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Niara Offline OP
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This post was originally going to be part of my focus thread on halflings, but as I ran my examinations, I realised that a large percentage of the issues I was going to bring up are endemic to the scene in general, and noting them specifically in relation to halflings would serve no real purpose at the present time.

Instead, I want to examine the scene itself, what it does, or tries to do, what it achieves, and doesn't, and the issues facing it beyond simple model misalignment. I won't talk much about clipping issues here, as the main problems aren't to do with polish at all, but are more underlying to the scene itself.

Needless to say, this post will be very spoiler heavy. It will also contain screenshots and images from the game which may be considered not entirely work-safe. I will undoubtedly use sexual language and sexual terminology as I write.

I am not a fully qualified cinematographer, or a trained film studies student; I know a good deal about many elements of it, but I know there are a few other people on these forums with more training in this field than me; if I get things wrong or mis-speak, or if anyone who actually knows better sees something that should be corrected, please do.

Images here will be quite large, and I apologise for that; I wanted to make sure that the details I wanted to talk about were clear.

A brief synopsis first, before I break it down in more detail: There are two versions of Minthara's scene; the standard one, where Minthara is pitched as a Dom, and the scene heavily implies that it will be D/s in nature, and an alternate one which you can take if you attempt to engage in some sort of strange dom-test with her and 'win'. In reality, it would ultimately be a mistake to call these a 'Dom scene' and a 'sub scene', because in reality that is not what they come out as, even if that was the pitch.

The standard scene plays its first half the same, regardless of your character's race and sex; the second half plays differently for males and females. In this version of the scene, she talks the talk of wanting this to be a D/s intimacy session, but it turns out to be some extremely vanilla material that actually follows most of the traditional pornography tropes, in the worst made-for-males-by-males style, and contains no D/s elements at all.

The second half branches for males and females, but continues to follow extremely traditional pornography tropes, with vanilla content in shot-for-pornography style. There is no D/s element to any of this – especially not with Minthara as the supposed Dom; so why characterise it that way?

The alternate scene, when you (rather than having a sensible conversation about what you want your bedroom play to be) try to out-Dom her and 'win', follows the same pattern of being the same for males and females in the first half, and then branching into different endings For males, it starts with some kissing, follows with a slew of extreme face close-ups that fail to communicate anything about the scene to us, and then some different shots of it missionary sex, shot in somewhat conflicting styles. For females, there is some kissing, some more extreme face close-ups that leave the scene and pose unreadable, and then a couple of varieties of one-sided manual stimulation.

The scenes have a music overlay, but are otherwise silent; there are no sounds from either actor in the scene, and no further dialogue or communication of any sort during the intimacy.

So, at this point, I have to stop to ask: what is it that the design team are trying to do here? What is it that they want to create?

There are a few possibilities...

They could be trying to create a romantic moment. We basically have to strike this one from the outset. There's no romance here, and there never was. This is a battle-fuck, but which I mean, it's the kind of physical hook up spurred primarily by the mix of emotions, adrenaline and brain chemicals that come as a result of a high tension and a dangerous situation resolving in success or victory. People who nearly died, or fought for their lives, or are about to – the eve before battle, and the exhausted night after – see this kind of activity. They haven't set up any romance and it's not meant to be.

A romantic scene tends to involve long cuts, slow pans, emphasis on softness and form, and when it uses close-up shots, it's focused on the interactions between the lovers together (such as kissing), not individual face close-ups in isolation. Romantic scenes tend to upsell the musical overlay, with little to no audio from the actors, though communication can still be a regular occurrence. The scene tries to use a couple of these elements occasionally, but without really selling them as part of a scene – they exist in amongst other entirely jarring tropes. If it were meant to be a romantic event, it most certainly wouldn't be shot and choreographed like a porn film – and make no mistake, these scenes are.

Instead, they could be aiming for an erotic encounter. This is most likely what they were aiming for... though they certainly do not hit this mark. An erotic encounter would be shot so that we can get a good idea of what is happening, and the focus would be on the form and the motion and the emotion and the passion of the event, without being crude or bluntly overt in what it shows, or how it shows it. Pacing is most important in this kind of scene; the cuts and pans should complement a building sense of pace for the scene. Extreme close-ups should be few, but those that are in should exist to show the extremes of passion or emotion; any face close-up needs to be very clear about why it's there; it's a time for extreme expressions, used sparingly. These scenes sell themselves on the emotion of the actors; they move more eagerly and desperately, and any musical overlay is a background thing, behind the actual audio from the actors, which is necessary to really sell the passion of the scene. People communicate during passionate sex. Not everyone talks a lot, but people communicate; we say a lot with our gasps, groans or moans, even if we're not up to forming words. They're an important part of an intimate erotic moment.

This scene fails to achieve this in both directions; it spends a long time being very unclear about what is happening, focusing on extreme face close-ups that are more or less meaningless when they are delivered in silence with fairly flat facial expressions... and then it flip-flops to crude and tacky overt shots that belong in porn films instead. The cuts are often too rapid and jumpy to convey proper sensation as well, and the pacing of the scene is flat and uniform all the way through, with no sense of build. In short, there is no passion in this scene.

Finally, they could be straight up shooting adult content; an overtly pornographic scene intended to show, rather than tease. This is very close to what they've actually achieved here... but they haven't done it well. It probably wasn't what they were aiming for, but it's where they've landed. This type of scene tends to follow as series of golden rules established in the adult entertainment industry, full of poses and shots that aren't necessarily practical, but are designed to be filmed on camera and to give a good view of the action; made always with the knowledge in mind that they are being created for the consumption of a (presumed to be predominately heterosexual male) viewing audience. Shots and cuts tend to focus on one actor at time, rather than the interactions between them. Pacing is generally not considered to matter too much in such scenes, because the focus is always on drawing the attention to the individual thing that is going on in each part of the scene, one after another and more or less in isolation to each other. There is rarely any kind of communication between the actors in such scenes, as a result of them both being, well, actors – following pre-choreographed roles. If they talk, they are talking so the viewing audience can hear, not to each other. Music is either the overbearing presence that covers all other sound, or it is not present at all, no in-between, usually.

