Beards and boob-armour: Paradox’s Gordon van Dyke on female fighters in War of the Vikings

War of the Vikings

By on August 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

The traditional image of the viking is one of excessive manliness, and indeed the promotional art released so far for Paradox’s War of the Vikings features a very manly viking with a very manly beard glowering in a very manly, er, manner — so you may be surprised to learn that War of the Vikings will, actually, feature female fighters.

“Well in the the Norse culture, a woman could choose to be a viking,” says senior producer Gordon van Dyke to me during an interview session yesterday. “They’re very pragmatic, very practical about things.”

“If you can fight and kick somebody’s ass, and you’re gonna help me with my excursion — if you’re gonna kick ass for me — you can be with me. I don’t give a crap if you’re a woman or a man. It doesn’t matter. That was how they were.”

Van Dyke stresses that the inclusion of women in viking combat was based on actual research.

“We met with a viking archaeologist, and her specialty was in viking combat,” he says. “Now if it was like, okay, you can’t fight very well, you’re tiny and you’re frail, but you’re smart so… you’re a merchant. Or you’re working with technology. You’re a blacksmith, whatever.”

“Whatever it was that you fit better, you did that. You didn’t pretend to be who you’re not, which happens a bit more now in our society and culture. They were very much like that. There weren’t rules against women taking on these roles. They had a choice.”

The inclusion of women in a highly competitive multiplayer game could be fraught with danger (and derision) if playing a female character changed your statistics, or affected your ability to fight in some way. However, van Dyke told us that character gender choices only affected the face and voice, and made no difference to your fighting ability or your hitbox.

In the future, however, van Dyke is looking to add at least one female-specific character class based on actual Norse practices.

“I’ve talked about these base archetypes, the light, the medium and the heavy. What we’ll do is we’ll probably start adding new, more unique archetypes, and one of them would likely be a shield maiden,” he says.

“We have several obvious choices and one of them is a shield maiden, and having a counterpart on the saxons side. Another option is berserker, that’s very common, everybody knows about that. Another is that.. the saxons would hire viking mercenaries. There were mercenary groups of vikings, that’s what they did to make money, they would go and fight for people because they really liked to fight.”

Given that female characters are being included, I have to ask: will they be dressed in unnecessarily revealing chainmail bikinis or unrealistic boob armour?

“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever,” says van Dyke. “Ever. In my document that I wrote for myself, when I was writing down possible future archetypes I was like: shield maiden – NO BOOB ARMOUR EVER,” he says, making underlining gestures in the air as he speaks.

“They’d have taken the same gear as the men (…) they were warriors. We’re going to treat them that way.”

“I just really don’t like that. They were athletes. They’re not going to do something that’s going to basically create a… a nice perfect channel to slide the sword right up into the jugular. That’s just stupid. They were athletes, and just like female athletes now, in whatever sport it is, they will actually wear gear that’s going to make them succeed the most. And that’s what they would have done. “

“They’d have taken the same gear as the men, putting that on, not dressing up in some fancy made-just-for-girls kind of thing. They were warriors. We’re going to treat them that way.”

War of the Vikings will also feature what van Dyke describes as “an extensive beard customisation system”, with the team putting in extra effort to make sure that the beards use the Apex Clothing system and move realistically as you stomp around the battlefield. However, he’s not sure about letting players put these wicked beards onto women characters, ala Saints Row.

“I, er, hrm. That’s kind of immersion breaking,” he says. “I’ll have to think about that.”

When it comes to beards, van Dyke is very enthusiastic. He pegs the number of beards in the game at approximately “as many as goddamn possible”, and says “we want a massive amount of beards, especially for the vikings. They braided them, they had jewels in there, different colours, they’d bleach their beards blonde, maybe have some that are a bit streaked.”

Unfortunately, it turns out that this hasn’t affected the amount of beard-growth around the development office.

“Actually in Sweden you always have a lot of facial hair,” he says. “Guys tend to have beards. Girls like beards out there. It’s really easy to grow a beard and nobody looks at you weird if you have this overly grown-out beard.”

“You’d fit right in,” he says.

“Thanks, Gordon,” I reply.

18 comments (Leave your own)

Again it bugs me that “not glorifying boobs” is news worthy.

However in beard related news it seems i need to move to Sweden… because to hell with shaving

 

The amount of focus on beards in this article and by the developer is worrying…

 

Meh, the Norse were one of the few peoples that actually allowed women to train at arms, it was actually a part of their religion. It’s not exactly a new thing for viking media to feature shield maidens.

 

True but at least they aren’t edifying women, something that western society does way too much, so much they end up forced into roles they don’t wish to be in, or are subject to a lack of respect from their male peers.

It’s newsworthy because the societal standards are so low it’s insulting, to both men and women.

 

I look forward to (or rather, dread) the inevitable chorus of “but that’s not realistic, that never happened!” cries from the ill-informed netizens of the world. I also look forward to seeing how these female characters shape up. I especially look forward to playing as Vikings, and I also very much look forward to an intricate beard-crafting system. Nothing at all wrong with that.

