Escape From Tarkov Developers Say Adding Playable Women Would Be A ‘Huge Amount Of Work’

Escape From Tarkov Developers Say Adding Playable Women Would Be A ‘Huge Amount Of Work’
Screenshot: Battlestate Games, Escape From Tarkov

Battlestate Games, the studio behind the newly popular online shooter Escape From Tarkov, says they won’t implement playable female protagonists for “game lore” reasons and because it would be too much work. Right now, you can only play Escape From Tarkov as a man.

“[T]here will be no playable female characters because of game lore and more importantly - the huge amount of work needed with animations, gear fitting etc,” the company said on Twitter yesterday.

The studio made the statement following the two-year-old game’s rising popularity on Twitch, which brought renewed scrutiny to comments made by a Battlestate Games developer back in 2016 about the war in fictional city Tarkov being too stressful for women to fight in. Distancing itself from the old comments, the studio tweeted yesterday that they “didn’t reflect the official position of the company,” and that it “always respected women in wars and military women.” But they won’t be letting you play as a woman.

Escape From Tarkov takes place in a fictional part of Russia that’s been closed off after war breaks out between various corporate-backed paramilitary factions seeking to take control. The women in the world of Tarkov have not all been killed off, and some even appear as non-player characters, so the “game lore” explanation is unclear. The game’s two main factions are pretty generic military contractors and I haven’t been able to find anything in the company’s recent statements pointing out why women wouldn’t be involved in them.

The amount of work required to make women playable is an excuse that’s been wheeled out in the past as well. In January 2014, Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon adding women to Assassin’s Creed Unity’s online mode would have required twice as many animations. Far Cry 4 director Alex Hutchison said women were cut from the game’s co-op mode for the same reason later that year. Former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper chimed in then to disagree, estimating that it would have only required a few extra days of production.

Whatever the resources required, whether or not to deploy them to create playable characters that represent approximately half of the people on earth is clearly a choice, one to which the developers said no. Battlestate Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


  • Well, this explains the ‘Tarkov is cancelled!’ nonsense I was seeing earlier.

    Good to see it’s being framed negatively as if it might be something against women… Because I’m sure its totally the case that the developers simply hate women.

  • The lore is the game is based on Russian special forces units that contain no women.

    That’s it.

    The interview previously cited was a programmer and not someone high up in the company. He was reprimanded after giving the interview.

    This whole thing seems like certain outlets actively going out of their way to shit on a game that’s currently popular. Its not like these very same outlets have done it before… oh wait.

    • The Devs have plenty of other shit to be dragged over the coals for, Mainly their previous abuse of the DMCA system to take down a Youtuber that was critical of the game.

      Yet you choose such a non issue? Grow up.

        • Honestly, they should have just left out the animation justification and just said the lore they want does not support it and left it at that.

          • Yeah, that would have been smarter. Especially after Ubisoft tried the same line with AC Unity and other riggers and modelers instantly called bullshit.

            For people who want to support developers for one reason or another, it’s good this is out there. It won’t change my mind personally – I don’t have the time to play Tarkov with everything else on my plate, but I wouldn’t have played or avoided the game because of this. The game and the people around it are two separate things, IMO.

          • Those animators calling bullshit was bullshit in itself. Ignorant, myopic bullshit that acts like their part of the work is the only part of the work.

            The individual work for them, personally, might’ve only been a couple days, but the impact on regression testing that had probably already been templated and completed would’ve been massive. Unity was fucked enough with bugs as it was.

          • There would definitely have been high costs in other areas of the game to retrofit female characters into the game after it was mostly complete. But that’s not what Ubisoft’s excuse was: they said the problem was that creating the animations for female characters would have taken too long. So it makes sense to talk about how much extra time it would take if they planned to include female characters from the beginning rather than a retrofit.

            It’s also worth noting that the three Assassin’s Creed games prior to Unity all included multiplayer modes featuring female characters, so it’s not like the questions came out of nowhere.