The scene hits many of these notes very pointedly, but it does so amongst all of the bits and pieces that do not belong in this kind of a scene and which detract from it as a result. We get occasional slow pans over partially obscured visuals, we have fast cuts that overtly show adult activity in an obvious way that should be giving a clear view of people's genitals (but they don't have them, which shatters any immersion or investment in the scene each time it happens; if you're shooting an adult content scene in this overt style, your models need to be physically complete; it's essential for this style), we have the adult content sections cut up with multiple extreme face close-ups that don't add anything to the scene at all, and only serve to break up our ability to engage; we have elements from each of these different types of scenes thrown together seemingly without any understanding of composition or flow.

In short, the scene designers don't seem to know quite what note they're aiming to hit with these scenes. The first thing that Larian needs to do, really firmly, is to decide once and for all exactly what sort of a scene they want to make; are they making this like an adult game? If so (That's fine! It's already going to pass that rating bar so there's no harm in going all the way with this), then they need to design and shoot this scene with that in mind; make the models complete, so that when we catch occasional glimpses of the groin regions, we aren't yanked out of our scene immersion by barbie-doll blanks.

If they aren't wanting to go that far, and they intend to shoot something erotic and appealing, but not pornographic, then they need to seriously consider revising the actual choreography of the scene itself. In particular... I feel like it's visibly obvious that these scene were written by males, for males. Especially for the female to female scene (both Minthara and any future ones), I would plead most heavily that Larian take some time to consult with some women who sleep with women; it seems clear that they haven't done so at this stage, and they need to. I'd hazard a guess, though I've not managed to check yet, that the same will be true for the male on male scenes. I was going to check those as well, but right now it seems as though Astarion's scene is not playing...

So, that's the overview. In the following posts I'll start breaking it down for honest critique.

Last edited by Niara; 13/01/21 03:58 AM.
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First up, the primary scene.

The introduction has some dialogue options you can explore, but once you comply, your character will perch on the altar and Minthara will step in closer and put her arms about you. So far so good in terms of atmosphere and pacing...

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

For all but human males, the lighting ends up being very bad in the lead in dialogues – and as much as the camera does drop down to halfling height for them, the lighting hasn't been adjusted. It's worth noting here that for small-sized characters, the dialogue that leads towards your option to counter-dom her has Minthara reach out and brush your cheek. This makes sense on human-sized characters, but there is no indication that she has bent or knelt down at all for smaller characters, and what we can see of her body and arm position, as well as her stance before and after, makes it quite clear she didn't. That needs to be addressed.

For all characters, regardless of sex or body size, choosing to obey Minthara often causes the characters to walk through the altar entirely. Occasionally it gets this right – even for halflings who hoist themselves up in a believable way, when it plays correctly – but the vast majority of the time, the clipping shown is what you get. This does seem to bear some relation to whether and when you press space to jump forward, though I've had instances of it playing properly with skipping, and instances of clipping when waiting the dialogue and animations out fully (this is a greater problem throughout the whole game; once they fix it, they will hopefully fix it universally).

After this, another strange anomaly; Minthara will step in close (again... presumably she backed off at some point), and place her arms about your shoulders. For human-sized females, this lines up properly and well. For human-sized males, it clips very badly, and for small-sized characters it mostly lines up (though again, the angles are not indicative of our expected height), but as a result of the camera angles, ends up in a completely obscured shot that is very bad to look at.

Then, when the dialogue line changes, the camera cuts to what is effectively the exact same shot at a marginally different angle, and Minthara... puts her arms about your shoulders again. She never took them away, but now she's putting them back again, somehow. I don't know whether this is a failing in design, a failing in cinematography continuity, or whatever else – either way it's obvious and bad to see. Her dialogue is also very stilted here... it feels like the VA was reading cue cards with four words on them each, and it doesn't feel like a natural lingering or hesitation.

I'd like to comment, also, that the dialogue choice here is out of place: we've just had a dialogue where we had some options to try something different, to leave the scene, or to let her lead for us... and having chosen that, it now presents us with another dialogue option to either leave the scene, or continue with it... what purpose did this prompt serve? This seems like a place where they had meant to give us more options for directing the scene perhaps. Maybe we should hope that they're just not in yet? As it is it's distracting and without function.

Regardless, this opening intro sequence is posed and pitched either like an outwardly romantic scene, or else as the lead in to a passionate or erotic scene. The camera shots have been a scattering between mid range shots, and close shots to show multiple people at head-and-shoulders distance.

After this point, the standard 'scene' begins properly. The game swaps out our character models for the 'nude' versions of them. The first section of the standard scene is identical for everyone, regardless of sex: it starts with a close shot of the midsection of both bodies.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

This is actually a good shot; it fits in well as an opening shot to the scene, no matter what direction it's intending to go; it's erotic, but it's mostly tasteful. It's clearly shot to give the viewer a nice glimpse of Minthara's breasts from the side, and to give a better view of our character's breasts if we're female, but it's a wide enough shot to imply sensuality, especially with the mild slow pan that it uses.

The main move here is for Minthara to take the lead from the embrace, pushing us to some one-sided heavy petting. The hand clipping is a bit bad regardless of your character.

The actual mechanics of the pose are a bit odd here – it's shot like both characters are standing up; our character is clearly not sitting on anything now, despite that being the pose we were actively put into previously. If we're standing again now, then what was the purpose of Minthara sitting us down in the initial intro (aside from the fact that she told us to lie down and we only sit)?

An issue is visible insofar as it's clear we're standing up, but our small-sized character is still level with the shot; it breaks the scene in making no sense for the position. The other part of that is that the elevated position brings a halfling's groin into view on the show, and it becomes visible that our character model has nothing between their legs; In this particular shot, you can *almost* get away with it for female characters, though not really... but you certainly can't get away with it for males. It immediately kills any engagement in the scene to see.

I'd also like to take this particular moment to take note of something else that's been bugging me; halflings have exceptionally detailed knees and elbows, in their model art. Overly detailed compared to the rest of the model, in fact – there are a lot of lines and skin stretch details there... and it becomes just... not so pleasant to notice, when the rest of the model don't have that degree of detail. In particular, human-sized models do not have that degree of detail; int eh drawn sense, they mostly only have some slight contouring detail on the model art, little else. It works for the models to be detail light there – so why have they given halflings such gratuitously over-detailed knees and elbows?