I also noticed a few kind of garish colour schemes on shields in some screenshots, so I assume that customising your outfits is a thing in this game too. Basically this game has a lot of stuff that I should like.

 

I’m not saying that boob-armour as it is sometimes shown is realistic at all, but wouldn’t some changes have to be made to male armour to fit?
Some shield maidens may have boobs and that wouldn’t fit in male designed armour? Or maybe it doesn’t matter so much because its chainmail armour rather than plate armour?
Someone with armour knowledge enlighten me! :)

 

Some changes do have to be made, but it needs to be vastly different to how it’s shown in media (where it’s just metal boobs nailed onto a chestplate).

Read this, it’s good: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/05/boob-plate-armor-would-kill-you

 

They’d probably just bind their breasts and wear fairly standard armour, more than likely.

 

Tim Colwill,

I love when non referenced articles written by people without any form of degree in the area they are talking about(biology/health/combat) are linked to make a point !

In general … gaming is not realistic and that’s a good thing, I for one have always been a fan of the unrealistic boob plate not for anything sexual I just think it adds a useful aesthetic distinction between male and female characters.

hobomaster: They’d probably just bind their breasts and wear fairly standard armour, more than likely.

commonly yes

 

spooler: I love when non referenced articles written by people without any form of degree in the area they are talking about(biology/health/combat) are linked to make a point !

???

Did you read through to the source? it’s poorly-linked I grant you but it’s there.

http://madartlab.com/2011/12/14/fantasy-armor-and-lady-bits/

This guy is an actual armourer. He literally makes armour.

 

Tim Colwill,

it took me 3 read throughs to find the single reference on the article you first linked, an armorer is not exactly a master of human biology I doubt he has any data to support his statements and it’s certainly not shown.
I’m not saying the statement that breast cup plate is unrealistic is untrue it definitely serves no combat function other than creating a potentially fatal risk. I’m just saying linking anecdotal evidence without supporting data has as much worth to it as you simply saying “my opinion is”.

And he agrees with my point “Fully kitted in this stuff, they’d be indistinguishable from men. While in combat that’s just fine, but for artistic purposes, we usually like to have our characters clearly gendered.

So we can’t just look at what real women wore and expect to get very much of value for our modern designs.”

The plate bikini is ridiculous and you could make a case for it being sexist, but while breast cups are not accurate and functional in a set of armor they do serve a very real artistic purpose.

 

spooler: an armorer is not exactly a master of human biology I doubt he has any data to support his statements and it’s certainly not shown.

I certainly think somebody who makes and wears armour for their actual job probably is a pretty good authority on it?

spooler: The plate bikini is ridiculous and you could make a case for it being sexist, but while breast cups are not accurate and functional in a set of armor they do serve a very real artistic purpose.

I… don’t think anybody is saying they don’t serve an artistic purpose?

But it is unrealistic, and in a game like this the realistic approach is much better.

 

Tim Colwill: I certainly think somebody who makes and wears armour for their actual job probably is a pretty good authority on it?

why ? Someone in a sweatshop making I-pods is not qualified to design an MP3 player.

Again I don’t disagree with the opinion, but why is he qualified to make a statement on it ? Does he have some form of degree in human biology ? Just because he makes the things it doesn’t mean he understands the physics of it when applied to combat.

*can we take a moment to reflect on how silly of a discussion it is, the effectiveness of body armor that hasn’t been used in hundreds of years ?*

 

I liken the plate bikini to the massive physique of your typical beastly male armour wearer – you dont see many average joe style male physiques either do you?

I’m sure they’re all donning donkey cocks downstairs too.

If we’re going to nullify artistic boobies, how about we de-macho the men too? I don’t recall the last time i saw a Conanesque male walking around the streets of Melbourne.

 

spooler: why ? Someone in a sweatshop making I-pods is not qualified to design an MP3 player.

Again I don’t disagree with the opinion, but why is he qualified to make a statement on it ? Does he have some form of degree in human biology ? Just because he makes the things it doesn’t mean he understands the physics of it when applied to combat.

*can we take a moment to reflect on how silly of a discussion it is, the effectiveness of body armor that hasn’t been used in hundreds of years ?*

If the armourer in question is designing pieces for custom orders, or fitting armour to a person’s physical measurements, you’re damn right the armourer is qualified to give an opinion on what works and what doesn’t. He/she is hardly working on an assembly line where one size fits all. If he/she makes armour for things like cosplay or medieval style conventions, and they do demonstration sword fights or something, they’d also have an idea of at least how comfortable a suit is, etc.

It is certainly true that medieval style armour is no longer used, but have you looked at military and law enforcement gear these days? Body armour like ceramics and flak jackets and the like are making a big comeback these days, and they’re often not simply strap-on vests, so an understanding of different body shapes does figure into it.

I realise that War of the Vikings is just a game, but the developers are clearly going for a somewhat realistic portrayal of the period, so questions of realism versus the fantastical are certainly applicable here.

 

I cant beleive that I registered here just to comment on the debate going on. I must be a masochist.

