Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

24 March, 2011

The problem with armor
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 1:07 PM

A lot of times people bash on the fantasy trope of the “chainmail bikini” as being too prevalent. Not only is it impractical, but it’s also sometimes insulting to women who want to play strong female warriors.

Just in case you think this is a made up problem, allow me to show you a screenshot from Dungeons & Dragons Online. Two dwarves, one male and one female, who used the exact same armor appearance kit preview that adjusts based on the type of armor you wear (and obviously the gender of the character).

Two dwarves.  One wearing a platemail bikini.
(Apologies for the mediocre lighting. Click on the image above for a larger version.)

So, which one is the Paladin in full plate mail and which one is the Ranger in a mithral breastplate? Hint: Rangers dual wield.

Really, Turbine? A platemail bikini top? This experiment was run after our elven rogue guild leader was trying out some appearance kits that left no doubt the amount of hair she might have beyond what’s on her head.

Seriously, guys. Some people believe that it’s important that armor cover areas besides just the breasts. Guess it’s that +2 distraction bonus to AC, eh?


  1. I’m so numb to this by now, it’s sad again.

    Comment by unwesen — 24 March, 2011 @ 1:55 PM

  2. What’s sad is that Rift has slightly less over-the-top female outfits (at least in some cases, at some levels) and I’ve seen several people bitching that the females are too flat chested/ugly/masculine. They seem to expect their female characters to adhere to this stereotype. What’s worse is that the Rift females aren’t actually any of those things, it’s just that some of them are more of a C-cup in armor (some of it) that covers them rather than being DDs in bikinis. Ugh.

    Comment by Polynices — 24 March, 2011 @ 2:21 PM

  3. I don’t mind unrealistic armour whether it be huge, silly shoulder pads or minimal protection (i.e. for Berserkers etc) but the whole metal bikini thing for female character is just bizarre.

    Comment by We Fly Spitfires — 24 March, 2011 @ 2:29 PM

  4. It’s even more sad from the back, where the armor is literally held on by just straps. But, the normal armor Feoha (the female Dwarf) wears is much more like conventional plate armor.

    Comment by Psychochild — 24 March, 2011 @ 2:39 PM

  5. I’d like to believe that my Cleric’s current armor is bugged and missing its texture, because it sure looks like she’s just wearing panties.

    Comment by Green Armadillo — 24 March, 2011 @ 4:50 PM

  6. Green Armadillo wrote:
    I’d like to believe that my Cleric’s current armor is bugged and missing its texture, because it sure looks like she’s just wearing panties.

    Oh, my. I assume you’re in plate? Got a screenshot to shame the artists with?

    And, just to be clear here, I’m not railing against sexy armor in general. Yes, some people like to show off their character’s, uh, assets. Hell, I created a character in City of Heroes that was skimpily dressed. But, that was one option out of many and I got one person commenting that despite showing a lot of skin that it didn’t come off as being exploitative. When it seems that nearly every option for a female customizing her appearance requires exposing a lot of skin, that’s beyond offering some sexy options and stating that the only proper female character is one exposing a midriff. That’s the attitude I have a problem with.

    Also, maybe I’d like to show off my male Dwarf’s washboard abs. ;) *flex*

    Comment by Psychochild — 24 March, 2011 @ 6:24 PM

  7. At this point I’m about to demand every female character be covered head to toe just to shut everyone up about it so we can go back to gaming.

    Comment by Dblade — 24 March, 2011 @ 7:49 PM

  8. One of the weirdest things about this that is rarely mentioned is the very fact that the same piece of armour will automatically fit whoever puts it on. I don’t even fit some of my own clothes from 10 years ago, yet in an MMO I could wear something that would also fit a female gnome or a cow person with a tail.

    Surely armour-crafting would get a boost as a profession if there were actual shape and size requirements? “Do you have this in a size 10?”.


    Comment by Richard Bartle — 25 March, 2011 @ 2:26 AM

  9. Another beef I have with armour is it doesn’t really do enough.

    Real armour stops swords. In games Cloth gives 10% protection and Plate gives 40% protection but in history and reenactment it’s not like this at all. Armour doesn’t mitigate damage (unless you get hit by a truck) it stops it. To damage someone wearing armour you have to hit a very small gap.

    And with that it really slows you down.