After this, the camera cuts, to show an extreme face close-up. This is the start of a recurring problem with their scene direction. These extreme face close-ups are something that Larian seems to be in love with at the moment, and it is not doing them any favours, anywhere. The face scans they use are highly detailed, and they clearly want to show them off – that's great, however, they're not achieving whatever they're hoping to by doing this. Extreme close-ups are meant to show peaks of emotion or tension, and it is the detail of that extreme of emotive expression that sells them. The faces we have are exquisitely detailed... but they are also extremely wooden. These are flat, bland, empty, plastic expressions that try to show a facsimile of an emotion or a feeling by moving the mouth in certain ways, but that's more or less it. This shot is meant to show us Minthara apparently enjoying our touch; it's got the right elements of that, in some ways – head back, eyes closed, something or other going on with the mouth, I suppose... but the overall animation and expression is flat. Her face looks 80% the same as it always does; there's no extreme of expression here, at all... and if there's no extreme of expression, then why is there an extreme close-up that obscures everything else but itself?

It's also silent. Completely silent. With the move to overt petting and hand-genital stimulation, we've moved the scene away from any suggestion that it's intended to be purely romantic. If it's meant to be sexy and erotic, however, music overlaying complete actor-silence is the worst possible choice they could make, in that case. Passion and eroticism is only communicated partially by visual; motion and sound are both important factors, and to a certain extant arguably more important than the raw visual in communicating passion and eroticism at least. Coupled with the plastic expressions, this is winding up to look and feel like a couple of dolls clacking together, and is liable to be equally unerotic, unsatisfying, and generally uninteresting to watch or engage with.

If it's being intended not as a somewhat tasteful passionate/erotic scene, however, and wants to be a full adult ero-game sex scene, then their focus on visuals fits – but the frequent cuts to extreme face close-ups doesn't add to that goal – it detracts from it, and more to the point, we already dashed any idea of that working when our attention was drawn to the fact that the models weren't 'complete' at groin level. If we're going for ero-game sex scenes, then we've checked the first box in the the 'for pornography' bible – “scene beginning with heavy petting of a/the focus female”.

The camera cuts again; this is the fifth or six camera cut in under ten seconds. How are we meant to engage with anything that is going on when the camera is hard-cutting every two to three seconds? Especially when the character poses often change in between those cuts, as it does here. There is no type of intimate scene – whether romantic, tasteful, passionate or pornographic, that is well served by such a rapid string of camera cuts. This is only bad for the scene.

This cut is to the absolutely traditional 'push her head down' transition to blow job. This is a porn trope. This is a declaration that you are intending to make full-blown adult content. It's also the second check mark in the golden rule of porn choreography.

Transitioning into “woman gives man blowjob on her knees” is the absolute strongest staple of modern vanilla porn. As is putting oral sex at this point in the scene. It also makes beyond zero sense for a scene that started out suggesting that it was going to have D/s elements, with the female placing herself in the Dom's role. Again, there is no communication between the actors here whatsoever – no sounds, no words, mildly amused but mostly only passingly interested plastic facial expressions. This feels like it is all and only about the visual; another staple of traditional made-for-males-by-males porn (which I don't mean to criticism necessarily, but that's what this is now appearing to be, very clearly and obviously, and considering what was promised in the intro, many will find that off-putting).

It's worth mentioning here, that this blowjob cut – the scene of Minthara giving your character a blowjob on her knees, with your character holding one hand on top of her head, which occurs during the default “Minthara is a Dom” scene, is the Longest Single Uninterrupted Cut in the entire sex scene. It is more than two seconds longer than any other cut. Why? It does not even belong in this scene, let alone having pride of place as the longest uninterrupted cut.

The blowjob cut plays for everyone, regardless of character size or sex; this is also a problem. For the human-sized male, the shot takes place mostly from behind Minthara's head, and obscures the theoretical details... however, as it moves to the next scene, with the characters moving up onto the altar properly, we have a clear broad cut of the sitting male and Minthara's head – and the painfully obvious lack of male anatomy in centre screen... Minthara has obviously decided that the character is aroused enough to move onto phase two... but the only possible way that that shot would not be showing off his erection would be if he was not, in fact, aroused at all. Neither answer – that it should be there but isn't, or that it's still asleep after all that – is an acceptable answer.

The shot plays out the same way for female characters; for human-sized females it looks silly. The position and the angle of Minthara's head, relative to what we can see of the player character's hips and groin, are still those of giving oral to someone with a penis. There is no possible way that this could be construed as giving oral service to someone with a vagina – and anyone in the regular practice of doing so can see that very clearly – Minthara is nowhere near anything fun. The shot removes any possibility of imagining it as such. For small-sized females, the shot remains unchanged, and so it lines up even more poorly and makes even less sense; there's little need to comment here other than to reference the screenshot.

At the end of the blowjob, there's something I'd like to point out. For male characters, the camera cuts to a side shot of Minthara finishing her oral servicing of the male, and looking up at him from her knees. This is another archetypal porn shot – it's sometimes called a 'good-girl shot', especially with the hand on the top of her head like that. It's another check mark on the golden list for that kind of scene. What's interesting to point out here is that only male characters get this shot. For female characters, small and human-sized alike, the timing of the camera cut and the animations is deliberately shifted by about a second, with the female player characters putting their leg up on Minthara's shoulder before the cut takes place, subverting the shot. I've double and triple checked this a half dozen ways and it is no coincidence – though the animations are the same up to this point, the cutting has been deliberately tweaked to give males that traditional porn shot after their traditional porn blow job, while it is deliberately avoided for female characters. Why?

I'm going to point it out here as well – our female characters look like they're in pain, or else deeply confused, throughout the blowjob scene. Of an irony, it is arguably, the most expressive our female character's face is throughout the entire scene.