However, I felt that a few facts need to be set clearly here. For the record, I’m using my real name, people are welcome to check it up, and I work as a professional historian and researcher, a historical consultant and swordsmith. In other words, I know a teensy little bit about history…

So lets look at some facts. Armourers, particularly those who work in plate, are amongst those most skilled in practical biomechanics in the world. When NASA started working on the next generation of EVA suits, they did’nt just go to engineers, or mechanical designers. they went to armourers, whose understanding of the biomechanics and the movement and articulation of exoskeletal protection is second to none. In the 80s, Nasa engineers studied greenwich armours from the Tower of London (nowadays, in the Royal Armouries, leeds.) they commented that had they seen the 450-year old articulation designs before developing the EVA suits for the Shuttle, they would’ve designed them entirely different, because those post-medieval armours were technically superior to anything they’d designed.
Armour is, in no way, simple. Suggesting such simply demonstrates absolute ignorance of the reality of its design, construction or application. Even mail, which is mechanically simple (and more appropriate to the viking setting in question) takes huge amounts of work and skill, to understand how to weave links together and to alter and tailor a rigid material which can stretch only in one direction, to work around the human body. Its very easy to make a crude metal T-shirt, in the same way its very easy to stitch half a dozen bits of fabric together. its far harder to make them fit however.

spooler: why ? Someone in a sweatshop making I-pods is not qualified to design an MP3 player.

This sort of comment, for example, is woefully inaccurate, and shows total lack of knowledge about the subject, and those issues of tailoring which a modern armourer must understand comprehensively.

To create a high quality harness of plate armour for example, entails vast amounts of work; the chosen perod of history needs to be researched, through art, through effigies, and through surviving archaeological examples. the design is produced in drawings and photography before a single peice is made, exactly as intended. steel is shaped in both forge and over anvils and stakes, shaping it exactly to the wearer’s body – castings are often taken of particular areas (in particular, the lower legs, or greaves – one of the hardest elements to fit well) so the armourer can test-fit constantly. hundreds of sections of steel must be shaped to interlink seamlessly, without gaps – metalforming skills that are the match for those of coachbuilders making hand-beaten luxury cars. (and a proper handmade harness of plate can easily set you back the price of a car)

Regarding the effects of mail on a women’s figure, I will point out that the weight of mail flows downwards, from shoulder to hips. the net result of that is that women wearing mail will find that the breasts are pushed down by the weight. Furthermore, it should be noted that there was no such think as a push-up bra, or a sports bra. The net result is, that women would most likely have preferred the use of binding in linen underneath the hangarock to give support, rather than being unbound – which would have further evened out the chest, rather than exaggerating the clavage as is the modern norm. Furthermore,women in the viking age had on average a far lower body mass then is average today; the result, a less pronounced bust, and for those who were physically active, an ideal analogy would be to note the body form of women involved in sporting activities today – generally, not endowed with ‘uge tracts of land, to paraphrase Python and the Holy Grail.
Combine these facts – that mail flattens out ( incidentally, that does’nt jsut apply to breasts. it also applies to a slightly paunchy stomach on men), that the breasts are on average smaller, that the clothing worn does not push up or enhance cleavage like modern clothing, and that they are bound flat because the clothing does’nt give support, and an entirely different physical profile is formed from the classic pneumatic cleavages of countless cheescake fantasy covers.

spooler: Just because he makes the things it doesn’t mean he understands the physics of it when applied to combat.

It should aslo be noted that armour is used in combat. Academics like Dr Tobias Capwell, curator of arms and armour in the world renowned Wallace Collection London, for example, have jousted, exactly as it was 500 years ago; a tonne of horse and rider with a 10-foot long pointed stick slamming it into their chest or face at close to 50mph. We understand entirely how armour worked, and what does not work. there are thousands, maybe now tens of thousands of people who actively participate in historical martial arts every week around the globe, just as others practice judo, karate, foil fencing or wrestling. And just like those who practice kendo, there are those who practice German Harnischfechten; armoured combat in full harness. Those armourers who produce equipment for such activities understand exactly what is required, they study real objects in museums, in private collections, to get a grasp of what is involved, the biomechanics of design.

And on a last, unrelated note:

redshirt:

I also noticed a few kind of garish colour schemes on shields in some screenshots

One of the great misconceptions of the past is that everything was brown. My particular field of expertise is the medieval era, but I know that the viking age is little different – it was a riot of colour, and often incredibly gairish by modern tastes. as one example, I know a historical reenactor who created a viking overdress, from wool which was hand-spun and woven on a loom. the wool was coloured with natural dyes collected from moss, boiled in an iron cauldron over a fire, the dye was ‘fixed’ using urine, the historical method used all the way into the 20th C.
the result? A Day-glow green dress. And I do mean day-glo, the colour of a highlighter pen. Despite all the research, the work, the efforts taken, she eventually overdyed the whole thing with a darker shade of modern dye, because every single person who saw it complained that it “was the wrong colour for viking era stuff”.

Shame, really.

 

jgelmslie,

Thankyou for posting, I appreciate your time :)

 

Yeah jgelmslie awesome post cheers.

 
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