much as Remember Me did the lead won't matter.

Vigormortis:

hentropy:

They probably didn't ask every publisher on the planet, no. Obviously they can't start naming names without a certain amount of liability and back-and-forth in the media, but is it really so hard to believe?

When they make their claim in such a manner as to paint a negative image of most other publishers while raising up SquaEnix as some beacon of light, yes. It is hard to believe.

Also, do note my secondary remark: "Or, in the very least, it makes me question just how many (or rather, how few) publishers they approached."

I think part of the difference might be that this one involved relationships, having a female lead is one thing if she's just kicking ass, but it's different when you're asking the player to identify as a woman in a relationship with a man. It shouldn't be too hard to believe that most publishers would balk at that unless the developer had a long and successful track record.

I never said no publisher would demand the leads be changed. On the contrary. I'll be one of the first to tell you that many would.

My point of contention was the claim that only SquaEnix was okay with the game's leads as they were.

And again, I also questioned how few publishers they approached with the project.

I think the immediate suspicion of a PR stunt with no evidence for anything that doesn't fit your pre-defined and set-in-stone worldview is also somewhat telling.

Shame you have to resort to insults. How very uncivil.

Still, it's nice to know that you think I'm small minded and stubborn, just because I dared to question the legitimacy of a company's claim.

I'll be sure to accept any and every assertion from a major corporation as true, with nary a shred of doubt, from now on.

Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.

You're free to take it with a grain of salt, but immediately jumping to "PR Stunt no publisher would ever do something like that!" when they have already proven that they have with other devs and titles is a little telling.

Again, I never said as much.

If you're going to insult me, at least show me the courtesy of insulting me on things I actually stated, instead of attacking me on things you've made up in your head.

Thank you.

Perhaps I was a bit harsh. For that, I apologize. I just get the feeling that if a dev came out and said that a publisher demanded a female lead, people would not have the same level of scrutiny or claiming a PR stunt. They'd be calling for the publisher's head, calling them SJWs, and generally going batshit about "political correctness" and "artistic integrity" without caring about whether or not it was true. But when a developer comes out and says something we all already sort of know that publishers do (meddle with creative decisions because of market testing), and people can't wait 5 seconds before jumping to conspiracies and start anomaly hunting.

To me, the article makes perfect sense in every way and there's no reason to throw accusations around. Many western publishers balk at making female leads or even making them the focus of the game- look at the Bioshock: Infinite box art controversy, where they forced the grizzled male protag on the box because of market testing. Non-indie games where you cannot create a character extremely rarely have female leads in western games, the only one that comes to mind recently is Tomb Raider, an old, established franchised with lots of dollars already behind it.

SquareEnix, a non-western company that has a history of putting females in lead roles as well as making better female characters than what most of the western industry can manage being the one company that has no problem with a female lead is also consistent.

Second time they've made this claim, it's starting to sound questionable in this current gaming demographic. Female leads are very "in" right now. I'd like to see them show some proof. They don't have a lot of good will with gamers considering remember me was so terrible.

The Lunatic:
They made a similar claim about "Remember me", again, reasonable close to release, and that game turned out to be... Actually pretty bad.

So, yeah...

Publishers know more about the game than the consumers do, and have experience selling games.

Giving advice that helps sell a game to a company with a history of bad games that don't sell well?

That's supposed to be a bad thing?

You don't go to publishers to make your game good, you go to publishers to make your game sell. There's a difference.

And the the quality of the game and the gender of the main character is connected how?

erttheking:
And the the quality of the game and the gender of the main character is connected how?

Never implied it was.

Remember me would have been bad regardless of the gender of the main character.

However games with female leads don't sell as well, according to marketing departments anyway.

hentropy:

Perhaps I was a bit harsh. For that, I apologize. I just get the feeling that if a dev came out and said that a publisher demanded a female lead, people would not have the same level of scrutiny or claiming a PR stunt. They'd be calling for the publisher's head, calling them SJWs, and generally going batshit about "political correctness" and "artistic integrity" without caring about whether or not it was true. But when a developer comes out and says something we all already sort of know that publishers do (meddle with creative decisions because of market testing), and people can't wait 5 seconds before jumping to conspiracies and start anomaly hunting.

To me, the article makes perfect sense in every way and there's no reason to throw accusations around. Many western publishers balk at making female leads or even making them the focus of the game- look at the Bioshock: Infinite box art controversy, where they forced the grizzled male protag on the box because of market testing. Non-indie games where you cannot create a character extremely rarely have female leads in western games, the only one that comes to mind recently is Tomb Raider, an old, established franchised with lots of dollars already behind it.

SquareEnix, a non-western company that has a history of putting females in lead roles as well as making better female characters than what most of the western industry can manage being the one company that has no problem with a female lead is also consistent.

As far as the accusations go you are really overexagerating the reaction here.
The thing here is that the devs said the exact same thing before "remember me" was released.
I don't really think that they are lying or anything, but i do think that they said this mainly to get some attention for the game. Case in point i didn't even knew it existed before this news.
And there was an outrage when they first announced this exact same thing for "remember me". Lots of people were upset and noone was jumping to "conspiracy theories".
The reason people are getting suspicious is not because of the claim itself, but because they are doing the exact same thing they did before "remember me"'s release which makes it more likely to be a PR-stunt.

PunkRex:
Wait, didn't this happen with the first game too? Or was that about the lead character having a relationship... shit, I can't remember, either way both alterations are unnecessary.

I'll pork a dude if the game calls for it.

Looking at you Garrus.

