A Message That Commander Shepard Will Not Approve.

So I haven't played Mass Effect, nor have I played Mass Effect 2.  Part of that is because I have neither an Xbox 360 nor a PC capable of running the games.  But even with the release of Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, I have no interest.  Not in the universe, and certainly not in Bioware's method of RPG design that involves stripping most all of the elements of RPG design out and glorifying a third-person shooter as a new genre standard.  Nope, screw that.
 
That in mind, there's something I really don't like.  Something that I feel that I can say unequivocally despite not having played the games and not sound like an ignorant asshat.  And that something is that Commander Shepard's design sucks balls.  I speak specifically about the default male Shepard.  The guy plastered all over the box art.  Now, I know that GeneriShepard's design was scanned in using a live model:


 Generic Guy, and the guy that portrays him.

I want to say that by no means am I criticizing the model's looks.  He's a very handsome man and a good pick for the lead role in a video game.  And if this were most any other game, I'd have little qualm with the choice.  But here's the problem.
 
Commander Shepard is a customizable character.  He (or she) can literally be anyone that the player desires, within the bounds of the character creation system.  So why, then, does the game glorify a bland, handsome guy as the cover boy protagonist?  He's a few centimeters of hair away from Bald Space Marine territory.  You could slap Sam Worthington in there with his trademark Sam Worthington Haircut, and you'd essentially have the same guy.  The character creator could be used to create all sorts of Shepards, and yet the customization system is represented with, from a character creation standpoint, the most bland, milquetoast Shepard design that one could possibly imagine.  Not only in the character creator itself, but in all media related to the game, from press screen shots to the cover art.  And yet, there are people like Jeff that feel this Shepard is the One True Shepard.  A character with literally no creativity in his design, but built upon the scans of a human being.  What kind of message is that send in a game with an extensive character creation system?  "Here, you can make your own character, or you can use our handsome cover star that took zero creative energy to design?"
 
That's just disappointing, Bioware.  Not as disappointing as stripping Dragon Age's rather awesome character creation choices down to Mass Effect's level, but disappointing all the same.
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Posted by Hailinel

So I haven't played Mass Effect, nor have I played Mass Effect 2.  Part of that is because I have neither an Xbox 360 nor a PC capable of running the games.  But even with the release of Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, I have no interest.  Not in the universe, and certainly not in Bioware's method of RPG design that involves stripping most all of the elements of RPG design out and glorifying a third-person shooter as a new genre standard.  Nope, screw that.
 
That in mind, there's something I really don't like.  Something that I feel that I can say unequivocally despite not having played the games and not sound like an ignorant asshat.  And that something is that Commander Shepard's design sucks balls.  I speak specifically about the default male Shepard.  The guy plastered all over the box art.  Now, I know that GeneriShepard's design was scanned in using a live model:


 Generic Guy, and the guy that portrays him.

I want to say that by no means am I criticizing the model's looks.  He's a very handsome man and a good pick for the lead role in a video game.  And if this were most any other game, I'd have little qualm with the choice.  But here's the problem.
 
Commander Shepard is a customizable character.  He (or she) can literally be anyone that the player desires, within the bounds of the character creation system.  So why, then, does the game glorify a bland, handsome guy as the cover boy protagonist?  He's a few centimeters of hair away from Bald Space Marine territory.  You could slap Sam Worthington in there with his trademark Sam Worthington Haircut, and you'd essentially have the same guy.  The character creator could be used to create all sorts of Shepards, and yet the customization system is represented with, from a character creation standpoint, the most bland, milquetoast Shepard design that one could possibly imagine.  Not only in the character creator itself, but in all media related to the game, from press screen shots to the cover art.  And yet, there are people like Jeff that feel this Shepard is the One True Shepard.  A character with literally no creativity in his design, but built upon the scans of a human being.  What kind of message is that send in a game with an extensive character creation system?  "Here, you can make your own character, or you can use our handsome cover star that took zero creative energy to design?"
 
That's just disappointing, Bioware.  Not as disappointing as stripping Dragon Age's rather awesome character creation choices down to Mass Effect's level, but disappointing all the same.
Posted by FancySoapsMan

Shepard sucks. Then again, so does most of the ME cast.

Edited by Apathylad

I didn't like the default Shepard either, which is exactly why I spent a fair amount of time creating my Shepard in the first game. I ended up with this dude:   
 

Posted by McGhee

Umm. . . Shepherd IS a space marine in a sci-fi universe that is going for a serious tone. What do you expect? A Final Fantasy costume covered in belts and zippers?

