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 Incgamers.net.

    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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