January/February is usually a really slow time for releases, with few AAA titles hitting shelves before March and even fewer of them being RPGs. In recent years the number of early year releases has noticeably grown, with numerous publishers pushing pre-Christmas release dates a little so that there is some space between major releases. Unfortunately that hasn’t really lead to more RPGs being released in this slot. In the place of releases, however, seems to have come a heap of interesting news and controversy. Let’s take a look at some of that, shall we?
There has been quite a bit of debate about the Cyberpunk 2077 teaser in recent weeks, with some claiming that the imagery of a passive, supine woman being shot at is sexist and stereotypical, whilst others have argued the opposite. Personally I found much of the imagery a little crass until the kicker at the end of the teaser – the woman is not killed but is instead recruited – brought it all together.
Perhaps in response to the outcry, or perhaps simply due to an already established schedule, CD Projekt Red has released a new Cyberpunk 2077 video, this time with Mike Pondsmith, the creator of the Cyberpunk 2020 pen and paper RPG talking about the collaborative process and the feeling of the genre. There is also a tiny hint to the plot of the game in there as well – the events of Cyberpunk 2077 take place after the fourth Corporate War. I’m excited.
Speaking of controversy, there has been an inordinate amount written about the introduction of same-sex relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic. For those of you in the know, same-sex relationships are being introduced in the new expansion and will be limited to a single (new) planet. Some people have claimed that this is deliberate segregation, whilst others have kicked up a stink for the game going “gay for pay”, complaining that the fact that gay people will have to pay to have a relationship is blatantly discriminatory.
BioWare put themselves in a difficult position with The Old Republic from both a licensing position and from a technical one. Every decision made in the Star Wars universe had to be parsed by the rather notoriously vanilla LucasArts (now Disney, making the prospect even more daunting) but more importantly, choosing to have the entire game voiced has driven the developer into a rather tight corner when it comes to expanded content.
If same-sex relationships were to be introduced into the wider game world, every voice actor who played a potential love interest would have to be called back to record new dialogue which would then have to be integrated into already established interactions, as would the voice actor that has any gendered reaction to a character’s relationship. This is by no means an impossible feat, but it’s definitely a very pricey one, and one that can’t be paid for by free to play content. Delivering same-sex relationships as paid content is an awkward solution to a problem caused more by expectation than anything else, but it’s really the only solution BioWare have.