Writer and Director John Garvin of Sony Bend recently discussed the development of Uncharted: Golden Abyss in a postmortem on Gamasutra. One of the topics covered by Garvin was the distaste focus testers had for the game's lead female character, Marisa Chase.
"The problem, we discovered, was the writing. In the script, Chase's character was a bit of a smart ass and a little sarcastic," Garvin wrote. The focus group determined that Chase was a "wimp," and that her character upheld a number of gender stereotypes.
"For gameplay reasons, we constantly put Chase into situations where Drake needed to take action. Call it lazy if you want, but we ended up with a few 'Princess Peach' scenarios," Garvin said. "It seemed that poor Chase was constantly being choked, shot at, knocked out, dragged around and kidnapped. We fixed that, as well as we could, by changing the scenarios to make Chase less of a victim."
In the second round of focus testing, Garvin was prompted to consider another change to the character. "What's that old adage? If a man acts forceful he's 'take-charge and aggressive, a real leader' but if a woman acts that way, she's being 'pushy and a bitch' -- an unfair gender stereotype, but one we had to deal with," he wrote. "How? By making her less aggressive and critical."
The rest of the postmortem on Uncharted: Golden Abyss is an interesting read, and includes notes about the game's environments and how further focus testing impacted its story and ending.