In terms of choreography and transitions, this end of the blow job scene, in to something else also just doesn't work; in silence, and with no communication between the actors, our player character decides, while getting oral, to just slap their leg up on top of Minthara's shoulder... for a male to do this, it would only really serve to make the position more awkward for the woman, and it leaves a big 'why' hanging in the air. A female could be attempting to draw their partner in closer from the invisible penis hover in to something more useful, but that would require taking that invisible penis hover as an actual thing... also, just one lazily thrown over knee – and it is a lazily done motion – isn't really indicative of increased passion or a strong desire for more. The move just makes very little sense, except in the case where both actors are already aware of what poses they're moving through to next, in advance, and are going through those motions, like adult actors... which is, as result, what it ends up feeling and looking like.

Up to this point, we've had a lot of rapid camera cuts, a number of extreme face close-ups on faces that look only mildly interested I what's going on, and a few changes of position, but despite the number of cuts, actual character motion from pose to pose is often not well communicated and creates another note of background dissonance in the sequence. The progression is: Mini tells us to lie down → we sit → there is some close embracing → cut to us both standing again → some petting → cut to us sitting again with no indication of movement, Minthara is at the very least already crouching somewhat, before she is depicted moving to kneel. This just doesn't flow well.

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This is the point at which male and female characters actually divert in their scene choreography, as Minthara flips our character up into a lying position on the altar.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

For male characters, the scene progresses with Minthara jumping up onto the altar with us, then flipping around to adopt a reverse cowgirl position for what we can presume is penetrative intercourse of some variety. After a few rapid-fire camera cuts of different angles, Minthara flips around to facing cowgirl, and the scene ends with a long shot of her continuing to ride us in between kisses (or possibly the female drown beginning to devour her mate... it's unclear).

Throughout this latter part of the scene, the male actor moves more or less like a crash-test dummy; like an afterthought to the scene. It's clear the scene designer(s) was(were) focused almost exclusively on Minthara and didn't have a great deal of interest in the male participating in the scene; this is another hallmark of for-porn scene shooting.

As for the cut itself; the knee-on-shoulder shot that this last part of the scene branches out of is just bad – a large portion of the cut is just your leg covering Minthara's face, and more of that uncomfortably obvious missing penis.

When she hops up on the altar with us Minthara faces the camera partially with her knees spread, and we can very clearly see that she's got nothing between her legs – it's smooth all the way around, and we can see that (my particular screenshot had a moment of bad lighting, so it's not as clear as in other moments of the same sequence). It doesn't matter what the scene attempts to do; it cannot succeed in any way if it both contains “barbie dolls clacking together”, and also shows us that it is; either don't show us the genitals at all, ever, and give up on choreographing as overt adult content (which would require the vast majority of this being ripped out and re-done from the top), or accept that you're making adult content here and put those details into the models properly - so that when we do have small teasing glimpses here and there scattered through the scene, it doesn't immediately kill any hope of engagement with the scene.

The same issue is present in the following long shot as well; Minthara is moving up and down on empty air – there's clearly no penis there. We could reason the other way and suppose that the theoretical penis is lower down – perhaps I'm misreading the location of our character's hips – but if that were the case, and the penis would be conveniently obscured by leg and thigh, well, that's just not feasible either; if it were the intended case, then there would be no way that Minthara is achieving comfortable penetration where she's positioned right now; no matter how forward-set we imagine her vagina might be (and we're already having to imagine that it's exceptionally backward set to account for the smooth front shots), there's no way a penis that is low enough to be hidden by her leg is going in.

Overall this kind of long shot works well for teasingly erotic sequences, but not for overtly pornographic or adult content ones. It can be shot in a way that artfully excludes the genitals without being particularly noticeable that you're doing so, if you're clever with it. This shot tries hard to do that, and aside from the invisible penis and/or poor alignment, it doesn't look bad as a shot... but the missing-yet-obviously-visible genitals kill it completely.

The next three shots happen in fairly quick succession, only a couple of seconds apart each. The camera angles are... odd. Yes we can work out what we're being show, but it's not a smooth angle or a clear composition. A large percentage of the first shot is blocked out by the back of our character's head and neck (which, why can we see that at all if he's lying flat on the altar?), and we can only see a tiny fraction of the character that the camera is trying to give focus to. Minthara moves in a slow gyration, but it doesn't communicate well from this angle. She's also looking back, towards the camera, but even though we can get that impression, we can't see her face properly – if she's looking towards us, we should see the face properly. This shot would work better if it was an erotic shot of Minthara's back as she rides, from over the shoulder of our character; you could also give the male character something to DO in the process – let him caress her hips, or run his fingers down her back, for example – something that suggests actual interaction and communication between the actors, rather than dolls going through poses.

After that, we flick around to look at the male character. He looks like he's trying to get a pebble our of his shoe.... and also, we notice, is elevated up off the altar – presumably from where we just stuffed a camera underneath him in the last shot. Once again, though, in terms of lighting and composition, the actual camera focus of this shot is Minthara's shoulder and breast, which moves in the most eye-drawing gyration compared to anything else in the shot, while the male is mostly still and making that bemused expression.

The third comes 'back' to Minthara, again drawing the attention to her near breast, while she hides her face from the camera. The angles used here are a little off-putting to me, because it comes off, between the fast cuts, as though the characters (primarily Minthara) are twisted and reposed into slightly different angles to suit the shot, while the scene pretends that it's a continuous take. This may not be an entirely fair criticism, however, as it's only an impression that I personally get.

The scene finishes off with another long shot, as Minthara flips around again into facing cowgirl – it does actually communicate this transition in a more or less artful way, compared to some other cuts and changes.

The wooden performance from our male actor doesn't help much, unfortunately, but the major issue in the closing shots is the same one plaguing other parts of the scene; Minthara keeps moving throughout – obviously the penetrative sex is still implied to be continuing – but her motions bring her behind up and down over clear empty space, and it's far too visible that she's moving on nothing at all... (or, as before, same possibility, the imaginary penis is supposed to be obscured, in which case it's in a position that it can't possibly be going in at all).

There's no pacing in this scene. There rhythm is entirely flat and uniform all the way through, with no build and no peak – a dramatic face close-up of a moderately flat facial expression doesn't cut it. The characters move at more or less the same pace whenever they are shown, with little to no variance, and the focus seems to be primarily on the mechanics of what pose they're doing, rather than anything to communicate actual eroticism. Usually it's one actor doing one thing at a time, with the focus being on that, while the other is a passive facilitator. I'm not convinced anyone had a good time here, and I don't believe anyone got off, even if they claim to have.