          • I cannot take anyone seriously if they think the game had development time to spare, launching in the state that it did. You don’t launch with bugs like that when you’ve got time to burn. You make sacrifices. Like the ones they did. The question should’ve been whether it was the RIGHT sacrifice to make.

            ‘Animating’ on its own in isolation is a bad way of communicating what the real cost would’ve been to writing, CX, UI, Sound, and especially the test teams. Hell, that’s even if you decided to cut corners by making all the hitboxes identical along with the contact points for the model with the geometry/parkour to reduce your testing time. There’s still so much else to test twice, now.

            The real question is, “What else could they have chopped in order to better-prioritize diversity?”
            And they answered that question with their next entry, Syndicate, which copped multiplayer entirely, and including a female protagonist.

            But that’s not what’s being argued by people like Delaney in Alex’s thread who thinks that the ‘weekend’s work’ on character models begins and ends with the character artist/animator. They’re arguing that it’s quick and easy and cheap. Which only a moment’s critical thought or some passing familiarity with project management quickly dismisses as ignorant horse shit.

          • @transientmind: I’ll say it again: Ubisoft didn’t give any of those as their justification for not having female characters. People mocked them because the justification they did provide didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

            Having played through Unity’s multiplayer, I can make an educated guess about why it might have been ruled out early in development. When you start a co-op mission in Unity, you’re still playing as Arno together with up to three nameless assassins who are also playing as Arno from their point of view. If they’ve decided that you’ll appear as your customised Arno in the other players’ games, then it stands to reason that all the assassins will be male with the same body type.

            If they’d given that as the justification for no female characters, I suspect that they would have gotten far less blow back.

          • It’s a real shame no-one in the games media bothered to seek out the truth and instead parroted back the outright garbage claims by animators that implementation would only take a couple days.

            Arguing that it would take too long to animate vs arguing that it would take too long to implement the results of that additional animation is semantics and you know it.

          • To put it another way, if NASA claims that they can’t fix a certain part of the International Space Station because it would take too long to solder the affected wire where it is, and a bunch of dipshit engineers then post videos of themselves soldering in five minutes, that doesn’t mean it’s a five minute job for the astronauts who have to fucking do it, and it’s bullshit to treat NASA as if it were, and they’re just ‘making excuses for not wanting to do it.’

          • Problem with the “its lore” argument for most folks is well… for folks who argue about this anyway is they dont care about lore coz its fiction and you should be able to change it coz its fiction (i will point to the whole we need female space marines in 40k argument here)

          • I think there’s a big difference between a property that specifically uses particular tropes as a means of telling a story and working with a theme and a game about soldiers doing soldiering can’t have women because women aren’t soldiers.

            It’s not a fair comparison.

          • The lore excuse is flimsy as hell, though, since they are the creators. Why did they create from the get-go a story that would force them to be non-inclusive? Hell, forget about political correctness, such a choice makes little business sense as they are potentially alienating a big chunk of potential players.

        • It sounds like she is used to a more tried method of character design that I personally would say is currently changing as technology has improved and continues to improve. Character design has started to change recently and most teams are approaching it differently while we adjust to newer methods like photogrammetry and 3D scanning. It all depends on each project and whats required of their models. When aiming for realism, we see larger teams opt for scanning real people in (ie. Kojima Productions, Ninja Theory) over modelling them from concepts or reference. Its an unfair comparison to say, “this is how I did it – its so easy”, as that might not translate over to another project at all. They might have different requirements that the models need to achieve. I’ve heard countless stories of people who constantly adjust as they move between teams and companies, as they all have different requirements and expectations.

