What Twitch is doing feels like the opposite of charity.
General Manager of Bioware Aaryn Flynn casually dropped a few mentions of big changes coming to Mass Effect: Andromeda over the next two months. These changes include improvements to lip syncing, more romance options for the male version of the game’s protagonist, and adjustments to dialogue with a transgender character named Hainly Abrams.
One of Andromeda’s biggest glaring issues since launch has been it’s animations. Awkward facial expressions and lip syncing issues cause a lot of the game’s dialogue, which is arguably the Mass Effect series’ biggest appeal, to come off unnatural and cause an uncanny valley feeling. Thankfully, Bioware recognized this and are rolling out several fixes to help remedy this. The upcoming 1.05 patch will include “improved lip-sync and facial acting during conversations, including localized VO,” while more animation adjustments will roll out within the next two months. You can read the rest of the patch notes for the 1.05 update, coming April 6th, on Bioware’s blog.
Scott Ryder, the male variation of the protagonist in Andromeda, will finally be able to date around a little more. Bioware received a lot of criticism for the Matchmaker achievement which required the player to go through three separate playthroughs with three different romantic partners. This wasn’t received very well as players who wished to play Scott exclusively gay only had two options to pick from. Contrast this to straight Scott’s five options, gay Sara Ryder’s four, and straight Sara’s three, and that ostensibly means that players who wish to play gay Scott exclusively would have to have a relationship with a woman if they wanted to reach 100% completion. Bioware recognized this criticism and noted that they’ll be improving male romance options for Scott, hopefully giving players who wish to 100% the game the means to do so without going underrepresented.
Among a sea of criticism that Mass Effect: Andromeda is drowning under, one of the biggest I’ve seen personally is the handling of one of it’s transgender characters, Hainly Abrams. Hainly is a quest-giver whose first line of dialogue reads
“Back home, I was filling test tubes in some dead-end lab. People knew me as Stephan. But that was never who I was. I knew what I could do and I knew who I wanted to do it as. ‘Hainly Abrams, Andromeda Explorer’. That’s me. Feels good. Feels right.”
The line comes off as hackneyed and forced as any bad writing at best and downright insulting at it’s worst. Sam Greer puts it really well in his Eurogamer piece on the subject.
“There are numerous problems with how Hainly’s written here. That she’s the colony’s scientific director, an important role one imagines, is made secondary to her identity as a trans woman. This fact apparently had to be pushed front and centre, to the extent that it is written as her main reason for being here.
Most egregious of all is that Hainly willingly offers the name she was given before her transition. This is often referred to as a trans person’s “dead-name” and the severity of that title should give anyone a fair idea of what it means. It is intimately tied to a period of their life filled with great distress and can be a painful reminder of that. Their dead-name is often used by those who wish to undermine their gender identity. Most trans people would not offer this former name to anyone, let alone a stranger.
What’s frustrating here is that any trans person could have given this the most cursory glance and immediately told the writers why this is wrong. It feels forced, as if BioWare had to tick off “trans character” on some checklist and relegated this not to one of the well developed characters in the supporting cast but to an inconsequential NPC. Hainly isn’t the only minor NPC written with such bluntness but sadly she seems to be the game’s only trans character.”
Bioware addressing this is a hopeful baby step towards better representation of trans characters in video games. More prominent roles for trans characters would go a long way in Bioware’s future, but next time they really need to get these basics down.
These updates over the coming months will ideally go a long way in making Mass Effect: Andromeda a more well rounded game and a worthy successor to the Mass Effect name.