That's it for the male side of this branch; I haven't gotten a male halfling up to this point yet, unfortunately. So much of my time goes into bringing up alternate files that I'm falling behind on other things I meant to do (What I wouldn't give for a dev tool to test things like this more thoroughly and rapidly...)

Last edited by Niara; 06/05/21 02:53 PM.
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For female characters, the scene plays differently after the leg hook. Minthara scoots us up onto the altar, then climbs over as well, for what transitions into a 69 scene. The transition here is odd, because Minthara climbing over us doesn't line up well with where she was in the previous cut – she is at our legs, below the knees, looking forward to us, but when it cuts, she moves almost like she's diving forward to flip her leg around, from somewhere near our head. The movement makes no sense – she'd have to slide forward about four feet, turn around, and then flip her leg over.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Worth noting that for halfling females, the issue with our rock hard physic-less, gratuitously pointy breasts comes to full foreground view – the camera gives us a lovely frame shot of our character lying on the altar, obscured by it so that all you can see is that jagged spire of pointy breast standing up like a flag pole. I'll articulate this point further down, but here is one of the worst and most visible spots to point it out.

These two cuts are shot deliberately to give us a full frontal view of Minthara's exposed groin, with her knees apart... and yet, all it achieves as a result is to push in our faces again the fact that the models have no fun bits; if we don't see this, we can imagine that they are complete people doing fun things – if we are shown that they aren't, that breaks the scene

The next shot is a positioning shot – there's nothing wrong with it per se, except that it doesn't have a place in a romantic scene, and it also doesn't have much of a place in a pure adult-content, pornographic scene, but it's too flat and emotionless to work in an erotic or passionate scene. A romantic scene doesn't use this kind of shot, or it uses it in conjunction with a full pan movement to illustrate closeness and intimacy that is occurring as they move. A pornographic scene doesn't take the time out to show a back and face shot like this without there being obvious action or a point of overt sexuality to focus on, because it clutters the scene progression.

There's a positioning continuity break here too – Minthara looks back over her shoulder at the camera as she settles – but she cannot be looking at her sexual partner in doing so, not if her groin is positioned over the other woman's face, as is implied. She's just looking off to the side and grinning in a mildly amused and mostly dispassionate way. After she bends down, the camera cuts again – the fourth cut in about seven seconds, and far too frequent.

This cut is to our character's face; this is, we can presume, supposed to be showcasing our character's reaction as Minthara begins going to town on us, supposedly... but it doesn't really look like the face of a woman getting oral to me, if I'm completely honest.

We get another cut after a second or two, this time to a top-down shot of the now more overtly displayed 69 position. Or at least, it's meant to be one. On human-sized females, Minthara is nowhere near our fun places – she is definitely not giving a woman oral from that position, although if our character were male she might be imagined to be sucking a penis comfortably. On a halfling female she's looking down at our knee.

Our character is the passive assistant in this shot – part way through we raise our head to reciprocate, but the rest of the body language is non-existent; the player female is a crash dummy below the neck, with her hands just lying there and doing nothing. She's not the focus of this scene, so she's forgotten about. The focus of this shot is Minthara getting eaten, or something approaching that; nothing else has been given very much consideration.

This type of 69 pose is the one classically used in pornography because it allows a variety of camera shots from different angles that can get at the 'good stuff'. It's not really an ideal pose otherwise, especially for two women. For most female-female pairs (and I don't want to make bold absolute claims because people are different... but generally...), a side-lying position will be more comfortable and easier to access properly for both parties.

We could suppose, given that the shot means that Minthara can't really be servicing our character, that this is intended to just be Minthara getting service from our character... but if that's the case, the earlier shot of our character's face is rendered completely without meaning or purpose in the scene. I'd also point out that if the intention was for Minthara to be receiving alone, and she's supposed to be the dominant partner, then she should really just be sitting up, giving the servicing female better access to caress her hips and thighs, her middle or even up to her breasts, potentially.

There isn't much else to say for the female branch, because there's actually not a lot to it: This entire sequence, from the moment Minthara mounts up on our character, to the end of the scene, gets less screen time overall than the earlier blowjob did. Why?

That's the break down, for the standard scenes. Leading up to these scenes, Minthara is set up as a Dom, and the scene is presented to us as though it is going to contain D/s elements. It doesn't. It is entirely vanilla in all the most tasteless ways (I have nothing against vanilla sex and sexual encounters and I enjoy the simple things as much as anyone, but it wasn't what was promised here). It's scripted, choreographed and shot like a porn film, but uses extra shots, cuts and angles as though it wants to be something else too, and ends up undermining itself at every step, no matter what it's actually trying.

In this scene, Minthara is anything but dominant – the longest shot in the scene is of her giving your character a blowjob on her knees while you hold a hand on top of her head. Please, just read that sentence twice.

For males, the sex is a very plain reverse cowgirl, which, despite having the female physically above the male, is not an innately dominant position... it's just pretty normal.... and it transitions delightfully well into a number of distinctly female-submissive poses almost naturally... The writing transitioned it into facing cowgirl, not upright, but rather interspersed with kissing and face-touching – this is also in no way dominant posing or behaviour; this is the sort of position that conveys romance and intimacy more than anything else, which are not what this whole Minthara sequence is set up to be about.

For females, we get the extreme short end of the stick, no pun intended. A brief 'for-porn' 69 shot, and really just nothing else. If Minthara was face-sitting us more clearly, then she could be construed as acting dominant, but that's a big if, considering the pose she's in.

The basic contention here is that the writing should not promise one thing and then deliver another; if you're promising a D/s encounter, then make sure that that is what you deliver. If you don't intend to actually deliver that, then don't promise it.

To the designers of this sequence (and future sequences):

Please, decide what sort of a scene you're making, and stick to it.

Please, please, do some consulting on this type of material and don't just look at a few pornos and wing it. If you're going to promise D/s content, then provide it, and make sure you've actually done your homework in writing and presenting it – if you want us to engage with the content, it need to be done well.

Please, please, please, consult with some women who sleep with women, and some men who sleep with men on the writing and choreography of scenes that involve those pairings. Get some people who know this and who understand it, and don't just guess at what traditional adult media says it's like... it's usually very misguided.