          Without going too in depth (think I’m too late with that), She uses the example of re-targeting animations, which is as easy as she outlined it if you’re using Unreal Engine (about a 15-20 minute process). But now you’re using a set of animations created for a male, on a female. People can notice these things while playing. If they’ve used mocap data, and they’re aiming for realism, then they’ll want to use female animations, captured with a female actor. You have to then record and polish those new animations. Recapture any that need further work, then polish and prepare those animations as well. Then make sure these new animations don’t conflict with existing assets (clipping for example) and then do the required play testing for a range of things from the feel of movement, to the visibility and readability of the character. This is weeks of work on just animations alone that can be used elsewhere that’s a higher priority.
          Again, every team has a different process, with different requirements and different deadlines. This reminds me of a colleague of mine, who is infamous in our office for saying, “Oh that’s easy, gimme 2 weeks to develop it and I’ll have it all done and tested” – They’re up to 3 months now and counting.

      • It’s not abuse of the DMCA system for an artist to protect their work and prevent people from profiting by using it in a way they don’t like. YouTubers are not entitled to publish gameplay videos. It’s a clear violation of copyright law and they only get away with doing it without entering into a licensing arrangement because the right holders generally don’t enforce their right (apart from the likes of Nintendo) because the videos serve to promote their product. People are free to make videos complaining about a game, and copyright law allows them to show clips to demonstrate their points but they shouldn’t expect to be allowed to use someone else’s art however they choose.

    • I don’t actually know much about the game or have any real opinion on the matter but is it actually a genuine lore thing?
      There doesn’t appear to any specific mention of any of the factions not allowing woman.

      Ones backed by the Russian government who’s special forces do include woman, ones backed by a corporation but doesn’t seem to mention who it’s operators are sourced from (so it’s a possibility?) and the third is made up of local gangs who’s cultures aren’t very specific either.

  • I’d honestly rather just have had BSG simply state that they had no CURRENT plans to add female characters, rather than just flat out stating there will be none. I can completely understand that they probably don’t want to have to rerig all of the clothing and gear, add the animations and voice work etc, right now, given that new maps, gameplay features etc are still being added, but once the game is feature complete, and releases fully, it may be worth considering again.

    • Its not saying the same thing though… one is a more honest but controversial response ie. we cant add women and the other puts an unwarranted expectation that means they will get raked through the coals if they cant/dont do it which they are already going through regardless.

      Frankly aside from stupid answers/misquotes from an interview that put unnnecessary light on the lack of a female avatar this is all just the usual storm in a teacup for clicks all over again..

    • No. The game shouldn’t have women as it wouldn’t fit the vision and facts of the game lore.

      They don’t need to consider it. They don’t even need an excuse as to why.

      This whole article is tripe.

      • You’re right, they don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t allowed to dislike the studio’s stance and talk about it.

      • They created the lore, how is it any justification? It’d be a justification if it was an adaptation of a third-party story or maybe based on real events. They chose to make a setting and a world where women are weak and cowardly so they cannot wash their hands by saying “oops, we have to follow the lore”.

  • You could argue that it only barely has human males in tarkov, lol. More like a collection of silverback, double Y chromosome psychopaths without the need of any civilised behaviour whatsoever. Have y’all seen the character models? Yeesh.

  • “It wouldn’t fit the lore” is just a weak way of just saying “We don’t want to”. It’s your game, it’s your lore.

    Also, these are worthwhile conversations to be had. There are a lot of games out there the don’t feature a lot of different characters simply because they are unconsciously replicating what’s already out there. To ask “but why no women” is a healthy way of making some people ask themselves “Yeah, why didn’t we put women in our game”. This isn’t “cancelling” the game, it’s being critical of it, and being critical of things you enjoy is the easiest way to make them better.

    • That’d be all well and good, you know… IF every time a developer said it would be a lot of extra work, etc, that they weren’t immediately treated like they were lying.

      When that stops happening (basically every single time without fail) then maybe your ideas on healthy, innocent questioning might actually ring true.

      • But they are lying. If they had decided to include female models from the start it would’ve been a scoped part of the game.

        If they said “we honestly didn’t even think of it and to add it now is going to be a nightmare and we just don’t have the resources” it might be true, but that would be admitting that they just forgot or didn’t care that people might like to play with female character models.