Posted by Seedofpower

They might see him as the "Everyday Man," you know white blue eyed military generic from during/post world war 2. The standard everyone thought a war hero would look like. Though I'm not Bioware.
 From what I recalled a lot of people didn't bother with the customization and stuck with the default.

Posted by Hailinel
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:
" Umm. . . Shepherd IS a space marine in a sci-fi universe that is going for a serious tone. What do you expect? A Final Fantasy costume covered in belts and zippers? "
No.  Just a design that isn't so damn bland.
 
@Apathylad: That is quite a difference.  Personal touches can add a lot.
Posted by IBurningStar

I think the idea around his design is that he triggers a very neutral response when you see him. That way if you don't feel like customizing a character then you have this sort of generic looking guy that you feel OK about playing as. You don't super love the way he looks, but there isn't anything to particularly hate about it. He also doesn't look really good or evil, either. Again, he is just middle of the road.  So you can play him anyway you want and it will fit his appearance.
 
But the real issue is that the character creator was sort of weak, and it is hard to find a final model that you are happy with. If you are like me, you eventually give up and go with the generic guy.

Posted by Oldirtybearon

So you didn't play Mass Effect, don't want to play Mass Effect, but want to take the time out of your day to bitch about the "generic" character design of the default model? 
 
That's kinda dumb, bro. 
 
I'm glad they went for someone "bland" as you called it. It gives you incentive to use the character creator, or if you just want to jump into the game, it gives your character a face that doesn't look fucking hideous (i.e. Dragon Age). Not everyone wants to spend an hour fiddling with nostril sizes to get "their perfect look", and I say this as someone who does just that. Some people just want to jump in, so having a default model that looks like a space soldier (which Shepard is) is... bad? Uninspired? Did you expect pink hair with pig-tails? This comes across as flamebait at best. 
 
Once again, it's the default model, in case you didn't catch that. Nowhere does it say this is the Shepard face you must use, nor does it ever say anywhere that it's the model BioWare recommends. They needed a face and they got one. It's honestly that simple. Raising an issue with this is like complaining that you had toast without buttering it when the option is clearly right there, sitting on the counter, with a butter knife already dipped into the container.

Posted by Brendan

This is an opinion I would expect of you.  

Posted by SeriouslyNow

Shepard isn't bland.  This blog is.

Posted by Hailinel
@KingWilly:  That default model, which has become the face of the series even though there is a character customization system behind it.  That's my point.  Making the generic default the face rather than doing anything to promote individual creativity.  You never see Bioware releasing screens of more creatively designed Shepards.  It's always Commander Bland.  If they have any sort of pride in their character creator, why not use it instead of going to the effort of scanning in the looks of a live model?
Posted by McGhee
@Hailinel:  
It's a guy's face. How exciting can it be?
Posted by Cornman89

Seems like an odd thing to take issue with. Borderline petty, even. I have three Shepards, all with custom faces, and the existence of Marketing Shepard doesn't irk me at all. But whatever, the battles you choose to fight are your business.

Posted by Lemoncookie01


 How can you not love this face?


Posted by Hailinel
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:
" @Hailinel:  It's a guy's face. How exciting can it be? "
But why make that face the face of the game?  They've got a character creator, and yet they shirk its use in favor of getting a live male model to serve as the default.
Posted by mutha3
Agreed. I have no problems with femshep, but male Shepard looks really fucking boring.
 
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:
" Umm. . . Shepherd IS a space marine in a sci-fi universe that is going for a serious tone. What do you expect? A Final Fantasy costume covered in belts and zippers? "
yes that is literally the only other alternative
Posted by audiosnag

They want someone with somewhat of a "neutral" look. His voice acting, IMO, is much the same. Not saying it's dead but it leaves enough space for you to put yourself into and I think that's the same of the default Shepard. Wouldn't make sense to have him super unique looking.

Posted by Oldirtybearon
@Hailinel said:
" @KingWilly:  That default model, which has become the face of the series even though there is a character customization system behind it.  That's my point.  Making the generic default the face rather than doing anything to promote individual creativity.  You never see Bioware releasing screens of more creatively designed Shepards.  It's always Commander Bland.  If they have any sort of pride in their character creator, why not use it instead of going to the effort of scanning in the looks of a live model? "
Because it's cheaper and cost-effective?  
 
Did you expect the cover of Mass 1 and Mass 2 to feature a fucking collage with sparkles of every Commander Shepard that's out there on the Internet? It has nothing to do with pride and everything to do with selling the game. To me, Shepard doesn't look like Mark Vanderloo, not one bit, and yet my Shepard is just that, my Shepard. To paraphrase a quote, there are many like him, but this one is mine. 
 