    A good porcelain goddess for an indie game to smash is the idea of the way armour currently works in the genre.

    @ Richard: we saw something a bit like that in Star Wars: Galaxies with armour decay. Your beloved and expensive suit of armour would gradually fall apart which led to a player driven economy. I went back to SWG in 2009, it no longer has decay and no longer has an economy.

    Comment by Stabs — 25 March, 2011 @ 9:50 AM

  10. I think Ultima Online mostly got this one right. All of the armor types offered full-coverage, and a few had more revealing variants. That way everyone got to choose how much skin they wanted to reveal. In most of the discussions I’ve read about this, people aren’t really upset that the chainmail bikini is in the game; they just don’t like being forced to wear it if they don’t want to.

    Comment by Vargen — 25 March, 2011 @ 9:59 AM

  11. You know, I think its funny. So many MMO players want sandbox worlds and FFA PvP because its “more realistic”. How realistic is most female armor? I think that it should be more like some of the fantasy fiction I’ve read – only casters can afford to wear skimpy outfits because they can’t wear armor anyway. Other characters should suffer a sliding scale penalty based on how much they’re covered. 100% covered = 100% armor effect, etc.

    But I definitely agree with Vargen that it especially irks me when I have no choice. In that case I roll a male toon.

    Comment by Djinn — 25 March, 2011 @ 10:43 AM

  12. Players should have choices. They should be allowed to choose their chest size and allowed to choose the type of armor they wear — full of skimpy. Just as in real life there are both men and women who have chest sizes that are big and small.

    These are fantasy games after all. Many people who are not physically attractive in the real world just may want to look like a male bodybuilder or a buxom female in the fantasy games. Developers should never forget that most people come play to escape and play a role (notice I didn’t say “role-play”). Nobody at a MMO company should be dictating what the optimum body type should be for players. Again, let the players decide.

    As an aside, I find it interesting that Trion pretty much copied WoW from A to Z all except for the caricatured male and female body types.

    Comment by Wolfshead — 25 March, 2011 @ 2:28 PM

  13. Ladies just want to look beautiful. Well, and guess what? They probably look silly in your chainmail bikini… A lady (or someone who knows fashion) should design that…

    Comment by Stef — 25 March, 2011 @ 2:43 PM

  14. The problem with too much choice is that costs art asset time (=money) that could have been spent on better content. Too much too “real” graphics have been soaking up all the money from everything else that makes games good already :(

    Comment by silver — 25 March, 2011 @ 4:18 PM

  15. silver wrote:
    The problem with too much choice is that costs art asset time (=money) that could have been spent on better content.

    Except in the case of DDO, this is content you have to pay extra for. To get the permanent version of the armor kits, you spend about $1.50 to $5.50. So, no excuse here about how much the content costs to make.

    Comment by Psychochild — 25 March, 2011 @ 4:58 PM

  16. Screenshot as requested. (It’s actually chain, not plate, because that’s what Rift players get, but that doesn’t really excuse the panties.)

    Comment by Green Armadillo — 25 March, 2011 @ 6:39 PM

  17. A bit about the low-slung pants our guild leader was trying out:

    Picture is half-way down the article.

    Comment by Psychochild — 25 March, 2011 @ 9:10 PM

  18. Sexy clothes and body images in videogames (Downs & Smith, 2010)

    [...] the issue of sexualized appearance is gaining momentum as I noticed in some developer blogs (psychochild blog), comics (nerf now, extra credits, Sexy videogameland). Perhaps, gamers are tiring of seeing such [...]

    Pingback by VG Researcher — 4 April, 2011 @ 6:04 PM

  19. Realism… Wouldn’t that mean no female character at all? How many ladies have adorned armor of any type throughout history? I can only think of Joan of Arc, and she’s a myth anyway.

    Comment by Charles — 13 April, 2011 @ 4:41 PM

  20. Charles wrote:

    Who mentioned realism? Strict “realism” would mean that Dwarves shouldn’t exist, like the two in that screenshot. What we’re talking about here is being logical. Logically, women can pick up an axe just like men can. Logically, platemail protects better when it actually covers your vital organs.

    Comment by Psychochild — 14 April, 2011 @ 7:40 AM

  21. This has been making the rounds, and it’s too funny not to mention here:

    Comment by Psychochild — 29 June, 2011 @ 8:41 PM

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