        This isn’t just about the fact that women are often left out of games, it’s the fact that it’s a proven occurrence and devs would rather tell blatant lies than just say “Yeah we didn’t even think about it” or “we forgot” or even “We don’t care this is a manly game for manly men with manly musk”.

        • So what do you expect a dev to say that is actually making these “manly men” games to say with out being targetted?

          You give the its lore excuse and they get tarred and feathered for not catering to a demographic they are not aiming a product for.

          You give the technical excuse and you get called out because it was resources they “could” have planned for if they wanted to add females but didnt because… again not a dempographic they were aiming for….

          The biggest issues I have with these discussions is its devolved into a place where it’s become a zero sum game of game needs to cater to females or its gonna be called out. “Manly men” and games aimed at females and games aimed at both are not mutually exclusive.. they can all exist with each other. Is there not enough games that can cater to both or females? absolutely! thats why the discussion needs to happen. But it wont help if you devolve the discussion into a zero sum game scenario of all or nothing. I find its more productive to promote more games that do fix the problem instead of focusing what would normally be just another game in a sea of manly men games.

          • I’m asking them to have a bit of fucking spine. If you don’t want to make games with female models in them, then you’re allowed to do what you want. If people ask why you did that, at least stand by your decision without trying to obfuscate it. They’ll cop the same backlash, but at least they’ll have some integrity about it.

            I don’t see how people using their voices to say “You constantly pretend this massive demographic doesn’t exist. Why do you constantly pretend we don’t exist? Do you not like our money?” is shutting down the argument. Both the lore and technical excuses are exactly that: excuses. The reason they didn’t include it is because they didn’t want to. They’re under no obligation to include anything, but they are rightfully at the mercy of public opinion with whatever product they release.

            Gaming eclipsed film as the largest entertainment medium on earth all the way back in the late 90s. I remember it because i read it in the news on the same day I bought a N64 game at Big W (I think it was Turok 2?). When the majority of major players in the largest entertainment medium on earth consistently refuses to listen to a full half of their potential customer base telling them “We want this thing in your product” for 20 goddamn years, there’s nothing to be gained by telling the copmlainers they’re being divisive. The division is caused and perpetuated by an industry that refuses to serve its customer base. There’s also nothing to be gained by jumping to the defence of companies who just can’t be fucked improving their product because they think the market will grumble but still buy.

            The whole idea that these are “games for men” is some seriously wrong-headed backwards logic. The female demographic doesn’t buy, but consistently asks to have features that they want. The lesson that gets learned from this should be “If we give them what they want, the demographic will be served and we will grow sales”. The lesson that is consistently learned is “Women don’t buy our thing and they complain too much so let’s tell them to fuck off being whining bitches”. Why women don’t really play shooters isn’t some arcane secret. It’s simple: They are under represented and unwelcome.

            My wife plays all kinds of “male” games. We clocked about 300 hours on Borderlands 2 together. We’ve put about 90 into Borderlands 3 so far. She put about 400 into Fallout 4. She played all 5 of the Uncharteds. She played Last of Us. But all the games with yet another gruff dude being a soldier don’t interest her much and she refuses to play online because whenever she does she literally cannot speak without some fuckwit calling her a cunt or sexually harrassing her. She plays games that cater to her interests regardless of genre, but FPS games almost uniformly make it clear that she is either unimportant as a customer or completely unwelcome in the boy’s club.

            Speaking up about this exact problem that has barely changed in 20 years isn’t reducing it to a zero sum game. It’s making a simple and salient point: stop being hostile to a huge portion of your potential customer base.

    • That’s kind of the point though isnt it…. its iz their lore and their story.

      If you dont like the lore/story crafted then you just move on and not buy the game and wait for the game that actually caters to the “lore” you enjoy.

      Its one thing to question the lack of females and discuss the problem. Its another thing all together to just frame the devs as “bad people” because they didnt cater to your “lore” until they “fix” it..

      • It’s not one single dev. It’s not one single story. None of these things are wrong or bad in a vacuum. But we don’t live in a vacuum. The gaming industry constantly ignores, sidelines, or flat out insults women and they have a right to complain just as the company has a right to ignore them.

