It feels like a hell of a lot longer, but it was only a little over a year ago that Tracer from Overwatch became the most newsworthy butt in gaming. Her posterior, which was undeniably shapely, made a stir when developer Blizzard changed one of her in-game poses to reduce the emphasis placed on her buttocks. The replacement pose still showed her butt, and said butt was still perky and visible, but the new pose was intended to fit better with the character's backstory as a pilot, as well as echoing traditional pin up images from the previous century.
Left: Bad butt. Right: Good butt.
What was not, however, covered at this point was something more fundamental. Why is Tracer's butt so pronounced no matter the pose it's hanging off? Even after an alteration of poses, the butt remains eye-catching. I knew there had to be more to this butt, so I've spent the past year digging up information, infiltrating shadowy organisations, making pacts with the bum gods, and finally I present the inside scoop on why Tracer's butt is so remarkable from every angle.
There are technical reasons for Tracer's butt's plumpness. I started by enlisting the help of game designer Brianna Wu, who used her experience of 3D modelling to show me what was going on from the technical side.
Wu initially downloaded the Tracer character model (Blizzard have since locked down the ability to do so, rather amusingly, as a porn prevention and reduction technique) and imported it into Maya to get a good look at what was going on. Her grim findings regarding the butt still linger in my mind more than a year after this investigation began.
Wu's original expectation when importing the model had been that Blizzard had taken the texture map and darkened the shadows, using something akin to the photoshop burn tool to make it look like there was more shadow than there was. Basically, she assumed the shadow was a painted texture that wouldn't alter in any way regardless of the lighting of a level. Oh, how wrong and how innocent her thoughts were.
Wu discovered that the primary cause of Tracer's plump backside is an inhumanly deep buttcrack. In fact Tracer has a butt crack so deep that regular humans could not possess similar physiology and survive. Such a crack would inevitably interfere with organs and the body's structural integrity.
As a result of this bizarrely deep posterior, Tracer can be put in literally any pose, under any lighting, and her butt will still cast a shadow implying depth, plumpness and tautness. The way Tracer's bottom is emphasised in any situation is a genuine feat of engineering.
On top of that, there's more. Another aspect of Tracer's butt that plays a big part in its eternal visibility is the fact that her outfit is either impossibly tight or glued to her ass cheeks.
Take a look at the image on the far right. Natural fabric would find a resting point between the peaks of the two cheeks, naturally bridging the gap. If the material pulls in to show cheek definition, this would be the result of both cheeks physically trapping the fabric. This is different, in that the fabric follows the contours of the cheeks and buttcrack without the two cheeks making contact. For the titillation of boys and girls worldwide, Tracer suffers a permanent wedgie that is literally designed to make her individual butt cheeks shine.
I'm not going to pretend I understand the technical specifics, but Wu explained to me that the 'butt glue' effect is likely to be down to a technique called Universal Topology, which allows developers to make the same movement rig work across multiple character models. Wu's theory is that multiple characters in Overwatch feature an identical vert count and number of polygons in order to maintain functionality of a single skeletal mesh. From there, another technique called weight painting comes in, whereby different parts of the character model are given different material densities. And what does all this add up?
Think of it like this; when you move your leg up and down while standing, you can feel your butt muscles stretching and flexing. This is the deal with Tracer's butt crack. But because the textures inside the butt crack are given a higher level of weight painting, this allows them to stretch and flex more than other aspects of the character model. So as Tracer moves her legs, the butt crack definition remains and the remainder of the rig stretches to compensate.
Based on this, it seems perfectly fair to say that Tracer's body is built on her butt.
There are many other aspects of physical character design used to emphasise Tracer's butt, both when visible and even when off-screen. For an example of the latter, look no further than her leg and thigh straps. When viewed from behind, the straps below her buttocks not only frame the butt, but they also lift up its base to create a perky starting point. These belts pull in surrounding tissue and make the butt look larger, a technique that incidentally you'll also see on characters such as Solid Snake. But the straps also function as a reminder from the front — an ever-present reminder and roadmap to the rear end no player could forget.
My initial impression of Tracer's butt was that it was nice if boring, a generic shapely butt without much to set it apart. I knew nothing. Over time I came to realise that this was the butt of our age, an emblematic piece of work. And the dirty dogs at Blizzard seem to have a low-level butt theme going on, even using Overwatch lore to suggest Tracer is a butt connoisseur herself. In the very first Overwatch trailer she checks out Widowmaker's ass, which I didn't notice for ages.
It happens at around 4:45 and you may need to freeze-frame, but it's there plain as day. Tracer runs past Widowmaker mid-fight, and turns back to get a good look at her butt. Was this perhaps the earliest hint that everyone's favourite cockney speedster was lesbian?
Anyway, there's much more to Tracer's butt than meets the eye — even though what meets the eye is finely-shaped and rather large. It's interesting that the initial furore over the character's behind focused on one individual pose when, as I've hopefully shown, Tracer's butt is designed specifically to look amazing in any possible pose. Some might have an issue with that, and fair enough. I'm just awed by the thought that went into this and think, no ifs or butts, it deserves a big hand.