Again, it seems like you're making a case for a problem that doesn't exist. Every RPG with a customizable face/character has used a default model of some kind in its press materials. Go ahead and look if you don't believe me. 
 
And another thing, the main draw of Mass Effect is not its character creator, but its story, universe, and characters. To expect them to try and sell a game on "YOU CAN SPEND HOURS TWEAKING EVERY DETAIL" when they've got plenty of lore, intrigue, and fucking great characters to draw from is just short-changing the value you can find in the Mass Effect titles. Still, I wonder why we're even having this conversation considering you have no interest at all in this trilogy. Were you bored? Do you need something to complain about? Why not play a video game instead?
Posted by McGhee
@Hailinel:  
But why does it matter? You could put any male Shepherd up against this face, including the one already posted in this thread, and it could be called just as bland.  
Posted by McGhee
@mutha3: I know, right? 
I'm glad we agree. :D
Posted by Cornman89
@Lemoncookie01: I no rite?
Posted by mylifeforAiur

I like the handsome default Shepard^^

Posted by Hailinel
@KingWilly:  Wait, what?  You're saying it's cheaper and more cost effective to hire a model, pay him for his likeness, have him scanned in the game and everything else, when you have a character creation system already designed through which you can make a "default" Shepard without the extra payments and possible legal requirements?  I want you to think about that for a second.
 
And I can't think of any RPG with character creation outside Mass Effect that has gone to such lengths to market the default model as "the guy."
 
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:
" @Hailinel:  But why does it matter? You could put any male Shepherd up against this face, including the one already posted in this thread, and it could be called just as bland.   "

The created Shepard in this thread may not be the most exciting design; no tattoos, scars, eyepatches or whatever else, but it is a personalized Shepard.  The entire point of a character creation system is to give the player control over the character's appearance.  Even if that appearance is only a few steps removed from the default look, it's still personalized in a way that not everyone will share, or necessarily even see as they create their own.  To just have the default appear in the window and click accept, while a valid option, seems like a waste in a game with a character creation system.
Edited by mutha3
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:

" @mutha3: I know, right? I'm glad we agree. :D "

Its a huge bummer, though. Men either look like a dutch photo-model/spaceman, or a transvestite
 
NO INBETWEENS
Posted by Animasta
@Hailinel said:
" @KingWilly:  Wait, what?  You're saying it's cheaper and more cost effective to hire a model, pay him for his likeness, have him scanned in the game and everything else, when you have a character creation system already designed through which you can make a "default" Shepard without the extra payments and possible legal requirements?  I want you to think about that for a second.
 
And I can't think of any RPG with character creation outside Mass Effect that has gone to such lengths to market the default model as "the guy."
 
Dragon Age 2.
 
but yeah, most other shepards never look as good as the default one. I'd rather they just go the Alpha Protocol route and make him the only face for consistancy reasons (of course you can add a sick beard but whatever)
Posted by Milkman

That's as nit picky a complaint as I've ever heard about Mass Effect. If you don't like the face, you can change it. Problem solved. 

Posted by Dtat

I do not like default Male Shep either. But I think it works for people that don't feel like building their own. After all, we all know Fem Shep is the only real choice. So it's kind of irrelevant.

Posted by Hailinel
@Laketown said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @KingWilly:  Wait, what?  You're saying it's cheaper and more cost effective to hire a model, pay him for his likeness, have him scanned in the game and everything else, when you have a character creation system already designed through which you can make a "default" Shepard without the extra payments and possible legal requirements?  I want you to think about that for a second.
 
And I can't think of any RPG with character creation outside Mass Effect that has gone to such lengths to market the default model as "the guy."
 
Dragon Age 2. "
You got me there.  (Though the answer really should have been obvious to me. :P)  You are right, though, that if they really went to all that trouble to market a model's face as the default, then they just should have limited character creation from the start to using that standard face.
Posted by Hailinel
@Milkman said:
" That's as nit picky a complaint as I've ever heard about Mass Effect. If you don't like the face, you can change it. Problem solved.  "
Would you rather I nitpick a combat system I have never experienced? :P
Posted by Oldirtybearon
@Hailinel said:
" @KingWilly:  Wait, what?  You're saying it's cheaper and more cost effective to hire a model, pay him for his likeness, have him scanned in the game and everything else, when you have a character creation system already designed through which you can make a "default" Shepard without the extra payments and possible legal requirements?  I want you to think about that for a second.
 
And I can't think of any RPG with character creation outside Mass Effect that has gone to such lengths to market the default model as "the guy."  
 
