Stillman’s Slab 48: Barbarism Part IV

Stillman’s Slab 48: Barbarism Part IV

Over the course of development, the female Barbarian went from rugged warrior to Barbie doll. This month, I cover the pros and cons of this transformation and discuss the hyper malleability of Diablo 3.

Barbarism IV: The Good, The bad, and the Snugly

The question of whether the female Barbarian should have a smoking hot or smoking hag look seems subjective. Many players will not even notice or care when using the character. We will often see little of anyone’s face under the proton pack shoulder pads and the gratuitous light show from the Monk across the screen. But for fans of lore and hero back story, a more important question arises: should originality and verisimilitude reign supreme during character design, or should everything get polished to visual perfection (albeit, with nail polish)?

Let us first consider the up sides of Barbara’s changes when tackling this question. Including a warm, pleasant face or two certainly adds variety to the game. Each class has an overwhelming dark streak, forcing players to choose among antiheroes and vessels of pure hate and anger. The newer, prettier female Barbarian face eases the foot off the grumpy grouch pedal, providing players with the option of harboring less brooding negative energy. We definitely don’t need another angry redhead cliché. So toning down Barbara’s scowling rage look helps those wishing to play a traditional good guy/girl. And it does sound fun playing a weird build like a girlie 80’s cartoon princess with pink dyed gear, a wand (hopefully), and the most sparkling rainbow effects. Finally, some people just like having a pretty face on board.

However, I doubt any of those reasons led to the changes from Barbarian to beauty queen. More likely, the last eight or so straight kids in America will buy Diablo 3 solely for the cosmetic changes, and thus, the changes happened–much to the detriment of the heroine’s persona. Or, perhaps Blizzard thought she looked unreasonably ugly and had to change her. After all, Cain’s face also looks radically different in the Beta (I won’t show it here) compared to the well-known art work where he resembles a bowl of oatmeal that got raped. On the down side, he has a more generic mage look now. Likewise, the gritty and truest characteristics of Barbara got replaced with ordinary and mainstream ones, probably over a couple of bucks polish.

Having covered the good and bad possible reasoning behind these changes, only the more neutral explanations remain. Some would argue that the natural development of the game involves making such drastic changes. But what about alternative methods to (let’s face it) defacing the beloved tough girl look? Maybe players could choose a pretty face or a rough, battle worn one as a customization option, or a change from the former to latter could occur in the transition from Hell to Inferno. Perhaps researching older games, examining newer trends, talking polls, etc, would settle character design issues earlier in development instead of over polishing which looks more like character erosion to me.

Devoted followers of the game like myself will likely picture the female Barbarian as a mix of roles. Her handsome look works in town, with her angry face reserved for the battlefield. Or, maybe an earlier image will always linger in memory, representing her true personality.

(The above represents a dramatization only, not what happens in the Beta. See? Always do your articles in advance so you get it wrong and don’t spoil anything! The next paragraph contains mild spoilers though, so watch out, Beta nerdgins.)

Surprisingly, Blizzard actually went ahead and put multiple Barbara faces in the beta. To avoid flashing spoilers, I won’t show them here, but we have a shampoo model for the character stat screen and dialogue portraits, a roughian stern face for the inventory artwork (very good, very good), and a hotter than hell girl for the character selection screen (in the moon light, nonetheless) much to the pleasure of Bobby Kotick Bul Kathos.

Even more casual players do seem to care about characters’ faces and whether or not they look their part. I recall some debate over the male Wizard looking too soft. I guess his Mr. Starfish hat didn’t help matters much. So much for polish. I wonder if Elton John noticed it missing from his wardrobe?

But in Blizzard’s defense, they did not sell out to Cover Girl as much as they could have.

Put the mask back on, baby.

Jokes aside, making full turnarounds, even with a simple facial makeover, has some consequences and drawbacks. The complete character reversal feels jarring to some fans who have gotten their hopes up over the years of playing a true toughass equal to the male Barbarian. The extreme amount of “polishing” looks unnecessary, especially in Barbara’s case where her first image looked not just good enough, but great.

At least they made the right choice by putting a variety of hero images into the game. However, it appears as though Blizzard has made multiple Diablo 3’s over the years and scrapped many good ideas in favor of questionable replacements because…polish? We can probably all agree that having a hottie’s hair parted in the middle instead of another style (and similar dilemmas) does not merit the countless work hours flushed down the toilet and a delayed game release. Why not just make a decision and stick to it, especially concerning harmless cosmetic details? This year, it seems Blizzard may become famous for its endless flip flopping. Just don’t act surprised when you see flip flops in your character’s boot slot.