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That's it for the standard scenes. The alternate scenes are also different for males and females, but once again starts out using the same first half for both. I only have Dia's screenshots to hand for females, unfortunately – the character I brought up was not able to pass the roll (it's a DC20, and she has a negative modifier), a fact I realised too late.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

As with the standard scene, the first half of the alternate scene starts off the same for males and females alike, then diverges in the second half, and much of what I would say about this scene would run the risk of sounding like I'm repeating myself more than I already am (confused choices of what to shoot with your camera angles, over-use of face close-ups without cause, ill-suited choices for sound direction, or the lack thereof). I will note that small-sized females have a unique little hop-up animation where we jump up onto Minthara's lap, which I think is neat... if it didn't clip badly. I'd not mention the clipping in this discussion except for the fact that I'd want to expect any animations and poses that were deliberately made for small characters to actually line up for them too...

This scene's first half is a series of rapid cuts between the faces of our two participants, but as before, their expressions aren't emotive enough tow arrant close-ups that obscure the rest of the scene and don't revel to us what is happening – the males have that 'quietly content' look of being only passingly invested in the situation while the females look mostly 'thoughtful' more than anything else. Minthara looks 'patiently confused', leading into 'content'; these are not the kinds of emotions that warrant close-ups of this nature, and close-ups like this, switching back and forth every couple of seconds, multiple times, and first up after a major transition, without giving any indication of the greater scene are just disorienting and making it harder for viewers to engage in the scene.

Here, we've just had a major scene change, but it's obvious we're not in the same situation as when we faded out before – yet we cannot tell what the situation actually is while it's doing these face cuts, and we don't know. If we had an establishing shot of the new scene before this, that would help, but that wouldn't make the slew of rapid face cuts any more appropriate.

One of these shots in the first half does have a better emotive flavour, true enough; I'll grant to be worth the mid-range close-up it's shot as. The shot is, on males, what looks like is supposed to be the “putting it in” moment. They do it on females too, though, where the direction of the motion and the arching doesn't make any sense. I can't say too much more about this first half of the scene, unfortunately – I can't because that's all it is; a series of ungrounded, untethered face close-ups, one after another between the two characters... If this were meant to show or imply romantic emotion, it should not be individual mug shots without much in the way of character interaction – the one or two cheek-brushes with hands that exist Do help in that regard, if that's what they're going for, but without the scene being properly established, and without more direct interaction being made clear, they don't manage to do much.

If they're shooting for emotionally intense, intimate or passionate scenes, this just doesn't cut it in any way; a sedate, uniform rhythm, calm to bland expressions, and no focus on anything but faces in direct cuts; nothing to really suggest or communicate passion or intimacy here. We'd need an establishing shot first, for that kind of atmosphere, and the focus would be better off to include the shape and form of the bodies, as the focal point; panning shots work better for this, both for physically passionate scenes, and for emotionally romantic ones. Close-ups of faces should realistically only be for extremes of emotion or experience, or in order to show closeness of the characters – that is, them being together (such as for kissing or nuzzling), not in isolated shots.

If they're making an adult scene, intended to be overt and as you might find in an adult ero-game, then, yes, That is the environment in which you would use more static cut shots to display your scene... but not all of these face close-ups, because that's not where the focus is intended to be for that kind of a scene; faces are secondary, except where they are directly involved in the action, for full adult scenes.

After the 'putting it in' shot, and one more cut between the character faces, the scene diverges for males and females. For males, it continues on in a way that does indeed seem to flow from the first half – he just put it in, and now we cut to broader and more overt shots that display missionary sex.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The lighting in these scenes has been sketchy before now, but here it shows up as extremely erratic, to a very off-putting extent. We have cuts that are brightly fire-lit, that overbear the background disproportionately, followed by scenes in such complete darkness that it's hard to really see what's going on sometimes, followed by shots that are flood-lit to an almost unnatural-seeming extent.

The scene continues to use static shots here, as you might expect in adult filming rather than romantic or erotic direction, but the shots they choose don't match with that direction very well. For some, it's not too bad – the mid range shots, where we get a good idea that it is, in fact, missionary sex that is happening, don't suffer for being static shots, and they can fit into both adult scene shooting and erotic/passionate style scenes as well.

The second longer shot is set up to put the focus on the male actor, and more or less completely obscures Minthara – again it creates the sense of one person doing one thing at a time, rather than two people having sex together. The other problem with this shot is the old genital problem – the shot is shot overtly enough that we can tell that our male has nothing going on in his groin, and that's pretty bad news for the scene. I don't really feel that the motions we see line up well with the implied thrusting of the sex, either... the angles strike my senses as wrong, or at least very uncomfortable for ongoing penetration. That may be personal bias, granted, but the 'patiently uncomfortable' expression that Minthara has in the shot directly preceding this one seems like she might agree with me... The long shot at the end is another victim of the invisible genitals problem – only partially mitigated by the distance of the shot.

The close ups we have on Minthara are discordant and jarring, because they are functionally the same angle shot, but one is cast entirely in darkness while the other of extremely over-lit. The second shot spends almost the entirety of its two second cut with Minthara's arm obscuring her face, so we can't actually see much of anything in the shot itself.

Other details to point out here; Just how long is that man's arm? He's shown to have his hand down on the altar slab for support, but is also in an upright kneeling position; there is no way his hand reaches that far... and you can see the distension occurring in the first full missionary shot. Also, holy hell are male elves really that carrot-shaped in the torso? Those shoulders to those hips looks quite... overdone.

I want to say again – this alternate scene proposed itself as an inversion of the default, and thus set itself up with a strong implication of player character being dominant in the scene... but this is just some pretty stock-standard missionary sex, and isn't really a male-dominant activity. It comes off as fairly plain, compared to what was being suggested. The same issues also apply for the scene's pacing and rhythm – it's uniform all the way through with no build up or peak. The scene goes nowhere, and by the end it seems unlikely that anyone finished, or even had an overly good time. The actors look less like they're having sex with each other, and more like they are actors going through the motions of doing so – from the mild and passive expressions to the actions that attend to just specifically the necessary details for the pose and little else. As previously, there's a blend of elements and choices from too many different styles that don't agree with each other here, and they really need to decide what type of scene they're actually shooting.

