‘Battlefield’ Producer on the Challenge of Creating Female Soldiers

Oct 18, 2013 by  

Soldiers in 'Battlefield 4'

Over the past couple of years, one of the most heated issues in the gaming community has been female protagonists in video games and, more specifically, why there are so few of them relative to the number of male protagonists. While RPGs like Mass Effect and Skyrim offer an option to play as either a male or a female character, in games with a fixed protagonist the writers usually default to a male character.

The issue of playable female characters is a little more complicated when it comes to modern military shooters like the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, which are tied to a certain level of realism (okay, quite loosely tied). Though a number of countries – including Canada, France, Israel and Sweden – already allow female soldiers in front-line infantry roles, the ban on women in combat was only lifted in the US earlier this year, and in the UK armed forces women are still prohibited from front-line combat. This means that the decision of whether or not to include female soldiers in Call of Duty or Battlefield would inevitably mean engaging, however reluctantly, in a much wider debate.

Nonetheless, Battlefield‘s executive producer Patrick Bach recently told OXM that DICE has already begun talking about the possibility of introducing female soldiers to the Battlefield multiplayer experience. Much like the real-life question of whether or not to allow female soldiers to enter the front lines of combat, Bach said that adding women to the Battlefield franchise would apparently be a big step – both financially and artistically:

“We don’t know when we can do that. We have been talking about it quite a lot. We’ve been looking at how much it’s worth, compared to how much we’d have to sacrifice.”

“It’s quite complicated, It’s not just [creating] the actual character models, it’s all the voice-over work. We have hundreds of thousands of lines that would need to be duplicated, because even now we’re cheating quite a lot – we have random male voices, and then you have to multiply that by two. If we do it, we’ll do it right, not just to tick a box or something.”

DICE’s discussions about adding female characters into Battlefield have almost certainly been spurred on by the announcement that Call of Duty: Ghosts, the direct competitor to Battlefield 4, will include the option of playing as a female soldier in multiplayer. Infinity Ward had already made movements towards including more integral female characters in previous Call of Duty games; for example, in the singleplayer campaign of Call of Duty: Black Ops II it’s possible to play as hacker Chloe “Karma” Lynch for a brief stretch of one of the Strike Force missions, and the game also features a female President of the United States.

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' - female soldier

A female soldier in ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’

Call of Duty: Ghosts does have one advantage over Battlefield 4 in this regard, since it’s set in the future and is therefore a vision of what the armed forces might be like in another decade or so, as opposed to a depiction of what they’re like now. Infinity Ward overcame one of the chief concerns of adding female soldiers into a multiplayer setting by making the hitbox sizes for soldiers of both gender the same, so players can’t just pick a female avatar for the sake of making themselves a smaller target. As an FPS fan who’s used to just accepting male avatars for lack of any other option, being allowed to pick my own gender in multiplayer definitely makes Call of Duty: Ghosts look a lot more interesting.

The sentiment behind Bach’s caution is understandable, though it’s pretty bizarre for him to describe adding in more character options as a “sacrifice” instead of as an extra expense that may or may not pay off. It’s also worth noting that most of his answer consisted of coming up with reasons why DICE would have difficulty adding female soldiers into the games, and that he gave very little indication that it’s something the studio is keen to explore, so don’t be surprised if Battlefield remains a boys’ club for the time being.

Tell us in the comments if you’d like the option to play as a female soldier in future Battlefield games, and how DICE could go about “doing it right.”

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Battlefield 4 releases October 29, 2013 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360; November 12th for the PS4; and on November 19th for the Xbox One.

Source: OXM

14 Comments

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  1. Personally I NEVER cared who I played with on a mutiplayer FPS, I mean unless the option has something to do stat wise. I could careless man,women,animal dog or cat..as long as they can play like all the other models then whatever. If they do then it would be cool ladys can now have their own avatar..good luck and all that.

    • But see you need to understand that you dont care BUT like 90% of the time the protaginist is a dood. Men in games have the.ability to not care because they are shown almost all the time. But ultimateley yes youre right. As long as it plays well why not add them in? I think its time to allow the ladies into the multiplayer arena. Halo did and it was well done

      • Unless the killbox is like oddjob in Goldeneye: short and thin…

  2. I see no advantage for a first person shooter having a female avatars in multiplayer. I believe that they should not do anything we could all play as androgynous avatars and no one would care. Making the female characters have a slimmer frame and thinner limbs is more sexist than not having them at all. All your doing is perpetuating the stereotypical image that a female will always be smaller than a male. Making the hit boxes the same is a pathetic reason to include female avatars, if you are having both genders then avatar size should be similar or only choose one gender.

  3. I don’t understand why people are making a big deal about this. The only reason CoD did this is for publicity, because they knew BF4 wasn’t going to have female soldiers. I also don’t get why this is an issue in general. ‘Why does every main character have to be a male?’ Because thats what the developer chose. Because thats what fits the story they made. I highly doubt, aside from the rare occasion, that developers made a conscious decision to not have a female protagonist because the character is a girl. I would rather games have a female protagonist because it fits the story they have crafted, rather then just to have a female protagonist. I have nothing against playing as a girl in any game, but I will still choose a guy when given the choice. It’s not about sexism or anything, it’s that I relate to a male character more then a female character. It just so happens that a majority of the gaming population is male, not to mention most game developers are male. It makes perfect sense that there would be mostly male protagonists in video games. Again, nothing wrong with a female protagonist, but do it because you have made a strong female character that people will enjoy playing, don’t do it just to have one.