They don't market him as "the guy", they just use Vanderloo's likeness in their ads because it's easier to scan someone than to agonize over every detail. I played Dragon Age on the PC, and I spent roughly fifteen hours in the tool set designing my player's head, and that was just with a dumbed down version of the developer tools. I can't imagine how much effort it takes to design one character's face (and not just that, but the protagonist to boot) and then making sure it looks right under all possible lighting conditions, in all possible scenarios, can have no clipping issues with helms, and so on and so forth. What they saved in man-hours went toward designing other, much more important things than deciding and then implementing what the default model looked like. Again I stress, it is the default model. 
 

That picture? That was the default model before they licensed Mark Vanderloo (the familiar default model). If you want to talk about bland and generic, look at that. Vanderloo at least gives some character to the default appearance. Vanderloo doesn't look like the typical space marine like most other space marine games go for, but that picture above most certainly does. If anything, Vanderloo is probably more representative of a regular human male in that universe. He doesn't look like "the guy", he just looks like a guy.
Posted by Milkman
@Hailinel said:
" @Milkman said:
" That's as nit picky a complaint as I've ever heard about Mass Effect. If you don't like the face, you can change it. Problem solved.  "
Would you rather I nitpick a combat system I have never experienced? :P "
You should just give the game a shot. If you only have a PS3, there's no reason not to try it out. It's really a game that everyone should play. If you play it and don't like it, fine. 
Posted by MordeaniisChaos

Man, your great. You haven't even played the games, and you feel exactly the same as me. And I sunk like 400 hours into the first game, and I'm currently in a play through of the first game (in ramping up for ME3 I'm getting perfect play throughs for both games) Its a pity you can't experience the first game on PC, because it really is amazing. Mass Effect 2 is also really amazing, but it's a terrrrrrrible sequel to the original. I suggest you pretend you can't customize the character, pretend the 1st game is just back story, and enjoy the game. It is pretty fun, and the story telling is GREAT.

Posted by minorinya

What if there were no customization system in the first place? I doubt you'd be complaining. 
 
Sure, they used the "default" appearance for box art and promotions. Why not? Were they supposed to design an individual Shepard for every single variation of advertisement and promotion? There's no "waste" going on - the customization is a feature that allows you to change the aesthetic look of your character, something that is, you know, not the main point of the game. But I guess you haven't played it, so you wouldn't know..

Posted by Hailinel
@KingWilly:  But thanks to all of the marketing, he is the guy.  Not a guy, but the guy.  He's on the box, the ads, everything that Bioware produces.  Where is the marketing for the character customization?  The ability to not make your generic space marine not look like a generic space marine?
 
And as for Dragon Age, I created several different characters for various Origin playthroughs, and I don't think I spent more than maybe half an hour in the system at any particular instance in coming to a character that I liked.  I could have certainly gone to greater trouble, but I was happy with what I had created.  The character felt personal to me, whether it be my human noble out for revenge or my incredibly racist city elf.  The characters looked how I wanted them to look; not how Bioware's marketing department wanted to sell them.
Posted by BraveToaster

Why worry about that when you have the option to create your own version of Shepard?

Posted by Cornman89
@Hailinel said:
" The created Shepard in this thread may not be the most exciting design; no tattoos, scars, eyepatches or whatever else, but it is a personalized Shepard.  The entire point of a character creation system is to give the player control over the character's appearance.  Even if that appearance is only a few steps removed from the default look, it's still personalized in a way that not everyone will share, or necessarily even see as they create their own.  To just have the default appear in the window and click accept, while a valid option, seems like a waste in a game with a character creation system. "
I really don't get this complaint. At all. The positioning of Marketing Shepard as the default choice doesn't invalidate the Character Creation tool. Not everyone wants to bother with personalizing their Shepard, so for them, there's a reasonably human looking guy ready-made. For practical reasons, as well as demographic ones, this model doubles as the face Bioware plasters all over any ME-related media. But if you want to make your own Shepard, it's made fairly clear that you can do that. So...what is the problem? Would you rather that Bioware require everyone to use the Character Creation tool? Cast a different face in every single media hit? I seriously don't understand what you're saying here.
Posted by Hailinel
@minorinya said:
" What if there were no customization system in the first place? I doubt you'd be complaining."
I said as much in my post.
 
@Axxol said:
" Why worry about that when you have the option to create your own version of Shepard? "
I just find it ridiculous how this bland Shepard has been shoved down our throats to the point that some consider him the Commander Shepard and put no effort into the customization of the character.

