“It’s not like we have a quota”: Long Before Female Custodes Row, Warhammer 40K Game Devs Wanted Better LGBTQ Romance Options

How Inclusive Should Game Devs Be?

warhammer 40k, lgbtq

SUMMARY

  • In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Owlcat Games aimed to create an authentic experience with Rogue Trader.
  • Owlcat's commitment to narrative depth led them to limit player choices to maintain the game's lore and character-driven storytelling.
  • This included restrictions on clothing, weapons, and, notably, romance options.
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Owlcat Games, the creators of Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader, are known for their dedication to creating immersive simulations of life in the 41st millennium. 

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The developers, while trying to stay true to the lore, faced a delicate balance between player freedom and narrative consistency. This often meant limiting certain aspects, including romance options, which disappointed many players seeking more diverse LGBTQ representation.

Owlcat’s Approach to The Romances in Rogue Trader

Owlcat's Approach to The Romances in Rogue Trader
The Community’s Desire for More Diverse Romances in Rogue Trader | Owlcat Games

In an interview with TheGamer, narrative lead Olga Kelner talked about how the team tried to balance their inclusions of multiple romances in the game while maintaining the integrity of the lore. This approach, though necessary, resulted in restricted options, especially for LGBTQ players. 

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It’s not like we have a quota. No, we want to tell a strong story. We found the best possible in a given budget and time frame options to deliver it. And that’s how we ended with the given set of the romances. 

The limitation sparked discussions within the community, with some questioning the portrayal of gay characters, particularly in the case of Marazhai, an alien terrorist, as the sole option for gay male players.

Executive producer Anatoly Shestov defended the team’s decisions, emphasizing their focus on storytelling over demographic representation. 

It’s not about LGBTQ+ options. It’s about the narrative of the whole picture that we envisioned and want to elaborate on. We didn’t see the romances as an option to point out any such ‘aspect’, we see any romance as our way to elaborate on the stories in the most personal way.

He stressed that every romance was a narrative choice, not a checkbox exercise. Shestov also addressed budget and resource constraints, explaining that certain features, like naval combat, took precedence over expanding romance options.

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The Community’s Desire for More Diverse Romances in Rogue Trader

The Community's Desire for More Diverse Romances in Rogue Trader
Owlcat’s Approach to The Romances in Rogue Trader | Owlcat Games

The community’s reaction was mixed, with some players understanding the narrative constraints and budget limitations faced by Owlcat. Others, however, felt that more could have been done to balance the representation, especially given the game’s promise of rich roleplaying opportunities. 

What are the romance options like?
byu/AsparagusTamer inRogueTraderCRPG

People brought up the fact that Owlcat’s previous titles had more inclusive queer options which left many fans asking why Rogue Trader in particular fell short in this regard.

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The regression seen in Rogue Trader has been particularly disheartening for fans who expected similar inclusivity. According to fans, even Baldur’s Gate 3 went above and beyond with its romance options.

The developers’ explanation that budget constraints limited the inclusion of more LGBTQ romances feels like a step backward for many players.

Owlcat's Approach to The Romances in Rogue Trader
The call for diversity and inclusion in romances. | Owlcat Games

On Reddit, some players argue that the game’s emphasis on space naval combat and other immersive features might have taken precedence over expanding romance options. The decision to prioritize these elements over more inclusive storytelling has sparked debates about what players value most in their gaming experiences.

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Ultimately, the controversy surrounding Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader highlights the ongoing struggle within the gaming industry to balance narrative fidelity with the need for diverse representation.

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Written by Daniel Royte

Articles Published: 171

Daniel is a gamer through and through with a passion for gaming in his veins. His current adventures have taken him into the world of Elden Ring, Wuthering Waves, and Genshin Impact, amongst others.