Battlerite [official site] is getting into the summer spirit (is that a thing?) with a big seasonal patch. The patch brings a new support character - Blossom, the Forest Mender - to the arena brawler along with a new campaign mode, a new game mode, a bunch of new outfits and a host of tweaks and changes. Let's start with a look at the newcomer:
I'll get back to Blossom and character ratios in MOBAs in a sec but to cover off the rest of the patch you should note that it lands on 27 June and will also bring:
- 11 Legendary Outfits which you can get via chests or use tokens to pick them up
- Graphical updates for 10 of the champs with the rest of the roster to follow in future patches
- A reworked quest system with short- and long-term goals
- Account levelling
- Rocket Balloon Brawl (a weekend brawl mode centered around hot air balloon control)
- Campaign mode (which is basically a revamped new player experience/tutorial)
- Arena effects and additions to improve the arena atmosphere
- Season 4: Secrets of the Forest (which is just the new season for reward earning and so on)
Battlerite is something I was dubious about when it first showed up in my inbox because it did so amidst a flurry of "me too!" games in that field but we sent Matt Cox to play it late last year and he said:
"If you've ever enjoyed a teamfight in a MOBA, I can guarantee you'll get a kick out of Battlerite. That's a bold opening statement, but Battlerite distills those clashes into tense, 10 – 15 minute matches where knowledge and reaction speeds are equally vital. Even if you wouldn't touch a MOBA with a ten foot barge pole, this might still be for you."
And now here's why I was interested in how Blossom fit within the larger Battlerite lineup:
Something I try to keep an eye on is the ratios of male and female characters in MOBAs and similar games, as well as the ratios within the different roles. Generally you find more men than women (or more male pronouns than female) in pretty much every category with the women also being less likely to move away from the humanoid forms. Here are the basic breakdowns from when I was pitching my Discworld MOBA idea. God that MOBA is still such a good idea!
It's also worth noting that this obviously tends to apply a binary approach to gender. Very occasionally you get neutral pronouns but they're even fewer in number - Puck in Dota, for example.
In terms of the roles, I'm particularly interested in support character ratios because support has an informal reputation as a role more women play. There was a study fairly recently called Stand By Your Man: An Examination of Gender Disparity in League of Legends which looked at some elements of gender in relation to League of Legends and noted women playing with a romantic partner significantly predicted playing support. Here's a paragraph from the discussion:
"The study also found that the portion of females who play the game with a romantic partner is larger than those who do not, as well as larger than the portion of males who play with romantic partners. These findings are consistent with the girlfriend-gamer stereotype, which helps explain the further findings that females are more likely to play Support than males, especially those who play with romantic partners, suggesting that female players are relegated to play Support, often in support of the male romantic partners who brought them into the game. In other words, female players of League find themselves expected, if not required, to stand by their man."
In case it's of interest, support used to be the only hero category in Overwatch where male and female character pronouns were represented equally. With the addition of Ana it now skews female. Tank roles are balanced out with the addition of Orisa, offence is four male to three female now that Sombra's ARG finally came to an end and defence is the outlier with twice as many male as female - that's cool to note because it feels like Blizzard are interested in adding a variety of options for its players, even nudging into different body types on occasion as they grow their roster.
I took a glance at the current Battlerite lineup (it's still in early access so I'd expect the cast to grow more during that period as well as after release). It shows the following (no neutral pronouns at the mo otherwise I'd have added those in too):
Melee: 5 male, 1 female
Ranged: 4 male, 3 female
Support: 3 male, 3 female
Basically I'm saying all of this to highlight that it's worth keeping an eye on where the female characters in a game get positioned and thinking about why that might be so. Cause and effect is difficult plus gender representation and character design is tied to all manner of concepts and ideas within and outside games. It functions as easy shorthand, plays with tropes, plays into tropes, means different things to different people and plays a part in marketing both of the game and of merchandise and the like.
Blossom caught my eye because she fits the Enchantress/forest creature/nature spirit type so I wanted to see what the devs were up to on that front. I didn't find her look particularly interesting and it also played into the female support stuff. But my browse of the wiki led me to Iva who seems to be a scavenger engineer and I'm thinking of taking her out for a spin!
Battlerite is still in early access so USUAL CAVEATS.