Posted by Hailinel
@Cornman89: Or they could just not put Shepard on the cover art and release screen shots with other Shepard likenesses.  Look at the original Dragon Age, for example.  There was no Generic Warden on the box of that game.  Did that hurt it's marketing at all?  I don't think either EA or Bioware would say so, given how well it sold.
Posted by BraveToaster
@Hailinel said: 
 
@Axxol said:
" Why worry about that when you have the option to create your own version of Shepard? "
I just find it ridiculous how this bland Shepard has been shoved down our throats to the point that some consider him the Commander Shepard and put no effort into the customization of the character. "
Could you give me an example of a not so bland space commander?
Posted by Geno
@Hailinel said:
" @Cornman89: Or they could just not put Shepard on the cover art and release screen shots with other Shepard likenesses.  Look at the original Dragon Age, for example.  There was no Generic Warden on the box of that game.  Did that hurt it's marketing at all?  I don't think either EA or Bioware would say so, given how well it sold. "
The protagonist of DA wasn't voiced, which I think makes all the difference. If a character has a voice they need a face to go along with it, which may explain why they changed it for DA2. With this in mind, they also needed a set character for marketing purposes, though I'd argue FemShep is more compelling in that respect. 
Edited by Cornman89
@Hailinel: Dragon Age was a return to another time, and a very different kind of game. Furthermore, its focus on the main character's face was surprisingly minimal. The character was mute, and camera angles made actually seeing his/her face a rarity. DA2, ostensibly a more cinematic game, is also using a default avatar for marketing purposes. In Mass Effect's case, the recognition the public has of Marketing Shepard's face is its own form of capital. Especially now, after two very successful games. Why would EA forfeit that for the comparatively minimal gain of showing that you can create-a-face?
Posted by Afroman269

For a game that you apparently don't want to have anything to do with, why does this bother you that much? Is it because it's popular?

Posted by Hailinel
@Axxol said:
" @Hailinel said: 
 
@Axxol said:
" Why worry about that when you have the option to create your own version of Shepard? "
I just find it ridiculous how this bland Shepard has been shoved down our throats to the point that some consider him the Commander Shepard and put no effort into the customization of the character. "
Could you give me an example of a not so bland space commander? "
Hmm.  Well, if we're using live actors as the standard (based on the use of a live human to represent default Shepard):
 

Wing Commander's Christopher Blair
Yes, I realize that I'm using Mark Hamill as an example here.  However, look at his face.  His hair.  This is not the close-shaven generic guy that is Commander Shepard's default.  This is someone that looks good without looking as though he just walked out of a modeling agency.
Posted by Hailinel
@Afroman269:  I'm not hating on the game itself because it is popular, I am hating on the marketing of a rather bland character design as the central figure of a game where his looks can be customized.  This is who they're marketing the character as.  Not as who he (or she) can be.  For a game series ostensibly about choice, I find it a remarkably odd tactic.
Posted by SeriouslyNow

So basically, what you're saying is you don't like him and the game because he's a clothing model?
 
Dude, you're INTO Final Fantasy hardcore.  Almost all of its male characters since 7 are effeminate types and all of its women are essentially perfect.
 
Come the fuck on.

Posted by Hailinel
@SeriouslyNow:  Given your penchant for starting useless arguments (and I am aware of the irony, given that this is a thread about a customizable character's default design), I'll grace you with one cursory reply in this thread to point out that:
 
  1. The default Shepard is a customizable character.
  2. The defautl Shepard is a heavily marketed human model.
  3. The Final Fantasy series is not known for custom characters, outside of games that allow for selecting job classes.
  4. The characters in the Final Fantasy series are based on original design sketches and drawings and are not direct scans of live people.
  5. Square Enix was responsible for publishing an awesome game featuring this guy:
 

Posted by SeriouslyNow

Is that from that awesomely boring fishing simulator Nier?
 
LOL

Posted by Delta_Ass
"Your music's bad and you should feel bad!" -Dr Zoidberg
Edited by BerserkingGuts

Shepard default has ALWAYS come across to me as a generic template. What bothers me even more is that no matter HOW good you are creatively; the tool assets used to customize shep look less detailed, and you're left with something that looks OK by comparison... at least from a graphical standpoint. I wouldn't even mind so much if they'd let me tweak the default shepard so I could give him some hair or something. Despite all that though, I'd never give up my custom male/fem shep <3    
 
But yeah, default shepard is kind of boring on the eyes. To me he's always come across as the default template who's values are all set to '0' before you start tweaking.

Posted by dagas

They need a poster boy. I don't think of him as the One True Shepard. To me, my Shepard is the One True Shepard. I always customize when given the option in games and I usually spend 30min+ because I know I'll spend 40+ hours with the character and I want he/she too look perfect. 
 
I agree that it is hard to make a realistic looking Shepard, but not impossible. I've made at least a few that IMO looks at least as realistic as any other people in the game. 

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