        If the complaining is loud, constant, and specifically cites the same issues again and again, maybe the problem isn’t the complainers? Maybe it’s the people who think that doing the same thing again and again while a huge portion of their customer base says “We want this thing as well” are the issue?

      • But this is an overreactive read on what I’m saying. I’m not saying anyone is bad, I’m saying that that just saying the lore doesn’t allow for female players doesn’t explain why, and that’s what I actually care about.

        Was it because it was extra work and wouldn’t sell anymore units? Fine, it’s not an artistic choice, it’s a money one. Is it because they didn’t like the idea of shooting women in the face? That’s a moral decision. Is it because people are more/less likely to shoot women character models, giving some characters an edge? That’s a mechanics choice. Is it because they don’t thunk its believable thay women cojld handle the stress of war? Thats a choice made on gender stereotypes. Just saying there’s no women because we wrote it that doesn’t tell me why, which is what I’m interested in.

        I’m not here to drag the creators or the game, whether there are playable women in the game or not won’t sway my purchase choice. As I said before, it’s infinitely more interesting for people to critique something they like or see worth in, than something they don’t, because it’s coming from a place of wanting to improve the media than bury it with negativity.

  • Former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper chimed in then to disagree, estimating that it would have only required a few extra days of production.

    This bullshit statement still enrages me, to this day.

    It’s like having one of my developers wondering why they can’t implement a second widget into our online forms to fix a defect identified in UAT, because it only takes them personally a couple hours, not realizing that we then need to completely redo our stakeholder engagement with process owners, CX design, customer channels, completely redesign our test plans to account for the massive impact this has on SIT and Regression, not to mention re-starting UAT, taking those users away from the business for a period they weren’t budgeted for.

    It’s not just a ‘couple hours’, mister developer. It’s fucking weeks, if not months. Especially if that means we collide with other projects or have to pull key resources away from other tasks that then pushes them out of their release window.

    Anyone who buys into that animator’s myopic bullshit is ignorant as fuck.

    • This isn’t to say ‘don’t do the thing’. It’s to say, ‘Don’t try to pretend the thing is quick, cheap, or easy just because you only work with one component and aren’t managing the project so you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about’.

    • That’s honestly something that pisses me off about the whole article.

      ONE fucking person goes “Oh it wouldn’t take that long…” and then here comes the likes of Kotaku latching onto that as if it is gospel and resting their entire goddamn criticism of developers on it.

      I’m not even a developer, but logically I’d wager even making minor changes could have an obscene knock-on effect elsewhere down the line in a great many cases.

      • That’s a really great point: the difference between the technical work required and the effect it actually has on project management. @transientmind’s stuff puts it really well, and in a way that I wish was disseminated a lot further than the comments section.

        Having these discussions in the open, mind you, means everyone knows a bit more about the process and that the whole discussion is better informed for the future.

        • Of course, that brings up the other question: if you don’t want a section of gamers to be left out because you didn’t include them in the development process early enough that you could plan around it, fine – but that should be on the public record too.

          • I think often the devs just didn’t really think about it. Only in hindsight do they realise that there’s something they didn’t put in that people want and putting it in after the fact is a task they don’t have the scope for. There’s just no examination of what led them to that point.

            The first Star Wars movie was really white and people said so. At the time it was a small team who all knew each other working with limited resources, so they did what they could to get it done. Afterwards they realised that there really were nothing but white people in the intergalactic empire and the team tried to fix it for the next go around.

            There’s nothing sinister in that. But dev teams seem to make excuses and the discourse ends up vitriolic because people don’t like being lied to. If they admitted fault, explained why they can’t fix it in post and promised to think about it next time (and meant it), it wouldn’t turn into the endless debates about “Females” in games.

          • There’s nothing sinister in that. But dev teams seem to make excuses and the discourse ends up vitriolic because people don’t like being lied to. If they admitted fault, explained why they can’t fix it in post and promised to think about it next time (and meant it), it wouldn’t turn into the endless debates about “Females” in games.

