Blizzard Leisure doesn’t have the perfect observe file in terms of fats characters.
Typically it’s a matter of leaning too arduous on irritating fats character tropes: Chen in Heroes of the Storm, for instance, can grasp the martial arts however can’t discover a shirt that matches him. Priscilla Ashvane and Harlan Sweete in Battle for Azeroth encapsulate the “fats and grasping glutton” villain trope. Have a look at Roadhog’s… properly, every thing in Overwatch. Different instances, it’s the entire absence of fatness: World of Warcraft gamers needed to wait almost 15 years for a playable race that wasn’t a wasp-waisted supermodel, a muscle bro, or a Literal Anthro Cow.
When Diablo 4 artwork director John Mueller claimed in 2021 that the sport would have “essentially the most inclusive expertise we’ve ever made with a Diablo sport,” let’s simply say I tempered my expectations significantly. Because it turned out, this was justified: Writing in December of final 12 months about a preview build of the game, Polygon’s Mike McWhertor noticed that whereas the character creator had quite a few choices for physique paint, hairstyles, and jewellery, “[w]hat gamers gained’t discover is all kinds of physique varieties.”
Diablo franchise head Rod Fergusson claimed that it is because physique kind is intently tied, in Blizzard’s eyes, to “class fantasy,” a considerably amorphous fashionable time period for the way the gestalt expertise of taking part in a personality — their mechanics, aesthetics, and so forth — ought to “really feel.” In Diablo phrases, the “class fantasy” of taking part in a Barbarian is likely to be about feeling highly effective, robust, or indestructible, whereas a Rogue’s may entail feeling as for those who’re quick, crafty, and untouchable.
Class fantasy is an affordable sufficient assemble; from a design standpoint, we ought to be going into the method asking ourselves, “How ought to this really feel?” Nevertheless, Fergusson’s claims that physique kind and sophistication fantasy are inextricably tied really feel disingenuous. Talking with Polygon, he stated that “having a dad bod Necro or an emaciated Druid didn’t actually play into the category fantasy,” and the query I would throw again at him is: Why not?
To reply this, I need to shift gears away from Diablo for a second, and take a look at one other sport, one which was launched a mere 4 days earlier than. Road Fighter 6 features a “World Tour” mode, a form of fighter/brawler/RPG hybrid the place you create a customized avatar and produce them into the SF6 universe. Your character is a beginner fighter who, over the course of the World Tour story, learns the preventing kinds and strategies of SF6’s numerous playable characters — some new, and a few acquainted sequence regulars.
The character creation mode is impressively strong, and in a relative rarity for this business, you possibly can completely make a fats hero for World Tour. I tried to make as finest an approximation of myself as I may, one thing which — as a fats particular person in actual life — typically falls aside totally, however surprisingly, I actually appreciated the end result I acquired in SF6. Certain, that is nonetheless slightly idealized (my gams are usually not almost this beautiful), however it’s shut sufficient for a online game.
Extra importantly, although, I spent most of World Tour with my character utilizing Chun-Li’s model. This meant my fats ass was leaping off partitions, doing ridiculous excessive kicks, throwing fireballs… all kinds of fantastic preventing sport chicanery. The sport by no means as soon as stated, “Properly, you’re fats, so you possibly can study from E. Honda or Zangief and that’s it.” Something a thinner or smaller avatar may do in SF6, my World Tour avatar may too.
The explanation why, if I’ll draw on my educational day job and my very own analysis into how video games painting fatness, is as a result of mechanically — i.e., when it comes to a sport’s programs and the way the underlying logic works — fatness means mainly nothing. We solely know a personality in a online game is fats as a result of they’re made to look or “act” fats, however that is only a presentational layer we throw on high of digital skeletons. Online game fatness is totally a factor we use like a dressing up or a coat of paint: an aesthetic we drape over issues in order that they’re learn a sure method. Capcom determined in SF6 that the coat of paint didn’t actually matter for World Tour; what was essential was letting gamers “be themselves” and play the kind of particular person they wished to play.
Fergusson (or builders working on the identical wavelength), in the meantime, would have us imagine that it’s simply not applicable for a Necromancer to be slightly bit hefty, or for a Barbarian to be toned and taut as a substitute of closely muscled — however SF6 is proof that these notions make no sense. If my World Tour fighter generally is a fats enby who can high-kick a person by means of a brick wall, why is it such a stretch that somebody studying to management the undead and shoot blood from their fingers could possibly be slightly bit chubby? It’s not as for those who can say “Properly, real-life Necromancers simply aren’t like that,” for one, and for 2, even for those who may, that’s irrelevant, as a result of a online game is a world the place the very material of the universe — the legal guidelines of physics and the way something works — are comprised of the bottom up by the builders.
I’m not essentially making an attempt to excoriate Blizzard or the Diablo 4 crew right here. I feel it’s more likely that you may’t play a fats Necromancer or a skinny Druid as a result of the artwork crew wished Necromancers to look emaciated and “wasted away,” and so they wished Druids to look burly and “bearlike,” and that’s superb! It’s OK to make that inventive selection. I feel it’s slightly boring and anticipated (OK, I’m excoriating Blizzard slightly bit), however it’s not precisely evil. In fact, I truly love my Druid, who appears to be like like she used to promote Avon earlier than she began embracing the Previous Religion. She is, legitimately, one of many higher makes an attempt a Blizzard sport has made at making a playable fats or chubby physique, and that needs to be acknowledged.
It’s irritating, nonetheless, to listen to Fergusson say that “a fats Necromancer simply wouldn’t make sense,” as a result of it appears like making an attempt to keep away from admitting that the crew simply wished Necros to look the best way they appear. It’s a declare that argues there’s a naturalness, or an inevitability, for sure physique varieties and sure “class fantasies” to sync up, when that simply isn’t true, and the alternatives the Diablo 4 crew makes are completely in step with how fantasy media has portrayed physique varieties for numerous years.
My fats and acrobatic SF6 World Tour character is proof that the concept some our bodies are solely “applicable” for sure in-game fantasies or kinds is foolish and outdated. I’m all for sophistication fantasies and designing to suit them, however I feel saying “a fats Necromancer or skinny Druid breaks my immersion” simply makes the design crew’s biases apparent. There’s nothing pure or obligatory in regards to the connection between physique kind and character fantasy, and till we settle for that and begin transferring past it, it’s possible that character design in video games will maintain retreading outdated, used floor, somewhat than transferring ahead into one thing new and higher.