    • In multiplayer it’s not so much about having a strong character, it’s more just about having a personalized avatar. Some people prefer to play as a male character whilst others prefer to play as a female, so this just gives more options to choose from.

      Based on what the Infinity Ward producers have said, it sounds like the devs were re-tooling the game engine for COD: Ghosts anyway and doing so made it fairly easy to add the option of a female avatar, so their attitude was, “Why not?”

      • In regards to the strong character, I was talking more about the single player side of the argument. I totally get that people will have a preference on their avatar for multiplayer, but I also never heard anyone (including girls), complain about having to play as a male character.

  4. I don’t understand why you would say that “Call of Duty: Ghosts does have one advantage over Battlefield 4 in this regard” when saying they added a female character.

    “Being allowed to pick my own gender in multiplayer definitely makes Call of Duty: Ghosts look a lot more interesting.” should even be an argument. That’s just being biased. “Hey this game added women, its automatically better.” is a very bad argument for saying a game is superior to another one. Having tacked on female leads, which is something that seems to be happening a lot nowadays doesn’t make a game better. DICE is right by saying adding female characters is not a simple process. They want to do it right, not add it for a gimmick.

    A game should be about the features and game-play, not aesthetics and tacked on things. Like when Bioware and Bethesda added gay romances. The feature was just tacked on with no real meaning.

    • You need to read the whole sentence. I said that it’s easier for CoD: Ghosts to introduce female soldiers because it’s set in the future:

      “Call of Duty: Ghosts does have one advantage over Battlefield 4 in this regard, since it’s set in the future and is therefore a vision of what the armed forces might be like in another decade or so, as opposed to a depiction of what they’re like now.”

      Also, I didn’t say that the game was automatically better or superior because it has female soldiers, only that I’m personally more interested in it because it offers the option to play as your own gender. It’s about as biased as someone who loves stealth games saying that the inclusion of stealth elements in an FPS makes it look more interesting.

    • No, it does make a game better, and calling it a gimmick is pretty sexist.

  5. The reason? The obstacle? It’s because adding player choice in single player is diametrically opposed to the formula that Infinity and Dice have pursued already, which is to make a game that is in fact a linear shooting gallery devoid of depth. As long as this issue of character creation is not engaged, along with the story’s triviality, the longer these developers are empowered to make cookie cutter iterations of past releases with only the most nominal adjustments. Once in a while changing the food coloring by touching on quick scoping and killstreaks does not substantial depth make.

    Give me a game that actually has replay ability on the single player side, and i’ll sing its praises; but that won’t happen, because ultimately, at its core, the real obstacle to making a quality product for these developers is laziness. Honestly at this point these franchises should just go Multiplayer only. Forget even including single player- COD’s had how many opportunities to make campaign correctly, and just can’t do it well enough to make it seem like more than window dressing.

    We need a new FPS IP. something that actually allows for investment and customization into the protagonist and flexibility in the story with consequences, ramifications, and choices both tactically for the genre and story-wise for the plot. And if COD or BF claims to have achieved this, then I’ll believe it when i see it.

  6. It’s not tied to realism so they need to do it. Just because the real world hasn’t caught up to equality doesn’t mean our art can’t. That’s kind of the point of art, isn’t it?

  7. Well without touching the should or shouldn’t women be in FPS games as soldiers (its never going to get a real and honest debate in a forum like this people, seriously) I say IF they want to have a female playable character then that SHOULD reflect the pros AND cons of the female in battle. Slimmer target? Sure, because oftentimes women ARE slimmer than their male counterparts.

    You don’t need to figure out a way to argue the point with me, just go check with the Army and see for yourself. Slighter build and greater agility equals advantages their male counterparts don’t enjoy, but less able to carry large amounts of equipment unless SPECIFICLY picked for their extra bodymass. So let the pro’s and con’s weigh themselves out. Just think of the standard soldier types, in existing games. your total kit is limited by what you can reasonably carry into combat after adreneline wears off. So give the slimmer target, I actually think that to give a female playable character a fair run they SHOULD end up with the physical perks, because as men we are used to our own physical characteristics, and so we view EVERYTHIING through that lens. And include the tradeoffs. If gamers want this so bad in their “art” they ought to remember that ALL art has a extension in reality, and allow for that too.

  8. As a female gamer for many years, I have played on male chars because that was all I had. I would be thrilled to see Battlefield ( as well as many others) offer a female option so I can truly feel as though I am represented as I play. Keeping the hit box the same for male/female is certainly alright with me, but let us look like woman both in appearance/voice but also with stances and movements. Even slight differences are fine. I just get tired of having to choose between a man char or female char that looks like a man in makeup. When in any combat, I am not asking for pretty dresses and salon styled hair, just allow the HUGE female gamers the opportunity to express ourselves and represent ourselves as being just as capable as the men :) My two cents. My money goes where I am happy.

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