True and true. Apparently publishers don't think men want to play as female game characters, and we certainly don't want to romance dudes. That would be gay, after all. I have sympathy for developers, and the politics they have to play in order to get things made. It's too reminiscent of hollywood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfzrA5seD3c

It must be especially hard to make a risky game when your still an unproven developer. I don't think their last game was a hit, was it? I never played it, but I may keep an eye on this. The developers at least seem ambitious. The trailer reminds me of telltale, who have clearly popularized the episodic game genre in a big way. Hopefully the writing is good in this title.

And I would go gay for garrus. I mean, I'm straight, but damn, I'm only human.

The Lunatic:

erttheking:
And the the quality of the game and the gender of the main character is connected how?

Never implied it was.

Remember me would have been bad regardless of the gender of the main character.

However games with female leads don't sell as well, according to marketing departments anyway.

"marketing departments" is the key word here. these are the same companies that only think three games exist.

Publishers asking Developers to change a female character to a male character is something that we should be talking about if you want to see some changes in how women are represented in games. Like how Sony didn't want Ellie featured as prominently on the cover of The Last of Us (should be noted that Naughty Dog insisted that she stay exactly where she is and they were okay with it).

Now, I understand why Publishers do this. They have all sorts of data about what sells and what doesn't. And they look at certain trends and see that games with female leads (or female characters on the cover) don't sell as well. Wanting to maximize profit, because that's the name of any business, they try to make "minor" changes that will do just that. This isn't necessarily misogynistic or anything.

However, I do feel there is a discussion to be had. That people need to speak up and show support for games with female leads. And not just female leads with double D breasts and skimpy outfits. But most importantly, they need to buy these games. That's the only way publishers will realize that games with female leads can and will sell.

So go on. Speak up for the developers. And, if you like the looks of this game, purchase it.

No need to hate on other publishers (they don't hate women). Make them see what they lost out on. That's the only way we'll see change in this.

Ugh. Taken in a vacuum things like lead character gender are irrelevant. It's all about where the game goes with it. At this point I'm more interested in female leads though simply because a lot of male lead archetypes have already been done and explored very thoroughly. And some are overused. I had enough burly military dudes with Revenge as motive who talk like they always holding a turd in for the next 5-6 years.

Anyway depending on your plot character gender may be crucial, because males and females naturally have largely different reactions to certain situations and characters. It's all in psychology.

RJ Dalton:
Well, of course they didn't. If there's one thing you can say about Japan, it's that they don't shy away from female leads. Of course, they frequently have the female leads in skimpy outfits and do frequent panty shots, but they still have female leads.

-Game publisher agrees to publish game in keeping with the developer's vision, including allowing female leads.
-First response: Use of stereotype to insult the country where the publisher is based out of.

Stay classy mate.

The Lunatic:

erttheking:
And the the quality of the game and the gender of the main character is connected how?

Never implied it was.

Remember me would have been bad regardless of the gender of the main character.

However games with female leads don't sell as well, according to marketing departments anyway.

Thing is, most games with female leads receive a hell of a lot less marketing. It is a self-justifying vicious cycle. Marketers don't think games with female leads sell well, so they give them less marketing, so they don't sell as well because consumers don't know about them. Marketing departments aren't perfect, especially game company marketing departments.

Whilst Remeber Me was loads of squandered potential I do like the sound of them taking the mechanic people liked (be kind rewind) and taking into a new game rather then sequeling Remember Me (Remember Me Yet?). Remeber Laura mentioning this on the Podquisition, so this'll be on my 'to watch and purchase to bolster female representation'. 2015's looking pretty barren if Ori and the Blind Forest doesn't make it's way to Steam, so I'm happy know there's a little something else on the horizon.

Vigormortis:

Alexander Kirby:
Wasn't it exactly the same with Remember Me? Which was kinda ironic since I always thought the protagonist from Remember Me looked pretty similar in many ways to Faith from Mirror's Edge, which is getting a big budget sequel. If EA are OK with a female protagonist then it really puts other publishers to shame.

It makes me seriously question the legitimacy of their claim that all other publishers demanded the leads be changed to male. Or, in the very least, it makes me question just how many (or rather, how few) publishers they approached.

I know we're all quick to negatively judge publishers for anything, especially in light of the supposed "overt sexism" that "permeates all aspects of the industry", but with the recent shift towards inclusiveness in the industry I'm finding it hard to believe that no other publisher but SqueEnix was okay with the female leads.

I'm sure some insisted on the change, but ALL but SqueEnix insisted? Don't buy it.

This reeks more of PR finagling than it does of artistic differences between developer and publisher.

Well from the Escapist article the direct quote is this:

"Square was basically the only publisher that didn't want us to change a single thing about the game," Dontnod co-founder Jean-Maxime Moris says in a new developer diary. "We had other publishers telling us, 'Make it a male lead character' and Square didn't even question that."

At least some publishers were telling them to change the gender of the character, but the quote is vague on how many, and it could very well be the case that other publishers were fine with the gender but wanted other things to change which they weren't prepared to negotiate with.

It does happen, and both the developers of Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us found difficulties in having such prominent female characters (Elizabeth was removed from the front cover by Marketers and replaced with shotgun totting Booker, and Naughty Dog had to fight the marketers to keep Ellie in a prominent cover position, and to get female game testers to play the game during marketing - because they normally just use guys.)

It's unfortunate, and it's hopefully changing with attitudes, but we have to be careful not to vilify every game and claim stuff like every publisher refuses to make games if they have female leads (because that is provably historically false)

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