For female player characters, the scene branches just after the 'putting it in' shot; we last saw her acting like she was thrusting something into her partner, and that doing so felt good – same as for males. Even if you suppose that the pre-divergeance shot was implying stimulation or grinding of some sort, the motion and angles don't make any sense for what we see. Regardless, here, we move into a shot that shows the characters moving into a new position, and we do actually see them together as two people acting at the same time. It's a rarity, and it's a shame that it only comes up here, where the action is both characters doing a slightly awkward-looking shift around, rather than anything active.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Now, remember as we move forward, this scene is the one where our character has taken a supposedly dominant role, and should be leading the scene... Instead, the scene progress to a single-action, one person (Minthara) manually stimulating the other with a reach-over hand, after which Minthara climbs on top of us, into a poses that is high up on her knees, and continues to have her hand somewhere between out legs, while we make various facial expressions at the camera and otherwise do nothing at all. That's not taking a dominant role. It's the exact opposite.

The first shot, of the characters moving, is too close in to really serve much purpose; we can sort of tell what they're doing, if we try, but it's not really clear without really trying to work it out, which is bad for the scene. A longer shot that panned somewhat while this shift took place would better communicate closeness or intimacy, if that was the aim; here we just see half of two faces wobbling about, mostly.

The second shot, the reach-over, is set up to be tastefully implying what happens, but it's kind of thrown off by the large indistinct blobs of flesh or flesh-like matter taking up the top part of the shot. I had to really look at it several times to work out what I was seeing there. It's Dia's elbow - her hand is curled up back over her shoulder. You could read that as an implication that they're holding hands over the shoulder while this is going on – if that is the intent, that's something that it would be great to actually see clearly as part of another shot; it's so obscured here that I can't tell if that is the intention or not, and it's a missed opportunity.

As this activity is happening, the camera shifts to our face – where we're looking not at Minthara, but staring blankly out towards the camera, and looking... I don't know... worried? Puzzled? Mildly surprised? Confused? The expression is just too flat to read. It changes to a smile, and we look at Minthara, as though we've just realised what she's doing several seconds later... and we're... I suppose, pleasantly content, maybe happy and relieved, that it's not actually a spider crawling up our thigh? Certainly not an expression of someone enjoying good stimulation.

Then Minthara climbs on top – all we can really see is a breast, which is the lighting and shooting focus of the shot, and part of Minthara's back. This isn't even a 'for porn' thing... this is just a 'Why?' The camera cuts again, using these same two or three second static cuts, to Minthara on top of us. This is the same bad angle they use in one of the default scenes – we can't really take in the shot because it's too close up and a large part of it is taken up by our character's back of head or shoulder. The lighting is poorly managed, but the intended focus seems to be Minthara moving above us. Even so, we can't actually see all of her face; it's cut off for most of the shot, but, if her face is not meant to be the primary focus, then what is? There's nothing else in the shot that it could be.

Minthara moves with a rocking rhythm in this shot... but she doesn't seem to be doing anything that warrants that action. When the scene cuts out to a long shot, a moment later, we can see that rather than lying on top of us, Minthara is up high, on her knees, with an elevated posture, and is seemingly just doing something with her hand.

I do want to say... So... the males get to have sex, but the women have to settle for a lazy handy? In the scene where we're meant to be dominant? Really?

In this scene, more than ever, the designers really, really, need to consult with someone who owns a vagina, and who also engages in intimate activity with other people who also own vaginas. This scene is just depressing and sad. It's not romantic, but it's also not erotic or exciting; it's not engaging, and it does too many things that repeatedly shatter the scene or draw the viewer out of engagement with it. More than that, too much of what goes on just doesn't make any sense.

I don't want to speak for everyone, certainly not... but sex with women tends to use more of the body for various purposes. Close, all-over, physical contact and a decent amount of grinding are common staples. Direct genital to genital contact is a thing, and yes it works, but not at all like it's depicted in pornography, generally speaking. Most commonly (in my experience, which is the perpetual caveat here) it comes into play as part and parcel of (or passionately evolving from) grinding and rubbing that is equally focused around thigh-to-groin stimulation; not always but usually mutually given and received between both partners. I'm glad that they didn't decide to make this sequence a “Shot-for-porn” rendition of female genital-to-genital sex... that's ridiculously unrealistic, uncomfortable for everyone involved, it's pretty damn hard to get any kind of pleasure out of it at all even if you're trying, and it is posed that way purely to give the camera a good full-frontal view of both women... So yeah, I'm glad they didn't do that... but what we have instead is something that doesn't even really feel very much like sex at all.

For example: seeing Minthara opt for a high pose, kneeling up and actively keeping her body apart from our character's, feels off-putting and distant; I cannot believe or accept that there's any intention to really give good pleasure there, and certainly there's no passion for doing so. She's just... administering a hand, almost like a medical procedure and equally clinical. She absolutely can, might or perhaps even should have a hand down there, but the way it's set up right now, it's very distant and detached.

Compared to how much time was given to that blowjob back in the default scene, this whole scene for females is criminally short, as well. It feels like the designers just didn't really know what to do here. That's fine, but when you don't know what to do, you ask someone who does. Please do that.

That's both alternate scenes; the conclusion is much the same as for the default scenes:

- Please decide clearly what sort of scenes you want to make, and choose pacing, shooting and sound direction for the scenes that line up and compliment each other, not this scattering of different styles and tropes that conflict and tear each other apart.

- Please consult on the types of sex and intimacy you want to portray; if you're going to make D/s content, or other elements of the broader bdsm categories, then make sure there are people you talk to or people on your team who know about that kind of play, and that you're able to portray it believably and enticingly.

- Please consult with men who sleep with men, and women who sleep with women, or make sure you've got some on your design team, so that you can portray intimacy between those pairings in an accurate and believable way. Same goes for if you intend to have multiple partner scenes down the track; don't just rely on mainstream pornography to as your references for these types of encounters, unless mainstream pornography is what you intend to create.

- Please consider anatomy for the characters; if you're going to show breasts, and they're going to be unrestrained on screen, then they cannot act like lumps of rock glued to the model's chest. They need gravity and motion appropriate (and not over-exaggerated) to their size and weight. If you're going to have shots that give occasional little teases and clips of our nether regions, then the models need to actually be complete down there and have those details, otherwise it completely ruins the scene.

