Sony Bend on the Struggles of Creating a Convincing Female Lead for Golden Abyss
Posted by Sammy Barker
For as interesting as Nathan Drake is, the protagonist has always relied on strong female characters to properly etch out his personality. According to a recent post-mortem with Gamasutra, that’s one area where Uncharted: Golden Abyss developer Sony Bend struggled.
The game’s writer and director John Garvin has revealed that female lead Marisa Chase was a constant source of displeasure during focus testing sessions. "The problem, we discovered, was the writing. In the script, Chase's character was a bit of a smart ass and a little sarcastic," he explained, adding that players thought that the character was a “wimp”, leading to a number of unfortunate gender stereotypes.
"For gameplay reasons, we constantly put Chase into situations where Drake needed to take action. Call it lazy if you want, but we ended up with a few 'Princess Peach' scenarios," he noted. “It seemed that poor Chase was constantly being choked, shot at, knocked out, dragged around and kidnapped. We fixed that, as well as we could, by changing the scenarios to make Chase less of a victim."
However, in the second round of focus testing, Garvin was forced to consider even more changes to the character’s head-strong personality. "What's that old adage? If a man acts forceful he's 'take-charge and aggressive, a real leader' but if a woman acts that way, she's being 'pushy and a bitch' – an unfair gender stereotype, but one we had to deal with," he continued. "How? By making her less aggressive and critical."
According to Garvin, those given early access to the title also complained about the ending of the game. “In the original ending, once the player rescued Chase from beneath the large stone block, they had to help her traverse along a dangerous path, avoiding crumbling statues and falling rocks, eventually making their way up to Sully as the cavern collapsed around them,” he said. “The focus testers made us realize that once players had beaten the bosses and rescued the heroine, emotionally, they were done with the game. More traversal, no matter how exciting the collapsing cavern might have been, was pointless busy-work. So we cut everything after the rescue and dove into the ending cinematic.”
You can peruse the rest of Uncharted: Golden Abyss' development post-mortem through here. It’s a fascinating read which delves into information about the environments, and quite candidly elaborates on some of the game’s greatest missteps – specifically that terrible touch-screen fight sequence at the end of the adventure.