            I mean… that ideal scenario IS essentially what happened with Ubisoft and their next title Syndicate. The higher priority on inclusivity was noted, and instead of scrapping representation when managing the scope, they scrapped the multiplayer. The game got a shared male/female protagonist, and it played better, reviewed better, and sold better (after the initial week where it had to regain the post-Unity trust lost, through word-of-mouth and reviews) as a result.

            But the games media didn’t help the situation in Unity by simply parroting back the idiotic statements by animators saying, “Hurrdurr it only takes a weekend to do, so the ‘excuse’ must be a lie and the real truth is that they just hate wimmens.”
            Because that’s bullshit, for the project management-related reasons I’ve explained above.

            The discourse ends up vitriolic when people agitating for positive, inclusive change aren’t acting in good faith, and are taking a very real and very valid reason like, ‘That one feature in the unpopular multiplayer would cost us an additional 1-2 months of development and testing and we’re already behind schedule and looking for things to cut if we’re to meet our release window,’ and calling it a lie that can only be explained by an ingrained culture of misogyny.

            The devs didn’t do themselves any favours by communicating the reality of that feature’s cost poorly, but anyone in the press who actually cared about truth on the subject instead of looking for an excuse to dogpile would’ve been able to seek out a better interview or quote to explain why this wasn’t something that could be fixed late, and shift the conversation to, “Why isn’t this feature rated highly enough to warrant the obviously extensive development time it needs?”

            Instead, by spreading that garbage about the time that feature costs to implement, blindly accepting that this shit only takes a couple days, it removes the ability for a developer to stress just how high-cost (time/resources, not dollars) that feature can be, and why their decisions to focus development elsewhere might be more reasonable than if it was in fact only a couple days work.

          • It’s a little hard to swallow when it’s a series with the endless bucket of money and endless focus testing that Assassin’s Creed has. But regardless, they only did half of what I suggested. They didn’t say “we fucked up and it’s too late because the expense would kill us” they said “It’s too hard to have women in the game” which was a blatant lie. They had already had women in the series. What’s more likely is that the focus testing they did included very few women and nobody brought it up until it was too late.

            Again, there’s no sinister intent there, but that is one of the more insidious examples of an ingrained culture of misogyny. They didn’t even think about it until it became a PR problem. They were completely blind to potentially 50% of their market. This is the thing about ingrained cultures: they are invisible because they are ubiquitous. The response isn’t bad actors looking for an excuse to stir controversy any more than the devs were looking for an excuse to make people angry. The anger is because these are the same people who have been bringing up the same issues for twenty years and even though they are constantly harassed by weirdos for destroying gaming with PC bullshit, nothing is actually changing. They’re tired of being polite because it gets them nowhere and frankly, if you say the same thing for twenty years and the people you talk to keep forgetting you exist, it’s a pretty good bet that they’re forgetting on purpose at least some of the time.

            And again, I’m not making a comment on whether fixing it in post is a huge technical problem or not. I don’t know. But what I do know is that if the dialogue from the devs and publishers didn’t keep fucking up in idnetical ways again and again or at least if they weren’t so desperate to obfuscate their fuck ups, they wouldn’t be fighting backlash all the time.

  • The fact that the ‘lore’ is based on and reflecting real life toxic sexism is both a legitimate point for the developers to use as justification, as well as obviously something which needs to be criticised.

    But any argument about ‘too much work’ is stupid and a flat out lie. It’s not hard to modify a hit-box, and the females do not need their own animations, particularly in a military environment where everyone regardless of gender is taught to move the same way. They’re all human bodies.

  • The argument is based on the false paradigm that fiction and reality are one and the same. Its a belief that a player must have the same character traits of a protagonist in a fictional world for them to be able to play. It seems odd to have to point this out as any well adjusted human being would be aware of the distinction between fantasy and reality. Females are not excluded in playing the game, much like men are not excluded from playing say Tomb Raider.

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