Last edited by Niara; 06/05/21 03:19 PM. Reason: typos
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I didn't expect to see a full essay on Minthera's sex scene, but I'm glad someone wrote one now that I have. The length of the blowjob scene in a supposedly 'dominant' scene for her, not to mention the abbreviated nature of the f/f variants... Larian clearly still has men in mind for their audience, or perhaps they simply can not get past the old cliches. Hopefully they'll take the criticism on board, but since it would require full remakes of all their scenes, it's sadly doubtful.

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There's actually an addendum I'd like to add to this as well, which I didn't get around to when I was writing the initial report.

I wanted to make an additional comparison to the intimacy scenes available in Larian's other most well-known game, D:OS2.

Those scenes are purely text driven; not so much a fade to black as the characters on screen are just part of the background, while our attention is on the text box. The scenes that are available, however, are rich and complex in their design. They have pacing and build up, and they have continuous communication between the participants, sometimes in words and short phrases, but often by other means as well.

In particular, I want to note two important things: the character direction in those scenes is not invasive, but it still lets you guide the scene to play out as you feel your character would want it to; the erotic writing gives you four or five short pauses that let you pick how it continues, in the tone and style you prefer, and it blends very well.

The other part of this is that there are no wrong answers. This is an intimacy scene that you are being given leave to guide to your tastes – it will be however you, or your character, want it to be, because it is for you - if you want Ifan to be a slow and tender lover, then conveniently, he is, or at least understands that that's what you want, and gives that to you. If you want him to be dominant, animalistic and aggressive and to take you without mercy and leave you gasping, he will. If you want to take control of the scene and set the pace, he'll follow your lead and be what you want in that moment; there are no checks involved, and no 'trap' choices.

By contrast, our choice in the scenes that BG3 has put forward so far is limited to a single branching, in most cases... you don't really have a choice in how the scene plays out; the dialogue choices that suggest you altering the scene are either dead-ends that change nothing, traps that sabotage the scene and end it, or require a hard check that you can easily fail.

Larian have shown that they can write and script erotic scenes that have pace and atmosphere; they've shown that they know how to create and deliver a pay-off experience that feels satisfying and yet still provides a wealth of player choice for exactly how it plays out. They've shown an awareness that communication between lovers throughout the encounter is important – even if it's not in words directly. They can do this well; and for something that is being made as focal in this game as it is, they need to do better.

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I am so glad that there was another Minthara lover who also enjoys BDSM and is well versed in terminology. Thank you for such a massive feedback!

I agree with many points. It would be interesting for me to play both the romance and serving Minthara, I need more options, variations of the romance. It makes sense to take a real practicing Dominatrix (but not super hard, rather soft but not vanilla) and consult her when writing sex scenes with Minthara and their directing. I think focusing on ds relationships is a good idea. They have time for romantic outside sessions (and it should be)

Minthara can be romantic and sentimental and she lacks a reliable and loyal friend she can trust. She is very lonely, in fact.

But romance with Minthara also need sessions are for serving the beautiful Goddess too. Give the player the opportunity to express their admiration and worship in a session, I'm sure she would love it. This may be optional, but must be present in the game. Let the main character show that he is ready to do anything for her, not only in quests.

I think instead of the options "yes" or "I changed my mind and leave" there should be options like "yes" and "I am ready to be your slave, do whatever you want with me my beautiful Mistress." Perhaps she would have shown сare and asked for taboo, to influence the kind of scene we get. And aftercare must be too

[Linked Image from d.radikal.ru]

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I'm kinda curious how they would do m/m since I want to see how they go about doing it, but I don't think they exist yet. I just hope they don't shy away from it too much. Would be nice if they include a bit of kissing, but I'm pleasantly surprised at how risque these scenes are. I'm certain they would have to tone it down for consoles if they ever come out there.

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I did not manage to see Astarion's scene for males, when it was available - it's not working as of the current patch. I did hear that it didn't work so well with male PCs, which honestly surprised me because, to me, Astarion comes across as quite gay-coded (at least once when he talks about the kind of person he'd like to wake up next to, he uses the word 'handsome' rather than beautiful or pretty), though we can't judge his history under his master as a true indication of preference, since he had no free will in the matter. Still, I hope to give our other scenes a look over as they become available - though likely not as long-winded as this one, since I can reference issues and concepts I've already discussed here, if they track to the other scenes as well.

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Wow! Congratulations for the whole post, analisys and points you made for the Larian Studios.

I really really really hope they will read it and take note, because clearly you put a lot of effort to build this whole post!

I really appreciate you using your time to make a full detailed analisys of the sex scene with Minthara with all the different type of characters regard sex and size and post how they could improve.

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That is an extremely in-depth and exhaustive novel concerning this one little bit of game... That said having read the whole thing I cannot agree more.
Unfortunately I have very little to add or discuss save for a brief description of how this feels on the whole.

Having a reasonable degree of "experience" and having also seen a fair bit of- let's call it "adult content" I can safely say that this feels like a confused hybrid of public television sex and cut-rate porn sex.
With a lot of angles having that "we'll show what's going on without showing what's going on" feel that you see in public television and high end movies trying to avoid an X rating.
As well as seeing just enough cut-rate porn clichés such as the "good girl blowjob" and those god awful facial expressions that all just left me feeling like I just watched something very cheap and dirty. Not even the good kind of dirty either.

Mechanical and anatomical issues aside (though they are pretty bad and the fact that my character has no balls whatsoever in a very literal sense makes this sting just a bit more.....particularly after recalling that goblin commenting on the pair he has on him.) this whole thing comes after a particularly difficult bit of game where you need to do some severely twisted things to even get there like some sort red blazing light at the end of the tunnel as a reminder that "oh yeah, you are definitely going to hell" .

Though I do wonder as to how any other such scenes will be handled after watching, this.

Will they be better? worse? And will anything actually change? Because in the end we're a bunch of nerds nitpicking about sex in a videogame...
Personally I like the game and would like to see it do better but ultimately that's really not in my hands


"Everyone is the hero of their own story."

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