Opinions expressed in columns and guest articles are those of their authors, and not necessarily those of Diablo

Stillman’s Slab: where all Diablo characters get dissected and examined piece by piece. Written by Nicholas Stillman, it reintroduces Diablo series topics in a new light with novel themes not fully explored in the forums. Slurry collected from the centrifuge will always contain something new and unheard of at the time of publication. Post your comments below or contact the author directly.

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12 thoughts on “Stillman’s Slab 48: Barbarism Part IV

  1. The one the like the best is the concept arts. I hated the feb 2010 version, and the newest version like like a typical mom rather then a someone that slays demon for a living.

  2. Yeah they may have gone a bit far into making her look more girly than rugged, but I like where she’s at looking at the Oct 2010 picture. the Feb 2010 is absolutely horrid. Who says a badass female warrior can’t have a pretty face, or needs an unusually ugly one? I was excited about using a fem barb as my first char playthrough, but the only thing holding me back was how butch she looked.

  3. The characters are going to be buried under an asston of gear, so I don’t think any of their models are going to matter all that much (maybe we’ll still be able to make out the WD shaking behind his massive headgear).  All that gear won’t cover up the different sounds the classes/genders make, so I’m more conerned about that.  I’m reserving judgment until I play, but some of the male WD sounds from the streams already seem a bit annoying.

  4. I like how she looks right now. Im a big fan of fantasy books, movies and pc games. I dont think every barb girl should have a nasty face. She is the chosen one from the very big pack of barbarian girls and she is the hottest ;D She is a six-pack barbarian girl!

  5. If you were offering it as a serious assertion, I’d have to take issue with your “female barb is prettier and therefore nicer” argument. Has that been your experience with beautiful women in the real world?

    It might be at the extremes, where really ugly women are shat upon (metaphorically) all their lives and therefore turn bitter and nasty, but more often the truly beautiful (male or female) seem to be complete assholes since they’ve been feted upon and pampered and agreed with just for their face, all their lives.

    True, that gets into the “why would she be a fighter instead of lounging in queenly luxury” issue, but I think that only strengthens my point!

  6. the point is though that they consciously changed the female barb to look better because they need to draw in gamers at every single minute detail. god forbid if any main female characters of any piece of entertainment shouldn’t be hot

  7. Flux do you have pent up anger? Were you picked on as a child hehe if people actually cared about looks we would have a Dead or Alive = D3 version lol i’m actually glad she’s burly and “Manly” in a sense, as it fits the part so for me its all good.

  8. As usual the concept art captures the essence of the archetype way better than in-game. Why do most game developers/hollywood shy away from portraying a woman warrior in a more realistic way? As others have said, it doesn’t really matter THAT much since we will be covered in our mecha-suits anyway.

    Unless they add that option where you can hide your helm…
    I do like the female WD. I suppose one could even accuse Blizzard of some racial insensitivity since the “dark skinned” heroine is stereotypically unatractive compared to the “light skinned” ones.
    The wizard is rightfully pleasing to the eyes?
    I would make the female monk bald or at least a close buzz cut.

    P.S. Off topic, can anyone tell me whether dashes, underscores and multiple capital letters are available in naming your hero? Hów äßôüt âç??ñtëð characters?

    • As of beta, you get 12 character limit, no dashes, no underlines, no numbers, no symbols. I had 2 capitalized letters, I didn’t test if there was a limit.

  9. I like the “wild”, art deco style concept art (the 2nd one from the left side in the first row of pictures) best, but the ingame 3d model is fine, too.

    At the moment, I’m undecided if I should play a male or female barbarian. The latter is definitely new to the series.

  10. I like the concept best, but the current oct 2010 will do. It’s not like it will be visible much in game anyway.

    Perhaps Blizzard will still change it. What is missing in the oct 2010 face is a more determined/angry look. Instead she looks almost sad. The first concept art has the most victorious snide looking monster slayers look :p

    Don’t get me started on that feb 2010 face, it’s a monster itself. It got probably changed because in party play the other players kept trying to kill the barbarella.

  11. From left to right the artworks on top of this article represent:
    Power – Fantasy (Art Deco) – Conan (Slayer) – Regular
    As I’ve said already I like the Art Deco one best, followed by Power, Conan & Regular.

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