In the wake of the Bioware fandom’s explosion after Jennifer Helper’s departure, some news managed to surface and through hushed whispers and the sound of wallets whipping out, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s good news.
Obviously a talent like Helper couldn’t be allowed to leave the industry just like that. Loreful, a small indie company stationed in Ohio, realized the possibilities in hiring the accomplished writer. However, this isn’t about Helper potentially hopping on Loreful’s wagon: it’s the about the necessity in hiring Helper—or someone like Helper—to join their team.
But let’s back up here and go over what this buzz is about. In taking a look at the universe of Sime~Gen, Loreful decided they wanted to create a game based the rich universe and characters present in Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s novels. Thus, Ambrov X was born. Honestly, their timing couldn’t have been better (and they must have known that to an extent). With the Mass Effect series coming to its bittersweet ending, there’s a need within the community for a choice-influenced, sci-fi action RPG. As fantastic as it is that Loreful had a desire to fill that niche, their ambitions were much higher than simply being the plaster to fill a hole in the gaming community. Two aspects they make clear about Ambrov X is that you can play as a female and that your decisions are meaningful. Playing as a female in an RPG isn’t really anything new—although it is nice to hear—but the line about meaningful choices seems to be a pot-shot at Bioware themselves. After complaints that the choices in both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series made no difference on the plot whatsoever (which they didn’t), advertising this seems like the perfect way to draw in Bioware fans displeased with the more popular games’ writing.
To make a long story short, from a mechanics standpoint, and in theory, Ambrov X sounds like a fantastic game. But, if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear from Ambrov’s predecessors, it’s that an RPG game relies not solely on mechanics, but is driven by character interaction. This is where my worry arises.
As a person that hasn’t had any knowing direct contact with the other games Loreful has had a hand in, looking at their staff image causes me to worry. There seems to only be two ladies on the team. Before any indignant feelings arise, let me say that men have the ability to write female characters, even good female characters, but let’s face it, there are just some things about living as a woman that men will never understand because they don’t have to live it every day. And I’m already getting dude-bro-y vibes off the example t-shirt they had available for backers on their kickstarter.
If this game is truly going to be compelling both with gameplay and characters, we’re going to need someone that’s going to stop shit like that from entering the game. With the aid of Helper (or a female writer as accredited as her), I believe that the game will have a chance of bypassing unfortunate slip-ups like that. But Helper specifically is responsible for writing fantastic scenes of fantasy and well-noted characters alike. Queer characters, even! Just imagine having such an option in an indie game! Well-written queer characters, while more numerous than they used to be, are still far too few and in between. With Helper’s background in dialogue-oriented action RPGs, like the Dragon Age series, her addition to the project can only bring good things not only to the company, but to the audience as well.
I’m sure it didn’t escape anyone that I mentioned a kickstarter earlier. And if I could, this would be the point in the article where I ask you to consider donating, but I can’t because they cancelled it. This isn’t saying that the game is cancelled—oh no, they’re keeping strong and going on—and it’s also not saying that they still don’t need the support of gamers like us. Not monetary support this time, but feedback. Even if they cannot hire Helper (whose involvement was only guaranteed if Loreful reached their kickstarter stretch goal of $750 grand, which is a lot for an independent company to come up with), we can lead them in the right direction. So I implore you to visit the Ambrov X community or drop them a line on their Twitter/Facebook page.
Tsunderin, thanks so much for the write up and support! Just wanted to clarify a point or two and hope that it helps. Yes, there aren’t a lot of women on our very small team — I personally hope that changes as we grow. We are committed to Jennifer joining the team and we are doing everything in our power to bring her on full time. With that said, the writing of the game is largely made up of women: Jacqueline, Jean, Ruth and Jennifer. We are looking into bringing on one more writer. While I can’t say whether that person will be male or female. I would say that their capacity to write within the Sime~Gen Universe and work under Jennifer’s leadership will be important. For full disclosure, at this point, I am the only male on the “narrative team” and my impact is purely high level creative and story direction.
Gender equality in our industry is something we care a lot about at Loreful — believe it or not, we talk about it quite a bit. There aren’t enough women (and opportunities for women) in the industry and the industry doesn’t often cater to the 45% of women who play games — we want both of these things to change. Our goal is to write RPGs for everyone. It’s a tough goal but it’s one reason we chose Sime~Gen and also why we approached Jennifer. The issues brought forth in Sime~Gen are issues that our society should well take heed to. In many ways, Sime~Gen confronts sexism, racism and the need to find a common ground in order to move society forward. That’s something that really spoke to me personally when I sought out Jacqueline and Jean about making Ambrov X. On a personal note, after a year working with Jacqueline and Jean, I truly consider them mentors in the art of science fiction storytelling. They have made a massive impact on my life.
So, we apologize for the “dude-bro-y” vibes. We are a LONG way from release and hope you’ll all join us on the forums and continue to let us know the kind of game you want to see. Thanks so much!! – Aharon Cagle – Creative Director
Hello, Aharon! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my post!
I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to hear that you and Loreful are committed to bringing more inclusivity to not only your games, but company practices as well! I sincerely hope that your efforts will be noted by other companies in the industry and that we can start getting that 45% in a more active role.
I have no doubt that with the quality of people on your team as well as your devotion towards community input (frankly, I’m surprised and flattered you took the time to reply to me, much less read my post) you’ll be successful. Whether it be through sales numbers or the knowledge gained through the process.
Once again, thank you for adding your insider knowledge! I look forward to seeing how Ambrov X develops in the upcoming months.